Editor’s Note: For the next four weeks La Voz will feature a Colorado family or individual to celebrate Hispanics in Colorado and their contributions to the State.
Hispanic Heritage Month Series: Part I of IV
Maria C. Martinez’s love for genealogy was born in San Antonio while she was living in the city with her husband.
One day, she went out for a walk and ran into a woman who asked her what nationality she is. Martinez replied and said she was Spanish — but the woman responded and said she was from Spain and told Martinez she wasn’t Spanish.
“That was something that lingered in my mind. I started going to the library because my husband wanted to find his Native American roots,” said Martinez. “On the first day, I found my great, great grandfather. And it just went from there. I spent 11 years in California, and I did a lot of research at the library in San Diego. And before I knew it, I had 78,000 people in my database.”
Throughout her life, Martinez has spent her days creating a genealogy database that holds information on 80,421 people. Her database includes information about people from Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico as well as information about the founding families of La Culebra, La Veta, Walsenburg, Conejos, San Miguel de La Costilla and other San Luis Valley towns.
“The reason I input everyone (in her genealogy database) is because I recognized everyone that eventually settled in San Luis. So, I put them in my database, and it just kept growing,” she said. “I found out most of us are connected through one ancestor or another.”
Martinez is originally from San Pedro, Colorado — one of the earliest villages in La Culebra. She attended and graduated high school at Centennial High School in San Luis. Her database has been a work in progress since around 1990, she said.
Martinez traced her own roots and found proof of a story her father used to tell through DNA testing. Her father said in New Mexico, near Santa Fe, there was an attack on a wagon trail and all the people were killed expect a baby boy that was taken in by a Martinez family. Her brother had DNA testing done and found that he is ancient Celtic European and from Europe. But Martinez’s DNA did not match the Martinez side of her family in New Mexico.
Martinez’s grandmother, Nazarena Vigil, was born in La Culebra and married her fourth cousin who came from Arroyo Hondo. Her grandmother had around 12 children, but only three survived to adulthood. Her father remembers during the 1981 flu epidemic the family removing the body of her grandmother’s children through the window to prolong telling their grandmother that another one of her children had died.
Martinez is a much sought out genealogist by people wanting to know their ancestory. Martinez is the author of numerous genealogy books. Her ongoing database helps connect families looking to find their original roots and/or families ties.
Martinez was married to the late Arturo Martinez for 54 years and they had two sons. Martinez takes pride in her work helping to discover new family connections. Ironically, one of her many searches connects Martinez as a cousin of La Voz Publisher, Pauline Rivera.
You can reach Martinez for more information via her email at email@example.com.