O Father, Where Art Thou?

Gosh! Almost a month has gone by since I last posted on the old blog – and yet I have so many things to tell you all! I think I’ll start with the most recent -and exciting- piece of genealogical news: the unravelling of my great-great-great-grandfather’s story after he deserted his family in Spain and started a new life in Argentina.

Elkanah, the father of Samuel, is mentioned in the Bible as having had several wives.

Elkanah, the father of Samuel, is mentioned in the Bible as having had several wives.

You might not remember the case of Juan Blanco, which I wrote about just over a year ago (click here if you want to refresh your memory). Juan was one of my Spanish ancestors born towards the middle of the 19th century and by all accounts something of a rascal. All I ever knew about him was that he came from a family of very modest means (both his parents were poor agricultural labourers), and that after marrying young he and his wife had a daughter, Josefa, before he abandoned them both in order to start afresh (and start a new family, allegedly) in South America.

In 1887 Juan’s estranged daughter Josefa married a local called Manuel Romero, who later tracked his wife’s father in Argentina. Family legend has it that my great-great-grandfather Manuel actually went over at some point during his marriage and found out that Juan had a second family in Argentina. He had a good reason to travel to South America: I recently found a reference to Manuel in a slim volume about Galician emigrants (called gallegos) who went to Latin America in the 1800’s and 1900’s. He appears to have been the Banco de Comercio Hispano-Argentino‘s correspondent in Puerto del Son, where the family lived at the time. This all fits in perfectly with the family story I’ve been told about Manuel being a banker.

Juan Blanco was not at all pleased by the sight of his new son-in-law, who later informed his family that Juan had started a new family in Argentina. But that’s all we knew, until now.

A quick look on familysearch.org enabled me to track down a man called Juan Blanco, of about the right age, married and with a son, who had been recorded in the 1895 Argentinian census. However, Juan Blanco is a relatively common name in the Spanish-speaking world, and without an explicit reference to Juan’s exact birthplace or second surname (remember that Spaniards have two surnames, not one) it was almost impossible to confirm whether this was indeed my great-grandmother’s grandfather.

Chivilcoy, in the early 1900's.

Chivilcoy, in the early 1900’s.

Yesterday, a distant relative who lives in Uruguay and who, like me, was infected by the genealogy bug some years back, told me that the Spanish Consulate in Buenos Aires had written to inform him that they had found Juan’s death certificate, and that he died in 1914 in the Argentinian town of Chivilcoy. Bingo! That is exactly where the Juan recorded in the 1895 census actually lived.

I then had another look at the census return, this time knowing that it’s my Juan Blanco recorded on the form. I also managed to get a clearer image of what Juan’s life in Argentina must have been like. Although in Spanish documents he was described as a simple agricultural labourer, in the census he is down as an industrial, which I guess could mean anything. Given the fact that he seems to have lived in a fairly run down area of town (his neighbour is, would you believe it, a prostitute!), I suspect he may have been a simple shop-keeper, or ran a similar sort of business.

The big surprise for me is that he had a son, also called Juan, born around 1881, a year after his father allegedly married his mother, Constanza. If Juan Blanco (Sr.) actually married Constanza in 1880, he would have been a bigamist. I wonder how much Constanza knew about her husband, and what she made of his son-in-law’s visit a few years later… Time to start searching for a marriage certificate!

This entry was posted in Argentina, Bigamy, Emigration, Genealogy, Marriage, Spain. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to O Father, Where Art Thou?

  1. Hah, if only our ancestors knew we were going to be here in the future digging up all the dirt on them!

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