In much of the Southwest, ancestry and family history information is only available from the elders of the community, as written history is either lost, or was never written in the first place, but the Genealogical Society of Hispanic America is trying to change that.
Recently, at the Southern Colorado Heritage Center, Virginia Sanchez had the undivided attention of her audience as she spoke of the nearly lost history of the town of Cucharas, a ghost town of Huerfano County in Colorado.
Sanchez, the author of “The Forgotten Cucharenos of the Lower Valley,” said that when she set out to learn the history herself, she had trouble finding information.
“That’s why I wrote the book,” said Sanchez, so someone wanting to take a look into the area’s past maybe wouldn’t have such a difficult search.
Sanchez’s reading was part of the monthly meeting of the Fray Angelico Chavez Chapter-Pueblo of the Genealogical Society of Hispanic America, which began in 1989.
“The Colorado organization was formed in Denver by David Salazar and held a meeting in Pueblo in 1989 to see if there was any interest here in a similar group,” said Charlene Garcia Simms, who has been involved with the chapter since it started.
“At one point the organization grew to more than 400 members,” she said. “That was too big, so new organizations were spun off to keep it a manageable size.”
The chapter first and main focus is only helping people find information about their family history.
“We provide a basic chart for writing a family tree. We also help people find the resources available to help trace their family origins,” said Garcia Simms.
She adds that DNA analysis, while offering a more exact picture of your roots, can cause serious questioning of the family history you were told.
“You might find out that you are a Duran instead of a Martinez. There was a lot of fence-jumping, a lot of chaos in New Mexico back then,” she said.
Heraldo Acosta, the new president of Fray Angelico chapter says the time to ask questions about your family’s past is now, before any more history is lost.
“If you don’t talk to your grandmother and she passes away, it’s like a library burning down. It’s gone.”