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Are your roots in Pojoaque?

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By Kelly LeVan

As the daughter of a state police officer, she grew up all over: Cimarron, Springer, Questa, Las Vegas, Santa Rosa. She eventually graduated from Taos High School. However, it’s the Pojoaque Valley that has stolen Henrietta Christmas’ passion and led her to a career in genealogy, studying the people from which she descended.Christmas’ ancestors, Juana Lujn, Ygnacio Roybal and Toms Madrid lived in or near Pojoaque more than 300 years ago. Roybal and Madrid, both soldiers, had received land grants from the king after the pueblo revolt of 1680. Lujn, an early colonial woman of El Rancho, bore three illegitimate children, Christmas said, creating “an aura that still surrounds her.”In an Authors Speak presentation at 7 p.m. Thursday in the upstairs rotunda at Mesa Public Library, Christmas will speak about her ancestors in the context of the land granted them and other soldiers, as well as about holes in documented records regarding “criados,” native servants many Spanish families appear to have had during this early period in New Mexico’s history.“We don’t know where they lived, how they dressed, if they were freed or whether they were paid,” Christmas said.In other words, were the criados servants or slaves?Criados were counted in the 1750 census, listed as household members along with other members of the Spanish families. Unfortunately for researchers, no records exist of criados’ wills, which would give some idea of their belongings and maybe their status.“The day-to-day of their lives is obscure,” Christmas said. “It’s a big gap and it’s hard to fill in.”She has discovered one account where Lujan purchased land using an American Indian woman as part of her payment, and another, Roybal’s will, where the soldier offers his old clothes to, as Christmas said, “help them look better ee My question to the audience will be, ‘How did they look before?’ Was his old clothing a step up in the ladder of clothing?”Mysteries such as that of the criados keeps Christmas intrigued by genealogy, she said, a field she considers utterly intertwined with history.“I love genealogy,” she said. “I just love it. It started out when I would make notes while my grandma was telling me stories. My interest in my family’s history expanded over the years.”She defined genealogy as “the study of families from one generation to the next.” In contrast, she said, “history, to me, is more of a broad picture ee that sometimes doesn’t even include the family names.”She said she prefers to study them together – to learn the names and the historical circumstances in which the families lived.It does add a certain depth to one’s self-identity: For instance, everyone with the surname Roybal, Madrid, Mestas, Lujan or Romero is descended from one of the five soldiers granted land in the Pojoaque Valley, Christmas said.She said these men and their wives were surprisingly long-lived; Roybal died at age 87, and his wife at 100. Madrid, whom Christmas described as “my favorite military soldier,” served right up to the end of his long, adventurous life.“He’d been all over the place ee to Mexico City and back,” she said. “When he finally resigned from the military, he was old and feeble ee Maybe he served so long because of his father.”Roque Madrid, she said, was an even more famous soldier and also served a long career in the military.Studying primarily the well-detailed documents kept in the Spanish Archives, Christmas has written five books in her field: “Military Records – Colonial New Mexico – Notas y Revistas,” “The Early Pojoaque Valley – Jornaleros y Artesanos,” “Early Settlers of La Cienega – a Family History,” “The Santa Fe Presidio Soldiers –Their Donation to the American Revolution” and “Aqu Se Comienza – Founding Families of Albuquerque.”A member of the board of the Historical Society of New Mexico and the Hispanic Genealogical Research Center of New Mexico, she currently lives in Corrales with her husband Walt.The Authors Speak Series is funded by the Friends of Mesa Public Library. For more information on the series, call 662-8240 or visit www.losalamosnm.us, then click on Mesa Public Library’s “Events and Exhibits” link.