Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Roots and Branches
The popular TV show Who Do You Think You Are? seeks to find the family tree for various celebrities. Fun as it is to watch and find out that Ashley Judd’s gr-gr-gr-gr-gr grandfather came to America on the Mayflower, or that Brooke Shields is related to the French King Louis the 14th, searching your own family tree can be even more interesting.
Recently a staff person at the Library found out her gr-gr-gr grandfather Donaciano Vigil had been the Governor of the New Mexico Territory from 1847-8. Another Library staffer is the gr-gr-gr granddaughter of LeBaron Bradford Prince, another New Mexico Territorial Governor, 1889 to 1893. Both Governors were active in ensuring the status of New Mexico in the American nation and serving the Territory.
Governor Vigil was the first Hispanic governor of the Territory. He personally took on the preservation of historical records and made it his cause to preserve New Mexico history. His first speech to the Territorial Legislature emphasized, “And it is particularly important in a country where the right of suffrage is accorded and secured to all, that all should be instructed and that every one should be able to read to inform himself of the passing events of the day…” That must be in the genes, living proof of his heritage is in the Library where his gr-gr-gr granddaughter works. While this time period may seem like distant history, the Vigil home is still standing on Alto Street today. Although we can’t discern a likeness to the staff person’s children, Vigil has a pleasant, determined countenance in the photo found online.
My gr-gr-gr grandfather was in the Revolutionary War, and his father and uncles are listed in the rolls of the Connecticut military in the French and Indian War, which predates the American Revolution. All of that came from one online search for Thaddeus Bow. Now my grandfather John Wilson is a much harder search—he might as well be called John Smith, a name that is not distinctive. However I had enough information to find his Civil War records. He served in the Michigan 13th Volunteers, Company B, and had joined up as a 17 year old. His regiment was in the March to the Sea with Sherman. (Yes, that was my grandfather, not great-grandfather or great-great-grandfather.) As the Civil War started 150 years ago in April, that is a particularly important date to relate to.
Who is hiding in your family genealogy? Maybe not presidents and princes and governors will be found. But the information on the relatives who worked day after day to feed their families and just do their jobs are just as important; maybe just not as glamorous. Although the Santa Fe Public Library does not have funds to lease the genealogy Ancestry.com database, it is available free to all at the NM State Library. To get started on your own, just Google the oldest relative you know of in your family and the more unusual the name the better. You will be amazed at what can be found.
by PCH @Main