Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Philippine Family Trees Series: Connecting All Filipino Families

In my article, RP Politics: A Family Affair, I started with the dream of connecting all 15 (the article was rewritten during the presidency of Benigno Simeon Aquino III) Philippine presidents. Aside from the idea of Six Degrees of Separation, I have always been a firm believer that everyone can be connected genealogically, no matter how distant the relationship may be. Of course, in 2010, I failed miserably in my connections in that I was only able to connect 14 of the 15 presidents, and 2 of these were not even 100% verified.

With the exponential growth of information readily available on the Internet, things have become easier. I have finally been able to connect ALL 16 of our Philippine Presidents in one big family tree which I released to the public just a week ago. This writeup is meant to give the public an idea of how this feat was achieved, as well as introduce this series of articles on connecting Filipino families.

Genealogy Software

Before the web became accessible by just about anybody and back when I was still in high school and had no money to buy software for use in the my research, I connected family trees using pen and paper and scotch tape only. Naturally, this took very long to finish and the dream of connecting people from different families was still just that, a dream. When genealogy software became very inexpensive with some even being offered for free, tracing family trees became easier and faster. I detailed the more useful and readily accessible software in  RP Politics: Family Affair.

Geni and Other Online Family Tree Programs

While offline software helped me a lot in consolidating family trees, nothing could outdo the usefulness of Geni if you want to explore genealogy to a whole new level. According to its website, Geni is "solving the problem of genealogy by inviting the world to build the definitive online family tree. Using the basic free service at Geni.com, users add and invite their close relatives to join their family tree. All Geni users can share photos, videos, and documents with their families". In other words, Geni is trying to build one big family tree online with the contribution of users from all over the world. With Geni's ambitious goal, many family trees whose members do not even know one another are now connected via Geni.

Aside from Geni, there is also the online version of Family Tree Builder though MyHeritage. OF course, data stored in MyHeritage will now be accessible though Geni since Geni was bought by MyHeritage in 2012. 

Then there is also TribalPages, which was actually the first online family tree program I used. I still maintain several trees with TribalPages but it isn't really my go-to online genealogy software. At a later date I will try to expound further on these sites. For this writeup, suffice it to say that these online genealogical sites formed the bulk of my source in connecting the family trees of Philippine presidents. 

These sites can also help anyone connect themselves in a big family tree. Simply open an account with all three sites, input your family tree (do not worry about privacy issues. You can set your settings to not display any information to the public for people in your family tree who are living), and watch how your tree gets connected with other trees. It is that simple!

A Caveat: Finding Your Gateway Relative

Okay, so maybe I oversimplified things. It is not that simple, to be honest. You can spend all your life encoding your family tree on Geni and still not see your relationship with famous people. The key to Geni, and all other genealogy software, is having a what I like to call a "gateway" relative. This is simply someone in your family who married into a certain, well connected family. Allow me to illustrate:

My mother's family is fortunate enough to have 2 gateway relatives. The first gateway relative is from more than a hundred years ago when my 3 times great-grandfather's first cousin, Januaria Taguenca-Cabrera, married Don Victoriano Osmeña, who was the brother of Pres. Sergio Osmeña's mother. This relationship connects me to both Presidents Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and Rodrigo Roa Duterte.



My second gateway relative is a bit closer to this century. My mom's first cousin, Alfonsita Lucero, was married to Ambassador Narciso Ramos, father of former President Fidel Valdez Ramos. My connection to the Ramos family then connects me to PNoy, among many other prominent families in the Philippines.


Because of these 2 women, I can connect myself genealogically to practically anyone in the Philippines. As will be discussed further in the next article, the more gateway relative one has, the more you can connect to more families.

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Many people have asked me how I connected the family trees of the Presidents, and this time the Vice-Presidents. Some are even skeptical if this is even accurate or factual. I would say that these family trees I am doing are more than factual. They are the product of love and devotion without the possibility of being paid. I do these genealogies because they amuse me, they teach me things, and I have always wanted genealogy to be appreciated by every Filipino. But many need proof. So here are the sources for the Vice-Presidents Family Tree. 

GENI. Many of the family trees are found on Geni. However, you have to make sure that the profiles you look at are the master profiles and that they are being managed by family members or reputable genealogists to guarantee their accuracy. There is a limitation to Geni, however. Those who are living will not have their names displayed, and many of those who are dead are sometimes kept private by the family so they will only display their last names. So while Geni is useful this is just the starting point. I had to go through a lot of sources to get to where I am now.

ARCHIVAL DOCUMENTS. As I have already discussed in many previous articles, I have combed through tons of church and other archival documents over the years. So it is not an exaggeration if I say I have bits and pieces of documentation pertaining to this and that famous family. 

BOOKS. There are so many books that can give you data about family trees. For instance, the Osmena family can be seen in the book Life in Old Parian, writted by Concepcion Briones. The Duranos, Pardo de Taveras, Sinsuats, Masturas, and other political dynasties can be discovered in Alfred McCoy's Anarchy of Families. Another great resource is Sheila S. Coronel's The Rulemakers - How the Wealthy and Well-Born Dominate Congress, which has a lot of genealogical information. 


INTERNET. Finally, the internet. When I get stumped on two people's relationship, or when Geni only display's a person's last name, I search old newspapers and old books that have been digitized and you will discover a trove of information. 

I realize that genealogy is something that many Filipinos are familiar with but is at the same time difficult to understand as a discipline. While my articles tend to favor the elite of this nation it is only because they are the one with the records readily available. Sometimes my articles are quite slanted and I do not hide that fact because I always have an opinion. My blog is a genealogical blog but also a personal one. So I am not ashamed to admit that I have biases clearly written all over my articles. I will, however, start to religiously include documentation for all my articles moving forward so that while writing may be biased you will see that they have factual basis. This series will be the test drive for this.

And, P.S. to all readers who may or may not agree with me: do not overthink this. Genealogy is supposed to be fun! I am doing this to tell you all that tracing family trees is a great activity! So just enjoy it. More to the point, start tracing your family. As I have said over and over again we must sing our ancestors' songs. We must speak for the dead.

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