Finally Confirming the Name of My 2nd Great-Grandfather, Refugio Nieto

Nieto Family CrestMy last two blog posts focused on my 2nd great-grandmother Maria Aurelia Compean (1858-1963), and in particular on the discrepancies over her birth year and age. Aurelia immigrated to the U.S. in 1919, with some of her children, from their home state of San Luis Potosi, Mexico. She spent the last 44 years of her life starting anew in Los Angeles County, California. Aurelia, according to U.S. Census records and family recollections, primarily lived at different times with two of her children — her daughter (my great-grandmother) Maria Hermalinda “Nana” Nieto (1887-1973), and her son (my 2nd great-uncle) Juvenal Joseph Nieto (1898-1978).

Aurelia, affectionately referred to as “Little Grandma” was well known by my paternal grandfather and his siblings, and also by my dad and his own cousins. Because Dad went to live with his grandmother (our “Nana”) when he was five years old, he also lived with and grew very close to his Little Grandma, who resided with her daughter Nana at that time. Dad recently shared with me how traumatic it was for him to lose his great-grandmother in 1963. Although I have only just started to make progress on Aurelia’s history, her name has been well known to me despite never having met her.

The name of Aurelia’s husband, however, has been a big mystery. All we have ever known is that his surname was Nieto, and that he died in Mexico before his family immigrated here.

Name Not Known

Dad doesn’t remember ever hearing a first name for his great-grandfather (Little Grandma’s husband). No one in our branch of the Nieto-Robledo family knew his name. Not even Nana’s lone living child (my great-uncle, and Aurelia’s grandson). In a family history questionnaire that I asked my great-uncle to fill out back in 2003, my great-uncle left the name of his maternal grandfather blank (he only filled in the name of his grandmother, Aurelia). The 1963 obituary for Aurelia fails to include my 2nd great-grandfather’s name — he is simply referred to as “her husband.” How does a spouse’s name get left out of an obituary? Aurelia still had living children at that point, who certainly knew their father’s name. Didn’t they realize what sort of frustration this would plunge future generations of family historians into???

Maria Aurelia Compean Scanned Obituary Clipping
Clipped obituary, from family files. Independent. Long Beach, California, United States Of America.

And for years, I have struck out on locating a Mexico marriage record for Aurelia and her husband, or a baptism record for their children Maria and Juvenal.

Possibly Raphael

Over the last handful of years, I have come across other grandchildren, grandchildren-in-law, and great-grandchildren of Aurelia who have public trees on Ancestry. Those that identified a spouse for Aurelia recored him with the name Raphael — although no source documents are attached on any of the trees as evidence to support that name.

But, Raphael became  the working name for my 2d great-grandfather, as I kept searching on Ancestry and FamilySearch for records that might substantiate that fact.

Last month, I finally received a copy of my great-grandmother Nana’s 1973 death certificate from Los Angeles County. Noted on her death certificate is the name of her father (Aurelia’s husband)…Raphael Nieto.

The same name in those Ancestry trees. We were starting to get warmer.

Maria Hermalinda Nieto Death Certiificate
Personal data section of the 1973 Los Angeles County death certificate for my great-grandmother, Maria Hermalinda Nieto (married name Robledo).

The death certificate identifies Nana’s second youngest son, my now-deceased uncle Alfred Robledo, as the informant. So Uncle Alfred was most likely the person who provided the names of his mother’s parents. Nana’s father is listed as Raphael Nieto. But the maiden name of Nana’s mother is incorrect. Nana’s mother (Aurelia) is identified with the maiden name Sanchez. It should be Compean. Sanches is Aurelia’s maternal surname (apellido materno), not her paternal surname (apellido paterno) — or what we call a maiden name. Uncle Alfred was clearly not too sure about his grandparents’ names.

I also ordered a copy of Aurelia’s death certificate from Los Angeles County at the same time, however the county sent me a notice that the were unable to locate a death record for her. I had hoped her death certificate would identify a spouse’s name, a name that was hopefully identified by one of Aurelia’s children, who had to know the name of their father.

Possibly Refugio

In that same batch of Los Angeles County vital record requests, I had asked for the 1978 death certificate of my 2nd great-uncle Juvenal, hoping it would provide some clues about Juvenal and Maria’s parents — particularly their father, my 2nd great-grandfather Nieto.

When I received Juvenal’s death certificate in the mail, I encountered a new name for my 2nd great-grandfather — Refugio. The informant on Juvenal’s death certificate is his wife Mary, who might likely have known my 2nd great-grandfather back in Mexico. Mary also got the surname correct (Compean) for Juvenal’s mother, my 2nd great-grandmother Aurelia.

Juvenal Nieto Death Certiificate
Personal data section of the 1978 Los Angeles County death certificate for my 2nd great-uncle, Juvenal Nieto.

This is the first time I encountered the name Refugio used in connection with my 2nd great-grandfather. But it wasn’t the first time I had heard that name used in connection with my family. Refugio is the name that Aurelia’s daughter Maria (my great-grandmother Nana) gave to her first-born son. My great-grandparents Maria Hermalinda Nieto and Jose Robledo named their first boy Refugio Raphael Robledo (born 1915 in Mexico). There were both of those names…Refugio…and Raphael. It would seem my Nana named her first son after her father.

Was Refugio Raphael the name of my 2nd great-grandfather? Was Raphael the name he preferred to go by, which might explain why those Ancestry trees and my uncle Alfred identify him as Raphael?

The namesake grandson, my now-deceased great-uncle Refugio Raphael Robledo (the baby born in 1915) also preferred to go by the name Raphael, or his parents just called him Raphael, because much of the documentation I have identifies him as Raphael. Although his sole living sibling, and his nieces and nephews, say that he actually went by the nickname of Ray.

The search to learn my 2nd great-grandfather’s name was definitely getting warmer now.

Refugio Confirmed

And then last week, that search grew hot. Really hot.

As stated in my last blog post about my 2nd great-grandmother Aurelia, on May 6th I finally — after 15+ years — found the marriage record for Aurelia and her husband, in the non-indexed/non-searchable browse-only collection of Mexico Catholic church records on FamilySearch! The marriage records identifies my 2nd great-grandfather as Refugio Nieto.

Maria Aurelia Compean married Refugio Nieto (1863-1909) on 18 October 1883 in the Villa de Yturbide (now Villa de Hidalgo), a municipality in San Luis Potosi, Mexico.

Marriage declaration by Aurelia Compean to Refugio Nieto, FamilySearch
Marriage declaration made by Aurelia Compean to Refugio Nieto. From the full record of marriage. FamilySearch.”México, San Luis Potosí, registros parroquiales, 1586-1970,” images, FamilySearch (,167668102,168345101 : accessed 6 May 2015), Villa Hidalgo > San José > Información matrimonial 1880-1886 > image 491 of 755; parroquias Católicas, San Luis Potosi (Catholic Church parishes, San Luis Potosi).

Now that I had my groove down browsing through those non-indexed/non-searchable Mexico records on FamilySearch, I was on a roll. That same afternoon I came across another record I had been hunting for 15+ years — the Mexico Catholic church baptism record for my great-grandmother Maria Hermalinda “Nana” Nieto. Nana’s baptism record identifies her parents as Aurelia Compean and Refugio Nieto.

Maria Hermalinda Nieto Baptism Record
Baptism record for Maria Hermalinda Nieto, 08 November 1997.
“México, San Luis Potosí, registros parroquiales, 1586-1970,” images, FamilySearch (,167672202,167990403 : accessed 13 May 2015), Armadillo de los Infante > Santa Isabel > Bautismos 1877-1892 > image 629 of 943; parroquias Católicas, San Luis Potosi (Catholic Church parishes, San Luis Potosi).
Click to view larger image.

I think I may also have found the baptism record for my 2nd great-grandfather Refugio Nieto, but I will save that discussion for another post.

What About Raphael?

At this point, I have to consider Raphael to be a nickname. The name is used by family members too often for it to be dismissed as simply a mistaken name. And since Refugio’s granddaughter Maria Hermalinda (my Nana) named her first-born son Refugio Raphael, I have to think that the name Raphael is rightly associated with my 2nd great-grandfather.

Visiting with Dad this weekend, he had another suggestion. That Raphael might be my 2nd great-grandfather’s Catholic confirmation name. That theory will have to wait to be explored when I have time to browse through the non-indexed/non-searchable Mexico Catholic church confirmation records.

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Grandfather Benjamin Robledo (1919-1990): Trying to Solve the Mystery of His Given Birth Name

Benjamin Robledo US NavyFor over 15 years, I have beaten my head against a wall in total frustration at being unable to locate the birth record for my paternal grandfather, Benjamin Robledo (1919-1990), born 23 May 1919 in Long Beach, Los Angeles County, California.

My grandfather was the third of eight children born to Jose Robledo (1875-1937) and Maria Nieto (1887-1973). Benjamin was the second son, but the first U.S.-born child — his parents immigrated from Mexico in 1915.

Early on, I successfully located birth records for all of Benjamin’s U.S.-born siblings, and the Mexico christening records (with birth dates noted) for his two older Mexico-born siblings. But I could never find a birth record for my grandfather, which just made no sense. Searching the Ancestry and FamilySearch versions of the California Birth Index failed every time.

My breakthrough finally happened in February 2014 during my first RootsTech research trip to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.

The Breakthrough

Since the Family History Library owns the Long Beach city birth certificates, 1906-1919 collection on microfilm, my top priority for that research trip was to review the collection. I felt fairly certain that my grandfather was born in Long Beach, since the family was enumerated there on the 1920 U.S. Census when he was just an infant. I wanted to try a narrower Long Beach focus before having to expand my search to all of Los Angeles County.

With the first roll in the collection being an index for 1906-1919, I was able to quickly scan for any Robledo babies born in or around 1919. My only hit was a reference to a Raymond Robledo born in 1919.

Benjamin Robledo - 1919 Birth - Index FHL
The only Robledo born in Long Beach in 1919. Index to birth certificates, 1908-1919. Family History Library microfilm collection.

I pulled that particular birth register number up on microfilm, and was surprised to discover that Raymond Robledo appeared to be my grandfather Benjamin. The date of birth, parents’ names, and parents’ residence all jived with what I already knew about him.

Raymond???? His name was Benjamin.

Raymond is the name of a much younger brother. Ray is the nickname of his older brother Refugio. I have never heard my grandfather referred to as anything other than Benjamin or Ben.

I scanned back and forth on the microfilm, wondering if this Raymond was perhaps a twin (of Benjamin) that died at birth. But there was still no Benjamin Robledo in the collection. Only a Raymond Robledo, with no middle name (I thought perhaps Benjamin might be a middle name).

Benjamin Robledo - 1919 Birth - Family History Library
Transcribed birth record, photographed from the Family History Library microfilm collection. Long Beach city birth certificates, 1906-1919.

I immediately texted my father, sending him a copy of the birth record. He confirmed this information appeared to be for his father, but also confirmed he had never heard his father called anything other than Benjamin.


Armed with this new document and name, I retraced my previous (years’ worth) of attempts to once again find my grandfather on the California Birth Index. Only to be faced with the same result. No listings for a Benjamin or even unnamed Robledo male baby born in 1919 California.

Only…. a Raymond Robledo. My same Raymond. He had been staring me in the face every time I searched the Birth Index, but I had always dismissed this hit due to the name Raymond.

Benjmain Robledo - 1919 - CA Birth Index - Ancestry
California Birth Index record for my grandfather. Courtesy of
Robledo-Nieto - 1919-CA Birth Index - Ancestry
Every California Birth Index entry that Ancestry retrieves when searching for a Robledo born in California in 1919. Raymond (my grandfather) is the only one born to a Nieto mother, and on the proper birth date.
Robledo-Nieto - 1919 - CA Birth Index - Family Search
FamilySearch only finds one entry for a Robledo born in 1919 California to a Nieto mother.

Since finding my grandfather’s birth record last year, my dad has questioned his father’s lone living sibling about this mystery several times. Dad’s living uncle has told both of us that he has no recollection of my grandfather ever being referred to as Raymond — only Benjamin. He is just as surprised by this discovery as we are.

The Original Source Document

Just in case that transcribed birth certificate found in the Family History Library microfilm collection had been mis-transcribed (human error happens), I knew I needed to obtain the original record. A few weeks ago, I finally made it a priority to visit the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk to request an informational copy of the original birth certificate.

When filling out the order form there, I listed both Benjamin and Raymond as first names.

Yesterday, my copy of the original birth certificate finally arrived!

No transcription error. My grandfather’s given name at birth was recorded as Raymond.

Benjamin Robledo, Birth Certificate
Birth certificate for Benjamin (Raymond) Robledo, 1919. County of Los Angeles.

No Further Trace of Raymond

I have never come across another instance of my grandfather’s given name being recorded as Raymond, even though I now always intentionally search for both a Benjamin Robledo and a Raymond Robledo with the same age and/or the same immediate family members.

After his birth, the earliest record upon which I find my grandfather living is the 1920 U.S. Census, where he was identified already as Benjamin, at 8 months old. Not Raymond.

Benjamin Robledo - 1920 US Census - Ancestry
The 1920 US Census record for my grandfather and his family, in Long Beach, Los Angeles County, California. Grandfather (highlighted in yellow) is already identified as Benjamin at just 8 months old. The name above his is older Mexican-born brother Refugio, who would go by the nickname “Ray” among his siblings and friends. Courtesy of

Other records that identify his given name as Benjamin:

  • (1920) US Census: 8 months old.
  • (1930) US Census: 17 years old.
  • (1936) Glendale, California, City Directory.
  • (1940) US Census: 20 years old.
  • (1942) Marriage License and Certificate, County of Orange, California.
  • (1944-1945) US Navy Muster Rolls.
  • (1945) Notice of Separation, US Naval Service.
  • (1945) Birth Certificate of child.
  • (1953) Glendale, California, City Directory.
  • (1990) California Death Index, 1940-1997.
  • (1990) US Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014.
  • (1990) U.S., Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File, 1850-2010.
Benjamin Robledo, Death Certificate
Death certificate for Benjamin Robledo, 1990. County of Los Angeles.

Questions, Questions, Questions!

What the heck happened that my grandfather was given a name at birth, that the family was no longer using for him by the time he was just 8 months old?

  • Did whomever (I assume one of Benjamin’s parents) provided the baby’s name to the hospital or county employee mistakenly give the wrong first name of “Raymond” for his birth certificate? If so, did they file a legal name change later, or an amended birth certificate that for some reason doesn’t show up in any publicly accessible collection? Or did they simply just start calling him Benjamin without a legal name change?
  • Were my great-grandparents in disagreement about my grandfather’s name, even after his birth? With whichever of the two who provided the details for the birth certificate winning out by having the baby’s name recorded as Raymond, unknown to the other parent who wanted the baby named Benjamin? At least one of my great grandparents liked the name Raymond enough to give that name later to another son. Raymond, Raymon, and Ramon all seem to be common names among their extended family. I find no other Benjamin in the Nieto-Robledo extended family.
  • Did the hospital or county official who recorded the details for grandfather’s birth certificate simply make a mistake and record the wrong given name?
  • Some parents (or later, the child him/herself) sometimes choose to go by a middle name. But none of the records I have for my grandfather indicate the existance of a middle name.

If a legal name change from Raymond to Benjamin was never made, how is it that my grandfather was able to use the name Benjamin in other legal records?

  • Since the Social Security Death Index records his name as Benjamin, I assume this is the given name he provided on his Social Security application. I know that birth records are now required when applying for a SS card. But, was that the case when he applied, before 1951?
  • He joined the U.S. Navy in 1943, during the Second World War. Was any type of record of birth or identify required to enlist? Even during wartime, when we needed more troops?
  • When my husband and I applied for our marriage license in 2009, I think I remember the County of Orange (same county in which my grandparents married) requiring us to show our birth certificates. Did my grandparents have to show their own birth certificates back in 1942, and if so, how did my grandfather explain away the discrepancy in his given name unless he had additional proof of a legal name change?

Next Steps

If I ever want to reach a credible conclusion that this Raymond Robledo is definitely my grandfather Benjamin Robledo, I know I have to conduct a more exhaustive search of all available evidence.

  • I just ordered a copy of my grandfather’s original Social Security card application.
  • I need to figure out which jurisdiction would have processed a legal name change, where those records are now located, and try to determine if any such name change was made.
  • I need to try to find a christening record for my grandfather, since I can assume that his practicing Catholic parents had him baptized as an infant. First though, I need to identify the Catholic church to which his family belonged when they lived in Long Beach.

Do you have suggestions for other steps I should take meet the requirements of a reasonably exhaustive search in order to work towards a sound written conclusion?

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