Some time ago I wrote about Alonso Romo, a soldier with the Hernan De Soto expedition [1539-43] whose service in exploring the Gulf region took him from Florida deep into Texas near Austin and the Colorado River. In Texas, the De Soto four year exploration came to an end. Disappointed at not finding cities of gold, Alonso and his fellow explorers set off to find their way home.
De Soto had started with nine ships and 600 men, and by the time he died his original force had dwindled to 300. Horribly lost and without a clue about how to proceed in their quest, the survivors traced their path back to the mighty Mississippi and then to Mexico via the Gulf sea. The identity of Alonso Romo continues to baffle me, and I am uncertain about his life or my connection to him.
Genealogy is not an exact science. There are similar names and confusion over a person’s identity is not uncommon. My research benefited greatly from research of my nephew, David Romo, who undertook a study of our ancestors some 30 years ago. He was able to trace my mother Alicia Saenz’ lineage back to 1523 with the arrival of Alonso de Estrada from Spain. De Estrada was appointed by King Ferdinand of Aragon as the Royal Treasurer of New Spain, a post he acquired because of association with Don Fernando de Aragon, King of Spain.
According to various scholars, including Bernal Diaz del Castillo, New Spain’s first historian, Estrada was the illegitimate son of the king. In my research, I relied on books, articles, and internet sites dealing with historical facts. I utilized Google Search to find sites such as Famous People which notes that King Ferdinand “had many illegitimate children, including Alonso de Aragon.” Alonso de Aragon became the Archbishop of Zaragoza. As noted, similar names can be a problem. Was Alonso de Estrada a stepbrother to Alonso de Aragon?
By all accounts, there are thousands and thousands of Mexicans and Mexican Americans who are descendants of Alonso de Estrada. Our family–the Saenz family–just happens to be one of them. The only advantage is that the heirs to Estrada, especially in the first 100 years, are easier to find because of his prominence.
Esteban de Sosa, son of Alonso de Sosa Estrada and grandson of Alonso de Estrada, the Royal Treasurer of the newly conquered Aztec Empire in Mexico, is part of my family lineage. Esteban was a third generation family member of Mexico, also referred to by the Spanish government as New Spain. He was of the criollos class, a Spaniard born in the Americas. He married Ines de Cabrera, daughter of Don Pedro de Cabrera, a Spanish Lord and mayor of Cordoba, Spain. Sosa was the great grandson of Lope de Sosa [Gobernador de las Islas Canarias].
My search for the sons and daughters of Lope de Sosa [father of Alonso Sosa de Estrada] in New Spain led me to a troubling historical account regarding Juan de Onate’s colonization of New Mexico. John D. Inclan, a genealogist who specializes in Latinos from Texas and Mexican border states, found information about my relative Captain Alonso Sosa Albornoz which he titled: “Murder of a Member of the 1598 New Mexico Expedition.”
Captain Alonso Sosa Albornoz [referred to as Captain Alonso in the Spanish documents] signed up with Juan de Onate in 1598 to explore present-day New Mexico. Captain Alonso traveled to that frontier region with his wife Dona Maria Beatriz Navarro-Rodriguez [1575-1674 and their five children. After several years in New Mexico, Captain Alonso tired of the hardships associated with the colonization and requested to be relieved of duty so he could take his family back to New Spain. De Onate, fearing a mutiny of his men, decided otherwise and had Captain Alonso murdered.
Captain Alonso’s death, according to historians Agapita Rey and George Hammond, came at the hands of the maestro de campo [field commander], Vicente Zaldivar de Mendoza, De Onate’s cousin. Rey and Hammond confirm that Governor Juan de Onate ordered Don Alonso’s killing and in “1601, under the command of Don Vicente de Zaldivar, Captain Alonso was ambushed and killed.”
Captain Alonso’s wife Beatriz, now a widow with five children, remained in New Mexico and later married Bernabe de las Casas. She had five children with de las Casas and is considered one of the founding families of New Mexico. At some point later in her life, Beatriz left fora new life in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon where she died in 1674 at the age of 99.
Captain Alonso came from a military family and his death merited an investigation and prosecution of those responsible. This did not occur because justice in the frontier was fleeting and death was all too common. This is but one of the stories–a sad one, no doubt– of my family.
internet were critical to my investigation. Google, Family Search, and WikiTree were most useful, as were several historical studies of New Mexico. I also benefited from the excellent genealogy research of Moises Garza, publisher of We are Cousins, and large family datasets gathered by John D. Inclan.
If you have not started your family background research, I encourage you to start right away. A good beginning is to talk to your parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. Their insights can be essential to learning more about where you came from and how your family got to America.