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What, you mean you don't know who you are?
Just kidding. No, I do not mean that I have forgotten who I am; I mean, "Who am I, in terms of my genealogy?"
Another way of asking that same question is, "What is my ethnic heritage?"
OK, actually that won't do, either; so I guess I'll just ask, "Where do my ancestors come from?"
When I lived in Fairbanks, Alaska, I raised and trained Alaskan Malemute dogs for sledding. Alaskan Malemutes are big, strong dogs — not particularly fast — but they can pull a lot of weight and their stamina is amazing. At one time, I owned the single-dog weight pull champion, a bitch named Pada. Pada weighed 115 pounds, and in 1969, she pulled a sled that weighed 3,150 pounds on snow. That was before there was an 'official' organization for weight-pulling, the International Weight Pull Association (IWPA) that holds an 'official' championship and recognizes 'official' records.
Why am I telling you this? Bear with me: Alaskan Malemutes are a recognized American Kennel Club (AKC) breed; in other words, they are considered 'purebred'. But Pada had a purple spot on her tongue that belied her heritage that includes some Chow-Chow DNA; in other words, her genealogy was mixed.
"He's one-third wolf ..."
I had an acquaintance in Alaska — I'll call him Steve for the sake of his anonymity —who owned an interesting-looking mixed-breed dog named Niki. I asked Steve what Niki was — meaning "What is his background?"
"Oh," said Steve, "he's one-third Husky, one third Lab, and one-third wolf."
"OK," I said, "thanks."
Of course, since heredity is binary — that is, one biological father and one biological mother in each generation, it is impossible to be 'one-third' anything. But I didn't want to bother Steve with that information, not to mention the fact that there are very, very few domestic dog-wolf hybrids.
Back to the original question ...
While I was growing up, I had always thought of myself as half English and a quarter each Norwegian and Hispanic. That was because I knew my four grandparents, and I had one Norwegian grandfather, one Hispanic grandfather, and two English grandmothers.
It's more complicated than that!
As I said before, heredity is binary, and the number of ancestors doubles with each generation; so each one of us has two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, sixteen great-great- grandparents, and so on and on and on, until the number quickly becomes unmanageably large ...
But could I be sure that, of those eight great-grandparents of mine, exactly two of them were Hispanic, two were Norwegian, and four were English? Well, no, because my surname is French and my maternal grandmother's birth surname is German.
After decades of genealogical research, I have been able to determine that, within a very small margin of error, out of my sixteen great-great grandparents,
To whom do I relate?
Here's where I have found that things get curious and, to me, very interesting: we don't always relate to our 'majority' ancestry. In my case, that would be my English side; but that's not what I feel. No, I find that I relate powerfully and most strongly to my Hispanic side, which is only about 19% of my heritage, DNA-speaking (18.75%, to be precise).
Well, not really. Since I have a French surname (which was actually Boët in 1780 and then Bouet for my immigrant ancestor in 1830 and Bouett only later), a Norwegian grandfather who spoke fluent Norwegian, and two English grandmothers, one of whom had many first cousins still in England, I always felt there was a bit of a mix going on at family reunions.
So here's the tie to this website, and to my own version of LA Roots ...
Los Angeles is where all of my California Hispanic ancestors lived, including my father and his father, both of whom grew up in Historic Solano Canyon. And my Norwegian-English mother also lived in the Los Angeles area between high school and when she married my father (in Trinidad, but that is another story). So it is less who I am than what I am — that is, a product of my Los Angeles cultural background — that has had the greatest impact on my sense of identity.
I wonder how many of you have a similar experience? Let me know; I'd like to publish your stories.
Mystery and intrigue in early Los Angeles
One encounters all sorts of mystery and intrigue in genealogical research, which is fraught with twists, turns, and dead-ends. It is the dead-ends that are the most frustrating, of course, since they are like running head-on into a brick wall; but as they are unraveled over time, the twists and turns that are revealed can be quite interesting. One doesn't have to be related to royalty or famous people to have an interesting genealogy; it is the so-called 'ordinary' lives that are often more interesting — sometimes much more so.
This rather long blog is one such story ...
William G. Dryden: an early Los Angeles character
The life of William G. Dryden is a story unto itself; but that is not the purpose of this post. Born near Richmond in Madison County, Kentucky in 1807, Dryden, through a series of adventures that took him to Texas, then to México, where he became an officer in the Mexican Army, to a subsequent 13-month imprisonment in a Méxican jail, to a trading venture along the Santa Fé Trail, and eventually to California in 1841 and to Los Angeles in 1850, Dryden was nothing if not an adventurer. Possessed of no legal training, he was, at various times, the longest-serving Los Angeles City Clerk in history (1850–1860), City Attorney (1851–1852), School Commissioner (1859-1868), and City Judge (1856–1869). He was also a Juez de Paz (Justice of the Peace) during his early years in the City, in which capacity he performed the marriage in 1853 of Francisco Sales de Jesús Solano and María Rosa de las Mercedes Casanova, the founders in 1866 of the Solano Canyon community in the Stone Quarry HIlls. That same year, 1853, he made a proposal to the City Council to provide water to Los Angeles and was responsible for building the water wheel on la zanja madre at the foot of what is now Solano Avenue in Solano Canyon and the large brick reservoir in the center of the plaza.
The Dryden girls: Julia and Virginia
I had long known that a brother of my great-grandfather, Guillermo Bouett, named Agustín José Bouett ("Crazy Gus" — but that is another story), was married to a girl named Virginia Dryden. I knew, too, that Julia Dryden, one of three daughters born to Judge William G. Dryden and his first wife, María de los Dolores Nieto, married Bernardo Antonio Yorba. I presumed there might be a connection between the two Dryden girls, but I had been unable to find it for many years. Julia's mother, Dolores Nieto, is a direct descendant on her father's side of Manuel Nieto, the grantee in 1784 of the vast 330,000-acre Rancho la Zanja, and on her mother's side, to Roque Jacinto de Cota, soldado de cuera and member of the escolta that accompanied the pobladores to Los Angeles in 1781. On the other hand, Virginia Dryden's mother, María Josefa de la Soledad Nieto, seemed not to be connected to the Nieto clan at all, although with the Nieto surname, that probability seemed unlikely.
Further research, however, eventually revealed that Virginia Dryden's mother, Soledad, while not descended from Manuel Nieto, is directly descended from Roque Cota on her mother's side. Not only that, but she is the illegitimate daughter of Judge William G. Dryden! Oh, and another connection: as a result of the illegitimacy, the mothers of the two Dryden girls, Dolores and Soledad Nieto, are half-sisters.
How Julia and Virginia Dryden are related
A close examination of the two family trees, above, reveals how the two Dryden girls, Julia and Virginia, are related. Both share their maternal grandmother, María Josefa Silvina Cota y Lisalde. Josefa's mother, Manuela Lisalde, is Guillermo Cota's first wife. After Manuela died, Guillermo married Manuela Nieto, the daughter of Manuel Nieto. One of the daughters of Guillermo Cota's second marriage, to Manuela Nieto, is María Loreta Cota; but of that, more later ...
Josefa Cota's husband is Antonio María de los Santos Pérez Nieto, son of Manuel Nieto. About two years after Antonio Nieto's death in 1832, Josefa had an hija espuria (out-of-wedlock) child with Luciano Grijalva. That child is Soledad Nieto, Virginia Dryden's mother. Since all of Josefa Cota's nine children with her husband, Antonio Nieto, carried the Nieto surname, Soledad was given the Nieto surname as well, even though she is not biologically related to Manuel Nieto.
William G. Dryden and his wife, Dolores Nieto, had three children between 1854 and 1860, one of whom is Julia Dryden; but then, beginning in 1862 and continuing until a few months before his death in September 1869, Judge Dryden and Dolores Nieto's half sister, Soledad, had four children, all illegitimate, one of whom is Virginia Dryden. Thus, the two Dryden girls, Julia and Virginia, are half-sisters who share the same mother, Josefa Cota. Judge Dryden's wife, Dolores Nieto, died in 1868.
As if that were not enough ...
I mentioned, above, that Virginia Dryden married "Gus" Bouett. Gus is a direct descendant of both Roque Cota and Manuel Nieto, which means that Gus and his wife, Virginia Dryden, are half-first-cousins once removed. His mother is María Loreta Cota, who, as mentioned above, is the daughter of Guillermo Cota and his second wife, Manuela Nieto. This means that Gus Bouett's mother, Loreta Cota, and his wife, Virginia Dryden's maternal grandmother, Josefa Cota, are half-sisters.
One cannot make this stuff up; but neither can one discover things like this without an enormous amount of patience and hard work. Once invested, of course, all that hard work occasionally pays off and provides us with stories like this.
So if you have read this far, I thank you. And if you have a story about your own early Los Angeles family roots you'd like us to tell, use the Contact Us page to let us know. Be sure to provide as much detail as you can.
The primary purpose of L. A. Roots is to conduct research on, and talk about, the lineages of present-day Angelinos and others who have direct genealogical links to the people who settled in what is now Los Angeles — the pobladores and members of the escolta —and whose genealogies can be traced to the present day.
First, there are no rules; I have been conducting research on my own family lines, including those that lead back the the founding of Los Angeles and beyond to México, Spain, Costa Rica, and Venezuela, for more than 45 years. Conducting genealogical and historical research was first an interest, then a hobby, and now a passion that I, now retired, am free to pursue full-time. So when I say there are no rules, what that means is simply that I will follow any leads or pursue any interests that present themselves, including questions that are asked by readers of this blog. Interested persons should use the Contact Us link on this site to ask historical or genealogical questions. I will try to answer as many questions as I can directly, and I will also choose those questions that hold a particular interest for me to include in future blog posts.
Second, some blogs will have as their subject genealogies that are not directly connected to the pobladores or members of the escolta, but which somehow have a connection to the founders or to early Los Angeles history.
Finally, I want to call attention to two genealogical societies that are dedicated to exploring and preserving the history and genealogy of early California:
Lawrence Bouett (the author of this blog) is a direct, sixth-generation descendant of soldado de cuera Roque Jacinto de Cota, who was one of the four soldiers who accompanied the pobladores from Misión San Gabriel Arcángel to the site of the future el Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles de Porciuncula on September 4, 1781.
Roque Cota was born circa 1724 in la Villa del Fuerte in Nueva España in what is now Sinaloa, México, the son of Andrés de Cota and María Angela de León. Andrés de Cota and Angela de León had at least four children, all sons and all born in el Fuerte, of whom, three — Roque, Antonio, and Pablo Antonio — came to Alta California and died here. Roque Cota's younger brother, Antonio Cota, was also a soldado de cuera and a member of the escolta that came to Los Angeles from Mission San Gabriel. The third brother, Pablo Antonio, settled in Santa Barbara.
About the Author
Bouett is a retired research scientist and registered professional
engineer who now conducts historical and genealogical research
full-time. A ninth-generation Californian, his primary historical
research interests are Los Angeles in general and the Stone Quarry Hills
in particular. His
ancestors arrived in California with Portolá in 1769 and came to Los
Angeles from Mission San Gabriel with the founders on September 4, 1781.
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