Thursday, January 3, 2013

Finding the ancestors of Juana Bojorques!

Since my very first thoughts of finding Juana Bojorques way back in 1961 when I was completely captured by her name, my goal has been to find my early California ancestors. A little more than 20 years had now flown by and I was ready to begin my searching again. I had been married. I had raised two wonderful kids. Now that they were about to graduate from high school I was ready to find my ancestors!

This sounded easy enough. I knew I had some distant relatives in Firebaugh, in Fresno County CA, so maybe if I just wrote and asked them, maybe they’d tell me. Yeah, and to all of you who search for your own ancestors, you know just how silly that thought was! Or was it?

For lack of any other place to start searching, I went back to Nana’s little red address book. Well, I tried to. Somehow, over the years since my mother and I first looked at that little red book, it had been misplaced. Instead of the little red book I decided to look at the signatures of Nana’s many friends and relatives who signed the guest book the day we laid her to rest. There were so many similar names, so many family names and so very many of them living right there in Firebaugh.  
One was Mom’s first cousin Genevieve Gonzales Barragan. I’ll talk more about Genevieve in a bit.

I was once again eager to find this Juana Bojorques and her family, and anything else I might find about my ancestors… so I began asking my mom a lot of questions. Mom wasn't terribly thrilled with all my questions. Mom really wanted me to just leave the past in the past. Of course this just made me all the more curious… what shouldn't I find?? Yes, my very active imagination kept bringing up visions of huge land grants, immense wealth waiting for us to claim, ... or maybe just some skinny skeletons in dark closets!! 
Whatever the history I just really had to know… so I asked more and more questions. 
A lot of questions!!

Through the years Mom had kept a newspaper article about one of my great uncles… he had been married to my Nana’s oldest half sister Annie. Even though the article was about Uncle Tom and his days working for Henry Miller of the Miller Lux Cattle and Sheep Company, the part where Uncle Tom spoke of his wife’s family really caught my attention. His wife, my Nana’s half sister, would have much of the same history. I think I memorized almost every word of that article!

Finally! My beginning! From an article published in The Fresno Bee in February 1952 I was beginning to learn about my ancestors. My notebook had some details… I was on my way!

Armed with only the information I remembered from Nana’s little red book I headed for the Fresno County vital records office. I had written down the dates of Nana’s siblings, and her half-siblings from memory, crossing my fingers I had at least close to accurate dates! A small note here…this was 1984, very early 1984 and the large old original ledger books, all dusty and fading and crinkly on the edges were actually available for searching. Yep, you could request one of those big ol’ volumes, haul it over to the table and turn the pages finding whatever fascinating details you might uncover!

Wow! Talk about details uncovered! My memory proved to be pretty darned good… I was able to find ALL of Nana’s half siblings, including the birth of a set of twins that was news to us! I found my Nana and her seven siblings. I even found Nana’s marriage record to her first husband!
… and somehow I was smart enough to write down the volume and page numbers, whew! Since then the phrase "cite your source!" has become just about the most important part of my searches.

Now that I've found all these details about Nana’s siblings and about Nana… what about my ancestors? I really haven’t found anything yet about my great grandmother, my Nana’s mother. All I know about her is her name. She was Florencia Enriquez and she was the daughter of Manuel Enriquez and Juana. Hmmm, I wonder who the Bojorques guy was? Did Juana marry him before, or after she married Manuel Enriquez and had my great grandmother Florencia? So many questions!! I couldn't count how many times Mom rolled her eyes with all my questions. As strange as it might sound, there really ARE people who are just not interested in finding out about their families. Can you imagine that? Not interested in genealogy? Really??

Remember earlier I mentioned Mom’s first cousin Genevieve and that I’d talk about her a bit later? 
This is where I talk about Genevieve.

Genevieve’s father, Nemecio “Mechie” Gonzales and my Nana were brother and sister. They were the children of Florencia Enriquez and Nemecio Gonzales. Mechie and his first wife Trinidad Corona had one child, Genevieve, before Trinie’s death. Genevieve was mostly raised by her grandmother Mrs. Corona, living a good portion of her life in the Fresno and Firebaugh areas. Genevieve had married Tony Barragan in 1945 and they raised their four children in Firebaugh where Tony and Genevieve still live.

In March or April of 1986 Mom mentioned that she hadn't seen her cousin Genevieve in probably 25 years or so. Mom said she thought Genevieve had been a hairdresser and owned a business there in Firebaugh. With a bit of my sleuthing I was able to find a phone number and gave Genevieve a call. (Ya gotta remember, this was 1986, way before I owned a computer…no Google searches or MapQuest or!) Soooo, I took a deep breath and called Genevieve’s number and after explaining who I was (crossing my fingers she didn't hang up on this crazy sounding woman), and after a somewhat stunned few seconds of silence… Genevieve said “I know who you are! I haven’t seen your mother in years, how is she?!” A fun conversation followed and eventually I asked if Mom and I could visit with Genevieve the following Monday. She agreed and we had a date! I was so excited… I really hoped to learn so much more about the Firebaugh families… Genevieve’s dad had lived and worked there all his life, he MUST have known lots of stuff! 

Oh, yeah, Genevieve had mentioned she would have Aunt Hilda come over that day too, that Aunt Hilda knew lots about the family history. Ummm, OK. But who's Aunt Hilda???

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