#52Ancestors: The Way My Robledo and Nieto Family Immigrated to the U.S.

Laredo Foot Bridge
This photo is undated, but looks like it could have been the bridge that stood between 1905 and 1932. [International Foot Bridge, Laredo, Texas], Postcard, n.d.; digital images, (http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth13260/ : accessed June 20, 2012), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, http://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Laredo Public Library, Laredo, Texas.
My 19th entry in Amy Johnson Crow’s “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” family history blogging challenge for 2015.

The challenge: have one blog post each week devoted to a specific ancestor. It could be a story, a biography, a photograph, an outline of a research problem — anything that focuses on one ancestor.

Amy’s 2015 version of this challenge focuses on a different theme each week.

The theme for week 19 is – There’s a Way: What ancestor found a way out of a sticky situation? You might also think of this in terms of transportation or migration.

Aurelia Compean, Maria Nieto, Four Generations
Four generations of Compean women. My great-aunt Lupe Robledo (2nd from the left), flanked by (L-R): her daughter Esther, her mother (my great-grandmother) Maria Nieto, and her grandmother (my 2nd-great grandmother Aurelia Compean.

My 19th ancestor is my great-aunt Guadalupe “Lupe” Maria Robledo (1910-1975 ). According to the dual surname convention used in her country of birth, Mexico, her full name is Guadalupe Maria Robledo Nieto.

This post is really about the way my paternal grandfather’s Mexico-born family came to the U.S. Not so much about a particular ancestor. However, since the blog challenge requires we identify a focus ancestor, and since I have already blogged about my both of my great-grandparents for this same challenge, I had to choose a new ancestor or relative. So I have chosen Aunt Lupe, since she is one of the four immediate family members who immigrated to the U.S., and because her border crossing record was one of the two gems I discovered on Monday.

About Aunt Lupe

I have very vague memories of my great-aunt Lupe. She died when I was a very little girl.

Guadalupe Maria Robledo Nieto was the oldest of eight children born to my great-grandparents, Jose Robledo (1875-1937) and Maria Hermalinda Nieto (1887-1973). She is also one of two children born to Jose and Maria in Mexico; my grandfather Benjamin Robledo (1919-1997) was the first child born in the United States.

Lupe was born 30 June 1910 in the state of San Luis Potosi, Mexico. I have not yet found a baptism or civil birth registration record from Mexico, confirming the date and place–but it is very likely she was born in the family’s hometown of Tomascal (Temescal) in the municipality of Armadillo de los Infante, state of San Luis Potosi. From what I can tell, she was not given the traditional Mexican order for given names, which would have been Maria Guadalupe, with the saint/biblical name of Maria preceding her primary name of Guadalupe. But since I have not yet found her baptism or civil registration for birth, I can’t be certain of that.

This is all the biographical info I plan to share about Aunt Lupe at this time, because the real focus of this post is on the next major phase of Lupe’s life that I have identified so far–immigrating to the U.S. with her parents and baby brother.

Immigrating to the U.S.

Dad, his cousins, and I have always heard that his father’s family fled to the U.S. to escape the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920). The family supposedly had land and lost everything during the revolution. They came seeking a new home, a new life, a fresh start. Much of their extended family immigrated here, in phases, with a large group–that included my great-grandparents–then migrating to Long Beach, Los Angeles County, California.

The 1920 U.S. census indicates that the whole immediate family group immigrated in 1916.1 The 1930 U.S. census claims it was 1915.2

For over 15 years, I have tried to find documentation that would identify where and when my grandfather’s immediate family crossed into the U.S. For over 15 years, I have pulled my hair out and banged my head against a wall, each time my attempted search failed.

Two days ago, after 15+ years, the search came to an end.

I found them. All of them. Finally!

Finding Great-Grandmother Maria First

The first documented evidence I came across that indicated the way my grandfather’s family immigrated to the U.S. was the discovery of my great-grandmother Maria “Nana” Nieto’s naturalization records at the National Archives in Laguna Niguel, California, back in 2003-2005 (I didn’t note back then when I found a document). Those documents reference Laredo, Texas, as her point of entry and confirmed entry in October 1915.3 The exact date was noted wrong on those naturalization documents, but I will save that document’s analysis for another post.

A bit of digging around for information about Laredo, Texas, as a point of entry from Mexico during that era indicated that the Laredo footbridge, over the famous Rio Grande, is how immigrants in 1915 would have entered the U.S. via Laredo. I wrote about the bridge’s history in a 2012 blog post about my great-grandmother Maria’s immigration. According to Wikipedia, the foot bridge (now called the Gateways to the Americas International Bridge) was first constructed in the 1880s, was destroyed by a flood in 1905, then repaired, and was rebuilt in 1932, continuing this cycle through present day.4

Once Ancestry had the digitized US-Mexico border records indexed, the information on Nana’s naturalization records allowed me to find her border entry record in 2012.

Nana, or Maria, is identified under her paternal surname of Nieto (what we would think of as a maiden name), not under Robledo (what we think of as a married name). Back in 2012, this had me a bit stumped, as to why my great-grandmother was not recorded as Maria Robledo.  I did not then fully understand the dual surname convention used in Mexico, and that Mexican women do not take their husband’s name. Mexican immigrant women generally only become identified by their husband’s name after coming to the U.S., on U.S.-generated records, such as a census, city directory, or death record.

She was admitted via the bridge, on 27 October 1915. The “2” in the date is hard to read on her card, but further evidence confirms the 27th as the date.

Maria Nieto, 1915 Border Entry Card (Front)
The front of the border entry card for Maria Nieto. Source: Ancestry.com.

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Maria’s border entry card indicates that she was married, that she was accompanied by “baby Refugio Robledo,” and she was entering the country for “shopping.”5

Baby Refugio Robledo

That four-month-old was my great-uncle Refugio Raphael “Ray” Robledo (1915-?).

Note that Refugio’s border entry card more clearly indicates the date that he and his mother Maria entered the U.S.–October 27th. 6

Nana had two children by this time, including older daughter Guadalupe. So why wasn’t Maria accompanied by Lupe as well? Why not also accompanied by her husband, my great-grandfather Jose? Why was the family split up at the border? Where were Jose and Lupe?

If the family had been split up, for whatever reason, one can reasonably assume why an infant is the child who would be left with the mother. Maria would have been nursing baby Refugio; not exactly something her husband Jose could do.

Refugio Robledo, 1915 Border Card
Border entry card for baby Refugio Robledo. The back of the card (outlined in orange) contains notes about additional dates that Refugio traveled back and forth between the U.S. and Mexico as an adult. Source: Ancestry.com.

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Discovering Great-Grandfather in an Old Clue

Two years after finding the border entry cards for Maria and her baby son Refugio, I still had not been able to find out what happened to older daughter Lupe and husband Jose Robledo.

Until this past Monday.

Thinking that I might focus this blog post topic on Baby Refugio’s way into the U.S., I took another look at the border records for both Refugio and his mother Maria Nieto. Nothing. No Jose Robledo or Guadalupe Robledo with the right birth and family info anywhere. I looked at EVERY person recorded as crossing on that same date. Also for the date before, and the date after. I looked at every Robledo and Nieto who crossed in October 1915. Still nothing.

But…then…there…it…was…staring me right in the face.

The whole time.

I just hadn’t ever registered and thought-out the note before. Perhaps because it never even meant anything to me, until a month ago.

Maria Nieto, 1915 Border Entry Card (Back)
The back of Maria Nieto’s border entry card. Note the reference to Jose Sanchez (outlined in red). I have flipped the same back 180 degrees to show a later 1945 note (in blue) pertaining to her immigration status. Source: Ancestry.com.

The back of Maria’s border entry card has a handwritten note about her being caught with a  Jose Sanchez.7

Was in office at same time with Jose Sanchez but denied knowing him — subsequently found with him in the street and returned to Mex to appear for B.__.__. in the morning — suspicion of __.

I had seen that note many many times, and dismissed it every time.

The name Jose Sanchez meant nothing to me. I had no such person in my database. Jose Sanchez must have been a stranger, someone she ran into at the border. But, then, why was she later seen with him again on the streets? Was she so scared after being detained in a strange new country, that she gravitated towards the only other person there she knew–the person she had met in the immigration office?

This time, it clicked.


My great-grandfather Jose Robledo’s maternal surname is Sanchez. According to Mexican naming conventions (those darn dual-surnames again!), his full name is Jose Robledo Sanchez [a 2nd given name has not been found for him]. Until last month, I did not even know that. Because last month, another 15+ year brick wall was finally busted, when I found Mexico Catholic parish records identifying my great-grandfather’s parents’ names–which no currently living member of our family ever knew. Until my discovery last month.

Either Jose intentionally misled border officials by giving them his maternal surname as his only surname, or, as is so often the case with Mexican immigrants, U.S. officials (not understanding the dual-surname convention) recorded the maternal (last) surname as the lone surname.

I had seen and dismissed a 27 October 1915 border entry record for a Jose Sanchez. Stupid mistake. Especially considering the note about a Jose Sanchez on the back of Maria’s record.


That border record for Jose Sanchez matched the birth info for my great-grandfather and noted that he was accompanied by a daughter named Guadalupe! Even better…like Maria’s card, Jose’s border entry card contains an identical handwritten note on the back–indicating that he was detained and caught with a Maria Nieto.8 My Maria Nieto! His Maria Nieto!

At long last…my great-grandparents. Identified together. Detained together. Later caught again together. And hopefully, allowed to cross together.

Jose Robledo, 1915 Border Card
Border entry card for my great-grandfather Jose Robledo [recorded as Jose Sanchez], traveling with daughter Guadalupe (marked in red). The front of the card indicates that he has been in the U.S. before (marked in blue), so I have some more hunting to do! The back of the card is displayed up top, with the reference to Maria Nieto (outlined in red). Source: Ancestry.com
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The record for this Jose Sanchez, my great-grandfather, indicates that he was accompanied by his daughter Guadalupe.

 And Guadalupe Makes Four!

This discovery allowed me to quickly find the last border crossing record, for Aunt Lupe.

Guadalupe Sanchez [Robledo] is recorded as 7 years old (we think she was only 5 years old), from the right hometown, accompanied by her father Jose Sanchez.9

All four of my paternal grandfather’s immediate family entered the U.S. on 27 October 1915.

But, why is Aunt Lupe recorded with the name Sanchez? Sanchez is not one of her dual-surnames. Her full Mexican name is Maria Guadalupe Robledo Nieto. It is very likely that because her father Jose was recorded under just his second/maternal surname Sanchez (border officials probably thought Robledo was a middle name), officials simply assumed–like U.S. children–that Mexican children inherit a single surname from their father. Hence, Guadalupe Sanchez was born at the border.

Guadalupe Robledo, 1915 Border Card
Border entry card for Guadalupe Robledo [recorded as Guadalupe Sanchez], accompanied by her father. Source: Ancestry.com.
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Celebrating the 100th Anniversary

While preparing for this blog post theme, and in reviewing these records again over the past couple weeks, I had another significant discovery…if my family immigrated in 1915, then this coming October 27th marks the 100th anniversary of them crossing the border and crossing the Laredo footbridge to their new country.

The 100th anniversary! Coming up this year!

How can one pass up the chance to walk where their ancestors walked, exactly 100 years ago?! To stand where their ancestors stood exactly one century prior, staring across the Rio Grande, taking that walk (and leap) of hope, into a new country?

This gal ain’t passing up that chance!

I’m headed to Laredo, Texas, this fall, to walk across (not drive across) the international bridge into the border town of Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, then back across the Rio Grande again into the United States. The way my great-grandparents and their two oldest children did it. The actual bridge from 1915 no longer stands. It’s a newer bridge. So it won’t be in their exact footsteps, but it’s as close as I can get to retracing their steps. And best of all, I’m taking Dad with me! He was raised by my great-grandmother Maria Neto, his grandmother. She was the only mother he ever really had. I can’t wait to stand on that bridge with him, sharing this emotional experience, as we both reflect upon what all that Laredo bridge symbolizes for our family.

Gateway to the Americas International Bridge, Laredo, Texas
2008 photo of the current bridge. Creative Commons photo from Wikimedia.

Follow-up Questions

Finding these final two border crossing records answered some key questions about the Mexico-born members of my paternal grandfather’s immediate family, but it also raises many more, to which I will most likely never get answers.

  • Why were my great-grandparents detained in a government office?
  • Why did they deny knowing each other when questioned in that office?
  • If they were in the same office, pretending not to know each other, how on earth did they keep little Lupe from crying out and running to her mother, giving the cover story away?
  • Were they indeed returned to Mexico, for further questioning the next day?
  • So would that make their official immigration date the day after October 27th…the 28th?
  • What sort of  questioning took place the next day, and are there records?
  • What prompted officials to release them and allow them to continue on their journey?

My heart breaks for the terror they must have experienced. The fear that must have forced Maria and her husband Jose to deny knowing each other, perhaps thinking it might protect the other person–allowing the other spouse and at least one child safe passage if one set were detained or sent back. The fear that they might be sent back, all journey preparations for naught, returned to a war-torn country. The fear that their family might be separated…across a border, in separate countries.

What admiration I have for these two people, who lost everything, faced this fearful situation, and persevered. Persevered to make a new home for their young family, to grow their family with more children, and to instill such a profound sense of family and love among generations of children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and now 2nd great-grandchildren. Maria and Jose were always poor here, but they left a very rich legacy.

Lessons Learned

Having missed the final two border entry cards multiple times over the past two years has taught me some valuable lessons.

  • ALWAYS look for records and references to Mexican immigrants under both of their conventional surnames.
  • ALWAYS look for records and reference to Mexican immigrants’ children under any combination of the parents’ dual surnames (all four surnames).
  • ALWAYS pay close attention to, and frequently re-visit, notes written on the back of or in the margins of records.


#52Ancestors: Fourth great-grandfather Jose Victoriano Compean exemplifies Mexican naming conventions

Compean Coat of ArmsMy 15th entry in Amy Johnson Crow’s “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” family history blogging challenge for 2015.

The challenge: have one blog post each week devoted to a specific ancestor. It could be a story, a biography, a photograph, an outline of a research problem — anything that focuses on one ancestor.

Amy’s 2015 version of this challenge focuses on a different theme each week.

The theme for week 15 is — How Do You Spell That? What ancestor do you imagine was frequently asked that? Which ancestor did you have a hard time finding because of an unusual name?

My 15th ancestor is my 4th great-grandfather, Jose Victoriano Compean (b. abt. 1803). Jose Victoriano is the oldest identified ancestor in my paternal Compean line. I do not know much about Jose Victoriano — not even where in Mexico he was born, nor the names of his parents or siblings.

His name isn’t difficult to spell or to pronounce. It is not an unusual name for a Mexican-born male.  So why him for this particular challenge? Because of how difficult Mexican naming conventions can make genealogical research, and how easy Mexican naming conventions can make genealogical research. My 4th great-grandfather Jose Victoriano Compean and his family are a very good representation of this dichotomy.

Mexican Surnames

When dealing with Mexican names one must be mindful of the traditional Spanish naming convention of using dual surnames. In Mexico, the dual surname consists of both parents’ surnames: the paternal surname (apellido paterno), followed by the maternal surname (apellido materno). This means that Mexican wives do not take on the surname of their husbands upon marriage. In Mexican records, they remain identified by their maiden names (paternal, maternal).

So within the traditional Mexico household, there can be at least three sets of surnames for a single family: the husband’s dual surnames, the wife’s dual surnames, and a combination of their surnames used as dual surnames for each child.

Upon immigration to the U.S., all sorts of different surname scenarios end up in the records. Often the wife is recorded now just under a single surname — that of her husband. Sometimes a male is recorded under just a single surname (a crapshoot if it’s the paternal or maternal one). Both of which can make it difficult to try to find a paper trail back in Mexico.

Mexican Given Names

It wasn’t until a few years ago that I became aware of another traditional naming convention — multiple first names. I thought that the string of names found on ancestral records was a first name with one, two, or sometimes three middle names. Not the case with Mexican names. Mexican naming conventions do not employ the concept of a middle name.

Often the first of the given names is in honor of a saint or biblical figure, such as Maria/Mary or Jose/Joseph — which seem to be the two most common such names among my ancestors and their children.  According to the FamilySearch Wiki, “In Mexico the child was usually called by the second or third name given at baptism, especially if the first name was María or José.”

Names of Jose Victoriano’s Family

Reviewing the names found in records for my 4th great-grandfather’s children and grandchildren exemplifies these traditional Mexican naming conventions.

I sometimes find Jose Victoriano Compean identified just as Victoriano Compean. I also find his paternal surname spelled Compian (including on records for his children). What I have not found so far is a record referencing his dual surnames, which is very odd for early to mid-1800s Mexico church records.

His Wife

Jose Victoriano Compean married Maria Ignacia Martines, my 4th great-grandmother. Like with Victoriano, I do not yet find Maria Ignacia recorded with two surnames in the traditional Mexican fashion. Only with the single surname, which I assume is her paternal surname, particularly since the name Martines/Martinez was usually included as part of her children’s surnames in church records. Sometimes Maria Ignacia is found under the spelling of Maria Ygnacia, with her paternal surname spelled with a “z”, as Martinez, and also as just Ygnacia Martinez (no Maria).

I do not yet know when and where Jose Victoriano and Maria Ignacia married. It seems likely they were married shortly before 1840, the estimated birth year of their first baptized child. I think it also likely they married at San Isabel church, where three of their four children were baptized, in the municipality of Armadillo de los Infante, San Luis Potosi, Mexico.

Santa Isabel Church San Luis Potosi

Their Children

So far I have identified four children for Victoriano and Ignacia.

  1. Jose Santiago Compean (b. abt. 1840). My 3rd great grandfather. Also found under Jose Santiago Compean Martinez, and just Santiago Compean.
  2. Maria Felisitas Compean (b. abt. 1843).  Also found under Maria Felisitas Compean Martinez.
  3. Jose Calisto Compean (b. abt. 1848 ). Also found under Jose Calisto Compean Martinez.
  4. Jose Cipriano Compean (b. abt. 1857). Also found under Jose Cipriano Compean Martinez.

Although Victoriano and Ignacia had at least four children, in this blog post, I am only focusing on one of those children. My 3rd great-grandfather Jose Santiago Compean is the oldest child I have identified. Known by our family as just Santiago, I learned of this ancestor’s name when my father contacted the cemetery at which Santiago’s daughter Aurelia is buried. Aurelia’s burial records identify her parents as Santiago Compean and Eutimia Sanches. Further research into Mexican church records revealed Santiago and Eutimia’s full given names — with the traditional Jose and Maria.

Maria Eutimia Sanches Nieto (b. 1835), my 3rd great-grandmother, married Jose Santiago Compean on 14 September 1859 at San Isabel church in Armadillo de los Infante, San Luis Potosi, Mexico. The same church where both were baptized as infants. Eutimia can also be found under just her paternal surname, Sanches.

Their Grandchildren

I have identified three children born to Santiago and Eutimia, all daughters.

  1. Maria Aurelia Compean (1858-1963). My 2nd great-grandmother. Also found under Aurelia Compean.
  2. Maria Francisca Compean Sanchez (b. abt. 1862).
  3. Maria Pilar Compean (b. abt. 1865).

One of Aurelia’s daughters became my great-grandmother, Maria Hermalinda Nieto Compean (1887-1974). Maria was the only first name I ever knew for my Nana — no one in our family ever knew her as Hermalinda. So when I first discovered that her mother Aurelia’s full first name was Maria Aurelia, and that her grandmother Eutimia’s full first name was actually Maria Eutimia, I naively assumed each mother had simply passed down her own first name to these daughters, and chose to go by a middle name.

Why the Dichotomy?

I mentioned at the beginning of this post the dichotomy of how difficult Mexican naming conventions can make genealogical research, and how easy Mexican naming conventions can make genealogical research.

Because of the inconsistencies in how our Mexican ancestors’ names are recorded on various records and transcriptions (for both Mexico and U.S. records), it can make identifying which type of surname is being used — the maternal, paternal, or for females even their husband’s surname — a bit of a nightmare. Even in FamilySearch, transcriptions of the same records can inconsistently use given names and surnames for the same individuals — I usually find this occurring in different indexing projects for the same records.

On the other hand, knowing how this dual-surnames convention works among Mexican records, researchers can immediately identify the surnames of an ancestor’s parents. For a female ancestor, that would be immediate identification of her father’s surname and her mother’s surname — something that in Anglo records we usually cannot readily identify if a female ancestor is referenced only by her married surname. For Anglo male ancestors, we usually assume that ancestor shares the same surname as his father. But in Mexican records, we often are able to also identify the paternal surname (what we call a maiden name) for that male ancestor’s mother.

Understanding now about multiple first names, especially saints’ names, when I see a record for a Mexican-born ancestor that simply uses the first name Maria/Mary or Jose/Joseph, I immediately begin to look for clues to a more complete given name.

But sometimes those clues are just not there, and I end up with a brick wall ancestor like my great-grandfather Jose/Joseph Robledo (1875-1937) — who immigrated to the U.S. with his wife Maria Hermalinda Nieto Compean and their two oldest children. Jose or Joseph is the only name by which his children or grandchildren ever knew him. No records found identify a second first name. And yet, according to that FamilySearch Wiki article, Mexican males rarely went by Jose as a first name.

Among my fellow Hispanic genealogists, the listservs and forums are packed with folks lamenting about how difficult it is to make Mexican naming conventions fit into the confines of predominantly Anglo-designed genealogy databases, such as Ancestry Member Trees. It is like trying to squeeze a square peg into a round hole. Ancestry.com has a field titled “First and Middle Name” and one titled “Last Name” (singular). Do we put the full dual surname in the Last Name field? Or is that going to mess up possible searches and hints? FamilySearch, who has a more global focus, handles these field names better in its Family Tree — “First Names” (instead of first and middle), but still only a “Last Name” (singular) field.

As with any of our ancestors, it is critical that we genealogists take the time to learn and understand the conventions used in an ancestor’s country of origin, culture, religion, and various places of residence.

Sources Consulted

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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 Ancestry.com and FamlySearch.org 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 Ancestry.com 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 Ancestry.com 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 Ancestry.com 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, Ancestry.com
Transcription of Robledo entries in the 1850 U.S. Census. Source: Ancestry.com.
Robledo One-Name Study, 1850 US Census Analysis, FamilySearch.com
Transcription of Robledo entries in the 1850 U.S. Census. Source: FamilySearch.org.

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
Ancestry.com 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 Ancestry.com.

 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 Ancestry.com 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.