If ever asked, I’d have a lot that would be positive to say about online genealogy, particularly where shared family histories are involved. Geni, in particular, left me impressed with a relatively easy platform in which I could organize individual ancestor profiles, and their relationship with other members of my family tree.
One of the other pluses, of course, is that you can use other people’s research on a shared tree to get an understanding of those parts of your own tree that you might not have looked at yet. Certainly, to get the most of this, a user has to go into any new discovery with a skeptical mindset, and an eye for primary sources of information (contemporary records), or at least reliable secondary sources (sourced family histories written by modern authors, etc.). The writing I do here wouldn’t be considered, by itself, a reliably sourced work. I tell my family stories here mostly to convey a general sense of my family’s ancestry, and perhaps in academic laziness, I don’t usually include citations. At best, my work is a guide. However, I do try to confirm the data in the stories as best as possible.
At one point last December, while doing routine clean-up tasks on my tree on Geni, I received a flag to examine potential merges between my direct ancestry and that of another tree that appeared similar. This flag came pretty far in on my father’s side, and involved individuals with the name Cortes and Moctezuma. Apparently, somewhere down the line, someone’s merge had left me with what appeared to be not only a lineage to Hernan Cortes, the conquistador, but also with the person whose empire he conquered, Moctezuma II. Having seen exaggerated ancestries before (such as the likely spurious tie between New Mexico’s Baca family and Christopher Columbus), my skepticism ran pretty high.
I had the great fortune, though, to run into the online work of an “ethnohistorian” (presumably a cross between an ethnographer and historian) named Anastasia Kalyuta, whose credentials are with the Russian Museum of Ethnography in St. Petersburg, which did much to explain how an individual could claim descent from both conquistador and conquered. Her work, “Doña Isabel de Moctezuma: the emperor’s favourite daughter?” provided a well-sourced study with excellent insight into the family relationships of Isabel de Moctezuma, an Aztec Emperor’s daughter who at a young age was held as a hostage by Cortes during his conquest of Mexico, later was possibly impregnated by the conquistador after the fighting ended, and finally lived a life whose fate so closely paralleled that of her father’s conquered empire that she really seemed to embody the spirit of early Mexico. The writing, for an academic work, also seemed to keep the reader, or at least this reader, interested.
Using this work, I organized her family a bit more coherently on Geni’s tree than it had been before. However, I still had to verify the supposed direct lineage from her to my family. That took a bit more work.
For details on the life of Isabel de Moctezuma, or whom some have named “Tecuichpo Ixcaxochitzin,” I strongly recommend actually reading Kalyuta’s work. However, I’ll provide a brief summary of what is supposed to be my 15th great grandmother’s life here: She was born sometime between 1500 and 1510, probably in her father’s city of Mexico-Tenochitlan, to Teotlaco, who was born around 1485. Moctezuma II, the 9th Aztec Emperor, was about 19 years older than this mother of his children (there were several “wives”, naturally). She had several partners in her life. Her first possible marriage was with an Aztec nobleman named Atlixcatzin, with whom she was at least betrothed before 1519. She was then held as a hostage during Cortes’ initial conquest of Tenochitlan. After being freed on July 1, 1520, she became the husband of Cuitlahuac, the designated 10th Emperor, who lived only until Sept. 18, after which she was wedded to Cuauhtemoc, 11th Emperor, with whom she was captured after Cortés retook the city. Cortés married her off to Alonso de Grado, visitador general de indios, who dies of natural causes less than a year later. During her second stay with Cortés, she ended up pregnant, which prompted the conquistador to marry her off as quickly as possible to Pedro Gallego de Andrade. (The girl, Leonor, later takes the name Cortés instead of Andrade, indicating her belief that the conquistador impregnated her mother, who refused to have anything to do with her after she was born). After Andrade died on Apr. 15, 1531, she married Cortés’ enemy, Juan Cano de Saavedra, with whom she carried out several lawsuits in order to assert her rights as the daughter of Moctezuma. Isabel died on July 11, 1550.
Leonor, my supposed 14th great grandmother, who styled her last name as Cortés de Moctezuma, was born between June and November 1528 in what was probably Mexico City. She later inherited a large amount of money from her father, and eventually reconciled with her mother before marrying Captain Juan de Tolosa, a silver mining magnate in Zacatecas, around the year 1550 (the marriage was apparently in part the result of Tolosa’s association with Leonor’s half-brother, Luis Cortes). Her daughter Leonor de Tolosa Cortes de Moctezuma, my supposed 13th great grandmother, was born sometime before 1565. The elder Leonor died at the age of 85 in 1613, while her husband died in 1594, impoverished by failed mining ventures. (Donald Chipman, in his book “Moctezuma’s Children: Aztec Royalty under Spanish Rule,” asserted that Leonor died at roughly the same time as Captain Tolosa.)
The younger Leonor married Captain Cristobal de Zaldivar Mendoza, presumably back in Mexico City around 1580, when the young officer was about 16 (according to Chipman). This was about the year when several online sources suggest that Juan Andrés de Saldivar Cortés Moctezuma (12th great grandfather) was born.
Unfortunately, this is an example of a situation where relying on uncited sources can backfire. In February 2013, Jose Antonio Esquibel, noted New Mexico family researcher and author, covered this specific relationship in a blog entry by saying that there was “no documented evidence to confirm the name of the parents of Juan Andrés Zaldívar.”
Esquibel (who carries a familiar surname to my family – if I have it right, he is apparently a fifth cousin to my father), a writer whose work was rewarded by the King of Spain with the Order of Isabel la Católica – rank of Cruz de Oficial “for his dedication to preserving the history of Spain and Spanish heritage in New Mexico,” first addressed this in a Spring 1994 article in “Nuestra Raices,” a magazine affiliated with the Genealogical Society of Hispanic America, entitled “Genealogical Essays on Three 17th-century New Mexico Families: Paredes, López de Gracia, and Manzanares.” In this article, he traced the next few generations along this lineage, but only had this to say about the parentage of Juan Andres:
“Gerónima Rangel used her maternal surname while her sister, doña Beatriz Cortés, most likely drew her surname from one of her grandparents. It is the use of the family names of Zaldívar and Cortés which hints at the possibility that Doña Beatriz Cortés may have been a descendant of Don Cristóbal de Zaldívar y Mendoza and Doña Leonor Cortés Moctezuma. Additional research is needed to confirm or deny this supposition.”
At this stage in the hunt for evidence, the connection with Juan Andres with Cristobal de Zaldivar Mendoza and Leonor Tolosa Cortes de Moctezuma is considered speculative. Quite plausible, maybe one can even dare to say likely, but still speculative. “Some readers have simply added the names of Cristóbal de Zaldívar and Leonor Cortés as parents of Juan Andrés de Zaldívar, despite the lack of documentation,” Esquibel writes.
Still, as with the lineage above this as-yet-unproven relationship, the generations below appear to be backed by records. The marriage bans for Esteban de Paredes and Beatriz Cortés, dated April 17, 1633, list her parents as that Juan Andres Zaldivar and Andrea Rangel, according to Esquibel. The two apparently married the next day in the Sagrario Chapel of the Catedral de México. Unconfirmed online records suggest the parents being born in 1580, and Beatriz coming into this world around 1617, when both were about 37. Gerónima Rangel, as sister of Beatriz Cortes, likewise is identified as having the same parents in marriage banns with Cristóbal Rincón.
Beatriz Cortes (described as a “high-born lady” by Fray Angélico Chávez) and Esteban de Paredes, meanwhile, gave birth to Álvaro de Paredes, a relationship assertion backed in the recently University of New Mexico-published book, “Don Juan Domínguez de Mendoza: Soldier and Frontiersman of the Spanish Southwest, 1627-1693” by France V. Scholes, Eleanor B. Adams, Marc Simmons, and, of course, José Antonio Esquibel. He was baptized in the Catedral de México on Feb. 23, 1628.
Álvaro, according to Fray Chavez, left Mexico City in the mid to late 1650s with his brother, the future Fray José de Paredes, to seek their fortunes in Nuevo Mexico.
They likely never saw their mother again, as uncited online sources place Beatriz’s death date as 1662. In Santa Fe, Alvaro met Mexico City-born Damiana Domínguez de Mendoza (baptized at the Catedral de México on Oct. 4, 1628, as the daughter of Tomé Domínguez and Elena de la Cruz Ramírez de Mendoza). By 1659, the couple married and gave birth in Santa Fe my 9th great grandmother, María de Paredes, also known as María Domínguez. She married Felipe de Montoya a couple decades later (and would be dead by 1701), and that couple produced the wife of Cristobal Martin Serrano, Maria Antonia Montoya de Paredes in 1679.
A year later, her entire family fled New Mexico during the Pueblo Revolt and settled in their desolate refugee encampment near a little mission church called Guadalupe del Paso at present-day Ciudad Juarez. The rest is Martin Serrano history.