I realized I wasn’t finished with my “on a learning spree” series of posts (previous ones were on crafts, foraging, the voice, and my darned Apple watch). I’d been postponing writing about the genealogy stuff I’d been working on, because, well, I’m normally one of those people who snoozes when people start delving deep into their personal ancentral history.
It’s always seemed to me that your own family history is mainly fascinating to YOU. I’ve witnessed numerous conversations where people start saying, “My people came over in the 17th Century from France, and then this happened, and then this happened.” The other person then says, “Wow, MY family came from South America and blah blah blah.” No one asks their conversationap partner questions; they just go on and on with the begats like an Old Testament Bible verse.Okay, so why am I writing about this?
To be honest, I was rather annoyed that I’d heard my whole life that my mother’s maternal line consisted of “pure Spanish blood” and that they “settled St. Augustine.” The thing is, their last name was not a Spanish name; it more closely resembled an Italian name. So, after Anita got her Ancestry.com membership and began sharing funny things she found, I went ahead and got my own membership. Sucker. I was going to find out once and for all if family lore was right! (Note that I had seen a nice tree a cousin on my mother’s side had made, so I knew some stuff.)
Yep, I soon realized that the stories I find fascinating won’t be that way to all, but they do each contain a little slice of history we can learn from. And here’s my first slice:
What did I find out? I’m descended from Menorcans!
I immediately jumped into my mother’s side, the one with the “pure Spanish blood.” I was relieved to see a couple of Greeks and Italians popping in there, but the most interesting thing was that those “Spanish” people were mostly from a couple of small villages in Menorca, which is an island in the Mediterranean Sea off of Spain. The “Canova” name we were so proud of came from Canoves (accent on the “a”), a Menorcan (or Minorcan) surname.
What happened is many people on the island all went over to Florida on the same boat (the Africa), because an English entrepreneur wanted to settle New Smyrna Beach, but didn’t want to bring actual English poor people over. He felt that they couldn’t take the heat. So, he went looking for heat-tolerant Greek people, but stopped on Menorca, at which point the entire island said, “We’ll go.” (There’s a document referencing this, so I didn’t make it up.)
So, on that side of the family, many surnames (Ruidavets, Canovas, Canoves, Canova) and first names (Antonio/a, Juan/a, or Maria) are repeated, because they came from this group of immigrants, who did, indeed eventually flee the mosquitoes of New Smyrna to settle in St. Augustine.
I’d always wondered if my ancestors spoke Spanish, and if so, when they switched to English (since they married into families who came from England pretty quickly). I got a clue when I found a document listing all the “English residents of St. Augustine.” It had all the Menorcans listed as English! I guess because the English captain brought them over, they got labeled.
Anyway, I found it fairly interesting to learn that a lot of the lines on my mother’s side came from a small number of families from a small island. Oddly, all these ancestors that I’d heard about all my life actually didn’t contribute much to my DNA. That area doesn’t even show up on my DNA chart. That has a lot to do with the fact that they intermarried with English and German people who also settled New Smyrna. In fact, when I went up the “German” side of the family, more Menorcans showed up!
I was also interested to see that the years they showed up were in the 1600s, not when St. Augustine was originally settled by the Spanish. After the 1500s, all the records I could find petered out.
So, I next went to look on my dad’s side…that’s when genealogy stories really surprised me. (to be continued)