Aside from spending hours sitting quietly in my local archive listening to my iPod as my brain races while I read through endless pages of baptism records, I do love looking at old newspapers in search of new clues.
You never know what you might find in an old newspaper: wedding announcements, obituaries, local events, college graduations, scandals, ships’ passenger lists… I bet that if you care to look in the right place, you’ll find more than one relative occupying quite a few lines in the press of the past!
Such has been the case with me and my ancestors these past few days. I have found a tremendously useful tool in Galiciana Digital, a site which essentially comprises a repository of old newspapers and magazines from my region which sadly are no longer in existence (with the exception of El Ideal Gallego, of which incidentally my great-grandfather was the director for some time). Given the fact that my region is not all that big, and that some of my relatives were what you might call “illustrious” (there were politicians, historians, newspapermen, doctors, university professors and so on), the chances of finding new pieces of my already huge family tree become greater.
Thus, a few moments ago I came across the obituary of a very distant relative of mine about whom I wrote a post some months ago. You may remember I once wrote about Bonifacia Gudín, the spinster niece of my 6x great-uncle Elías de Agra. Uncle Elías, an eternal bachelor, died in 1854 of a sudden aneurysm, leaving most of his fortune to his siblings, nieces and nephews. As his niece Bonifacia had nursed him devotedly for some time, she got the house and the remaining property, which I am sure came in very handy at a time when women could not earn money by themselves. Now a fairly wealthy lady, she decided to marry a younger man of aspiring intellectual ambitions called Salustiano Aseguinolaza, who later became a professor at the University of Santiago de Compostela.
My previous research revealed that in later years Salustiano became deranged, and I can only deduce that his wife Bonifacia must have suffered acutely from her husband’s odd bouts of madness. Exhausted, she passed away in her 79th year in 1893, an old newspaper clipping (right) has just revealed.
I knew looney Salustiano outlived his poor wife, and indeed his obituary was published several times over the days following his death in 1894.
But I also knew the couple had a daughter, Matilde, whose fate had always remained unknown to me. Did she marry? Being all alone, did she decide to emigrate? The online newspaper archive was just too tempting to resist.
Surely enough, I found an obituary for Salustiano a year after his death, in which Matilde’s husband was mentioned for the first time: Luis Agra Cadarso. Hang on, that name rings a bell. Could it be? Could this young man, who rescued Matilde from her bereavement and her spinsterhood, be in my family tree already?
Indeed! It turns out Matilde and Luis, who happened to be second cousins, got married only months after the death of our deranged Salustiano. Well well… With the help of Google and the Galiciana newspapers I soon discovered the couple (both nearly 40 by the time they got married) had a son, whom they inevitably named Salustiano. What became of this young man, the product of so many events throughout so many generations, remains unknown, but surely today’s findings have filled in the gap somewhat…