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Local judge gives advice on researching Hispanic genealogy

Timothy P. Howsare Photo Judge Freddie Romero provided tips on how Hispanics can research their genealogy at the Wilson-Cobb History and Genealogical Research Library on Thursday.

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

Sometimes, its the scoundrels who are the most interesting people in our family trees.

This was one of the comments made by Judge Freddie Romero during his presentation Thursday at the Wilson-Cobb History and Genealogy Research Library.

Romero spoke about different resources that Hispanics born in New Mexico, particularly those in the Roswell area, can use to trace their genealogies.

Romero has extensively researched his own family history, and often used snippets from that research to help point listeners to different references, such as the New Mexico Archives in Santa Fe and a book called “The Hispano Homeland” by David Norstrand.

Romero, who is a sitting judge on the Fifth Judicial District in Roswell, has an interesting character or two in his own past. His great-grandfather George Kimbrell, was sheriff of Lincoln County for about a year back in the days of the Old West. When the election came around, he lost to Pat Garrett, who is famous for shooting William Bonney, aka Billy the Kid.

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Romero told the roomful of local history buffs that John Chisum, a cattleman who was influential in the Lincoln County Wars, lobbied hard so that Garrett would win the election. Romero said he found records showing that when Garrett became sheriff, he indicted Kimbrell for letting a prisoner escape. The irony, Romero said, is that Billy the Kid escaped from incarceration under Garrett’s watch.

Kimbrell was born in Arkansas in 1843, and, on a website called findagrave.com is described as “one of the most likable men in Lincoln County.”

Romero said Roswell is one of the most interesting places in the United States when it comes to genealogy because of the convergence of Confederates from the South after the Civil War and the migrations of Hispanics to the area from northern New Mexico and Mexico.

Many Hispanic families, like the Romeros, came to Lincoln County from Manzano, a small town in Torrance County near Albuquerque. Some of those families settled in Picacho, San Patricio and Arabela, which now are small communities along U.S. 70 on the drive to Ruidoso.

Romero said a lot of Hispanics moved to the Roswell area from Mexico in the early 1900s to flee strife and violence.

Romero said U.S. Census records from the 1800s can be spotty because is was common for only the name of the head of household to be listed. For everyone else, only a number was given that represented the total family members besides the head of household. Or, only the names of “free men” and “slaves” were taken during the census.

On the plus side for anyone with Hispanic background, Romero said the Spaniards “were amazing bureaucrats.” The Spaniards kept detailed records about everything, and, if you are particularly ambitious, much information can be found in the “Records of the Indes” in Spain.

Other good resources, Romero said, are church records (both paternal and maternal grandparents were typically listed for both baptisms and marriages), records from both the Confederate and Union armies and the records of Michael Steck, who was superintendent of Indian Affairs in the New Mexico Territory.

Another book that Romero mentioned was “When Jesus Came, the Corn Mothers Went Away: Marriage, Sexuality, and Power in New Mexico, 1500-1846,” by Ramón Arturo Gutiérrez, which details the impact of the Spanish conquest of New Mexico from the Pueblo Indians.

The Wilson-Cobb History and Genealogy Research Library has “how to” books, family histories, passenger lists, wills, deeds, marriage records, probate records and others too many to name. The library has the complete New Mexico census records from 1850 to 1930. Census records are available from a number of other states as well. The library has copies of obituaries from the Roswell Daily Record. The library, which is a nonprofit that relies on donations, also has an extensive collection of newsletters and genealogical magazines.

Visitors can access for free Ancestry.com, fold3.com for military records, and newspapers.com. From time to time, the library holds free programs on genealogical topics, such as the one Romero gave Thursday. Information about the events is published in the Roswell Daily Record.

Library hours are from 1 to 4 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The library is located at 301 S. Richardson Ave. at Alameda Street. The phone number is 575-622-3322.

Community News reporter Timothy P. Howsare can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or vistas@rdrnews.com.

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