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Digging out those roots

Por: | 11 de mayo de 2011

Anyone who has worked on their genealogical family tree knows how addictive the enterprise can be. I have been searching for my family’s ancestors and stories about them for more than 25 years as part of an off-and-on project that really began when I was attending the University of Texas at Austin. Coming to Spain six years ago has also been rewarding in terms of my search because I was able to dig even deeper into the records of the early Spanish settlers who made it to Texas and Mexico in the early part of the 18th century.

My Spanish roots are little more recent on my mother’s side. My great-grandfather emigrated in the early 20th century with his young family from Ramales de la Victoria, Santander province and settled in the border city of Brownsville, Texas because, as the story goes, it was the best place in the United States at the time for someone to be able to communicate in Spanish. He worked all his life as a grocer, never returning to Spain and dying in 1922 (a flyer announcing his death, a common practice in early Texas then, can be seen below) while leaving behind many relatives, countless cousins in Cantabria whose descendants still share the surname Carral.


On my Dad’s side, the Spanish roots delve even further. One of our direct ancestors came from the Cádiz region and was a soldier at the now-long lost settlement of Los Adaes in Louisiana, which the Spanish setup in the early 1700s to keep an eye on the encroaching French. My great-great-great-grandfather Juan Ximenes Losoya (below), whose father Juan Francisco Ximenes was also from Andalusia, was a veteran of the Storming of Bexar – the December 1835 house-to-house battle in San Antonio waged by the “Texian” militia against the invasion of the city led by Mexican General Martín Perfecto de Cos. Months later, his brother Damacio died at the Alamo fighting General Santa Ana’s army along with the other rebel volunteers on March 6, 1836.


Juan Ximenes (erroneously spelled Jiménez or Gimenes in early state records) went on and helped the defeat the Mexicans at the Battle of San Jacinto, forming part of Colonel Juan Seguin’s volunteers from San Antonio.

There are so many forgotten and unknown stories about the early Spanish settlers who helped forge a rich history of America’s southwest. Genealogical research has helped me uncover some amazing family histories. The internet has made the search much easier than it was 25 years ago when one had to go to the local county courthouse and dig up birth and death records. One of the best sources in the United States for family tree research that includes records from Spain, including passenger lists of Spanish immigrants, is the Family Search engine.

The National Archives database, where there are thousands of records dating back to the US Civil War, is another good place to look. There are hundreds of family trees of Spanish settlers and their descendants posted at Genealogy and Genealogy Today. In Spain, of course, the General Archives of the Indies in Seville, which was set up by King Carlos III to keep records of all the settlements in the new colonies, is loaded with information for visitors, but unfortunately it has a limited online database.


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Pues eso. So much for the stupid ethnical homogeneity they are seeking around Brussels...

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Authors (Bloggers)

Chris Finnigan is a freelance journalist based in Barcelona. He writes for Barcelona Metropolitan and is a book reviewer and reader for The Barcelona Review. He is a graduate of the London School of Economics. You can find him on twitter @chrisjfinnigan

Ben Cardew is a freelance journalist, translator and teacher, now resident in Barcelona after growing up gracefully in Scotland via Norwich. He writes for The Guardian, the NME and The Quietus, among others, on everything from music to digital media. You can find him on Twitter @bencardew

Fiona Flores Watson is a freelance journalist, guide and translator who has lived in Seville since 2003, and has been a writer and editor for more than 20 years. She writes for the Guardian, Telegraph and Sunday Times Travel Magazine. Originally from Essex, Fiona is also Consulting Editor of and has her own blog, Scribbler in Seville. She has been contributing to Trans-Iberian since 2014 and tweets at @Seville_Writer

Jeff Brodsky is a freelance writer. He arrived in Barcelona in 2013 via an admittedly indirect route, living in Chicago, Arizona, Seville, Amsterdam, North Carolina and Madrid. Despite not having stepped foot in Seville for over five years, he still speaks Spanish with an Andalusian accent. Jeff’s writing has been published in newspapers and magazines in America and Europe.

Koren Helbig is an Australian freelance journalist and blogger enjoying a life of near-eternal sunshine in Alicante. She writes for publications in Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom, focusing on stories exploring smart and positive approaches to social issues. She hangs out on Twitter at @KorenHelbig and keeps a selection of her favourite stories at

Julie Pybus lives in a small off-grid house on a hillside in Catalunya. She usually focuses on helping charities and social enterprises with their publications and websites, but has also written for The Guardian, Country Living and The Observer. Julie launched and runs a hyperlocal website which endeavors to increase understanding between the different nationalities in her area @JuliePybus

Paul Louis Archer is a freelance photographer, multimedia storyteller and artist educator. A cross-disciplinary worker, who endeavors to encompass the mediums of photography, audio design and writing. Born in Hertfordshire of an English father and Spanish mother. Based in the United Kingdom. @PaulLouisArcher

Vicki McLeod is a freelance writer and photographer. She has lived in Mallorca since 2004. Vicki writes about her beloved island for The Majorca Daily Bulletin, the only daily English language paper in Spain; produces regular columns for the Euro Weekly News, and articles for Vicki runs PR strategies for several businesses in Mallorca and London as well as working on her own blogs and projects. She and her husband, Oliver Neilson, supply photo and text content for private clients via @phoenixmediamlr. She tweets at @mcleod_vicki.

Born in Newcastle upon Tyne and based in Barcelona, Alx Phillips writes about contemporary art, dance and theatre in a way that human beings can understand. For more previews, reviews, interviews and extras, check:

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