Robledo One-Name Study: Early United States Census Analysis, 1790 to 1850

Robledo Coat of Arms - House of NamesI mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I was toying with starting a one-name study for my Robledo surname. Primarily because I am hoping it might help me finally make some progress on this total brick wall surname, but also because I don’t find a lot of other people researching this surname.

In the one-name study session she taught at RootsTech last month, Tessa Keough(@TessaKeough), showed us examples of tracing a surname through the U.S. Censuses to identify when a particular surname first makes an appearance in those records, and to identify patterns of migration. She recommended it as a good place to start such a study, and to use both and for comparison and better accuracy.

My study focuses solely on the Robledo surname; not any of it variances.

U.S. Census Analysis

I decided to initially analyze the federal censuses spanning 1790 to 1850. The 1790 U.S. Census was the first federal census, and the 1850 one was the first federal census following the acquisition of much of the southwest through the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848 as a result of the Mexican-American War. Since Robledo is a Mexican and Spanish surname, I did not expect to it appear in federal census records until after the treaty, when what are now the southwest states were ceded by Mexico to the United States.

Contextual Timeline

  • 1846-1848: Mexican-American War.
  • 1848, February 2: Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo; Mexican Cession.
  • 1850, September 9: California Statehood; New Mexico Territory formed.
  • 1912, January 6: New Mexico Statehood.

My hunch was correct. I do not find anyone with the Robledo surname until 1850.

Robledo One-Name Study, Individuals on U.S. Censues
Counting individuals enumerated on each U.S. Census. This spreadsheet is from my analysis, but the FamilySearch analysis had the same exact results.
Robledo One-Name Study US Census Analysis
Counting households enumerated on each U.S. Census. This spreadsheet is from my analysis, but the FamilySearch analysis had the same exact results.
Robledo One-Name Study, U.S. Census Analysis
Counting males enumerated on each U.S. Census. This spreadsheet is from my analysis, but the FamilySearch analysis had the same exact results.

The 1850 U.S. Census

The regular 1850 U.S. Census is the first federal census on which I find the surname Robledo. I did not find any Robledo listed on the Slave or Mortality Schedules.

Robledo One-Name Study, 1850 US Census Analysis,
Transcription of Robledo entries in the 1850 U.S. Census. Source:
Robledo One-Name Study, 1850 US Census Analysis,
Transcription of Robledo entries in the 1850 U.S. Census. Source:

Stats & Facts

By 1850, there are 11 individuals recorded with the surname Robledo: 6 males and 5 females. These 11 individuals lived in pre-statehood California (enumerated 11 February; 7 months prior to statehood), the newly formed New Mexico Territory (enumerated 17, 27, and 31 December), and of all places…Connecticut. These individuals make up 5 different households: 3 in New Mexico Territory, 1 in California, and 1 in Connecticut.

The spreadsheets above identify the different spellings of the Robledo surname for each household, which are likely due to the census enumerator mis-hearing how the surname was pronounced, or just misspelling it on the written record. Or the transcriber and indexer mis-reading and misspellilng the surname. It is interesting to see how the surnames are transcribed on Ancestry vs. Family Search:

  • The Jose listed by himself (a servant) in New Mexico Territory is spelled Robledo on both Ancestry and FamilySearch.
  • The Prudencia household in New Mexico Territory is also spelled Robledo on both Ancestry and FamilySearch.
  • The Teodoro household in New Mexico Territory is spelled Robledo on Ancestry, yet Robleco on FamilySearch.
  • The California household is spelled Roblero on both Ancestry and FamilySearch.
  • The Connecticut individual is spelled Robloda on Ancestry and Roblada on FamilySearch.

Looking for these individuals on future censues will hopefully help me determine if these variations are indeed due to enumerator or transcriber error, or if they are distinct and separate surnames…not Robledo.

The Connecticut Robledo is definitely an oddity that I may have to investigate further just for curiosity’s sake. I do not think this is the beginning of a Robledo migration trend into Connecticut. This unnamed Robloda or Roblada male does not have a profession identified, but is listed in a large household with a bunch of other people and different surnames. Sadly he is the only person in the household for whom a first name is not provided, which would give me a clue if he had Hispanic origins. I will have to look for him on future censuses.

The California household also catches my eye, because California is where my Robledo line settled when they immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico in the 1910s. I have always heard from Dad’s family that our Nieto-Robledo family followed Nieto relations who already lived in California, but I wonder if we also had Robledo relations here as well? I may have to trace this 1850 California Robledo household back to Mexico.

Comparing Transcriptions & Indexing

I had to play around with the search filter settings on both Ancestry and FamilySearch, casting both broad and more exact nets on the Robledo spelling. For the most part, the results from 1790 to 1850 were pretty consistent on both services.

I quickly learned (although I already knew this from my regular research) that one cannot rely upon just the surname search results to generate an accurate count  of individuals listed on each census. Other surnames, some totally off, get thrown into the search results as well. FamilySearch generated far more accurate surname results than Ancestry.

Robledo - 1850 US Census - Ancestry
Searching for Robledo in the 1850 Census on Ancestry generated 1,585 individuals. As you can see, some of the surnames were WAY off.
Robledo - 1850 US Census - FamilySearch
The same search on FamilySearch generated only 18 individuals in the results. Still more than the 11 people I narrowed down as a likely Robledo, but far more accurate.

I had to look at the individual records, and especially the individual census images, to identify real surname candidates and narrow my list down to those most likely to be Robledos.

All Hispanic Names Sound Alike?

I find it interesting and humorous that Ancestry identifies 3 Robledo results on the 1810 U.S. Census. These Robledo hits are actually Luceros. Hmm… is Ancestry’s indexing and search feature a bit prejudiced…thinking all Hispanic surnames are the same? I am joking of course, but Ancestry does apparently consider another three-syllable Hispanic surname ending in a hard-O sound to be a likely match to my surname.

FamilySearch did not make the same mistake.

Robledo Search Results - 1810 US Census - Ancestry search results for Robledo on the 1810 U.S. Census brought up the surname Lucero.

A Possible 1820 Robledo?

FamilySearch turned up a Bartholomew Ribled in Belfast, Bedford County, Pennsylvania when I searched for surname Robledo on the 1820 U.S. Census. Ancestry did not; I had to search for that specific Ribled name to retrieve the record in Ancestry. It sounds like it could be similar to Robledo, so I did a bit more searching for this person on other censuses. He does not pan out as a Robledo. His surname is instead spelled as Riblet, Riblett, or Ribler on other censuses.

So 1850 is still indeed the first year in which any Robledo appears on the U.S. Census.

Robledo Results - 1820 US Census - FamilySearch
Searching for Robledo on the 1820 U.S. Census in FamilySearch resulted in this similar sounding surname.
Robledo - 1820 US Census - Image - Ancestry
Census record for Bartholomew Ribled on the 1820 U.S. Census, in

 Next Steps

Moving on to the next half of 19th century U.S. Censuses is definitely my next move. But this “quick” census analysis took much more time than I anticipated, so that next step may have to wait a month or two since it does take time away from my actual ancestor-focused family history research.

The biggest challenge for me is that I want to further research all of these individuals, but I just don’t have that much extra time.

Robledo: Toying with Starting a One-Name Study

Robledo Coat of Arms - House of Names

I am seriously considering embarking upon a one-name study for my Robledo (maiden) surname, whether just on my own, or officially registered through the Guild of One-Name Studies.

About One-Name Studies

A one-name (or surname) study is a project researching all occurrences of a surname, as opposed to a particular pedigree (ancestors of one person) or descendency (descendants of one person or couple). Some ‘one-namers’ restrict their research geographically, perhaps to one country, but true one-namers collect all occurrences worldwide. (Guild of One-Name Studies)

I first heard of one-name studies last year at RootsTech, from my then-new British genea-friend Amelia Bennett (@MiaB2012). When she explained it, I immediately dismissed it thinking that I would rather spend what little research time I have focusing on my ancestors. But when I saw an introductory class offered at this year’s RootsTech, taught by Tessa Keough (@TessaKeough), my curiosity got the better of me. The session was definitely worth my time!

Robledo Brick Wall

I have written before about the enormous brick wall I face with my Robledo line.

Jose RobledoMy oldest known Robledo ancestor is my paternal great grandfather Jose “Joe” Robledo (1875-1937). Jose (also known as Joe and Joseph) is the furthest back I have been able to go on this line for over 15 years. Dad’s family simply knows nothing about this patriarch who brought his wife and first two children to the United States in the 1910s, after the family lost everything during the Mexican Revolution. Joe has one child left alive, but none of his living grandchildren were born before Joe died in 1937. None of them know the names of Joe’s parents, where he was born (we assume in the state of San Luis Potosi, Mexico, like his wife), or the names of any possible siblings. His wife died in 1974. The family has only one known photo of this patriarch. And what very little documentation I have found doesn’t shed light on these questions either.

In short, I have made no progress at all on my Robledo line. Nada. Ever.

What I find to be particularly frustrating is the total absence of anyone else researching Joe or his family history. For well over a decade, I have regularly trolled other public Ancestry Member Trees trying to identify another family historian who might offer forth any clues. While I find plenty of AMTs that connect to Joe’s wife’s family history (that prolific Nieto line of mine), I have not found a single other AMT that identifies Joe, except as a collateral relation to his wife’s family line. The launch in recent years of Family Search’s shared Family Tree held initial hope for me, but has not yet revealed any other genealogists contributing to Joe’s Family Tree.

In March 2014, I had Dad do an AncestryDNA autosomal test for me. I thought for sure this would connect me with other Robledo researchers to provide some new leads. Nope. Just more Nieto researchers (and some good leads on Dad’s mother’s line). There are quite a few suggested connections who either don’t have a tree posted at all, or who make their tree private (and haven’t responded to my requests to let me view their trees), so it is possible I might end up with some fellow Robledo researchers there. I find it incredibly frustrating that AncestryDNA doesn’t at least display a surnames list for DNA Matches who choose to keep their trees private. Just being able to view the surnames would help me dismiss a possible Match, or keep begging them for access. Immediately after RootsTech and FGS earlier this month, I transferred my raw AncestryDNA to Family Tree DNA, so I am hoping for some matches there (a computer glitch on their end has delayed processing my results).

The recent announcement at RootsTech that FamilySearch is finally going to index all of their Mexico records does hold some good promise for me.

Robledo Origins

Robledo is not an unusual surname, but neither is it the most common of Hispanic surnames (like Garcia, Sanches, Rodriguez, etc.). Other than my own siblings, I can only recall one other Robledo in my K-12 schools, despite growing up in heavily-Hispanic Santa Ana, Orange County, California. I have lived here in Orange County for all but a handful of years, and have never actually run into another Robledo.

Ancestry confirms what Dad always told me about the Robledo surname.

Robledo Name Meaning Spanish: habitational name from any of the numerous places named Robledo, from robledo ‘oak wood’, a derivative of roble ‘oak’. (Source: Dictionary of American Family Names ©2013, Oxford University Press).

House of Names of course claims a distinguished and rich history (don’t they always!).

The distinguished surname Robledo is a proud sign of a rich and ancient history. The original bearer of the name Robledo, which is a loal surname, once lived, held land, or was born in the beautiful region of Spain… The Robledo family originally lived in the village named Robles, which was located in the judicial district of Murias in the province of Leon. This place-name was originally derived from the Spanish word robles, which means oak, and it indicates that the originally [sic] bearer of this name resided near oak trees.

Spelling variations of this family name include: Robles, de Robles, Roble, Robleda, Robledo, de Robledo, Robledano, Robledillo, de Robledillo, Robreno [with a ~], Robreno, Robreda, de Robreda, Robredo, de Robredo, Robredillo and many more.

First found in Castile, in north central Spain.

Sadly, my Robledo surname doesn’t even warrant a Wikipedia page.

Leon Province, Spain. Wikimedia Commons.
Leon Province, Spain. Creative Commons licensed image from Wikimedia Commons.

Related Robledo Projects

I find no real surname projects mentioned on the web, or even a family association or Facebook Group. All I find are a few DNA projects, which I plan to join when I have the requisite Y-DNA test done on Dad or his uncle.

And of course, the trusty Robledo surname forum.

So, a one-name study can’t hurt, unless it diverts too much of my attention away from my regular research. But there seem to be so few people researching this surname, that at the very least, it will allow me to make a meaningful contribution to the genealogy community and to my Robledo surname group.