Valdes or Valdez is our Paternal Surname and we know from a web site “Historia de Valdes” that the Valdes name was first mentioned in 1038.  At one time, individuals would identify themselves by the area where they were from, which may be the case with our ancestors.  Some of our ancestors came from Espana/Spain to Nueva Espana/Mexico, and on to New Mexico.  This migration started about 1598.  Some other ancestors came from France and Canada, but what they have in common is that they all settled in New Mexico.  

From Juan Pedro de Valdes to our Dad, Benjamin Valdez, born in 1904, in Wagon Mound New Mexico, this has been an uplifting journey.  Consequently, our Family has experienced some very deep and emotional episodes, but all in all, we are very proud of where we came from and where we are today.

Dad played Semi-pro and Triple a baseball in New Mexico in the 1930’s.  He played for the Clossons/Garage Boys, Weiker Trans., The Young Dons, Spanish Night Club, Albuquerque Don, and the Del Valle Cubs among others.  In Colorado he played for the Leadville’s.  I included copies of press clippings in the Photo Gallery, and who knows one of your relatives may also be listed.  He wanted to play pro-baseball but it wasn’t meant to be.

One of his brothers’ boxed in the welterweight division under the name Matt Flanagan.  Dad’s sisters were Sophie and Rosa, his brothers were Secondino, Pedro, Silvano, Casimiro (Casey) and Eloy.  Their Mother’s name was Rebecca Sanchez or to us she was Mama Becca.  She was born in La Cueva, New Mexico, and later married our Granfather, Alcario Valdez.  Grandfather was supposedly killed by a ranch hand because he was mean and deserved it.  That just doesn’t make any sense but that’s the story!

Dad married our Mother, Antonia in the 1940’s.  LeRouge or Lerouge is our Maternal Surname and yes it is French, and one of the meanings is someone of red complexion, but it also identified a person from Rouge in the French department of Loire-Atlantic or so the Lerouge certificate states.  Our Mother was born to Antonio LeRouge and Antonia Duran in Lumberton New Mexico, in 1916.  Our Brothers sent my Mother’s Birth Certificate to my sister; therefore we can now verify that Antonia Duran was really our Grandmother’s name, and that she was from Hernandez New Mexico.     Our Grandfather Antonio LeRouge was married twice.  Our Mother Antonia was born from his first marriage, and she had a sister and two brothers.  They are all deceased.  His Great Grandfather went by different names, Charles Muller, Charles Muller LeRouge, but I didn’t know of this until I requested his Military records.  I also didn’t know that he was married three (3) times.  A photo copy of that information is in the photo gallery section of my web site.

Our Grandfather’s Mother was Adelaida Mercure or Mama Lala.  As you can see the word Mama was used as a nickname for our grandmothers.  Her Father, Henri Mercure and Uncle Joseph Mercure were a couple of colorful characters profiled in gooks written of the Southwest.  They were also profiled in a book about Francois X Aubry written by Donald Chaput.  Henri aka Henry Mercure is also mentioned in Kit Carson’s autobiography.  Some of the copies of page from those books and articles can be found in the Photo gallery section of my web site.  

Mom and Dad have six sons, Bennie, Martin, Eloyd (deceased) and three other living sons and two daughters.  We grew up in the San Joaquin Valley in California.  Dad was a laborer, who worked sporadically, and I remember him helping build the cabins in Yosemite National Park.  He was proficient in reading blue prints, and worked very hard when he was working.  Mom had too many children and therefore didn’t work too much outside the home.  She did work for Foster Farms for a short time.  Both of our parents had approximately sixth grade educations.  Mom especially tried to keep us interested in school, but didn’t always succeed.  I remember wanting to quit school in my junior year of High School, but Mom wouldn’t have it.  I suppose it was because of my insecurities, but I’m grateful that she prevailed.  It took me approximately 22 years, but I did receive a Bachelor of Science Degree, and an Associate of Arts Degree.

Mom was of medium height with light brown hair, and when she was older she had very little grey in her hair.  She never took much care of her appearance, and became quite sickly in her 60’s and 70’s.  I recall when mother was getting older she hated to look in the mirror, and now that I’m in my 60’s I’m getting to be the same way.  She also wasn’t the most upbeat person, but having so many children, and lack of funds didn’t help her disposition.  I tried to help her around the house when I lived at home.  She loved that, but I was always thinking of myself, and now as I look back, I think of how selfish I was at times.  I wish our Parents were still alive so that we could talk and reconcile some of the issues that we had, but that was not to be.

Our Family belonged to the Catholic Church.  The Franciscan Nuns were an integral part of our lives growing up.  The Nuns helped my Mother with food and clothes for our family.  We loved the Nuns, but at the same time we were a little frightened of them.  They were however, a stabilizing factor in our sometimes chaotic lives.  I took Cecelia as my confirmation name.  Actually, Sister Conrad was our mother’s favorite, and our Brother Martin’s middle name is Conrad.  They were the closest we had to Family since we had very little contact with other Family members.

In fact, since Mom and Dad moved to California in the 1940’s from New Mexico, they had very little contact with their siblings or parents, nor did they share their New Mexico upbringing with me.  Subsequently, I had very little written or oral Family Tree history to reference.  It wasn’t until I joined the Genealogy Society of Hispanic America (GSHA-Calif.), The New Mexico Genealogist and Hispanic Genealogy Research Center (HGRC) and started researching in New Mexico did I have a grasp of our rich heritage.

For many of you, The Family Tree may be all encompassing, but for us we wanted to go a step farther and that step is the DNA project.  Having a Hispanic Surname such as Valdez and a French Surname of LeRouge, I always identified myself as Spanish and French because that’s what I was told that we were.  But, deciding to participate in the New Mexico DNA project, our Hispanic Surname took a strange twist.  When we asked our Brother Bennie to be the participant, his “Y” DNA result was Haplogroup I2B1; Nordic, which was consistent with the various tribes that inhabited Northern Spain?  We also have a Sanchez cousin who also participated in the DNA process.  His “Y” DNA result was Haplogroup J2e1: Semitic.

If you go to the New Mexico DNA website, the Project Administrator has identified the various groups who inhabited Northern Spain around 400 and 500 AD, and you will also get a clearer picture of the DNA results of our New Mexico cousins.  The following is a brief from his web site regarding Haplogroup I: Nordic:

Those inhabitants included the Germanic tribes of the Visigoths and the Baltic the Suebis, among others.   The Visigoths were from Sweden.

The Mitochondrial (mtdna) result was Haplogroup B: Native American, which was a surprise since we knew next to nothing about our Maternal Grandmother.  (see Photo in Gallery)

At the New Mexico DNA web site the Project Administrator states the following:

Project Background:  He further tested their mitochondrial DNA (mtdna) which is a test to find the origins of your great, great…grandmother going back 10’s of thousands of years.  This one ancestor which is your families “Eve” so to speak, showed up as Native American 85% of the time and European in origin 15% of the time.  Thus showing that the majority of unions in this admixture were of European males and Native-American Females.

The Native Americans, in the 16th Century, were understandably concerned about their safety and preserving their way of life in New Mexico when the Spanish Colonists arrived.  The conflict that occurred back then still persists today in the minds of some people.  Our other ancestors “The Spanish settlers or Colonists” from Spain, risked life and limb for a better life and traveled by ship, horseback and by foot, often through very hostile territory.  They traveled hundreds of miles through very treacherous terrain to settle in an area inhabited by our Native Americans in a new land was not what they had in mind.

I feel that the DNA Project could go a long way in helping heal some old wounds since the majority of participants have Native American DNA, but time will tell!

Lorene Valdez-Salgardo   


My Journey Our Story