Sunday, July 18, 2021

Did Your Family Adopt its Surname?

Did Your Family Adopt its Surname? Tips on Finding Out Whether Your Family Name is Original or Adopted

Many in the past always automatically assumed that having a Spanish-sounding family name meant that they had a Spanish ancestor. This is even quite prevalent today. However, time and again it has been proven than not all surnames are authentic Hispanic last names. In fact, as many now have realized, Claveria's 1849 surname decree has left many Filipino families with the illusion of having Hispanic roots, but in reality, their surname is merely a byproduct of the decree. Of course, while many families adopted or were assigned a family name, this does not automatically mean they could not have a Spanish ancestor somewhere up in their family. So, the safest rule of thumb is this: though not all families with Spanish-sounding last names have a Hispanic ancestor, this also does not mean that they do not have one or two in their family tree. As always, it is necessary to prove one's family's claim through research and documentation.

In this article, we look at several ways to see if one's surname was replaced or adopted because of the Claveria decree.

The Timeline: 1850 to 1860

Many people think that just because Governor-General Narciso Claveria y Zaldua promulgated the surname decree on November 21, 1849, people all over the colony began to officially use a family name immediately right after the decree was made. In reality, the decree was not automatically implemented. Typical of the bureaucracy at the time, Claveria’s successor, Antonio MarĂ­a Blanco, had to reinforce the decree and therefore there was a few months’ delay in its actual enactment. Thus, when trying to see if one’s surname is a product of the Claveria decree, one has to note that the actual implementation started around March to June 1850. The reason for the range and not a specific date is due to the difference in the immediate implementation of the decree throughout the archipelago. Some started as early as March while others dragged on with the usual practice until about June of 1850.

When researching one’s family name’s provenance, take note that there is a window of about ten years in most places where one can discern the origin of one’s last name. Focus only on the years 1850 until about 1860, as these are the years where one is most likely to confirm if one’s surname is a Claveria decree by product. There are some municipalities that have longer timeframes, but these unique places are usually the exemption rather than the rule.

Strategy 1: Look at the Notation on the Margins of Parochial Records

If one is lucky to have ancestors coming from towns where the parish priests followed the Claveria decree to the letter, then this first strategy is for you. Many do not know that number 7 in the Claveria decree specifically instructed the towns and parishes that a list of the inhabitants be prepared showing the following: their given name, followed by the family name they have adopted in accordance with the decree, and then followed by the “surname” the person has been using before the decree. The word surname is in quotation marks because not all inhabitants had surnames; in fact, many used a second Christian name after their baptismal name so there were many Maria Concepcions, Jose Franciscos, and so on in one place alone.

Number 19 of the decree further instructed the parish priests to write on the margins of the canonical records the same information as was indicated in number 7 of the decree. See below for a sample.

In this example of a baptismal record from Dingras, Ilocos Norte, from 1878, the name of the child (see upper righthand corner of the record), VITO, is followed by Resureccion, and then by Lazaro. This is just one of the examples of a clear proof of the adoption of a new surname because of the Claveria decree. “Resureccion” is the adopted, formalized last name, while “Lazaro” was the second name of the family of VITO before the decree. The towns in both Ilocos Norte and Sur, though not all but most, seemed to have followed the instructions in the decree faithfully. But, like most cases, Ilocos is an exemption. It would appear that Ilocos’s population was on the verge of making the use of surname official even before the Claveria decree. Around 80-90% of the families in Ilocos by the time of Claveria’s surname decree were already using their father’s second name as a sort of surname, and there was already documentation of many families that have started passing down their “surnames” to the next generation.

If you do not see such notations on the margin of the church records of your hometown, then the second strategy might work for you.

Strategy 2: Look in the body of Parochial Records

While not all parishes followed the decree to the letter, some did still manage to record the old surnames used by their parishioners prior to the decree. In limited instances, the priests noted the new and original surname of the people into the actual body of the record. See below for example.

In the burial record above from 1852, taken from the church archives of Liloan, Cebu, we see that the deceased’s parents, who would have been alive prior to Claveria’s decree, are listed with their original second name. In the first entry, the deceased’s father is Catalino Cuyos Josef, indicated that Cuyos is the new and adopted name while Josef was the pre-Claveria name. The same is true for the entry below, although this time the father’s old second name, Medrano, is actually also a surname. Thus, the Frasco family of Liloan, Cebu, known for Titay’s Rosquillos, who are descendants of the abovementioned Ysabelo Frasco Medrano, used to have Medrano as their second name until changing it to Frasco after Claveria.

Strategy 3: Other State Records

If the second strategy still does not yield anything, try poring through records at the Philippine National Archives, especially the ones with a list of inhabitants or local functionaries. See below for examples.

This first example is an 1852 record of the count of exempted individuals per barangay with the names of the cabezas de barangay listed. Thee are clear examples of families that changed their family names, such as Juan Flores del Rosario, Pedro Aguilar de Sta. Cruz, and Manuel Rabor Bonifacio, clearly indicating that Juan's, Pedro's, and Manuel's new surnames in compliance with Claveria's decree are Flores, Aguilar, and Rabor, respectively, replacing the old second names del Rosario, de Sta. Cruz, and Bonifacio, respectively.

However, there are also others like Santiago Castro, Felipe Quinones, and Romualdo Corro who appear with just one surname, perhaps an indication that they have retained their old surname.

In this second example from Argao, Cebu from 1855, still an inventory of exempted individuals from tribute due to age (reservados por edad) the exempted individuals are listed down. Almost all of the exempted individuals here, who are all above 60 and thus were born way before Claveria’s decree. In Argao’s case, however, only a few families practiced the use of a constant second name which acted more or less like a surname. In the above list, all the listed second names were simply that, a second name, and not a family name. But, this list, as the one above, proves that almost all families in town adopted a surname to comply with Claveria’s decree.

When All Else Fail....

Not everyone is lucky enough to have ancestors from towns with such able parish priests who followed the surname decree down to the last letter. So if none of the above techniques work for you, then you do have to do it the hard way. This will be my next topic in a future post.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Three Americans in the British Royal Family…and the Number 5

The now talked about interview with Oprah

It has been a few days since that explosive interview by Oprah with the Duke and the Duchess of Sussex. That clips of the interview went viral is an understatement. Meghan Markle's answers, especially those that paint the Royal family in very negative tones, have been analyzed and discussed ad nauseum by royal watchers and ordinary people alike. Just one interview, and people are transported to the days when Diana, Princess of Wales, also gave exclusive one on ones with selected journalists and had her own explosive confessions about the Royal Family. Or perhaps we are brought back even further, to the 1936 abdication crisis, when one King's love for a twice-divorced American woman almost brought the British throne down.

If Meghan Markle thinks her life has been torn asunder because of the Royal Family, no one is to be blamed but her. For centuries, women have dreamed of becoming princesses. Young girls went to sleep hearing fairy tales about knights in shining armor rescuing damsels in distress. Of a prince finally meeting his princess and living happily ever after. I do not know Meghan Markle. Nor am I familiar with her background. But she, unlike the late mother of her husband, was old enough when she walked down the aisle and married her prince, albeit a bit far removed from the throne already, but a prince nevertheless. She was not ignorant of the burden and the sacrifices that were required in becoming a member of the royal family. Even ordinary people know this. One cannot become a part of such an old and august institution without having to give up a few liberties. She was not forced to wed Harry. She had every opportunity to prepare herself for a life in a gilded cage. Or she could have said no. And yet she blames the "firm", the institution, for making her life miserable.

While I believe that Meghan's miseries are her own doing, I also think there are far more powerful forces at play here. Digging deeper into the history of Meghan, Diana, and Wallis Simpson, one can finally see a pattern lurking in the corner and perhaps contributing to the current drama the royal family is experiencing. First off, all three women share an American ancestry. In recent years, it would thus appear that senior royals in the British Royal family who marry Americans somehow end up in a lot of trouble. Let us run them down.

Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson

King Edward VIII fell deeply in love with Wallis Warfield Simpson, a twice-divorced American socialite. When he met her in 1931, Simpson was already divorced once, and she quickly became the mistress of the then Prince of Wales. And while Wallis later divorced from her second husband, the British government, the Commonwealth, and the public in general, were all opposed to the match. 

The people were not keen on having a woman as Queen who has had 2 ex-husbands who were still both alive at that time. So, believing that he could not be King without the woman he loved beside him, he abdicated in 1936.

Charles and Diana

Almost everyone knew that Diana was not Charles's choice for a wife. However, bowing to pressure to settle down with a proper wife, he married her in 1981. To most, Diana was every bit a British aristocrat, but, in fact, she was at least 1/8 American. Her maternal great-grandmother was Frances Ellen Work, an American heiress and socialite from New York. Just like Edward and Wallis, things started to unravel 5 years after the marriage of Charles and Diana. As biographers of Diana say, “five years into the marriage, the couple's incompatibility and the 12-year age gap became visible and damaging; Charles continued his affair with Camilla Parker-Bowles, while Diana started her own extra-marital affairs”.

Harry and Meghan

Harry started his relationship with actress and once-divorced Meghan Markle in 2016. The couple started to “step back” from their royal duties in 2020 and, in 2021, through an interview with Oprah Winfrey, aired their issues and grievances against the royal family.

As a historian, and specifically as a genealogist, I often try to look at patterns in ancestry to explain political or social phenomenon. One of the first, and pretty obvious similarity among the three women who married into the British Royal family is their American heritage. Both Wallis and Meghan are obviously Americans by nationality. And while Diana was British, she did have at the very least 1/8 American blood by virtue of her great-grandmother. Historically, the British colonized America, and in 1776, the Americans booted their colonizers out and declared themselves independent. And while they have become good friends and allies throughout the centuries, it does appear that whenever an American, even someone who is just part American, marries into the Royal family, the relationship is bound to disintegrate, or at least something explosive comes out of it.

And among Wallis, Diana, and Meghan, the connection is not just the American connection. All three are blood relatives and are cousins of each other. The three are direct descendants of Hugh de Kevelioc, the 5th Earl of Chester. He is known in history as having joined in the revolt against King Henry II of England. After his surrender, his land and properties were later returned to him. But think about it. All three women, women who in one way or the other did irreparable damage to the British Royal family, descend from a man who fought against a king of England. This heritage, coupled with their “American” roots, thus seem to be possible reasons for the dissonance in their relationships.

Whatever the reason, I stand firm in the belief that all three women went into these relationships knowing the consequences. Wallis caused a king's abdication. Diana caused the Royal family damage to its reputation and image that took a long time to heal. And, just as the Royal Family's image had started to be repaired, Meghan's arrival and unceremonial exit, plus her tell all interview with Oprah, has once again brought unwelcome drama to the royal family. It would really seem that Americans, while good allies to the British, are not meant to be involved romantically with them.

One last, almost trivial but nevertheless interesting pattern in these 3 dalliances: all three relationships exploded within or just right after 5 years from start of the relationship. Consider these:

*Edward met Wallis in 1931. The abdication happened in 1936.

*Diana and Charles married in 1981. The marriage started going downhill in 1986, and,

*Meghan and Harry first started dating in 2016. They gave their explosive interview with Oprah in 2021.

All 5 years after the start of their respective relationships. I don't know what it has to do with the number 5. I am not a numerologist. But it is interesting to note that if you add July 4, 1776 and reduce it to a one digit number, you get the number 5.