Juan Bautista Cordova has been a central figure in my genealogical research. It’s possible he’s my paternal great-great grandfather, which is one of two of the most surprising discoveries I’ve made about my family history.
However, it’s also possible – even probable – that I don’t descend from him at all. Even if I do, I recently discovered he may not be a Cordova himself; he was probably just raised by Luis Cordova in San Miguel del Bado in the early 1800s.
For me, the mystery of Juan Bautista started when I discovered that my great grandfather, Luis Gallegos, was baptized as the son of a Bautista Cordova and Francisquita Trujillo. That meant Luis is not a blood descendant of Manuel Gallegos. Rather, Luis was raised by Manuel Gallegos since at least the age of 10, while he was presumably the biological son of Bautista Cordova. Or was he?
The 1900 U.S. Census revealed a close relationship between the Cordova and Gallegos families. They lived together in the same home in the small village of Tecolotenos, in the mountains north of Las Vegas. The Census showed Juan Bautista Cordova as the 81-year-old head of household along with his son, Manuel Cordova, son-in-law Manuel Gallegos, daughter (and wife of Manuel Gallegos) Francisquita, and five Gallegos children ranging in age from 1 to 15.
But things didn’t add up. The two oldest Gallegos children, Juan Bautista and Luis (my great-grandfather) were born before the marriage of Manuel Gallegos and Francisquita. That’s when I dug further, and found baptismal records for both boys – Juan Bautista’s record did not list a father and his mother was Francisca Trujillo; and Luis was listed as the son of Bautista Cordova and Francisca Trujillo. That answered some questions, but raised new ones. Could the elder Juan Bautista Cordova, who would have been 71 in 1890, really fathered Luis? Seems doubtful. And why was Francisca listed as a Cordova herself – the daughter of Juan Bautista -- in previous Census records? It turns out she was a Trujillo, the daughter of Rafael Trujillo and Dulefina Chaves, but perhaps raised by Juan Bautista Cordova and his wife Altagracia. But who fathered her oldest children?
When I first discovered the Cordova connection, it was a surprise, and it turned into a running joke in my family. Were we really Cordova, and not Gallegos? What does that mean?
As I grappled with the meaning of the Cordova discovery, I made the other major finding of family history. After testing my Y-DNA, I was told that I definitely descend from the first Chaves family that settled in New Mexico in 1600. Ironically, I descend from the same Chaves family on my mother’s side, as well. So, in the course of a few years, I went from Gallegos to Cordova to Chaves on my Dad’s side of the family.
Regardless of whether I really descend from Juan Bautista Cordova, I have still been obsessed with figuring out his family’s paper trail. Sometimes you never figure it out. Other times, you have to piece together different sources of information and draw educated conclusions. That’s what I’ve finally done with Juan Bautista Cordova, based on records as diverse as census records, church records, probate records in which he twice tried to adopt young boys – some 30 years apart; and an interesting 1875 land record in which Juan Baustista, his wife Altragracia, his son Antonio Cordova and his wife, Maria Gracia Jaramillo, sold land to a Frenchman named Juan Pendaries, who later created the Pendaries Resort that still exists in the mountains north of Las Vegas.
I traced Juan Bautista to his father, Luis Cordova (possibly the namesake of my great-grandfather Luis Gallegos?), through a church record that noted the 1837 marriage of Juan Bautista Cordova and Maria Hilaria Archuleta in San Miguel del Bado. I was never sure of that record because I only knew of Juan Bautista’s marriage to Maria Altagracia Trujillo. But the Pendaries land record confirmed that Antonio Cordova was Juan Bautista’s son, and looking again at Antonio’s marriage record in Mora, it listed Juan Bautista Cordova and Maria Hilaria Archuleta, who was deceased at the time of his 1859 marriage, as his parents. So Juan Bautista’s marriage to Maria Altagracia Trujillo was his second marriage. I haven’t found their marriage record, but they are first noted as godparents in the late 1840s in San Miguel del Bado. They were living in Tecolotenos by 1850.
With that mystery solved, I was able to figure out all of the children of Luis Cordova and his wife, Ana Maria Ulibarri. Well, I found records for all of their children except for Juan Bautista. Then, as I flipped through baptism records for San Miguel del Bado, I found a child simply named Juan Bautista, born on June 23, 1814, “de padres no conocidos,” meaning parents not known. It may be a bit of a stretch to think this is the same Juan Bautista, who must have been raised by Luis Cordova. But given all other evidence, and without evidence proving otherwise, it’s logical to conclude that this is the Juan Bautista I’ve been searching for.
Ultimately, at some point probably in the 1800s, a direct male descendent of the first Chaves family was the father of one of my more recent descendants. It’s possible that this unknown Chaves man was the father of Juan Bautista, but more likely, I suspect a Chaves man was the father of my great-grandfather, Luis. I say that because there is another Chavez man who is a perfect DNA match to me, which strongly suggests we share a common ancestor within the past four generations. I will continue to pursue that connection, however impossible it might seem.
Here is a timeline of my Cordova research:
23 Jun 1814 Juan Bautista born at San Miguel del Vado. His parents were listed as unknown; He may have been raised by Luis Cordova and Ana Maria Ulibarri
2 Dec 1837 Juan Bautista Cordova married to Maria Hilaria Archuleta at San Miguel del Vado. He was the 21-year-old son of Luis Cordova, deceased and Ana Maria Ulibarri
1838 Jose Antonio Cordova born in Las Golandrinas
(1839-1847) Juan Bautista Cordova marries Altagracia Trujillo at San Miguel del Vado
18 Dec 1847 Juan Bautista Cordova and Altagracia Trujillo serve as godparents to Jose Camilo Gallego in San Miguel del Vado
1850 Mexico Census for Vayes de Tecolote:
§ Bautista Cordova, age 26
§ Maria Gracia Martin, age 22
§ Jose Antonio Cordova, age 10
(1851-54) Manuel Cordova is born, based on later census records. He was the son of Juan Bautista Cordova, although a baptismal record has not been found. His 1929 death certificate listed his parents as Juan Bautista Cordova and Altagracia Trujillo.
29 May 1859 Jose Antonio Cordova married to Maria Gracia Jaramillo in Mora. He was the son of Juan Bautista Cordova and Maria Hilaria Archuleta
2 Mar 1861 Emiteria Cordova is born in Tecolotenos. She was the daughter of Jose Antonio Cordova and Maria Gracia Jaramillo
29 Mar 1863 Juan Cordova born is born in Tecolotenos. He was the son of Estipula Cordova and his godparents were listed as Juan Bautista Cordova and Altagracia Trujillo. This infant died 10 days later and the death record refers to him as the adopted son of Juan Bautista Cordova.
8 Aug 1863 Francisca Trujillo is born in San Miguel County. She is the daughter of Rafael Trujillo and Dulefina Chaves.
26 May 1864 Juan Cordova is born in Tecolotenos. He was the son of Jose Antonio Cordova and Maria Gracia Jaramillo
18 Dec 1875 Land record lists Juan Bautista Cordova as father and Jose Antonio Cordova as son. They sold land to Juan Pendaries for 500 pesos.
23 Aug 1885 Juan Bautista is born in San Ignacio. His father is listed as not known and his mother is Francisca Trujillo. His godparents are Antonio Cordova and Maria Gracia Garcia.
21 May 1890 Luis Cordova born. His baptismal records show him as the son of Bautista Cordova and Francisca Trujillo. He was raised by Francisca’s husband, Manuel Gallegos,.
18 Jun 1892 Francisca Trujillo marries Manuel Gallegos
6 Dec 1895 Probate record details Juan Bautista Cordova’s request to the San Miguel Probate Judge to adopt Juan Bautista II, a minor, who he said he raised from birth. I have not figured out for sure who the minor child was. Juan Bautista is listed as being widowed.
(1900-1910) Juan Bautista presumably dies at some point in this decade. He is no longer listed in census records after 1900, when he said he was 81 years old.