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Woman spends lifetime studying genealogy (video)

By JR Ortega
Sept. 24, 2013 at 4:24 a.m.

A mother and political activist, Gloria Candelaria worked in Crystal City at a time when the political movement La Raza Unida Party was formed. Candelaria, a Spanish genealogy specialist, has written six books on the Victoria area's Spanish ancestors.

Check out her books

Gloria Candelaria has several books at the Victoria Public Library's genealogy section that cover several histories, not just hers, of the Crossroads.

However, one of her books, "How to Start your Family History: A Guide for the Beginning Genealogist and Family Historian," is the most popular and has been used by several in the area to learn their own history.

Editor's note: The Advocate is featuring Hispanics in the Crossroads through Oct. 15 for Hispanic Heritage Month.

Using only a fingertip, Gloria Candelaria has the power to travel 220 years into the past.

"The red line is where I come from," said the 75-year-old Victoria woman, tracing the family tree - her family line - that she drew nearly 40 years ago.

The fading ink on the yellowing paper is framed in gold, about 4-by-3 feet and goes through every line of her family, not just her direct line.

"It took me 30 days to print and 30 years to find the information," she said.

Candelaria first became interested in genealogy at 10 years old, when her grandmother and grandfather would argue over who had the stronger ancestral history.

Her grandfather's family, she learned, helped establish Albuquerque, N.M., in the early 1700s; and her grandmother's side established San Antonio soon after, she said.

Her family migrated mostly from Spain to Texas, she added.

Those moments were all Candelaria needed to be where she is now - an author of at least seven books. She has also taught several classes on genealogy and Crossroads Hispanic history.

Her family tree dates back to 1794 and took her years of traveling across the U.S. and Spain to figure out.

Most of the answers, however, were found in Austin and archives through birth, death and deed records.

Any one, Hispanic or not, can learn their history, all it takes is patience and persistence, she said.

"You just start off by putting your name down," she said.

As she became older, Candelaria even roped her kids into the research process, spending Sunday afternoons visiting area cemeteries to write down names and dates in an attempt to piece together the family puzzle.

Robert Shook, a Victoria historian who has known Candelaria for years, said the knowledge of her history and the histories of other families in the area is an asset to the community.

Her curiosity to always know and learn more is a quality Shook wishes more people had.

"I've found that she is not only very helpful with our Hispanics, but she has supported me and a couple of the project I've undertaken," he said. "Her attitude is very positive."

Shook said Candelaria has taken time to help others with their histories as well.

Over time, Hispanics have disconnected somewhat from their heritage, by ways of language and culture, he said.

Though people get further from their roots, Shook has seen some interest about ancestry in today's youth.

"I've been very optimistic about our attitudes in terms of the value of our past," he said.

If there is any imprint Candelaria wants to leave on the world, it's the knowledge of her history, she said.

She's proud that her Hispanic heritage has so much to offer communities. Every region needs a little flavor, she said.

"You're nothing if you don't know where you came from," she said.

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