Monday, June 21, 2010

Meet Robert J. C. Baca, Author of "Socorro and the Beyond Graveyard Rabbit Blog"

The sixty eighth in a series
featuring a member of
The Graveyard Rabbit Association


I want to say that I was one of those people who loved to do tombstone rubbings as a child, but that would be a lie. As a kid, I wasn’t interested in cemeteries, or for that matter genealogy. As a teenager, my father tried to get me interested in researching my family tree, but I would not have any part of it. In fact, it wasn’t until after my father’s passing that I actually became interested in looking for dead people.

One of my first experiences with cemeteries was early on in my family history quest. A gene buddy of mine, Sam Padilla, mentioned to me the San Miguel Cemetery in Socorro, New Mexico needed to be surveyed. Sam, who was one of my first contacts in the genealogical community, had been transcribing tombstone inscriptions in Socorro County for over a decade. He believed that the San Miguel Cemetery was too large for one person to survey. Therefore, Sam, my sister Janis, a few other volunteers and I transcribed all of the names in the cemetery in just one day. Our efforts may be found at this
link. The New Mexico Genealogical Society was the original sponsor of the project. Currently, I am the president of that organization.

My primary focus on genealogy has always been on researching documents, rather than strolling through cemeteries. However, I have always used cemetery research to glean information about my relatives. Birth and death dates can be found on tombstones. So can relationships. I have often used cemetery records or actual on site research of cemetery markers to find distant cousins, uncles and aunts. Finding this information on the ground first, and then confirming it through documents later has always been a satisfying part of my work.

I began my
“Socorro and the Beyond Graveyard Rabbit” blog when I realized that I needed a specific place to post my cemetery research. I had been posting everything genealogical on “The Baca/Douglas Genealogy and Family History Blog”. However, it had now become my intention to develop my cemetery research, and I needed someone specific to publish it.

Before finishing off my profile, I would like to mention a few of my favorite tombstones and memorials. In my opinion, the best memorials are not the huge monstrosities that can be found in some cemeteries. Large crypts and obelisks do not impress me. What I find fascinating are those tombstones that have family history behind them. The list below includes just a few that I enjoy for their genealogical value:

Philip Bourguinon – my 2nd great-grandfather’s remains were buried in an almost unknown cemetery in Lemitar, New Mexico called the Camposanto Viejo (“old cemetery” in Spanish.) The cemetery is located in a place that was probably not too far from where Bourguinon’s store and the town post office was located. The tombstone itself is a Civil War era tombstone – he had served in the Union Army prior to and during the early part of the Civil War. Link.

Maria Guadalupe Torres is a 4th great-grandmother of mine of whom I wrote about in the New Mexico Genealogist, a print journal for our society. Although she herself was not a history maker, she did give birth to a number of remarkable individuals. Her sons included mayors of Socorro, state legislators, and founders of the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology in Socorro. One of her sons was the sole administrator of the Socorro Land Grant during the late 1800s; a man who had a considerable amount of power over 1000s of acres of land. She also raised one of my 2nd great-grandfathers, Crespin Torres. This man, her nephew, shows up on a completely separate line of my family tree. One other remarkable fact about my 4th great-grandmother Guadalupe: her memorial plaque probably marks the spot where she was buried, which is within the six foot thick walls of the San Miguel Church! Link.

Three rocks. This memorial proves that you don’t have to be big to make an impression. My aunt Theresa once showed my three rocks on the ground that had initials written on them. They were located in the San Miguel Cemetery. She told me that these three rocks were placed where three of my father’s siblings had been buried. One of my uncles, Robert Lewis Baca, had been stillborn before my father’s birth. My father was given his deceased brother’s first name when he was born. My grandmother had two other children who were stillborn: Lily Florence and Raymond Eugene. As is often the Catholic tradition, stillborn children are named and remembered. Therefore, these rocks - with their initials - were placed in this empty spot in the cemetery. I did not take a photo of the rocks, nor have I been able to find them since then. Therefore, they may be lost to posterity. However, I discovered abstracts of their death certificates online, which confirms the existence of these children and helps my family to continue to remember them. Read about my uncles and aunt
here and here.

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