Old Town, San Diego

Colorado House

Stable Museum

Close to the Immaculate Conception Church is a Pioneer Park with original and replica buildings from the origins of San Diego. As I wandered through the park, I wondered about my ancestors. Was I walking in their footsteps?
This is a quote from Old Town San Diego guide

“Old Town San Diego is considered the “birthplace” of California. San Diego is the site of the first permanent Spanish settlement in California. It was here in 1769, that Father Junipero Serra came to establish the very first mission in a chain of 21 missions that were to be the cornerstone of California’s colonization. Father Serra’s mission and Presidio were built on a hillside overlooking what is currently known as Old Town San Diego”.

I bet it really was cosmopolitan back in the day!

Spice shop

I was fascinated by the huge scale. It made me think of bushels and pecks – such descriptive measurements. When we moved back to the States, I was delighted to find imperial measurements instead of Metric weights. Sometimes you are just to old to adapt to kilos… Then I discovered that American imperial measurements are different to the old British ones. The gallons are different – WTH???

Senora de los Meurtos

I visited just before Halloween and Dia de los Meurtos and loved the vivid color in these displays in the restaurant district. You can tell that it is autumn in San Diego with that fantastic clear light. It was about 80 degrees with NO humidity – yay! I fearlessly ate lunch outside without misting systems and didn’t get bitten by mosquitoes. When you live in a sub tropical swamp, those weather conditions are heaven. As I write this, it is heavenly weather in Houston but there is always some bloody mosquitoes…

Ah, it was a perfect day visiting ancestor’s graves at an appropriate time to honor them and then being able to imagine how they lived.

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Walk into the light

Side door of the Immaculate Conception Church, Old Town, San Diego

Outside the door

“It was here in Old Town that Saint Junípero Serra celebrated his First Holy Mass in California on July 2, 1769, near the site of the present Immaculate Conception Church, and it was on the hill overlooking Old Town that he planted the cross which marked the site of the Mission and the Presidio.”  This is a direct quote from the website of the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Old Town, San Diego.  Given that my ancestors were buried in El Campo cemetery, a block away, I knew that they had sat in the current or previous church.  My senses tingle when I can reconnect with the past.

Exterior of Immaculate Conception Church

Intricate Spanish detailing on the front door

I was curious about this American saint with the strange name.  He was born in Majorca, one of the Balearic Islands, to the east of the Spanish Mainland.  When I was a toddler my crazy mum and dad took me to live on one the smaller islands, Formentera.  It didn’t work out… If you click on this link, Saint Junipero Serra, you can access an Encyclopedia Brittanica article about him.

There is some debate about whether he really helped the native people of California and that is the reason why he was canonized in 2015.  Missionaries often think they are doing God’s work when they might be erasing a culture or set of beliefs.  My personal belief is that you can volunteer or work in the third world without a specific faith or any but I wouldn’t want to belittle the good work that many missions do.

El Campo Cemetery had a broad mixture of names – Irish, English and Spanish mostly.  Many had intermarried like my family.  The stained glass in the Immaculate Conception Church had been donated by various families and it represented this broad range of original nationalities.

Front door

It was a lovely little church enhanced by the perfect sunny day.  When I was looking for information about the church, I was amused by reviews on Yelp and Tripadvisor.  Who would dare give less than a 5 star rating???

 

 

El Campo cemetery, San Diego

El Campo cemetery in the old town, San Diego

My nomadic ancestors have graves all over the world but I recently found out that some of them settled in San Diego as early pioneers.  This provoked my recent visit to San Diego.  Leaving the airport, I had a very personable Uber driver who took me to my hotel in the Gaslamp area, to drop my bag, and then straight to the oldest cemetery in San Diego, El Campo.  It is situated in what was once the old town and now has a replica pioneer town.  At first I was surprised at how small and basic the cemetery was but there was something haunting about the simple stone markers and recent wooden stakes.  Much of the cemetery was taken over when a new railroad was built and many of the residents were re interred in a different part of the city.

This plaque is in remembrance of my great-great-great grandfather Jesse or Julian Ames, a pioneer from Connecticut.  His daughter Matilda is my direct link to this very large family.  The Ames family has a very large family get-together every year – perhaps I will ask for an invitation?  He was born in 1807 and died in 1866.

This is the grave of my other great-great-great grandfather, Juan Maria Marron who was born in 1808 or 1809.  From researching historical records there were many people with very similar names born at the same time in San Diego.  The re interred graves caused some more confusion but my ancestors are there somewhere and more importantly their spirits live in the modern city of San Diego.   Juan and Julian’s children married and are my great-great grandparents.

Grave of an Indian Maiden

Of all the graves I looked at, this grave of an Indian maiden pulled at my heartstrings.  Did she die of a European plague such as smallpox or flu?  Or perhaps life was just harsh back in those days.  So many women died in childbirth although I think referencing her as a maiden means that she was without children.  Then my mind wandered to my Mestizo heritage.  Was this a maiden taken from Mexico or a local native?  Cemeteries are so interesting, especially if you have a personal link.  In those days, San Diego would have been paradise, good weather, fine farming and seas full of fish.

Are your DNA results correct?

Before beginning a series of posts about San Diego, I wanted to share a recent revelation about my original DNA test results from Ancestry.  Many of us are surprised at how diverse our ancestors were but I already knew, from census records, how varied my ethnicity was.  My results just didn’t make sense although I am aware the DNA is still a mystery with varying estimates even from siblings.

These are my original results which I featured in a previous post Our Ancestors.

A shameless excuse to show off my new winter boots courtesy of DSW and my torn jeans…

Africa (north) 2%
Middle East 2%
Europe east 1%
Europe west 3%
British Isles 19%
Iberian Peninsula 5%
Italy/Greece 2%
Asia east 1%
Native American 4%
Ireland 60%
Scandinavian 1%

Since then, I have excitedly tried to find out more about my ancestors but could never understand why I had so little Spanish given my maiden name was de Ortega and I can trace my ancestors from California via Mexico back to Spain.  They were conquistadors.  Spaniards rarely have 100 % Iberian DNA which includes Portugal.  So many invaders and immigrants from Italy, Greece and North Africa left their mark.

My British cousins have created family trees on a European website, MyHeritage  and I read that I could download my original DNA results from Ancestry and upload them to MyHeritage.  There is no cost but you do have to subscribe to MyHeritage.  A few days later, I had yet another exciting reveal and the results are below –

Irish/Scottish/Welsh 53.9 %
Scandinavian 9.1%
Iberian 26.8 %
Greek 1.2%
Italian 0.9%
Balkan 1.1 %
Baltic 1 %
Central American 4.4%
North American 0.8 %
Chinese/Vietnamese 0.8%

Now we are talking – 25 % Iberian – yay! Even more exciting, they can now differentiate between North and Central Native American. I am mostly Mestizo native described below courtesy of MyHeritage. The largest population of Central America, spanning from Mexico to Colombia and Venezuela, is of Mestizo descent – a mixture of Spanish, Native American, and African ancestry. Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, interestingly, have a greater Caucasian population, representing European migration. In contrast, indigenous Central Americans are Mayans, the descendants of the advanced Mayan civilization of pre-Colombian times. Ancient Central American civilizations produced many important innovations, including pyramid construction, complex mathematical and astronomical observations, early forms of medical surgery, accurate calendar systems, and complex agricultural methods. In contemporary society, many people with Central American ethnicity have settled among the nations in South America, reaching as far south as Uruguay and Argentina.

This now makes more sense because although I can trace my North American native ancestor, Mourning Dawn, it is many generations back. When I was tracing back my family in Mexico, I found an ancestor with the name of Xoptoval Ortega born in 1626 in Celaya, Mexico – a Maya name I suspect? Mestizo is sometimes used as an insult in Latino Spanish, meaning mongrel, but I could not be more proud of my 57 varieties. Now I know I am genuinely of Mexican descent. On a funny side-note I recently got a call from one of my first cousins on my father’s side. We have only spoken once but he fascinates me because he looks most like my Dad and even sounds like him. As we were chatting, he mentioned that he had asked one of our great aunts from the Ortega side if we were Mexican. She had a fit and insisted we were 100% Spanish… I mentioned my recent DNA results to my cousin and he hung up on me!!! He really did and I doubt he will ever speak to me again. Mexicans are feisty…

So what other mysteries were revealed.  I am Viking!  Teddy would love me to look exactly like Lagertha in the Vikings series.  Sadly for him, I just look like the Viking Irish – fair, blue eyes and a distinctive short nose.  Did you know that Scandinavians still call outlanders, “long noses”?  Much of Ireland was invaded by Vikings who settled for generations, trading Irish slaves to the Scandinavian countries.  Yeah, there were plenty of nasty human traffickers before America.  I have only inherited Celtic DNA (Irish/Scottish/Wales) but I know I have English ancestors.  God is good –  I am just kidding, English friends! The little bit of Baltic makes sense being so close to Scandinavia but the Balkan DNA is curious – the Balkans stretch from Turkey to Greece incorporating the former Yugoslavia.

My vintage Calvin Klein coat is back in fashion but no matter what I do, I still look as Irish as a potato!

 

So, why are my DNA results so different?  Time has passed and DNA analysis has evolved with more information on the databases.  I believe that my previous Western European DNA should really have been Iberian and that some of my Irish DNA should have been Scandinavian because my family came from a Viking area in Ireland.  That said, I might be wrong and who knows which results are correct?  The only way to test it would be to use a third company to take a DNA test and I might yet do that.  If you are curious it is very easy to do what I did.  Just subscribe to Ancestry and MyHeritage, download your raw DNA from settings onto your computer and then upload it to whichever company is the opposite.  You might get a nice surprise like me.  Maya maiden, Celtic warrior, Conquistadora and Viking – Kerry is kicking ass!

PS In case you wonder about the location, my hairdresser took the photos this morning.

Sanctuary

The Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Puerto Vallarta

There is something about this photograph that summons up the feeling I get when I am inside a church. Sometimes I enjoy going to a service but mostly I like the silence of an almost empty sanctuary. On this hot day in Puerto Vallarta, it truly was refuge from the busy resort. The Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe is not a cathedral although it is often called such. Perhaps it is because of the beautiful baroque crown that is said to be a replica of Empress Carlota of Mexico’s crown.

Baroque Crown

I was utterly fascinated by Empress Carlota whose existence was unknown to me. Napoleon wanted a figurehead for Mexico – Archduke Maximilian of Austria. Emperor Maximilian married Empress Carlota (Charlotte of Belgium) in Mexico City 1864. This is a link to the Wikipedia page about the Empress which is an almost fantastical tale of the brief influence of France on Mexico.

church side door

Mexico has held me fascinated since I discovered that many generations of my Ortega family lived in various states of Mexico. Until recently I didn’t think I had any connection to the state of Jalisco (in which Puerto Vallarta is) until I found an ancestor on Familysearch, Felipe de Jesús Quintero Rosas who was born in Poncitlàn in the late 1600s. Don’t Spanish names sound so romantic? I now regret my haste to get rid of mine when I married. I so longed for an ordinary Scottish name so I could blend in. Only as you mature, do you realize how important your uniqueness is.

When I moved back to the USA over a decade ago, I was slightly surprised that there were so many Spanish speaking Protestant/Evangelical churches in Texas. Somehow I thought they would all be Roman Catholic. This car in Puerto Vallarta amused me…😇

EVANGELISTS!

Hello Sailor!

Mexican Naval Eye Candy

Well, I have met some handsome naval guys during my life but this gorgeous specimen took my breath away caught my eye. Can you hear the low cougar purr as I admired this young cub? He was standing outside the Naval Museum in Puerto Vallarta to draw in cougars, kittens and the large gay population of the town. Well, I assume that… Just like my mum would, I went straight up to him and starting talking to him. My mum, who had a thing for Hispanic men, would have fainted. He was charming, articulate with perfect English. He told me all about the museum but I wasn’t really listening.

Eventually, I did go into the Museo Histórico Naval de Puerto Vallarta (The Naval Museum) and what a revelation it was. It was small but beautifully created. The naval history of Mexico was quite fascinating from Conquistadors to current life. All the staff was enlisted naval personnel and it struck me that this was an excellent job in an area that had limited opportunities for young people. It was situated right on the promenade so you couldn’t miss it.

Stained glass ship

The piece de resistance was this amazing stained glass artifact in the coffee shop. What I couldn’t photograph was the light display on the ceiling which was a constellation. Wow! The coffee was also the best I had tasted in Puerto Vallarta. I was curious as to why it wasn’t busier but not all the naval staff had much English. How hard is it to ask for “Un cafe latte, por favor?” It amazes me that English speaking tourists travel all over the world without even a phrase book. On occasion I have had to resort to clucking like a chicken in restaurants but at least I try…🐔

As I sat in this beautiful coffee shop, looking at the sea, I pondered my Mexican ancestors and hoped that they were proud that their ‘grand-daughter’ was determined to visit one of my homelands and understand how amazing they were.  I also realized how lucky I was to have the ability to travel the world.