A Dream Come True

Perrotin Family Reunites for First Time in 112 Years

Tonight my family and I will bust a decades-old family myth when we meet for the first time members of a branch of the Perrotin family, who were supposedly killed by a bomb during the Second World War.

Their names are Don and Jennifer Murray, and they are very much alive.

They are making a special stopover in California on their way home to England from a vacation in New Zealand, and we will meet them for dinner tonight. The story of our reunion is almost as exciting as the life story of our ancestors in common, our great-great grandparents, Charles Jacques Francois Perrotin and his wife, Catherine O’Grady.

 

 

Charles Jacques Francois Perrotin and Catherine O’Grady, New York City, 1884

Since childhood, I had been told that my great-great grandfather, Charles Jacques Francois Perrotin, and my Irish great-great grandmother, Catherine O’Grady, left France in a hurry in about 1836. At that time, all young able-bodied French men were required to serve in the military after their 18th birthday. For whatever his reasons, Charles Jacques Francois decided he would not serve, and our generations-old family story went that he and Catherine decided to go to America. But there was a hitch: they couldn’t afford to buy two tickets, so they bought passage for Catherine and she smuggled Charles on board in a mattress.

Our family story continued that Charles (who became known as simply “Francois” after arriving in America), went to Niagara Falls and had a son, my great-grandfather, Francisco Perrotin. We were told that at some point the family moved to Veracruz State, on Mexico’s east coast, and settled in Orizaba.  It was there that young Francisco married María Amaro, and they had two sons and two daughters, one of then being my grandmother, Maria Angela Catalina Perrotin.

It was a romantic tale, one that everyone in our family knew and loved to tell. My grandmother and my great-aunt Blanca were especially proud to be Perrotins. We didn’t know much else about our beloved ancestors, just that there was something special about them.

As a teenager, I began asking a lot of questions about our family. When my family visited our relatives in Mexico City, I would sit at the table to listen and sometimes take notes as the adults told family stories. My great-aunt Blanca was usually delighted to have an audience and would pull out her boxes of family photographs and tell me about the people in them.

Blanca Perrotin, granddaughter of François
and Catherine, looks at our wedding pictures
with a young cousin.  Mexico City, 1984.


One afternoon my aunt – we called her Tía Blanca – took out a set of pictures from about the end of the 19th or beginning of the 20th centuries. There were pictures of people sitting in a large room with potted palms on a tile floor. The women wore dark, long flowing skirts and had their hair done up in chignons. The men wore suits and stood proudly by. There were also photographs of some young boys in gray military style uniforms and caps. 

Tia Blanca said those were the Bennett boys, British cousins from our Perrotin branch of the family. Her eyes were quite lively as she talked about the Bennetts and their lovely home in England. This was exciting news, as I had no idea we had any British relatives. When I asked her for their address, she became quite upset and began to cry. They were all dead, she said. The Germans had dropped a bomb on their house during World War II. The entire family had perished in the blast.

Being young and impressionable, I was dumbstruck and devastated. You would have thought it had just happened. For years after that, I often wondered about these Bennett cousins, who they were, what their lives were like, and I would feel such a sadness that they had suffered such a terrible fate and that I would never know them. Sometimes I would dream that they were alive and that we went to their home in England. They were happy dreams.


As I researched our family, I continually hit a brick wall when it came to the Perrotins. I’d find information about most of the other branches of the family, but all I could find of the Perrotins was a ship’s passenger list with names that were at best questionable. You’d think that the Perrotin family had never existed.


And then one day in June 2006, some 34 years after I saw those haunting pictures of the Bennett cousins I thought I would never know, my dreams came true.

Don and Jennie Murray, of Gloucestershire, England, sent me an e-mail inquiry regarding a family tree I had posted on the Internet. They had recognized Francois Perrotin’s name and wondered if we might be related. It turned out that Jennie and I were third cousins, Francois and his wife, Catherine O’Grady, being the link between our families.

Jennie’s great-grandmother was Maria Dolores Perrotin, Francois and Catherine’s eldest child and the sister of my great-grandfather, Francisco. Maria Dolores and her brother, as it turns out, were born in Orizaba, Veracruz, Mexico. Maria Dolores married Timothy Bennett, a British train driver with the Mexican Railroad. The couple moved to England in 1892 and had eight children (six of whom survived into adulthood). The closest the Bennett family had ever come to a bomb, Jennie said, was when her father helped extinguish a fire caused by some incendiary bombs dropped in the forest near his home, though no homes were hit.

Maria Dolores (Perrotin) Bennett and her children at
the family home, Orizaba Villa, in Ruardean, Gloucestershire.

Jennie, too, had been told many family stories about her Perrotin ancestors, and a year ago she and her husband, Don, vacationed in France, where they found a treasure trove of birth, marriage, and death records for the Perrotins.

There was something else. Jennie’s family believed that my branch of the family had been killed, too, but not by a bomb. Apparently, letters to Maria Dolores from one of my great-uncles, Hugo Perrotin, stopped abruptly in the early 1900s, at about the same time there was a strong earthquake in Mexico, and the Bennetts concluded that all of the Perrotins had died in the earthquake!

Are they Bennett cousins?
My great-aunt thought so.


The brick wall quickly began to crumble as we began an e-mail correspondence that will culminate in our meeitng for the first time this evening, here in California.

Another photo from
Aunt Blanca’s scrapbook,
possibly a Bennett cousin.


We have so much to learn about each other, but for now, we know that we share many things.

We both come from strong oral family traditions. Lots of family stories (and as we know now, family myths, too), proudly and lovingly passed on from one generation to another. It turns out that Catherine is a common family name. Both our grandmothers were named after their own grandmother, Catherine O’Grady — Jennie’s grandmother being Catherine Bennett and my grandmother being Catalina Perrotin. The name has thrived through succeeding generations on both sides. There is a strong resemblance between both sides (dead and living) , even after all these years.

The greatest thing we have learned is that we share a common family spirit of love and reverence for those who have gone before us, as well as a passion for and devotion to our families and our descendants-to-be and a desire to leave some record of our rich heritage for them after we are gone. I believe that this love and devotion to family are what have led us to find one another, 112 years after our respective family branches were separated.

I pray that this love will continue to grow and keep us united, both now and in generations to come. And I also pray that this will be just as special a memory for our children as it will be, undoubtedly, for us.

And what of Francois and Catherine Perrotin? Much more, it turns out. I will cover them in a future post.

– Linda Huesca Tully

Alice Gaffney (McGinnis) Schiavon

 

Alice Gaffney (McGinnis) Schiavon

Born June 14, 1895, in Conneaut, Ohio
Died January 1, 1963, in Chicago, Illinois

My beloved grandmother, Alice (McGinnis) Schiavon, was a bit of a rebel.

 

Charming, but a rebel nonetheless. As a child, she did not want to go to school. She would line up in the morning with her classmates at St. Mary’s School and wait for them to process into class, and then she would walk in the opposite direction toward a nearby field, where she would play with her dolls, returning home at the end of the school day.

This continued on and off for several years. When she was about 12, Alice visited cousins in Cleveland, Ohio, for a couple of months. When her aunt asked her what grade she was in, Alice realized that she was not sure. She would say years later that “the jig was up.” She decided to attend eighth grade with her cousin and surprised herself when she proved to be a good student. She returned to her home in Conneaut, Ohio, and successfully completed the year at St.Mary’s. The picture below shows her with her class at St. Mary’s High School, bottom row, far right.

Alice was the youngest of four children born to Thomas “Tom” Eugene and Mary Jane “Janie” (Gaffney) McGinnis. Tom was a New York City native who ran away to sea following the deaths of his own parents. After years of traveling the world as a sailor, he returned to the United States and went to work on the Nickel Plate Railroad in Conneaut, Ohio, where he met and married Janie. Tom, Janie, and their children, Benita, John, Eugene, and Alice lived at 78 Mill Street in Conneaut.

Alice Gaffney was born on Flag Day, June 14, 1895, in Conneaut and was baptized at St. Mary’s Church. She was a sweet and beautiful little girl with soft blue eyes, long bright red hair, and a merry, freckled face. She had a playful imagination and was a free spirit like her adventurer father. Much to her dismay, her fair Irish looks earned her the name of “Carrot Top,” and she spent many an hour hiding in a fire lookout tower with her brother Gene, playing with her dolls until the other children went home.

Around the turn of the century, the McGinnis family moved from Conneaut to Chicago, Illinois, where they lived in a house on Drexel Avenue. Alice met her future husband, Ralph Schiavon, while he was stationed at Great Lakes Naval Station in Chicago. They began a long-distance courtship through the mail, and in one letter Ralph shared with Alice his dream of one day owning his own general store so that they would have enough money to get married and have a family.

 

There was one obstacle, though. Because of the anti-Italian sentiment at the time, the U. S. Navy had Americanized Ralph’s last name from the original Schiavone to Schiavon. The new spelling sounded French to most people who heard it, and Alice was no exception. It was with a heavy heart that, though now an American citizen, Ralph had to confess his true country of origin to Alice before he could propose to her.


He needn’t have worried. After all, Alice, being of Irish descent, certainly already had experienced her share of anti-Irish prejudice. She eagerly wrote back that it didn’t matter where he was from. She loved Ralph and would marry him gladly. The couple were married on June 21, 1923, at St. Joachim’s Church in Chicago. Here they are on their wedding day.


Ralph and Alice had two children, Tom and Joan (my mother). They lived on St. Lawrence Avenue, in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago, not far from the McGinnis home. Ralph never did open the little neighborhood store he dreamed of but instead became a tax counselor in private practice. Alice, never one to follow tradition, instead preferred to set her own rules. Unlike most women of her day who stayed home and were model cooks and homemakers, my grandmother disliked housework and cooking and instead loved embroidering, crafting things, collecting stamps and dolls and involving herself in volunteer activities. She used to teach me how to work with yarn, pipecleaners, and beads. Her knack for making the most wonderful things from virtually nothing made her the most magical person in my eyes. She had a special drawer in her kitchen in which she kept small toys that she would give her grandchildren when they would come to visit.She valued her stamps highly. One day she was heading home with some newly acquired stamps in her purse when she was mugged by a would-be robber who knocked her to the ground and grabbed her purse. Determined she would not lose her precious stamps, Alice grabbed the thug’s ankle and sank her teeth into it, holding on tightly. The man screamed, dropped the purse and ran, practically falling into the arms of a policeman who had heard the commotion. The story made the Chicago papers, which praised Alice for her spunk.

 

Diagnosed with insulin-dependent diabetes in about 1936, my grandmother, who we called Nana, was told by the doctors that she would probably live another two years. She was determined not to succumb to their prediction but instead became even more active, and she parlayed her childhood love of dolls into a passionate hobby, collecting over 500 antique dolls and becoming a national authority on doll collecting. She founded the Alice Schiavon Antique Doll Club and also published Chatter, a magazine about hobbies and doll collecting. Alice’s determination paid off, and she would go on to live for another 37 years, outliving her own doctors.


She loved beautiful things, and she was well-known for her exquisite taste in fine European antiques. Despite her dislike of cooking, she knew how to set an elegant yet gracious table, and she decorated her home with brocades, lace, silver, porcelain, and objets d’art. With my grandfather’s encouragement, she and my mother opened an antique gallery on Chicago’s South Side and traveled to Europe in search of antiques to fill it. (Here she is with my mother, Joan Schiavon, on September 2, 1950, on the Rhone Glacier). My mother used to joke that my grandmother was her own best customer.

She also had a passion for driving and was pulled over more than a few times for speeding. On one occasion, she rolled down her window and regarded the young officer with her motherly eyes, smiling sweetly, as he told her that he had tried to pull her over but she had kept right on going. “Well, Officer,” she said, “how could that be? Why, with those handsome eyes of yours, I would have stopped on a dime!” He laughed and let her go on her way.

Another time, she was stopped for making an illegal left turn. “The sign says ‘No Left Turn,’ Ma’am,” the officer said to her. “You can’t turn there.” Nana smiled triumphantly. “Well, sir, I did, didn’t I?”

When I was about four years old, my parents moved our family to a two-flat brick house in Chicago, owned by my grandparents. One day I went upstairs to visit my grandparents and learned that Nana was awaiting her hairdresser, who came to the house regularly to wash and set her hair, as Nana was now blind and couldn’t get out of the house easily any more. I must have been about 4 years old. I told her that I would be happy to do her hair for her. Well, she was so thrilled that she called her hairdresser immediately and cancelled her appointment, explaining that her granddaughter would take over that day. We were in my grandfather’s darkly paneled den. My grandmother put the phone down and felt for my hand. “Go ahead, dear,” she directed.

I went to work, lathering up her hair and loving the sudsy sound it made when it was wet. “Oh, this feels wonderful!” Nana said, touching her hair. “It’s so soft. I don’t think I’ll ever need to call anyone else to wash my hair again. I’ll just have you do it all the time.” I stood a little taller and proudly continued lathering.

“By the way, what kind of shampoo are you using?” Nana asked. “Spit,” I answered matter-of-factly. “What was that, again?” Nana asked, trying to hear my little voice. “Spit,” I repeated, a little louder. Silence. “I had to get your hair wet, so I’m spitting into it, Nana!” I said matter-of-factly.

 

Nana laughed and called my mother upstairs. Needless to say, she never broke another hairdresser appointment again.

 

Another time, when I was about six years old, she called me over one day to show me one of my grandfather’s beautiful red roses. “Look at this rose,Linda,” she said. “Do you see the parade?” I looked at the rose but saw nothing. “Where’s the parade, Nana?” I asked trustingly. “Use your imagination,” she continued. “Look at the rose again, and look with your heart. Do you see the tiny bugs inside? Do you see the ants marching? Listen to the music!”


I summoned up my child-like imagination, looked into the rose again, and this time I saw the parade: funny little bugs in uniform, marching about, waving their batons up and down, playing snappy music, cheered on by a miniature crowd. Since then, I have never been able to look at rose without seeing a parade of joy inside it, thanks to Nana.
Her favorite song was the Irish “Danny Boy,” and her favorite flower was the Bird of Paradise.
Alice Gaffney McGinnis Schiavon died shortly after midnight on New Year’s Day, 1963. She left her beloved husband Ralph, her two children, eight grandchildren, and a legion of admirers with a lifetime of memories of a lady who found great joy in life.

 
 Copyright ©  2006  Linda Huesca Tully
 

 

Maria Angela Catalina (Perrotin) Huesca

 My great-grandmother, María Amaro, holds her infant daughter, Catalina Perrotin, on her baptismal day outside the Perrotin family home, flanked by my great-grandfather, Francisco, and their son, Francisco Junior.  Orizaba, Veracruz, 1893.

María Angela Catalina (Perrotin) Huesca

Born May 31, 1893, in Orizaba, Veracruz, Mexico
Died April 5, 1998, in Mexico City, D. F., Mexico

Catalina (Perrotin) and Cayetano Huesca, about 1913

My grandmother, Maria Angela Catalina Perrotin, was the second child born to Francisco Perrotin and Maria Amaro. Her birth certificate notes that her father, age 26, was from Orizaba and was a mechanic, presumably for Ferrocarriles Mexicanos, the Mexican Railway. Her mother, Maria, age 20, hailed from Tecamachalco, in the state of Puebla, Mexico.

Catalina was the second of six brothers and sisters. She is in the top picture, dated September 28, 1893, with her parents and brother Francisco. I would guess the family is outside their home, and their dress suggests that it may have been the occasion of the infant Catalina’s baptism.

Catalina, her brothers Francisco, Hugo, Roberto and Juan, and their sister, Blanca Luz, grew up speaking English and French in addition to their native Spanish. They often used their multilingual abilities to share secrets with one another, sometimes going back and forth between English and French when they wanted no one else to hear their conversations. This came in particularly handy when Catalina became a parent, as she could easily share confidences with her sister and mother without her children understanding them! Years later, however, when my family moved to Mexico City, my grandmother had forgotten how to speak English, but she still understood every word we said, sometimes even when we mischievous little girls thought she didn’t — much to our chagrin and to the delight of our parents!

In 1899, when Catalina was only six years old, her father, Francisco (also known as Frank) Perrotin died of Yellow Fever. The epidemic, known at the time as el vomito negro (the “Black Vomit”) Mexico, claimed over 600 lives in Veracruz state that year. To make ends meet, her mother, Maria, ran an eatery in Orizaba, and it was while helping her mother there that the young Catalina met the love of her life, Jose Gil Alberto Cayetano Huesca (known to all simply as Cayetano Huesca). The couple married in 1908 and went on to have 11 children. Half of the children would have their father’s dark hair, while the other half were either blond or red-headed, with blue eyes, a reflection of their mother’s French-Irish background.

Feeding, housing and clothing a large family was a challenge in those days. In addition to Cayetano’s work as a mechanic for Ferrocarriles Mexicanos and his efforts to improve labor conditions for railroad workers, he and Catalina bought and operated a hotel, casino, and skating rink in Tierra Blanca, Veracruz. Each of the children helped in the business. My father’s job was to make the beds every morning before he went to school. The others did the dishes and the laundry, swept and mopped floors, and transported guests’ baggage from the Tierra Blanca train station to the hotel.

Cayetano Huesca died of pneumonia in 1937. Catalina, at 44 years old, had given birth about eight months earlier to her youngest child and still had a large family to support, though some of the older children were already grown and had left home. Still, she inherited the strength so inherent in the women of her family and moved forward, never complaining, but taking the challenge in stride. She took great pride in her children, who adored her in return and continued to honor her for the rest of her life.

On the heels of Cayetano’s death, the Huesca family moved to Mexico City, as did her Catalina’s mother, Maria (Amaro) Perrotin and sister, Blanca Luz Perrotin. As her children grew and began families of their own, she stayed involved with them, She held court on Sundays, birthdays and holidays in her little house on Carpio Street, in Colonia Santa María la Ribera, one of the oldest neighborhoods in Mexico City, where her children and over 100 grandchildren and great-grandchildren would come to visit. She knew everyone’s name and age and never forgot a birthday, and she made each person who visited her feel as though he or she were her favorite.

Her typical morning routine consisted of sweeping her tile floors with a broom made of long straw, wrapped tightly around a stick. First thing in the morning, she would throw open the metal doors to her inside patio and put out the cages with her beloved yellow and orange canaries, where they would sing the sweetest songs and soak in the sunshine as she went about her work. Every morning she went to the market and bought the day’s groceries. Her mother, Maria (Amaro) Perrotin, and sister Blanca Perrotin, often joined her at around two o’clock for the customary Mexican comida, or dinner.

It was the big meal of the day, and businesses and schools would typically close at 1:00 or so in the afternoon so employees and students alike could go home and eat with their families. People would then return to work from 5 to 9 p.m., after which they would come home for a nightcap, or cena, which consisted of Mexican sweet rolls, or pan dulce, which all families bought nightly at the corner bakery.

The comida at Catalina’s house usually consisted of several elaborately made courses: appetizers, sopa de fideos (chicken noodle soup), rice, frijoles (beans), chiles rellenos (stuffed green peppers), tacos or enchiladas or beef steak, coffee, and often slices of fresh mango or papaya for dessert. Catalina was an excellent cook, and in her tiny kitchen she could cook just as easily for one as she could for 50. She did this often, too, for the steady stream of children and grandchildren who visited her just to chat or to celebrate birthdays, holidays, and special occasions.

My Abuelita (an endearing term for “Grandmother” in Spanish) Catalina was a devout Roman Catholic and had a strong devotion to St. Martin de Porres. She kept a worn framed picture of him on the back of her pale green front door, along with a prayer beneath it and a small shelf on the wall next to it that held votive candles and pictures of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Our Lady of Guadalupe. She displayed the same pictures in her bedroom, and every night before bed, she would go around the room and light votive candles under these images and pictures of Cayetano and every member of her family, living or dead, praying for each person. This took about 45 minutes, but it was very moving to watch.

My precious Abuelita loved her family deeply and had an incredible memory for names, dates, and even voices. Even when she was well over 100 years old, she would recognize my voice when I called her on the telephone from over 2000 miles away in California. She always asked right away about my husband and our children. She did this with everyone and never confused any names as far as I know, and she had a knack for making everyone feel as if he or she was her favorite and she had just known they would call.

Like the women who came before her, she was strong, active and independent all her life. When she was in her late 90’s, she moved from her home on Carpio Street to an apartment a few miles away next door to one of her daughters, where she continued to live alone until her death at age 105. Her spirituality, independence, strong work ethic, and fierce devotion to family live on in her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, each of whom was special to her and who adored her in return.

She will always live on in my heart.


Copyright ©  2012  Linda Huesca Tully

 

Marriage Certificate of Cayetano Huesca and Maria Angela Catalina Perrotin

Marriage Certificate of Cayetano Huesca and Catalina Perrotin

My grandparents (Abuelitos, as we called them), José Gilberto Cayetano Huesca and María Angela Catalina Perrotin were married in the Catholic church in Tierra Blanca, Veracruz state, Mexico, in 1908.  Their first child, Enrique, was born a year later.

They were married civilly in the same town in 1912, in accord with federal law, which to this day recognizes the civil act (only) as legal. At the time of the civil ceremony, Cayetano and Catalina, as she was called by all, were already the parents of sons Enrique and Eduardo, the first of 17 children (six of whom died either in childbirth or at an early age).

Cayetano and Catalina, as they were known, were married for 29 years when Cayetano died prematurely of pneumonia at age 49 on September 11, 1937, in Mexico City.  He remained the light of Catalina’s life until her own death at age 104 on April 5, 1998.  Her devotion to him was evident in the stories she lovingly told of him and in the prominent places his pictures occupied in her home.

One of these places was in Abuelita’s bedroom, where a large portrait of my grandfather hung on the wall above a shelf filled with flowers and votive candles.  Every night before she went to bed, she would stand reverently before it, lighting a candle and praying for her beloved husband.

What follows is a translation of my grandparent’s wedding record.  Unfortunately, due to the age and condition of the nearly century-old document, some of the words are no longer legible; however, it is thorough in its detail and typical of the documents of the day.  I have capitalized and transcribed words in English as they were written in the original Spanish.  Note that my grandmother’s family name was written as “Perroten,” although it was actually “Perrotin.”

                                                    * * *

For Certificates of the Acts of the Civil Registry of the State of Veracruz

In the name of the Republic of Mexico, and as Judge of the Civil Registry of this place, I make known to those present, and I certify as true that on record 3 in Book number 3, corresponding to the year 1912, in this Auxiliary office is found the following information:

Number 3 – Matrimony of Cayetano M. Huesca and Catalina Perroten.  In the Congregation of Tierra Blanca at 8 eight o’clock in the evening of the 21 twenty-first day of February 1912, one-thousand nine hundred and twelve, before me, José C. Peña, Deputy of Justice with the title of Auxiliary Judge of Civil Matters of this Congregation, appeared with the object of celebrating their marriage, the citizen Cayetano M. Huesca and Mrs. Catalina Perroten, the former originally from Cañada de Morelos  of Puebla, single, mechanic, 24 twenty-four years of age and from this vicinity, legitimate son of Mr. Enrique Huesca and the late Luz Merlo [next line illegible, though it probably refers to Enrique Huesca]…years of age, carpenter residing in Cañada de Morelos.  Mrs. Catalina Perroten said to be a native of Orizaba, single, 18 eighteen years of age, residing in this Congregation, legitimate daughter of the late Francisco Perroten and of Mrs. María Amaro, originally of Orizaba, widow age 40 forty years, residing in this jurisdiction.

Both parties declared: that having verified their matrimonial presentation on the 21 twenty-first of last January, that having published this by legal means, no one having intervened; that the mother of the intended woman has granted her consent and said lady has approved the act, they ask the undersigned Judge to authorize their concerted union.

By virtue of having fulfilled all the requirements as prescribed by law, the parties were questioned in accord with the provisions of article 123 one hundred and twenty-three of the Civil Code, as to their willingness to be united in marriage and having answered affirmatively, the undersigned Judge declared them united in legitimate matrimony in the name of society and with regard to the expressed Code, reminding them of their obligations as to Article 55 fifty-five of the ruling law of the State Civil Registry.

Witnesses to this act were citizens José Arellano, Enrique Perez, José Luna and Rafael Bernal, the first originally from Toluca, State of Mexico, single, carpenter, age 38 thirty-eight years of age, the second originally from Chacaltianguis [sp.?]…[illegible]…State of Veracruz. [Illegible]…of age, the third originally from Texcoco, State of Mexico, single, carpenter, age 36 thirty-six years of age, and all from this vicinity with known addresses. This act having been read to them and in accord with it, this information [illegible]…to the mother of the intended woman…[in effect]…she and the witness José Arellano.

I attest – José C. Peña – Cayetano M. Huesca – Catalina Perroten – José Arellano – Enrique Perez – José Luna – Rafael Bernal [illegible]…present of the Congregation of Tierra Blanca, on the 27 twenty-seventh day of the month of February 1912 one thousand nine hundred and twelve.

[signed] José C. Peña

José Gil Alberto Cayetano Huesca

José Gil Alberto Cayetano HUESCA

Born September 1, 1888, in Cañada Morelos, Puebla (State), Mexico
Died September 11, 1937, in Mexico City, Mexico

My grandfather, José Gil Alberto Cayetano Huesca, known to all as “Cayetano.”

My grandfather, known to all as simply “Cayetano” HUESCA, had the cleanest windows in Orizaba, Veracruz.  That was because when any of his 11 children got into an argument, he would hand them newspapers and instruct them to wash the windows of the family’s hotel.  With one child working from the inside and the other on the outside, forced to look at each other through those windows, it did not take long before they burst into laughter, forgot their differences, and learned to work together.

This love for his family, sense of fairness, and strong work ethic permeated Cayetano’s life.  I never met my grandfather but have felt close to him all my life because, in part of my own father’s deep reverence and esteem for him. Cayetano, my abuelito (or grandfather), loved his family deeply and was an honest and hard worker who would have been proud of his children’s deep faith in God, strong family values, character, successes, closeness to and support of their mother and each other.

José Gil Alberto Cayetano Huesca was one of six children born to José Enrique Florentino Huesca and María de la Luz “Lucecita” Merlo, in Cañada Morelos, Puebla.  He learned to work with wood from his father, who was a master wood craftsman, and he showed an interest early on in mechanics.

What brought him to Veracruz, I do not know.  One day, however, needing a cup of coffee and a pan dulce (Mexican sweet bread), he walked into a small bakery-cafe in Orizaba, owned and operated by my great-grandmother, María (Amaro) Perrotin.  When he left, he had filled not only his stomach but also his heart, having fallen in love with María’s beautiful young daughter, María Angela Catalina Perrotin.  The two were married shortly afterward in 1908 and had the first of seventeen children in 1909.   11 of those children would survive into adulthood.

A humble man, his actions spoke volumes about his life. He was first and foremost a devoted husband and father, a devout Catholic, a hard-working railroad worker, a pioneer advocate for the organizing of unions and workers’ rights, and a successful businessman and entrepreneur. Perhaps due to his business acumen (he owned two hotels, a casino, a roller skating rink, and a restaurant), six of his eleven children ran their own successful businesses. My mother, who never met my Abuelito, or “Grandpa” in Spanish, felt a special kinship with him during her married life, prayerfully believing that he was in Heaven watching over the three babies she had lost. (Coincidentally, my mother died 50 years to the day after my Abuelito’s death.)

Cayetano Huesca worked for the local railroad in Tierra Blanca, Veracruz, on Mexico’s east coast.  With the demise of the steam engine, there was a lessened need for railroad workers, and the railroad laid off many workers in 1919, Cayetano among them. Needing to feed his wife (known as Catalina) and their five children, he moved the family to Orizaba, Veracruz, where he worked for Ferrocarril Mexicano.  The family lived at 48 Calle Abasolo.

In 1923, Cayetano again was laid off.  My father, about 8 years old at the time, recalled helping his father count the silver pesos he earned as severance pay and watching his father cry as he wondered how he was going to support his family.

He moved the family again, this time back to Tierra Blanca.  Cayetano found railroad work once more, but now he understood the instability of the changing industry.  With the severance he received in Orizaba, he opened a new hotel and restaurant and called it El Buen Gusto (Good Taste).   All the family, even the children, worked together in the business.  Some washed dishes, while others swept and mopped floors.  My father made the beds before heading off the school.  (To this day, no one makes a bed as well as he did.) There were no allowances but a general satisfaction that all were contributing to the good of the family.

Cayetano Huesca, 6th from left, wearing dark hat. Orizaba, Veracruz, Mexico, between 1910 – 1920.

In 1925, with General Plutarco Elias Calles as President of Mexico and a struggle for labor rights beginning, Cayetano Huesca appeared as an actor in a union play, demonstrating the advances made by workers since 1900. Shortly thereafter, he joined other railroad workers in a strike for better conditions. They lost the strike and were fired. As he always did on such occasions, Cayetano went out of his way to feed the strikers, often without charge. Word of his actions spread throughout Orizaba and Tierra Blanca.

One warm morning, he was leaning against the front wall of his hotel, his beautiful young daughter, Victoria, at his side, when a small mob of strike-breakers made its way toward him. Wild-eyed and hungry for blood, the men brandished sticks, guns and knives, determined to make an example of Cayetano. If he was frightened, he did not show it. One of the men caught sight of the innocent Victoria and stopped the others. “Not now, not today,” he said. “She shouldn’t see this.” The men put their weapons down and walked away, never to return. My father used to say that all the younger children of the family owed their lives to their sister Victoria, without whom Cayetano would have surely been killed and they would not have been born.
 

Despite his bravery, Cayetano was a quiet, gentle man who believed his actions spoke louder than his words. He never had to raise his voice to his children; rather, they knew when they had done wrong just from the look of disappointment on his face. He adored his children and could not bear the thought of having them away from him, even for a night. When my father was about five or six years old, a voice teacher heard him sing and asked my grandfather for his permission to take my father to Vienna Austria, where he promised to train him as a classical singer. Cayetano turned down the offer without hesitation. A child’s place was with his parents.

In 1930, Cayetano and Catalina moved their family from Tierra Blanca to Loma Bonita, Oaxaca, where Cayetano leased land to grow pineapples and peppers.  They stayed in Oaxaca for three years, moving to Perote, Veracruz, in 1933.  There, Cayetano established the “Gran Hotel” – bigger than the “Buen Gusto.”

 

Like his father, he was an officer in the local Freemason chapter. He preferred obscurity to boastfulness and taught his children to “never let your right hand know what the left hand is doing” and that “whatever you do in this life will always come back to you.”

For all his humility, sometimes it seemed that everyone either knew him or knew of him.  When I was growing up, I remember that no one spoke of my abuelito without a hushed sense of reverence and awe.  Cayetano Huesca helped many people, among them a struggling young medical student, José Felipe Franco.  Cayetano saw potential in him to become a good doctor, and he welcomed him as one of his own family, feeding him for free and eventually helping him establish a small practice in Tierra Blanca.

Some forty or so years later, when my family was living in Mexico City for a time, my sister became quite ill and my anguished parents called a nearby clinic to request that a doctor come to the house to help her. A hunched, stout, man of about sixty years old, with salt-and-pepper hair arrived at our doorstep and was shown in. He examined my sister and exchanged pleasantries with my parents.

When he learned my father’s name, a look of amazement came across face. He excitedly asked if my father was related to Cayetano Huesca. “Then I cannot take your payment, sir,” he said, explaining that my grandfather had helped him years before. Thanks in part to Cayetano’s faith in him, he had gone on to become a successful doctor and a wealthy man, building a children’s clinic and hospital, “Clínica Dr. Franco,” located on Avenida San Cosme near Colonia San Rafael in Mexico City, where he cared for poor children and their families, often free of charge. He and my parents became close friends and stayed in touch until he died in the 1980s.

The family of Cayetano and Catalina (Perrotin) Huesca. Perote, Veracruz, mid-1937. Cayetano died later that year.


About six months after Cayetano and Catalina’s youngest child,
Edilberto, was born in Perote in 1937, Cayetano fell ill with pneumonia. The family decided it was time to move again, this time to Mexico City, where Cayetano entered the Sanatorio Espanol, or the Spanish Hospital. But the treatment of the day was futile, and he died on September 11, 1937. He was 50 years old. He is buried in Mexico City with his wife, Catalina, and three of their children, Enrique, Mario, and Victoria.

Many years after his father’s death, my own father visited a friend at the railroad workers’ union hall in Mexico City. Recognizing his name, the receptionist asked him if he was the son of Cayetano Huesca. When my astonished father answered in the affirmative, the excited clerk led my father to a large hall, where he found his father’s name engraved on a plaque honoring the work he had done to defend the union.

Cayetano Huesca’s legacy of devotion, fairness, loyalty and hard work live on today through his children, his grandchildren, and his great-grandchildren, who surely have honored his memory by living lives of integrity, generosity, and charity.

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Huesca: Origin of the Name

Huesca

Origin of the Name

It is believed that the Huesca family originated in Spain, in the province of the same name. Huesca lies in the northern Spanish region of Aragon. The city of Huesca is the provincial capital. The city goes back to pre-Roman times, when it was known as Bolskan, but the name was changed to “Osca” by a Roman general to honor its victorious efforts in battle.

The city became known as “Urbs Victrix Osca,” or Victorious City of Osca. The name took on the form “Wasqah” or “Waska” during the Arab domination of the region, and the city was fortified against the Christian counts and the kings in the Pyrennees. Peter I of Aragon conquered the city in 1096, after which its name took on its now Spanish version.

Although the earliest members of the Huesca have been in Mexico, I surmise that someone, perhaps of that Spanish city, must have come over with one of the early expeditions to New Spain, or Mexico, sometime between 1500 and 1700. There were quite a few persons with the Huesca surname during that time. I am, however, able to trace our Huesca family back to Mariano Pantaleon HUESCA of the city of Puebla, Mexico.

Huesca Family

From what I can tell, our Huescas came from the state of Puebla in Mexico.Jose Calletano de la Trinidad Huesca

 

Mariano Pantaleon HUESCA was probably born somewhere between 1765 and 1780, perhaps somewhere in Puebla? He married Ana Antonia Gertrudis CARPINTERO on November 18, 1801, at the Sagrario Metropolitano, in Puebla de Zaragoza, Puebla (State), Mexico. They had at least one child, a son, Jose Calletano de la Trinidad HUESCA, who married Josefa Rodríguez, daughter of Felipe RODRIGUES (note the different spellings between father and daughter). I do not know who her mother was.

Jose Calletano de la Trinidad HUESCA and Josefa Rodríguez had at least four sons and two daughters: Jose Agustín de Jesús, José de la Luz Felipe, Clotilde Blandina de Jesús, María 

Beatriz Carolina, José Enrique Florentino, and José Antonio de Jesús.

1. José Agustín de Jesús HUESCA, who was christened on January 30, 1840, in the Sagrario Metropolitano, in Puebla de Zaragoza, Puebla, Mexico.

2. José de la Luz Felipe HUESCA, christened May 28, 1841, in the Sagrario Metropolitano, Puebla de Zaragoza, Puebla, Mexico.

3. Clotilde Blandina de Jesús HUESCA, who was christened on June 4, 1843, at San Jose Church, Puebla de Zaragoza, Puebla, Mexico.

4. María Beatriz Carolina HUESCA, christened on November 8, 1844, in the Sagrario Metropolitano, Puebla de Zaragoza, Puebla, Mexico.

5. José Enrique Florentino HUESCA (shown here at left), who was either christened on May 5, 1847, in the Sagrario Metropolitano, Puebla de Zaragoza, Puebla, Mexico. Other accounts say he was born in 1850 in the state of Puebla, Mexico. He married María de la Luz “Lucecita” MERLO, who was born ca. 1865 and was the daughter of Juan MERLO and Teodora “Teodorita” Figueroa. The name “Luz” in Spanish means “Light.”

My father remembers that his grandfather used to say that “me levanto con Luz y me acuesto con Luz,” or “I get up with Light and I go to bed with Light.” I am told by my father that José Enrique was a craftsman who made beautiful cabinets and furnishings for many of the churches in the city of Puebla, as did his father before him. He died August 20, 1920, in Canada Morelos, Puebla (state), Mexico.

The children of José Enrique Florentino HUESCA and María de la Luz MERLO were:

a. J. Gil Alberto Cayetano HUESCA , born September 1, 1888, in Canada Morelos, Puebla (State)., Mexico, and died September 11, 1938, in Mexico City, D.F. Married María Angela Catalina PERROTIN on February 21, 1912, in Tierra Blanca, Veracruz, Mexico. He was my grandfather and a very special person. More to come about him in my next post.

b. Enrique HUESCA – also a craftsman — made my grandmother’s wardrobe.

c. Jesús HUESCA – His wife’s first name was María. They lived in Jalapa, Veracruz. They had a son, Cayetano, who died in the mid-1920s. Maria died in about 1936. Jesús lived into about his 80s. In his later years, he lived with his nephew (my uncle), Enrique HUESCA and helped him in his linen embroidery business, Sábanas y Manteles Huesca, in downtown Mexico City. Uncle Jesús lived on the same floor as the business, which was on the fifth floor of 93 Venustiano Carranza Avenue in Mexico City. He always dressed in khaki shirts and matching pants and sometimes wore a light beige cowboy hat. He was loving, quiet, humble and gentle. I remember always wanting to be around him when I was a young child.

d. Domitila HUESCA – She married Vicente CAMPOS and and lived in Jalapa, Veracruz, Mexico. They had a son, Willivaldo, who committed suicide in the 1970s. Willivaldo had a daughter, Yolanda CAMPOS, who was very good to her grandmother and cared for her when Aunt Domitila grew too old to care for herself. Aunt Domitila was one of the family historians and wrote fascinating letters, many of which I still have. Her penmanship was of the old Spanish style, elegant and meticulous. She died in the late 1970s, possibly into her late 80s.

e. Rosario “Charito” HUESCA – Her husband’s last name was MONTORO, and they lived in Orizaba, Veracruz, Mexico.

f. Carlos HUESCA – had the following children:

* Elvira HUESCA – married Adolfo CAMPOS, a general during the Mexican Revolution (my father remembers he had a large handlebar moustache). They later moved to the United States and settled in Chicago. They had no children.
* Enrique HUESCA
* Amalia HUESCA

* Delfina HUESCA
* Charles Delfino HUESCA – married MARIE in Chicago. They were very close and were excellent dancers. They had one son and later moved to Atlanta, Georgia, where Charles died of a heart attack while working in his back yard, in 1988.

* Margot HUESCA – married and had a daughter

6. José Antonio de Jesus HUESCA – christened on June 14, 1849, in Santo Angel Analco Church, Puebla de Zaragoza, Puebla, Mexico. He married Emilia BENITEZ, whom he called “Emilita.” Antonio, as he was called, and Emilia had two sons and a daughter, Gonzalo, Agustín, and Delfina.

a. Gonzalo HUESCA – was a lawyer, known as a “Licenciado” (a title given to lawyers). My father recalls meeting him in Veracruz in about 1933 or 1935. Gonzalo would have been 40 or 50 at the time.

b. Agustín HUESCA – was born in about 1881, in the town of Jalapa Enriquez, Veracruz (state), Mexico. He was an architect who married Dolores CORTES (daughter of Antonio ROCHA and Francisca CORTES BAZURTO, born September 30, 1885) in 1913, in Jalapa Enriquez, Veracruz, Mexico. They had two sons, Agustín and Enrique. Agustín Huesca died on February 11, 1964, at age 83.

c. Delfina HUESCA – was born Mach 4, 1888, in Jalapa, Veracruz; married an engineer, Lorenzo YANEZ.  Lorenzo’s great-great grand-daughter, Luciana Toledo, recalls that he was “an engineer of the road constructions in the state of Veracruz.  In the small town of Cardel, Veracruz, one of the main streets is named after him.” 

Lorenzo and Delfina had four children, a son, Lorenzo Alfonso, nicknamed “Pocho,”  born August 26, 1917; and three daughters, Clara Elena, born in about 1920; Delfina; Ana María.   My father, who was two years older than Alfonso, told me he was burned badly in the kitchen while he was very young.  A 1948 United States Border Crossing card, issued in Nogales, Arizona, notes that Alfonso was born in Hermosillo, Sonora. It identifies him as being 30 years old and married, with burn scars on his face and hands.  Employed as a federal employee for what may have been the national highway agency, he was traveling on business and pleasure. 

Postscript:  On April 15, 2015, I received an e-mail from “one more member of the Huesca tree,” Luciana Toledo. In her her e-mail, Luciana observes that I originally mis-identified her great-grandmother as María Elena and left out her father’s first name, and she graciously provided the correct information.  Luciana also proudly writes that her great-grandmother, the last surviving of the Yañez-Huesca siblings, is about to turn 95 years old and lives in Mexico City.  Felicidades, prima María Elena!  How I wish my father were alive to see this!  It is a thrill to hear from my “new” cousin, and I am grateful to Luciana for reaching out to share more about our beloved Huesca family.  Connecting to each other and sharing our heritage: this is what Many Branches, One Tree is all about!  L.H.T.


Next: J. Gil Alberto Cayetano HUESCA

Some of the Families Included Here

Some of the Families Included Here

Amaro
Barron
Bennett
Cherry
De la O
Fay
Gaffney
Hoppin
Huesca
Kangas
Makepeace
McCormick
McGinnis
McGoorty
Merlo
Olson
Perrotin
Riney
Ryan
Sannella
Schiavon
Schiavone
Tully


Welcome


Welcome to Many Branches, One Tree!

In one of Aesop’s fables, an old man brought his three sons together and handed the eldest a bundle of sticks, asking him to break it.  Though the first son tried with all his strength, he could not break the bundle.  The second and third son also tried, but to no avail.

The father took back the bundle.  Untying it, he handed a stick to each son and again asked them to break the sticks. This time, the sons broke the sticks easily.  The father said, “You see, if you are of one heart and one mind, you will be as strong as this bundle and no one can break you.  But if you are divided, you will be broken as easily as these sticks.”

As with the bundle of sticks, our family tree is made up of many branches, each with its own character, history,  and traditions.  Though each of these branches is special and unique in its own way, they all share common burdens, sorrows, hopes and dreams. Together, they form a strong unit, rich in history, heritage, and values.   This site will introduce you to the numerous dimensions of this tree, including the Huesca, Tully, Perrotin, Fay, McGinnis, Riney, Schiavon/Schiavone, Hoppin, Gaffney, Kangas, and Makepeace families; and many others connected with them.

It is said that life is a work in progress, and so it is with this website. Although I do my best to ensure accuracy, I invite you to contact me if you have additions or corrections to what you find here.

If you are unfamiliar with some of the family stories or traditions published here, I hope you will enjoy them. If you know of any other family stories or items of interest, I hope you will share them so that others may be enriched by them, too.

To me, there is nothing more precious than our family. If you are still reading this, chances are you feel the same way. Knowing who came before us can give our lives meaning and can help us understand who we are and who we can become; but this knowledge brings with it the great responsibility honoring our ancestors by handing on our heritage, traditions, and identity to our own future descendants.

I would love to hear from you. Please feel free to e-mail me at CasaTully@gmail.com

Linda Huesca Tully
California, USA