Around Town: LDS boosts family-history access

(Rachel Torres)

Now that the city of La Cañada Flintridge is officially a suburb, as opposed to the semirural, ride-your-horse-on-Foothill, pre-freeway town of the 1970s, local values and demographics have shifted.

Back then, folks talked a lot about genealogy. Who’s your daddy? Where are you from? Nowadays, people chat about their kids, bullying and the college application process.

Take me, for example. My personal genealogy stops around 1890, thanks to the Holocaust and the general disarray of Russia. Family tradition makes me a descendant of some folks named Aaron, Amram and Jochebed, but there’s no documentation. Unlike me, my husband’s Catholic family from Mexico has a well-documented, robust Jewish genealogical history.

Thanks to the Latter-day Saints church, a lot of the information is now online.

The LDS church has been in the forefront of scanning, indexing and uploading original source documents from thousands of churches and civil registrars in Mexico. The indexing is done online, mostly by volunteers. Some of the volunteers are not members of the LDS. They include members of Grupo Genealógico Nuestros Ranchos, a group of “serious genealogists actively researching the genealogy of Jalisco, Zacatecas and Aguascalientes.”

Jalisco, Zacatecas and Aguascalientes are three states in Mexico. At one time, they were one region, home to haciendas, silver mines and cattle.

It’s very cool to tell your kids that they are descended from cowboys and cowgirls who broke horses on Hacienda Mirador, and regularly rode hundreds of miles. They probably wore silver belt buckles and cool hats, but that’s just speculation, as is the assumption that a spirit of adventure is genetic.

Suddenly, last month, we found some new ancestors. A group of new scanned documents came online, now available on Ancestry and other services.

The new ancestors are Maria de los Angeles Carabajal, a fancy name for a young lady, born in 1811, and her parents, Andrea Rodriguez and Trinidad Carabajal.

What’s in a name? In the 16th century, a conquistador named Don Luis de Carabajal arrived in the New World. His reward for securing land was appointment as the Spanish governor of the state of Nuevo Leon. Around 1590, Don Luis brought his sister and her family to Mexico. By then, the extended Carabajal family included a priest and a monk, as well as government officials and merchants. The family was mostly Catholic, but when they moved back to Mexico City, they drew the attention of the Mexican Inquisition.

The Mexican Inquisition was based in Mexico City. That’s why secret Jews moved away to the “ranchos” of Jalisco, Zacatecas and Aguascalientes.

The Inquisitors sunk their claws into the Carabajal family. The charge was secretly practicing Judaism. The method of proof? Torture.

It didn’t matter if a Carabajal was actually Catholic, the inquisitors rounded bunches of them up. Soon, under torture, one woman implicated others. By the end, several Carabajals had been burned at the stake. Others were released. Some of the Carabajals escaped before the roundup. The inquisitors kept careful records.

Ironic that the Catholic side of our religiously diverse family has the best documented Jewish history. There’s still a big gap between 1610 and 1801. All we have are the names, but each month, thanks to the efforts of the volunteer indexers, more records go online.

Conquistadores and cowgirls, priests and secret Jews. What would they think if they could see me now, sitting by a window, searching for them from a laptop, listening to Pitbull and Shakira. The highest and best use of the Internet is right here in La Cañada Flintridge.

The local LDS family history center in La Crescenta is open to the public. Call first to confirm the hours. 4550 Raymond Ave., La Crescenta. (818) 957-0925.


ANITA SUSAN BRENNER is a longtime La Cañada Flintridge resident and an attorney with Law Offices of Torres and Brenner in Pasadena. Follow her on Instagram @realanitabrenner, Facebook and on Twitter @anitabrenner.