THE FAMILY HISTORY's STORY
|( ...or how this Family Tree has been made)||Puntallana (La Palma, Canary Islands), where this History started to be written 250 years ago|
|"Thomas de Abreu Crespo y Oropesa, Natural desta
Ciudad, como mas âya lugar en Derecho..."...
So begins a document drawn up in Santa Cruz de la Palma on the 9th September 1765, before la Palma's Alcalde Mayor (Chief Justice), Licenciado León, and the Escribano Público (Public Notary) Santiago Albertos y Alvarez.
Tomás de ABREU CRESPO y OROPESA was my 4th great-grandfather (that means my great-grandmother's great-grandfather). He was born on 10 January 1747 in the village of Puntallana, in La Palma Island, the most northwesternly of the Canaries in the Atlantic Ocean.
Two pages of Don Tomás de ABREU's Ejecutoria
de Nobleza (1765)
|Don Tomás was, judging from his career, his deeds and his achievements, an ambitious man full of energy. In 1765, when Tomás was only 18 years old, he requested the drawing up of an "Ejecutoria de Nobleza". This official document was the result of a legal inquiry with witnesses' testimonies and presentation of documents, proving that Tomás and his family were members of the Nobility (in this case, the low Nobility without a title, or landed gentry, the so-called "hidalgos" of the Kingdom of Castile). The main aim wasn't to flatter his family's or his own vanity, neither to obtain a social recognition. The goal was much more immediate and practical. The official acknowledgement of his status would not just offer him the possibility of being entitled to certain privileges and honours and open to him the possibility of a convenient marriage, but specially would make easier for him to reach university degrees, practice certain professions or be appointed to official posts.|
Tomás was not a member of the aristocracy, at least of the sort which could be fancied thinking in the pictures of the Royal Courts. His family on both sides came from farmers, who even if they owned their lands and had a well-to-do heritage (for the Canarian average), worked on many of their farming lands. In La Palma, several of this landed farmer families seem to become further richer in the middle of the 18th Century. Water, the White Gold of the Canary Islands, played a major role in this enrichment. It seems that the application of new technologies resulted in the discovery of underground streams and pockets. A certain number of these well-to-do farmers, many of whom were officers or non-commissioned officers of the Islands Militia, gave studies and careers to their children. These soon became the origin of the new Islands leading class, enlightened and progressive. For example, Tomás obtained a degree in Law and was Abogado de los Reales Consejos (Solicitor of the Royal Councils). This was the origin of the professionals and landowners of the 19th Century, the Bourgeoisie who took power from the traditional Nobility. In some cases this happened through revolutionary ways. Don Tomás de ABREU CRESPO y OROPESA was elected Diputado del Común (Representative of the Commoners) of La Palma's Cabildo (Island Council) on 2 January 1773, a week before his 26th birthday. This was the first election (after the frustrated essay of 1767) after 200 years of absolute control by the Nobility. On the other hand, minor branches of the old Nobility, or descendants from illegitimate unions of the same Nobility, married to members of this new leading class. This was also the case of Tomás de ABREU (one of his great-grandmothers was an unwed mother; and he married a LAZCANO Lady, who was descendant of this family and of the distinguished House of SALAZAR through illegitimate unions of her ancestors). Don Tomás was in many aspects a genuine example of the social changes experienced in Europe during the Siècle des Lumières (the Age of Enlightment, 18th Century).
Don Tomás de Abreu Crespo y Oropesa obtained his Ejecutoria after presenting many documents and testimonies about his parents and grandparents, as well as about other members of his family. So did he trace the history of the family during the previous hundred years, starting at the 17th Century.
Coat of Arms of the ABREU Family, whose use was granted to Don Tomás de ABREU CRESPO y OROPESA, and following the Spanish tradition, to his descendants
... and from there on, each generation continues with the task
||Since then, each generation has transmitted to the next one
the documents which form the small Family Archive begun by Don Tomás in the 18th
Century. Each generation has had a custodian, appointed by the last one's will, to guard
the documents and -if possible- to update them.
The transference of the Family documents -and the years they were in
charge of each custodian- has been the following:
THE FAMILY TREE of the INDIVIDUALS IN CHARGE of the FAMILY ARCHIVE
Tomás de ABREU __ Antonia Josefa de ABREU __ Rosa María __ Federico LÓPEZ ABREU CRESPO y OROPESA | CRESPO y OROPESA | de ABREU LÓPEZ | (1848-?) (1747-aft. 1773) | (1776-?) | (1816-bef.1877) | X --------------------- LÓPEZ CASANOVA, LÓPEZ PÉREZ X -----------| | X ------------------| Carmen MARTÍN ROMERO and LÓPEZ MARTÍN FAMILIES Beatriz LAZCANO y |__ Cayetano de ABREU CRESPO | José LÓPEZ ESPINOSA | GORDEJUELA YANES | y OROPESA | de la BARREDA | MONTEVERDE | (1778-?) | (1811-bef.1877) |__ Adelina LÓPEZ ABREU (1754-aft. 1840) | | | (1851-1933) |__ Lorenzo de ABREU LAZCANO | | X --------------------- CASANOVA de AYALA, ESPAÑA CASANOVA | y GORDEJUELA |__ Josefa de ABREU LÓPEZ | Félix CASANOVA SOLER and LÓPEZ CASANOVA FAMILIES | (1779-1832) | (1818-?)X | | X ------------------| X | | Margarita LÓPEZ MARTÍNEZ | Antonio LÓPEZ MONTEVERDE | | (1796-1862) | (abt.1801-aft.1855) | Dolores REYES GONZÁLEZ | | | (1880-1919) | | | (1st) X --------------------- ORAMAS VILLAMANDOS, VILLAMANDOS IGLESIAS |__ Tomás de ABREU LAZCANO |__ Bruna de ABREU LÓPEZ | Pedro VILLAMANDOS PINTO CABRERA VILLAMANDOS | (1782-?) | (abt.1819-?) | (1882-1925) | | | (2º) X ------------------¡-- Fernando VILLAMANDOS | | |__ Margarita LÓPEZ ABREU __ Margarita Leonor | CABRERA-PINTO | | (1855-1944) | CABRERA-PINTO y LÓPEZ-ABREU | (priv.) | | X ------------------| (1888-1959) | X -------------------- FAMILIAS VILLAMANDOS LORENZO | | Fernando CABRERA-PINTO | | Ana MARTÍN MARTÍN y VILLAMANDOS BAYO | | y LÓPEZ | | (priv.) | | (1855-1920) | | | |__ Estéfana de ABREU LÓPEZ |___ Marietta CABRERA-PINTO | Beatrix SERAL ARANDA | | (abt.1820-?) y LÓPEZ-ABREU | (1953-1997) | | X --------------------- FAMILIES AROZENA del (1894-1972) | X ------------------- Mayec RANCEL SERAL | | Juan Antonio CASTILLO, |__ Estéban VILLAMANDOS __ Julio Néstor RANCEL (priv.) | | del CASTILLO MARTÍN AROZENA CONCEPCIÓN | CABRERA-PINTO | VILLAMANDOS | | | (1922-1922) | (priv.) | | | | X | | | | Roy Lee GENTRY | | |__ Margarita VILLAMANDOS | (priv.) | | CABRERA-PINTO | | |__ María Dolores de ABREU LÓPEZ (priv.) | | | (1823-1914) X ------------------|___ Francisco RANCEL __ Francisco José | | Julio RANCEL MARTÍN | VILLAMANDOS | RANCEL MEDINA | |__ Beatriz de ABREU LÓPEZ (1922-1998) | (priv.) | (priv.) | | (1825-?) | X ---------------| | | | Isaura (Sabrina) | | |__ Lucía de ABREU LÓPEZ | MEDINA NARANJO |__ Patricia RANCEL | (1827-?) | (priv.) MEDINA |__ José Domingo de ABREU | (priv.) LAZCANO | (1783-bet.1823 and 1828) |___ Sergio RANCEL X --------------------- FAMILIES SAAVEDRA ABREU, SARDINERO ABREU, POLO LÓPEZ, | VILLAMANDOS Eugenia María SEBASTIÁN ABREU, ROJAS PÉREZ, PÉREZ TORRES, PÉREZ JAUBERT, | (priv.) LUJÁN VOLCÁN PÉREZ FLORIDO, MARTÍNEZ CEBALLOS, ALARCO HERNÁNDEZ, | (abt. 1781-1844) HERNÁNDEZ VERNAL, VIDAL HERNÁNDEZ, LUQUE PÉREZ, ETC... | | |___ Isabel Margarita RANCEL VILLAMANDOS (1962-1972)
Margarita LÓPEZ ABREU, custodian of the Family documents from bef. 1877 to 1944
Marietta CABRERA-PINTO y LÓPEZ-ABREU, custodian of the Family documents from 1944 to 1972
WHAT I HAVE DONE, and THE WAY I DID IT...
I inherited the family papers in May 1972, after my great-aunt Marietta CABRERA-PINTO LÓPEZ-ABREU's death. The papers were just a colection of documents. We knew the family's story originated in La Palma island from the 18th century on. There were documents unrelated the ones to the others, some partial family tree sketches, but not a global one and neither a general idea about how far in time could the family story be traced. The archive included a facsimil-copy of a book published in 1924 in Tenerife, written by Dacio Valentín Darias y Padrón, with the title "Linajes herreño-gomeros, Familia Espinosa-Ayala" ('Lineages from El Hierro and La Gomera islands, Espinosa-Ayala Family'). We knew that this book included a good part of our ancestry, who came from El Hierro, the smallest of the Canary Islands. But the concrete definition of who were the individuals and which were the lines of our ancestry was not yet done.
During several years I worked, when I had free time and with very different rythm according to the course of my life, in the task of getting a system, clarify and 'draw' the lines who came from the family documents. Then came the task of doing the spadework on the genealogies described in Darias y Padrón's book. This was based not just on his author's personal research in the islands' archives, but also on earlier works of some of his relatives who had listed many acts concerning baptisms and marriages, wills, etc...
El Hierro genealogies took in several cases to families from Tenerife and Gran Canaria, or to Portuguese, Castilian, Andalusian or Extremenian conquistadores. It was like discovering a rich mine of information. It wasn't easy at all, because in the smallest Canarian island there were about ten 'old families' who intermarried, generation after generation, during at least three centuries. The repetition of surnames and given names, of official posts and jobs, the criss-crossing of them, the entangled kinship lineages, formed a vine which was, at certain ocasions, really madening. After some years of comparing Dacio V. Darias y Padrón's information with other sources (Viera y Clavijo and his classic "History of the Canary islands", among others), I allowed myself to correct Dacio at some points; he usually was very accurate, but sometimes he was misleaded by confusion -no wonder under the expressed conditions-, or by too much romanticism when linking some family branch with the Menceyes Guanches (native Kings) of Tenerife. A family branch originated from them, and also from the native royalty of El Hierro island, as I explain in other pages of this website, but not always in the way that Dacio thought.
Another curious element with my work on this author's book -actually a small volume- was that in the copy that I had 'inherited' there was a missing page, and all elements lead to the conclusion that it should contain some important information related to our ancestry (probably it was this importance that caused the 'over-use' of the page and its early destruction...). In 1979 I moved to Madrid, and in 1985 to Brussels (Belgium). I had to wait until my stayings during holidays in the islands to try to find another copy of the book in libraries or bookshops. But I couldn't find it. The small 1924 edition was not only out of stocks, but seemed also to have completely disappeared. Finally, already in the 1990s, Santa Cruz de Tenerife Public Library listed, among the volumes received as a legacy from a local bibliophile, the "Linajes herreño-gomeros". I could finally reach the 'mysterious' page and find there the missing links I looked for.
I married in 1979 Beatrix SERAL ARANDA. She knew about her father's ancestry, the SERAL family from Aragón, for the last twelve generations. It was very simple to link it to mine. Some years later, a relative from her mother's side worked on a genealogy of the last six generations of the ARANDA family, which was also added to our existing family tree.
When I finally fixed the lines I call "herreñas" (from El Hierro island) -although they really include several other different origins-, my research followed new paths. I went deep into my father's family, the RANCEL and the MARTÍN. Santa Cruz de Tenerife City Archive, as well as the Tenerife Diocese Archive (in La Laguna) and La Concepcion parish church archive in Santa Cruz have been key elements to fix information coming from family documents, to check memories and mementos from the 'family elders', and to discover new facts that nobody remembered. I have spent many days of holiday periods searching in these archives. Of course, the work is not yet finished. Many lines are still open.
Several books on the History of the Islands, in general, or concretely on the Islands' families, have given me new informations or confirmation of the one I already had. The 'Nobiliario de Canarias' (Nobility book of the Canaries) has been and still is a precious tool in the task of tracing many of my family lines.
Once I contacted a commercial firm for obtaining some acts in archives where I couldn't easily go for a search (in Cádiz and in Zaragoza).
The Internet has been added to all these 'classic' tools and systems. I haven't found family trees 'already done' on the Internet, that I could simply copy and add to my family's. Some people contact me through email with the idea that, because 'everything is on the Internet', there must be some website where their family tree is waiting for them. This is not easy to happen... But it was easy that, when I published my family pages on the Internet, other people who actually are my relatives found me through websearch. Some are really far relatives, but we descend from a common ancestor. Sometimes it can be a common root over 200 years ago. But they have information that I don't, and viceversa. This has allowed me to complete entire branches, or, in most cases, open new lines of investigation, giving me new information to work on it.
One of the best examples of this has been my relative José Marcelo PÉREZ FLORIDO. We both are descendants from Tomás de ABREU CRESPO y OROPESA, the one who begun with the family history in the mid 18th century. José Marcelo descends from José Domingo, I descend from Lorenzo, two of Tomas' sons. José Marcelo lived in Barcelona, I lived in Brussels, when he found me through my webpage and sent me an email. He not only gave me a lot of interesting information, but he also mentioned to me that Rumeu de Armas, a famous Canarian historian, mentioned in one of his early books many years ago -and just on a footnote- that there was a book published in Belgium related to the Flemish families who settled in la Palma island. We knew that these families were part of our ancestry. Would it be possible to find the book? Searching in the "Biblioteque Royale Albert I", Belgium's National Library, I found it! His author, Fernand Donnet, historian and chronicler of Antwerp in the 19th century, developed the Flemish family trees of La Palma island using the original sources. His information, although mainly coincident whith what was known in the islands, is more accurate and correct the latter in some cases.
I have received on the same way many informations concerning different family branches. At the end of my starting page I mention a list of people that have helped me in this task.
There is a proverb in Spanish which goes 'money calls more money', or 'money goes where money is...'. On the same way, we could say 'information calls more information', or 'new information goes where information already is...'. Publishing the information you have will make other people give to you the 'pieces of the puzzle' that you are missing... because you probably have pieces of their puzzles, too.
There are many open lines. The task is not finished. I hope it will never be finished, because that will mean that the family is still alive and goes on growing... There will always be new paths to follow, new information to classify, new events to clarify and tell.
What is the sense of these investigation? To boost about famous or noble ancestors? None at all. I feel very proud from my ancestors from the High and Low Nobilities, but as much as of the peasants, handworkers, bourgeois and professionals. When you study your family tree you realize that, in each family, there is a piece of everything. Clever and wise individuals along with dummies, good and evil, honest and crooks... We are the result of our genetical and cultural heritage... but we are also the result of what we want to do with ourselves. To build the future we must do it on the ground, which is the present time and what we have now; but the foundations are given by the past. Only knowing the past, and respecting and accepting it as it was -not as we would like it to have been- shall we be able to continue it, to make a better thing of it.
My great-aunt Marietta, the last family archive custody before me, felt very proud of the family. She transmitted to me not just the documents, many memories and stories, but also this pride of being who we are. But to better understand what this 'honest pride' is, the Spanish proverb that Marietta always repeated when the talk went on about the family was the following:
"¿ Quién fue el Santo varón,
que cuarenta abuelos tuvo,
y ninguno fue ladrón...?"
(Who was the Most Holy Man,
that searching through forty ancestors
didn't found a thief among them...?)
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© Julio N. Rancel
Membre de l'Annuaire Généalogique Internet