The Unbearable Inevitable...puerto Rican Genealogy


The Unbearable Inevitable..puerto Rican Genealogy Dna Test


Miami-Dade County
Spanish-American War

Airplanes Arriving at San Juan, Puerto Rico, 1929-1941 49 RG 146 U.S. Civil Service Commission, 1888-1981 50 RG 186 Records of the Spanish Governors of Puerto Rico concerning Foreigners in Puerto Rico (Extranjeros), ca. 1815-1845 51 RG 220 Ad Hoc Advisory Group on the 52. Puerto Rican genealogy inevitably leads to lots and lots of cousins. Also, it doesn't provide enough space to record as far back as I have gotten. Of course, a good notepad is necessary to write notes about leads such as: occupations, dates, rumors, new people and the like.

General J. Warren Keifer in the Spanish War
(this is an excerpt from the part in the book about Miami, FL)
...The President called for volunteers (125,000 April 23d, and 75,000 May 25th), and, June 9th, I was, by him, appointed, and, June 14th, 1898, unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate, a Major-General of Volunteers. I was the only person in civil life from a northern State, or who had served in the Union Army in the Civil War but never in the regular Army, on whom was originally conferred that high rank in the Spanish-American War.
This rank was conferred on Fitzhugh Lee of Virginia, Joseph Wheeler of Alabama, and Matthew C. Butler of South Carolina, each of whom had served as a general officer in the Confederate Army; and on James H. Wilson of Delaware, who had served as a Major-General in the Union Army in the Civil War. These four were from civil life, but, save Butler, each was a graduate of West Point and had served in the United States Army.
Hon. William J. Sewell of New Jersey declined an appointment to that rank, and Francis V. Greene of New York was appointed after the protocol was signed. He was a graduate of West Point, and had served in the United States Army. No other Major-General was appointed from civil life before the treaty of peace.
A feature of the Spanish War was the alacrity with which ex-Confederates and Southern men tendered their services to sustain it. It was worth the cost of the war, to demonstrate the patriotism of the whole people, and their readiness to unite under one flag and fight in a common cause.
I was assigned to the Seventh Army Corps, then being organized, with headquarters at Jacksonville, Florida. I reported there to Major-General Fitzhugh Lee, its commander, and was assigned to the First Division, then located at Miami, 366 miles farther south, on the east coast of Florida, at the terminus of railroad transportation. I assumed command of the Division, July 7th, with headquarters at Miami. It then numbered about 7500 officers and enlisted men. My tents were pitched in a cocoanut grove on the shore of the Biscayne Bay. The corps had been designated to lead an early attack on Havana. I had exercised no military command for a third of a century, and had misgivings of my ability to discharge, properly, the important duties. This feeling was not decreased by the fact that the division was composed of southern troops —1st and 2d Louisiana; 1st and 2d Alabama; and 1st and 2d Texas Volunteer Infantry regiments. Some of these regiments and many of the companies were commanded by exConfederate officers, and one brigade — the Second — was commanded by Brigadier-General W. W. Gordon, an exConfederate officer from Georgia. He commanded this brigade until the protocol, when he was made one of the evacuation commissioners for Porto Rico. Several of the staff were sons of Confederate officers. The only officer, other than staff-officers, who was not southern, was BrigadierGeneral Loyd Wheaton, who commanded the First Brigade. He had served in the Union Army in the Civil War from Illinois, and became, after that war, an officer in the United States Army, from which he was appointed a general officer of Volunteers in the Spanish War. Wheaton remained in my command until after our army occupied Havana, and commanded a division that entered that city, January 1, 1899, then shortly thereafter was ordered to the Philippines, where he has, in several battles with the Filipinos, distinguished himself, and deservedly acquired fame.
I soon, however, became familiar with my duties, and the command was a most agreeable and pleasant one. I became warmly attached to and proud of it; and it was, throughout, loyal to me. No better volunteer soldiers were ever mustered; and if occasion had arisen they would have proved their skill and valor by heroic deeds and willing sacrifices.
The camp at Miami was the farthest south of any in the United States, consequently the hottest, and by reason of its situation near the Everglades and the Miami River (their principal outlet to the sea) the water proved bad, and only obtainable for the troops through pipes laid on the rocky surface of the earth from the Everglades at the head of the river. It thus came warm, and sometimes offensive by reason of vegetable matter contained in it. The reefs—an extension of the Florida Reefs — which lay four miles from the west shore of the bay, cut off easterly sea breezes; and the mosquitoes were at times so numerous as to make life almost unbearable. All possible was done for the health and comfort of the command. Notwithstanding the location, hotness of the season, and bad general conditions, the health of the soldiers was better, numbers considered, than in any other camp in the United States. A good military hospital was established under capable medical officers, and, through some patriotic ladies — the wife and daughter of General W. W. Gordon and others—a convalescent hospital was established where the greatest care was taken of the sick, and wholesome delicacies were provided for them. A feeling of unrest amounting to dissatisfaction, however, arose, which caused the War Department to order my command to Camp Cuba Libre, Jacksonville, Florida. It was accordingly transported there by rail early in August, my headquarters having been at Miami just one month. My division was then camped in proximity to the St. John's River at Fairfield, immediately east of Jacksonville. My headquarters tents were pitched in a pine forest. Here the general conditions were better than at Miami, though much sickness, chiefly typhoid and malarial fevers, prevailed in the corps, my own division having a far less per centum of cases than either of the other two. The water was artesian and good, but the absence of anything like a clay soil rendered it impossible to keep the camps well policed and the drainage was difficult. Florida sand is not a disinfectant: clay is. This camp, however, had a smaller list of sick in proportion to numbers than was reported in other camps farther north.
[Slavery and four years of war: a political history of slavery in the United States ... By Joseph Warren Keifer, pub. 1900]


Puerto Rico: La Isla Del Encanto

The use of genetic genealogy—in other words, DNA testing– has exploded in the past few years. Around the world, curious seekers are spitting into tubes and swabbing cheeks to help determine their heritage and find genetic cousins.

Recently, three family members on my husband’s side have had sections of their genomes tested. The DNA test results were a mix of ethnic diversity from around the world: Native. Middle Eastern. West Asia. African. So where do these wide varying people groups converge to create the persons who become my family members?

The DNA Testing Completed on Three Family Members:

I’ll call the first two family members on my husband’s side Family Members 1 and 2. The third person is the mother of these two, so she shall be referred her as ‘Mother.’


Family Member 1 (FM1) was given a 12-marker Y-DNA test via the testing company, FamilyTreeDNA. The results have been upgraded to the 67 marker level but are still pending. A Y-DNA test determines the findings on the direct paternal line only. The raw data from this test has also been uploaded to GEDMatch, a free service that allows for cross referencing of data uploaded from one of the three main testing companies to assist in finding genetic cousins.

Mother and Family Member 2 (FM2) were tested via, using their autosomal DNA test, which tests random contributions from both maternal and paternal sides (and provides data on ancestors primarily four or five generations back; not deep ancestry). Results have been uploaded to FamilyTreeDNA and GEDMatch.

DNA Admixture Results:

The results have proven to be a powerful history lesson.

FM1: 79% European; 10% African; 7% New World; 2% Middle Eastern; 2% East Asian. 12 Marker Y-DNA ancestral origins: Bulgaria, England, Puerto Rico (1%), Romania, Spain.

FM2: 68% European (breaks down as: 35% Iberian Peninsula; 13% Italy/Greece; 6% Great Britain). 15% Africa. 12% Native American. 13% other regions (including 4% Middle East).

Mother: 74% European (43% Iberian Peninsula; 17% Italy/Greece; 14% trace regions); 14% Africa (6% North Africa); 9% Native American (including 2% West Asia).

Genetic Complexities of the Puerto Rican People:

Puerto Ricans are largely the descendants of native Taíno Indians, Europeans (primarily Spaniards), and African slaves. Five hundred plus years of migration to the island and significant intermingling between these people groups has produced one of the most multi-cultural and diversified people in the Americas.

According to the National Geographic Genographic Project, their reference population for Puerto Ricans breaks down as follows: 11% Native American, 31% Mediterranean, 21% Northern European, and 9% Southwest Asian, 25% sub-Saharan African.

Other studies have found similar results, with European ancestry strongest on the west side of the island and African ancestry strongest on the east side. Consistent levels of Taíno ancestry exist throughout the island.

Interestingly, however, more and more locals don’t relate to this genetic complexity. On the 2000 U.S. census only 4.2% of Puerto Ricans self-identified as “two or more races,” and 95.8% self-categorized into a single “race,” including over 80% self-identifying as “white.” In spite of this, it is estimated only about 25% of Puerto Ricans are of nearly pure European ancestry with little to no non-European admixture.

This family of three persons whom I tested falls into this documented average reasonably closely. The lower percentage of native and African DNA in FM1 reflects the testing of the paternal line only. FM2 and Mother have higher percentages coming up through the maternal line, likely due to intermingling of indigenous women with Spanish and African males long ago.

Development of Puerto Rican Ethnicity and How Our Family Results Fit Into History:

A review of the history of the island helps confirm where these admixtures originated.

The largest indigenous Caribbean people on the island were the Taíno Indians, who originated in South America. The Taíno called their paradise ‘Borikén’ or ‘Borinquen’ which means “the great land of the valiant and noble Lord” or “land of the great lords.” The word, “Boricua” is still used today in various forms to designate the people from Puerto Rico. Hunter-gatherers who lived in small villages organized in clans and led by a chief, they were a peaceful group who lived off the tropical crops as pineapples, cassava, and sweet potatoes they grew, supplemented by seafood.

The European heritage of Puerto Ricans then begins with Spanish immigration to Puerto Rico. In 1493, Christopher Columbus set sail on his second voyage to the Indies. Upon arrival on the island and claiming it for Spain, Columbus named it ‘San Juan Bautista,’ in honor of Saint John the Baptist. Puerto Rico was now on a path of becoming a Spanish colony for nearly 400 years; thus, the primary European genetic makeup of most Puerto Ricans is Spanish (including primarily Canarians as well as Asturians, Catalans, Galicians, Castilians, Andalusians, and Basques).

The Iberian Peninsula, the primary area of interest, is divided between four states: Spain, Portugal, Andorra, and France; as well as Gibraltar, a territory of the United Kingdom. The word Hispanic actually refers back to Roman Hispanis, which roughly comprised the Iberian Peninsula. Of course, today the term “Hispanic” refers to people of a country that speaks the Spanish language.

It was to be the introduction of European diseases such as smallpox and cruel mistreatment that began the devastation and ending of the Taíno population. The natives were enslaved by the Spanish, to be used to build forts and work in the gold mines. Within two decades, though, the Taínos would be virtually wiped out. Today, traces of their physical characteristics are found in Taíno descendants clustered in areas of Borinquen. They left lasting legacies such as the musical instrument, the maracas, town names on the island- Mayagüez, Utuado, Humacao, and Caguas – and foods, such as barbacoa. There are numerous trees and plants still called by their original Taíno names.

Before their demise, however, mixing of Spaniards and Taínos occurred. The Spaniards did not bring women on their first expeditions and took in Taíno women for their common-law wives. In fact, 1514 census records reveal that 40% of Spanish men on the island of Hispaniola had Taíno wives. Over time, mixed descendants of this group also intermarried with Africans, creating a tri-racial Creole culture.

Beginning in the early 1500s, needing a new unpaid workforce, the Spaniards began the importation of enslaved West African slaves to work the mines. It is important to note, however, that black history on the island initially began with the Spanish Conquistadors bringing African freemen called ‘libertos’ with them years earlier.

By 1570, the gold mines had been depleted so the production of ginger, coffee and sugar began as alternative crops. Sugarcane production is increased, thus greatly increasing the need for African slaves.

From the very beginning, a large part of the identity and culture of the Puerto Rican peoples was tied to the African citizens now residing on the island. Africans have had an instrumental contribution to the art, music, religion, language, and heritage of the culture.

One fascinating example to me is in the Puerto Rican form of Spanish. The West Africans brought to the island spoke a Spanish creole called “bozal” which was a mixture of Portuguese, Spanish, and Congo. The R and S sound did not exist in the African tongue and, still today, when Puerto Ricans speak, they drop the R and S sounds.

History so far accounts for the Native American, African, and Iberian Peninsula components of the admixtures here being reviewed.

But what about the next highest percentage in their admixture—Italy and Greece? How and when do these two countries come into the DNA picture? No one in the family tree of these three persons are known to have originated in Italy or Greece. However, it is known history that by the early 19th century Spain had lost most of its possessions in the New World, excluding Cuba and Puerto Rico. To encourage the immigration of Catholics not of Spanish origin to settle its Caribbean colonies, the Spanish Crown issued the Royal Decree of Graces of 1815, a legal order granting free land to settlers, as well as other incentives. Soon, considerable immigration of French (especially from the island of Corsica), German, and Irish families began, to be followed by smaller groups of Chinese, Greek, Italian, Dutch as well as others.


Last, trace amounts of regional populations show up in the ancestral origins of these three test subjects, primarily Romania, Bulgaria, West Asia, and the Middle East. Some of these trace findings are just “noise”: too small of percentages to be verifiable as legitimate. But some of it is. Ancient migrations of people groups worked to disperse populations all over our globe. Possibly, the Middle Eastern contingency arrives from the spread of agriculture from the Middle East into Europe, which worked to also disperse Middle Eastern genetic patterns as these early agriculturists moved into Europe.

The Unbearable Inevitable..puerto Rican Genealogy Dna Testing

The unbearable inevitable..puerto rican genealogy dna test

But what about Bulgaria and Romania? How do these countries show up in these test genomes? I don’t know; however, a couple of months ago a gentleman with a very Anglo, “white” sounding first, middle, and surname contacted me via email. I’ll call him by his actual given name, Thomas. I read the original email, noting in my head that two surnames he mentioned researching and having in his family tree were strong surnames in MY family tree (which is 99.7% Great Britain). So, I fully assumed that the email was referring to a connection between his DNA and mine: that he and I were genetic cousins.

I was wrong.

It turns out that it was Thomas and the Hispanic FM1 who were originating from the same haplogroup. Thomas has several matches on his genetic match list with the same Hispanic surname as FM1; primarily the name ‘Cordero.’ This gentleman has no idea where the Hispanic component arrives into his lineage and, to date, I don’t either.

Even more interesting was that the other DNA cousins that Thomas and FM1 matched were two Bulgarians! Shortly after the beginnings of our conversations, Thomas received an email from one of the men in Bulgaria. The Bulgarian ‘cousin’ noted that, though he too wasn’t sure how he is related to Thomas and FM1, “My ancestors (male line) lived next to a roman fort in old Dacia: Arutela.” He went on to suggest that the fort, built in 137-138 AD in Roman Dacia—regions of modern Romania–, had been stationed with Spanish soldiers. This just might be the answer as to where Romanian and Bulgarian trace amounts of DNA can be found in the bloodlines of FM1.

Either way, it’s all quite fascinating.