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Cathy Romero: In Search of Her Heritage

A retired graphic designer, Catherine Romero is on the Southern California Genealogical Society's Board of Directors. Cathy also serves on the Board of Directors for the Genealogical Society of Hispanic America (GSHA-SC) and is a member of the New Mexico Genealogical Society. She began researching her family several years ago, with surprising results.

In 1751, Cathy’s fourth great-grandfather, Santiago Romero, was born in Belén, New Mexico, which is about 35 miles south of Albuquerque. He married Maria Pasquala Quintana in the same town in May 1774. After Maria passed away, Santiago married Petra Antonia Rivas again in Belén in January 1782.

Clockwise, from upper left: Cathy Romero; Cathy's grandfather and father, Nestor Romero and his toddler son, Justiniano, ca 1917; her grandparents, Nestor and Luz Romero, with their daughter, Juanita, ca 1903; Cathy's great-grandfather, Tomas Romero, and his granddaughters, Juanita and Julia, ca 1907.


Cathy followed her paternal line, tracing her father, Justiniano Romero (pictured with his father), who was born in 1915 in New Mexico, and her grandfather, Nestor Mario Romero, who was born there in 1883. Her great-grandfather, Jose Tomas Romero, was born in 1853; her great-great-grandfather, Domingo Ysidro; and her great-great-great-grandfather, Juan Cristobal; were all born in New Mexico. How remarkable to have such a strong family history. 

Of course, Cathy has documented all of her grandmothers and their children's names. "I’m fascinated by New Mexico's history, with its mix of Spanish and indigenous peoples. For the Romeros, it is inescapable that these two races commingled.

"My grandmother, Luz (María de la Luz Gallegos), was proud of her puro Españole heritage. I’ve always wondered what she really thought or even knew about her husband's family. In the early days of my research,” Cathy continued, “I would come across researchers who were not willing to embrace that multiethnic identity."

On a 1998 trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico, she found the Archdiocese records along with other archives in Socorro County and the state archives in Santa Fe.

The Spanish however, were very caste conscious. Persons other than Español were considered of a lower class, including the jobs they could hold, the places they could live, or the clothes they could wear. A blood mix was somewhere in between. Other primary castes were Indio (Indigenous) and Negro (Black). The one race not often represented by the Spanish were Asians.

The Spanish casta paintings of the 1700s depict 16 different castes, depending upon blood mix. So, Cathy had her hands full, trying to differentiate who each of the wives were and their caste relations. Yet above this, there was a surprise waiting. A DNA test revealed a secret in the family; one that was hidden for some 225 years.

For more of this story, attend Cathy's upcoming presentation, “The Romeros of Southern New Mexico” at the hybrid DNA Interest Group meeting, on Saturday, March 30, starting at 10 a.m. For details and to register, check out our events listing, which includes a registration link.

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