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Are ALL Puerto Ricans Related?

Years ago, on American Idol there was a Puerto Rican contestant named Tatiana Del Toro. She could obviously sing or she wouldn’t have made it to the top 36. Tatiana was sometimes dramatic and annoying, but I remember her also for a comment that she made about Puerto Ricans: “We are all cousins.” While that’s a standard joke that we Puerto Ricans have, it sometimes seems to be true.

In my last blog article I wrote about meeting two DNA cousins in person and about the unique coincidence between Donna Darling and myself – that my ancestors worked for her Palmieri cousins in Juan González, Adjuntas. Since then a few more surprise relationships have popped up as a result of my genealogical research and collaboration with other genealogists.

In early November, I commented on Nelson Vázquez’s post on a Facebook genealogy page, and that led to us discovering that we are distant cousins sharing 51.6cM of DNA in common. He asked me how I knew Yariela Mendoza, who was a Facebook friend that we had in common. I told him she and I studied music together at the University of Puerto Rico in Río Piedras between 1972 and 1974. We have been friends for over fifty years. He said that he and Yari were cousins, which led me to start messaging her about this. Long story short, Yari and I are very distant cousins, but family nonetheless, matching also with cousins on both my father’s side of the family and my mother’s! She was one of my best friends in college and the only one with who I have remained in contact. We marveled that after half a century of being friends we discovered that we were actually related. I told her that I thought that is why we were drawn to one another in the first place, and she responded with a Puerto Rican saying: “La sangre llama” – blood calls.

Our house in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico was rented out over Thanksgiving to the sister and brother-in-law of one of our neighbors there in El Cocal. During one of those days, I was looking at my list of DNA cousins on Ancestry and I saw someone with the same surname as my renter. Searching specifically for people with that surname, a list of twenty-two DNA cousins with that surname popped up. I took a screenshot of the one that I suspected was her sister and sent it to my renter. She confirmed that it was indeed her sister and that all of the people with that particular surname in Puerto Rico are related. We have owned Vista Montemar since 2014. All this time our neighbor three doors down was my distant cousin, and I never knew it!

Again through a Puerto Rican genealogy page on Facebook, I connected with and became friends with a woman named Socorro who lives in Cabo Rojo. We are fairly closely related, being 2nd-3rd cousins. She has shared many files and documents with me to help me break through the apparent dead end in the Irizarry branch of my maternal line. The death record for my great-grandfather, Leonardo Irizarry, did not give his parents’ names as they were unknown to the informant. Just recently, we were able to obtain not only that information, but also find out one way in which our trees connect. Leonardo was married to María Dolores Lugo Irizarry. Her parents were Francisco Lugo and Micaela Irizarry. Again, I did not know the second last names until this breakthrough in my research. Now I know that their full names were Francisco Lugo de la Seda and Micaela Irizarry Montalvo. Not only are these people in Socorro’s tree, indicating one way in which she and I connect, but this also solves another mystery.

I have a Puerto Rican friend whose maiden name is Sylvia Seda. She lives here in Placerville and we have known each other since our homeschooling days some thirty years ago. I have been working on her family tree for some time now, trying not only to see if we were related (she has not taken the DNA test) but also to see if tracing back on her Irizarry ancestors I could find out who the parents of Leonardo Irizarry were.  Her last name Seda is a derivative of the surname “de la Seda”. It turns out that at least one way that Sylvia and I connect is through Micaela Irizarry’s grandparents, Pedro de Irizarry Martínez de Matos and Bernarda Rodríguez de la Seda. They were my 5th great grandparents and I descend from their son, Pedro, while they were Sylvia’s 7th great grandparents and she descends from their son, Baltazar.

The husband of another friend is Puerto Rican. Even though he refuses to take the DNA test, I traced his line back a few generations and found that people who have his ancestors in their trees show up as DNA cousins of mine. What do you think? Is he probably a distant cousin? Hmmm. I have Toro and del Toro in my family tree, too. Do you think that Tatiana Del Toro is another long lost cousin?