Saturday, January 11, 2014

52 Ancestors #1 Tomasa Gauna de Quinteros

My first 52 Ancestors post of the year is not exactly about one specific someone who is a deceased direct ancestor of mine. To tell you about my great aunt Tomasa, I have to introduce you first to my Tio Pancho, who was my paternal grandfather's eldest brother.

Francisco "Frank or Pancho" Quinteros
Tio Pancho was born in 1907 in El Fuerte, Zacatecas, Mexico. The community of El Fuerte was once part of a hacienda of the same name that was located in the town of Rio Grande in the Mexican state of Zacatecas. He was the oldest surviving son of Jose Rafael Apolinario Quinteros Torres & Domitila "Tila" Mendez Anguiano. Rafael & Tila had seven children together, but only the three youngest children lived to make the journey to Texas after the Mexican Revolution. My paternal grandfather Rafael was the youngest child, born after they emigrated to the United States.

All three of the Quinteros sons worked for the Santa Fe Railroad in Temple, Texas at some point in their lives. My great uncles Pancho & Jesse retired from the railroad, while my grandfather moved to Detroit, MI to work in the maintenance departnent at the GM Plant there. Tio Pancho farmed some & raised a big family in addition to his work on the railroad. I did not have the opportunity to know him well while he was still alive, but on the few occasions I saw him at various family functions, he seemed bigger than life to a little girl.

Tio Pancho married Mauricia Martinez when he was 22. Together they had 9 children before she died in 1952. He remarried again a few years later, but that wife also died. Tio's last wife was Tomasa Gauna. They married late in life & had no children together, but she helped raise the grandkids who came along. She never spoke English, but then she never needed to. Although she was of Mexican descent, her family had been in Central Texas since the mid 1880's. Again, like with many of my father's family, I haven't had the opportunity to get to know her as well as I would have liked & there are many in my extended family who have known her a good bit better than I have.

Tio Pancho with his children, nieces & nephews out on the farm near Temple, Texas
Left to right: Anne Quinteros, Pauline Aguirre, Bennie Quinteros, Mariano Aguirre, Tio Pancho, Joe Quinteros, Skippy the dog, Francisco Aguirre & Mary Pauline Quinteros
Tomasa was born in 1919 in Madison County, Texas to Fernando Flores Gauna & Demetria Granado Guzman. She was the oldest of at least thirteen children (records suggest there were a few siblings who died young). Her younger siblings were Vicente, Fernando, Eulogia, Irene, Ignacia, Herlinda, Aurelio, Jesusa, Juan, Marcelino, Guadalupe & Morris. Her family farmed & moved around a lot, bouncing from Wilson, Madison & Milam Counties to Robertson & Williamson Counties, before finally settling in Lubbock. She married Tio Pancho in the early 1960's but it is not known where they married or when or how they met (at least not to me). She helped Tio on the farm & she was very proactive in their family life together. When one of Tio's daughter-in-laws passed away at a young age, they took up the slack with the three children she left behind. She was a great cook & homemaker who subscribed to old school values, but she passed on to one of their grandsons this pearl of wisdom: "Mijo, if you know how to cook, then you don't need a woman."

Francisco Quinteros & Tomasa Gauna on their wedding day. Tomasa's father Fernando Flores Gauna is also shown here to her right.
I first became acquainted (that I can recall any way) with Tia Tomasa while on a family trip in 2000 to a Quinteros Family Reunion in Temple after I was an adult. Tio had passed away in 1984 & she lived alone.
I had called ahead & arranged a visit with her. She invited us into her home which was a little like stepping in to a family shrine. Covering the walls of her home were generations of family portraits. I have to admit we were awestruck & I'm sure she thought it more than a little strange that someone would come in & start taking pictures, but she took it in stride. We had a nice visit. Since she didn't speak english & my family didn't speak spanish, I translated back & forth. She said she remembered us children (I have one younger brother) when we were little & that she had last seen us at a Quinteros family reunion that took place about 1981 or 2 when my grandfather moved back to Texas after his retirement from the GM Plant in Detroit. At that time, I was all of about 12 years old; too young & uninterested in family history to remember her very well then. I told her I had an interest in our family history & asked her about her family. I learned then that her parents had been born in Texas. It was later that I learned that her father Fernando was born in San Antonio & her grandfather Rosario Gauna had once lived in the historic San Antonio Mission District I had once visited with my parents. Tomasa's mother Demetria was born out near Austin, but her lineage has been very much harder to trace. Tomasa's grandparents on both sides & further back ancestors would have been born in Mexico.

Tia Tomasa working on the farm
In my years of family history research, I've learned that Mexican ancestry in the States can be some of the hardest to trace mainly because census & record takers often didn't always comprehend the correct spelling of the surnames being given to them. It doesn't necessarily get any easier once you cross the border either. While Hispanic ancestry can be alot simpler since the culture uses double surnames to include both of a person's parents' names in that person's name, you have to pretty much know the time period & place your ancestor came from in order to find them in the Spanish birth, marriage, death & civil records that may be available to you. Often you will find that there are no indexes to the old spanish register records & you will be forced to go page by page of sometimes almost indecipherable handwriting of some long dead priest or government official (who many times couldn't spell very well either). There are no databases already compiled of searchable data for the most part like there are for US records. Such research is often a test of extreme patience with a few eureka moments thrown in when you are fortunate enough to find them (which is pretty much the case regardless of which side of the border you are on, hispanic ancestry or not).

Any way, back to Tomasa; she is a very soft spoken, gentle lady. She no longer lives alone as she has gotten too old & although I haven't had the opportunity to have known her well, I am glad that I had the chance to know her the little I have. She will turn ninety-five in March & while she is slower than she maybe used to be, I think she is still a vital member of our family. For a daughter of poor Mexican farmers, she has probably seen more of life than she or anyone else ever thought she would. What I have observed of her is that she is a quiet, yet fiesty lady. I wish that my circumstances allowed me to know this remarkable lady better.

Tia Tomasa Gauna de Quinteros with grandsons Ralph Quinteros & Tony Quinteros.

Tia Tomasa sight seeing in San Diego with her grandson Tony Quinteros. The USS Midway
is in the background behind them,

Tomasa gets a kiss on the check from her great great grandson Sean.

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