Saturday, February 23, 2013

Grandpa's Military Mementos

My Dad mentioned to me once that he had an old war photo of his father, my Grandpa Carlos Gallegos, imprinted on cloth. I had no idea what he was talking about. But of course I was intrigued. I have been desperate to find anything from my Grandpa’s military service in World War II.

I wasn’t disappointed. But I am intrigued. It is apparently a memento from his military service. But it’s a mystery. A black-and-white portrait of my Grandpa Carlos was screen-printed onto a burgundy cloth with gold fringe, a gold eagle and bell, and red-white-and blue American flags.

I’m not sure if it was produced before, during or after his service in World War II. I’ve scoured the Internet to find other banners like this one. I found one, but it was just as much of a mystery as my grandfather’s banner.

What I do know is this: My Dad said his father displayed the banner in his home, along with a photo of my Great-Uncle Eloy Gallegos, who died in the war. And my Grandma gave the banner to my Dad after my Grandpa died in 1980. The banner has my Grandpa’s Lieutenant bars attached to it, as well as a his ribbon bar pin and a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers pin.

Along with the banner, my Dad also has my Grandpa’s olive-green Army hat with his Lieutenant bar attached to it.

My Dad has a vivid memory of his father wearing his Army hat at home each morning at 6:30 a.m. while he ate the eggs and toast that my Grandma made him, and he read the Las Vegas Optic. He wore that hat, my Dad said, to shape his hair just the way he liked it. I asked my Grandma Rise about the hat, and she confirmed that my Grandpa wore it every morning.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Grandma Rise Turns 92

During my brief hiatus from blogging, my Grandma Rise turned 92 years old. Her birthday party at the nursing home was especially nice because Grandma had recently spent some time in the hospital after a health scare that fortunately turned out to only be a scare, and nothing serious.

Grandma’s party was also special for her because my Dad got two of her younger sisters to attend. The smile on her face was a gift for the rest of us. And, best of all, she still has her sense of humor, as she tried to convince her great-grandchildren to switch the candles to reflect her age as 29, instead of 92.
Grandma Rise, her sister Pita, and the Gallegos great-grandkids

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Chavez y Chavez

While I was shocked to learn through DNA that my paternal ancestry links me to the first Chaves family to arrive in New Mexico in 1600, there was no surprise that DNA confirmed that I descend from the Chaves family on my mother’s side.

I already had the long paper trail that established my maternal grandfather, Louis Telesfor Chavez, as the 8th great-grandson of Pedro Duran y Chaves, the progenitor of the family. Still, I have also learned that the paper trail of baptismal, marriage and other written records covering 400 years and multiple generations can sometimes be wrong.

I decided to pursue a Y-DNA test on my mom’s side of the family to confirm my Grandpa Louie’s genealogy. Since my Grandpa died in 2006, I turned to one of his sons, my Uncle Mike Chavez, to take the test. My mother couldn’t do it, because you can only trace the Y-DNA through males.
Mike Chavez Sr.

As expected, Uncle Mike’s Y-DNA put him in the I1 haplogroup, proving his genetic ties to Pedro Duran y Chaves. That means the proud Chavez name my uncle inherited from his father, and my Grandfather, runs through his blood.

Louis T Chavez Sr.

It also means that, genetically, I am a Chavez on both my father and mother’s sides of the family tree. My genetic ties to Pedro Duran y Chaves, and his own roots in Valverde de Llerena, Spain, are particularly strong.

But while both sides of my family are part of the I1 haplogroup, there are some differences. My Uncle Mike’s DNA tested 37 genetic markers; of those, 35 were exact matches with my paternal Y-DNA. That may sound nearly perfect, and it proves we both descend from the Chaves line; but the minor differences in those two markers actually means we share a common ancestor several generations back.

The way I understand it, mutations occur over time, and as one Chavez brother stayed in the Rio Abajo area, and another migrated to Rio Arriba, two genetic markers changed slightly.  Without a complete paper trail on my paternal line, it’s difficult to pinpoint where that happened.

I have made contact with another Chavez relative who tested identically with me on all 37 genetic markers. I need to do more follow-up to see if we can determine where our family trees intersect.

But the bottom line, which still boggles my mind a bit, is that I am a blood relative of the original New Mexico Chaves family on two of my main bloodlines.