What Are the Odds of This Happening?

When a casual conversation leads to discovering a distant relative…

                We rent out our Puerto Rico home as a short term vacation rental. Recently, a couple rented it for an entire month. The day before they left, the lady casually mentioned that they had visited Adjuntas because their daughter’s neighbor was from that town. That prompted me to tell her that my mother was born in Adjuntas and that I had written a book based on my great-grandmother’s family. I was curious as to what part of Adjuntas her daughter’s neighbor was from. She inquired and reported back to me that Joana’s family was from Juan González, the same as my ancestors!

                Joana and I started e-mailing back and forth. She provided me with her grandparents and great grandparents’ names along with a few dates. That was a great start to enable me to begin to build her family tree. In no time at all, I was emailing her some birth, marriage, death and census records for her ancestors. Joana and her mother were elated and began sharing fascinating family stories—the kind that thrill a genealogist’s heart. 

                As her family tree began to branch out, I noticed several surnames that I also have in my tree—Torres, Montero, and Nieves, among others. I suspected that we were distant cousins, and I was determined to find out how we were related.

                When it comes to genealogy, I am like a dog with a bone! Within a day and a half, I had traced Joana’s ancestry back nine generations and found out at least one way that we are connected. Like I told her, I suspect that we are related through the Torres and Montero lines, also, but the connection that I have found so far was through the Nieves surname.

                One of Joana’s grandmother’s grandmothers (Joana’s 2nd great grandmother) was Juana Filomena Montero Torres (1879-1957), the daughter of Juan Alejo Montero Torres and María Victoria Torres Montalvo. Juan Alejo in turn was the grandson of María de la Concepción Nieves Pérez. María de la Concepción (Joana’s 5th great grandmother) had an older sister named Eusebia…who was my 3rd great grandmother, and who has a whole chapter in Luisa dedicated to her (Chapter 9 - Mama Sebia). So, if you go back one more generation, to the parents of María de la Concepción and Eusebia, you have our common ancestors: Vicente Nieves Santiago (1750-1794) and Rosalía Pérez Natal (1754-1845).  If I have calculated this correctly, Joana and I are 5th cousins twice removed.

                What really makes this fun is that since we are distant relatives, the people in my book are relatives of Joana’s as well!  María de la Concepción and Eusebia were sisters, so their grandchildren—the abovementioned Juan Alejo Montero Torres and my great grandmother Luisa Torres Torres were second cousins.  Another one of Eusebia’s grandchildren was María Aquilina Montero, and she is mentioned throughout Luisa. She and her husband, Leocadio Maldonado, actually play a big part in the storyline of Luisa.

                 I know, it’s confusing, and I probably lost you a long time ago. Ha ha! But what are the odds that a casual conversation with guests in my rental home would lead to me finding out that their daughter’s neighbor is my distant relative?  It really is a small world!