Saturday, May 28, 2005

Genealogy: The Johns Family of Baroda, Michigan

*******Updates Below******

In this last of a genealogy trilogy, we lend words and space to try and retrace the times and travels of the family of my wife, Evelyn Johns Domingo.

It should be noted that most of the data gathered and collated here came from cemetery records made available on the web. For indeed, not only will the paper documents recording births and deaths in a place point to peoples’ identities and whereabouts, but the very gravesites with their gravestones, lapidas, markers, etc., will through the harsh tests of time survive to tell their own unique stories.

This is one such story.

In the 1830s, a certain John Johns came to these shores in the East Coast from Prussia bringing with him the following distinguishing details: Born January 1, 1836 and married to Mary Schuler. His parents were said to be Christian Johns and Mary Weckler, who probably continued to live and to die in Prussia. John is recorded as having died in November 24, 1910.

And of special mention could be the fact that upon landing on these shores they had changed, or anglicized, their names for they were known to be Jewish.

John sired three children. A William Johns, married to Arilla A. Hyland, born on March 23, 1868 and died on March 25, 1941. A Peter H. Johns, married to Cora Washburn (who died on July 10, 1989 but had remarried to Charles Paden), born September 16, 1865 and died April 16, 1903. And the last one, a Jacob Johns who was married to Emma Warsko, who was born on February 25, 1874 and died June 9, 1928.

My wife’s maternal grandfather was Ernest J. Johns, a son of Peter H. Johns. He had seven other siblings, both full and half (because Cora Washburn had remarried after Peter).

Ernest J. was born in October of 1898 and was married to Braulia Duran, who came from a remote area in Sorgoson.

The obvious question may be asked how it was possible for a gentleman from temperate Michigan to meet and marry barrio lass from hot and humid Sorsogon, located in the southern tip of the island of Luzon in the Philippines?

The story unravels very much similar to stories of people with the wanderlust borne out of the insatiable human spirit that seeks out new things, new frontiers, anything new and daring, exciting adventures, etc..

At the close of WWI, sometime in 1917, Ernest J. took the then pioneering decision to uproot himself from his familiar and cozy surroundings in the East to try his luck on a faraway archipelago of 7,100 islands dotting the wide expanse of the vast Pacific. The Philippine Islands, American territory, land of promise and coconut trees as far as the eye can see.

His forte was in mining, throwing him to the remote mountainous areas of the archipelago where gold and silver were prospected. And that was how Braulia was to meet her future life’s partner, from Sorsogon, to Masbate, to the mountains of Toledo, Cebu.

Both Ernest J. and Braulia are now dead. One dying over 35 years ago and the other 20 years later. But an irony continues to cling and to haunt that then unusual partnership that started many years ago and produced six offspring, one being my mother-in-law, Fay Domingo.

Michigan-raised Ernest is buried in a cemetery in Cebu, while Sorsogon-descended Braulia is buried in a Colma Cemetery here in California.

And thus, the twain shall have to meet again ...sometime.

UPDATE: February 24, 2008

A crude chart of the Johns family is attached below.

Click on image to enlarge.

Genealogy: The Osmeña Family of Cebu

Pictured above is a clearer graph of the Osmena family tree, only as far as I am able to provide with names from reliable sources.  One can look at the names and maybe relate them to known ancestors.  Updated this 4th day of March 2013.

*******UPDATES BELOW*******

The Old Parian, a still extant district though now largely in the minds of the old folks of Cebu was home to many of Cebu’s old families. Present descendants of these families have now scattered to different cities and provinces of the archipelago, and even locally, have dispersed across the now burgeoning metropolitan areas of Cebu province.

But many can trace their lineage to that history-rich, very well defined as to be exclusive, and very patriarchical district that once dominated the economic activities of the old city. Its ethnic composition then was as varied and diverse as societies go when many ethnic groups start living together. Mestizos of different mixtures – from Spanish and Chinese, To Spanish and Filipino, to even peninsular Spanish with insular Spanish, and what have you.

Out of that sizzling melting pot came the family of my mother, the Osmeña family, carrying the unique ethnic label of Mestizo-Sangley. That would be Chinese and Spanish or other Asian mixture.

For this one particular Old Parian family, its present recorded history begins in the 1800s, with one Severino Osmeña, who had married twice in his lifetime. The first wife was Vicenta Rita, who must have died before Severino took on second wife, Paula Suico.

My maternal grandmother, Fernanda Osmeña, came from Severino’s first marriage, one generation later. And she had six other siblings in her family.

On the other hand, the most famous of the Osmeñas, Sergio Osmeña, Sr., second President of the Philippine Commonwealth, owed his origins to Severino’s second union, again one generation later. Similarly, Sergio, Sr., also had two wives during his lifetime.

Sergio, Sr. now graces the fifty-peso bill of the present Republic of the Philippines, with a countenance that clearly shows his Chinese origins.

Sergio, Jr., a son of Sergio, Sr., was no less noted, becoming a Vice President of the Republic of the Philippines and figuring prominently during the chaotic regime of the virtual dictator Marcos.

At present, Sergio III, a son of Sergio, Jr., proudly continues the much heralded political tradition of the family, sitting as a revered Senator in the Philippine Senate. Another son, Tomas, is the mayor of the city.

UPDATES: February 24, 2008

Book cover of Life in Old Parian, written by Concepcion G. Briones, whose own family once lived in Parian.

Below is a crude graph showing the Osmena genealogy starting with Severino Osmena, who was married twice - first to Vicenta Rita then to Paula Sunico.

From the inside leaf covers of the Old Parian book are two maps, one a street map and another in 3D relief.

Click on Graphics for larger views.

Here's a rare picture of my grandmother, Fernanda Osmena Velez, with one of her three daughters, my mother.

Genealogy: The Neri Family of Mindanao


And the story (or was it legend?) thus begun . . . .

Sometime in 1521, there lived Samporna, chief of Cipit, and otherwise known as a rajah of Lanao. In Sanskrit, the word, sampurna, means perfect.

And then like the silent marches of unrecorded history nothing newsworthy was heard of this tribal family until 1779, when the usurping march of the Spaniards under the banner of the Christian cross came to the hapless islands. Thus, with reverential haste and in the name of king and God, a Rev. Pedro de San Barbara gathered together the Samporna family and officiated at its mass christening adopting for them the family name of Neri.

And why an Italian name from a Spanish friar? One can only surmise and note that a St. Philip Neri, an Italian cleric and a popular European saint, must have been in the mind of the named friar.

While the Spaniards kept meticulous records of their exploits overseas, digging that part of the past is still a daunting task, given the crudeness and impermanency of record-keeping methods used by the native islanders.

And searching for the missing links for this family was no exception, for recorded and verifiable history picks it up starting in the very early 1800s. Missing out on at least 25 years, which during those times were truly lifetimes given the shorter lifespans of people then. One could say that people typically then lived for under 50 years, and this family is particularly noted for having forefathers/progenitors who lived short lives when compared to present-day standards.

Then in the 1800s, a profusion of families carrying the name Neri littered local history’s screen. Juan Neri who lived from 1807 to 1857 and was married to Anastacia Chaves. A Leon Neri with nothing much known about other members of his family. A Lino Neri who was gobernadorcillo from 1832-1833. Another was a Salvador Neri, married to a Coronado and was also a gobernadorcillo from 1831-1832.

Only one common thread binds all those names mentioned above, and it is that they all lived at about the same time. But as to the bigger question of whether they were related either as siblings or as cousins, everything is still in a haze. One needs to remember that in times past and is still the practice with our Moslem brethren, multiple wives were common especially with tribal leaders and families with both affluence and influence.

Thus, we could surmise that when reference is made to Samporna family, it was a family composed of one male and several wives, not necessarily related to each other.

Thus, the relations of those named families above could be construed in this manner, unless new data can prove or disprove this hypothesis. Can we ever hope to resolve this confusion and dilemma?

This is particularly crucial because beyond those dates, the history of the families of the Neri is quite accurate and easily traceable. Thus, beyond the middle 1800s, one can almost be sure that data are easily available to trace one’s lineage all the way to the present time.

And if any interested party wants to try and know, we can take that journey together, tracing through data I already possess and other data that may be in the hands of other relatives.

UPDATE: February 21, 2008

Upon suggestion of Mon Neri, I tried ways to replicate the genealogy graph or table that I had hand-written in ways that could be sent and received by any interested party. Browsing through the installed software for my Canon PowerShot cameras, I learned that using the photograph attached below, I could actually read through all the names without difficulty and they all came out legibly. I simply opened the ZoomBrowser on my PC and previewed the photograph. That screen allows one to view the picture in its actual size, which of course would not fit in one's monitor screen. But there is a small navigator inset screen that allows one to navigate through the entire graph and thus enables one to trace lineage with the names.

Good luck to those interested.

And if you have good enough eyesight, one can simply click on the picture and view a much bigger graph.

UPDATE: February 23, 2008

After a little research occasioned by a comment that mentioned the Neri’s of Mambajao, Camiguin, I have herewith added the graph for the Bohol branch of the Neri Genealogy, where the following prominent families belong, that of VP Emmanuel Pelaez and his siblings, the family of currently embattled former NEDA chief Romulo L. Neri, and that of Provincial Board Member Jesus “Dongdong’ Neri of Mambajao.

Since no years of birth or death were provided, it is still difficult to match chronologically this branch with the main graph with the many branches. What is shown is that the Neri’s of Camiguin, Medina and Cebu can trace their lineage to the Bohol branch. Additionally, the Bohol Neri’s also claim that they were descended from the Neri’s of Mindanao, confirming our premise that Mindanao was the primary locus for the original Neri family which traced its origins to 1779 when the name Neri was first introduced in the islands.

The truncated names on the leftmost section are: Mariano Neri, married to Ambrosia Fortich. Click on the image to enlarge.

March 16th, 2009 Update

Toward the end of February of this year, we had an arranged meeting with one of the renowned members of our clan, Dra. Rafaelita "Oche" Pelaez, whose father was Rudolfo Neri Peleaz and who owns and operates one of four universities in Cagayan de Oro (Liceo de Cagayan University). Oche has contracted a well-known local author to write a book about her father who founded the school. And per schedule the book may be out soon. Oche is desirous of adding as much of family origins as possible in the book. Thus, a copy of our extended genealogy was presented to her. And she in turn committed to frame it for public display.

For the records, Oche's paternal grandfather was Nicolas Pelaez of Talisayan, brother to Gregorio Pelaez, Sr. of Medina and father of the illustrious Maning Pelaez. Gregorio was married to Felipa Neri of Bohol.

In turn, Oche's grandmother, Paz Neri, was a younger sister of my paternal grandfather, Ramon Neri.

November 18th 2008 Update

Have already furnished several copies of the extended graph to some local relatives. I still have extra copies that are available. Since I have re-framed the original copy, I intend to hang it inside our little bakery shop on our building located at the corner of A. Velez (Del Mar) and Hayes (Victoria) streets here in Cagayan de Oro. For viewing for those interested.

October 25th 2008 Saturday

I have already copied the extended family graph, measuring 3 feet by 2 feet. It does not seem right to fold it into a smaller size for mailing, thus what would be appropriate is to mail it in a paper tube. Would appreciate getting some recommendations. However, if you are in the old hometown of Cagayan de Oro, we could arrange for those interested to take delivery in person. Now remember this is an on-going project and is thus a work in progress. Notations and corrections will be welcomed. But definitely a good and bold start to try to finish our trace of the family all the way to 1779.

Waiting for your inputs.

UPDATE: October 8, 2008
I just discovered this little bit of family history in one of the anonymous comments in some other blog entry. This is a more fleshed-out origin of our Neri family. Thus, this reveals that we are descended not only from Moros or Moslems, but also from Bukidnon aborigines. Very interesting.

Cagayan de Oro History From Beginning to 1950

The city of Cagayan de Oro, which boast of possessing the most beautiful name of all the cities of the country, has an equally beautiful story behind it; a colorful story which takes it start from a woman's smile, so the legend says.

The first inhabitants of Cagayan, many, many years ago, lived in a village on the bank of Taguanao River, eight kilometers south from Cagayan. This was a part of the Bukidnon territory, and later on, they moved on the bank of Kalambagohan River, where Cagayan now stands, and called their settlement Kalambagohan because of the luxuriant growth of "lambago trees". For sometime, the natives lived in the prosperity until the end of the sixteenth century when the Maguindanaos, a rival tribe from Lanao raided and captured the place. The bukidnons after a fight were forced to retreat to the hills.

The aborigines of Kalambagohan were Bukidnons. The horde of barbarous Moros from Maguindanao under Raja Moda Samporna (The Unopposed) demanded the surrender of the villagers who retreated to the hills. The Kalambagohan datu sent his beautiful daughter, guarded by his bravest warriors, to meet the Rajah and to make a conditional surrender: "None in the village should be carried across the countryside was more than confirmed now, and accepted the term of surrender. Her beauty alone was enough to captivate, but her charms wrought destruction to the Rajah, so the stronger leader of Maguindanao warriors began to waver. It was a long story but it ended with the Maguindanao datu thrusting his spear into the stairs of the datu's house which action in those days was symbolic of a man's proposal for marriage. The datu and daughter readily accepted the proposal and thus ended the whirlwind romance. The Maguindanao warrior who started from his camp to subjugate the recapture the rival camp became its prisoner of love. The news of the marriage was received with grief and resentment by the subjects of the captivated Rajah. Rajah Moda Samporna made his warriors build a strong cotta around the village. So, instead of the Moros conquering the Bukidnons, they were the ones captured. The Moro warriors felt so ashamed of the defeat that they never referred to the place as Kalambagohan anymore. Instead, they changed the name "Caayahan" (the Moro word for shame) or Cagayhaan (the Bukidnon word for shame). When the Spaniards came they mispronounced the name of the village, hence, they gradually changed it to Cagayan. Years later, rich gold deposits in sitio Munigi and Pigtaw and in the sand bed of the river were a common discovery so the name Cagayan de Oro came into existence.


The Moros intermarried with the Bukidnons. Samporna and his descendants became the ruling families in Cagayhaan. When the Spaniards came, some of Samporna's descendants moved to Boroon, Lanao, and from there to Uatu, Tugaya, and Ganasi in the province of Lanao. Today on the shore of Lake Lanao live Sultan Samporna of Tugaya, Sultan Samporna of Uatu and Sultan Samporna of Ganasi. In Maguindanao, now Cotabato, where the Samporna ancestors originally came from, still live Eman Samporna of Banobo and Eman Samporna of Moling.


The coming of the Spaniards gave a twist to the history of our place when the first missionary from Spain arrived in Cagayhaan in the year 1622 to preach the Christian religion to the natives or Moros. These missionaries belonged to the order of the Recollect. Rev. Pedro de Santa Barbara was one of the most zealous workers of the Cross, and at once baptized their pagan converts. The Samporna families who remarried in Cagayhaan became Christian and they were given the family name of "Neri". Hence, the present Neri families in Cagayan descended from the Moros.