This guest post is brought to you by Beverly Loomis
One of my long-time genealogical quests has been to learn the names of the parents of my 2nd great-grandmother, Maria (Mary) Rodriguez, who lived circa 1832-1880 near San Antonio, Texas. In 1847 she married Young Perry Alsbury (1814-1877), who came to the Austin Colony as a child of 9 and grew up to became a Texas patriot, Indian fighter, and hero in the 1836 Battle of San Jacinto. Quite a bit of information exists on Young Perry Alsbury, but despite considerable research (described below) and many tantalizing clues, I still have not been able to identify the parents of his wife, Maria (Mary) Rodriguez. I would greatly appreciate any help, suggestions, theories, or personal knowledge from readers. I can be contacted at: [email protected]
My first step was to review old (unsourced) family notes. My grandmother, father, and aunt all did family research many decades ago. Young Perry Alsbury’s wife was said to be named Maria or Mary Rodriguez. The notes say she married in 1847 at age 15, that she came from “an esteemed family” in San Antonio, and that due to family disapproval she and Alsbury “eloped and married somewhere in Mexico.” No record of that marriage has been found.
Next step, census records. In 1850, we find “Maria Alsbury,” age 19, birthplace Mexico, living with her husband Young Perry Alsbury, mother-in-law, and first child on Salado Creek, Bexar, Texas. In 1860, “Mary Alsbury,” age 28, is found with husband Perry and 3 children in San Antonio Ward I, Bexar, Texas. In 1870, “Mary Alsbury (Ahlbury),” is found in San Antonio Ward 3 with husband and four children. In 1880, “Mary Alsbury (Alsberry) is widowed (Y.P. died in 1877) and living with 3 of her 4 children. Mary died later that year, 1880. She was buried next to her husband on their property on Salado Creek near San Antonio. She was in her late 40s.
From these census records we learn that Mary’s birth year was about 1831 or 1832, she lived in or near San Antonio, was married to Young Perry Alsbury, and had four children. Her birthplace is stated as Mexico, her race as white, her occupation as housekeeper.
Mary Rodriguez and Y.P. Alsbury’s children were:
• Leah Jane Alsbury (1849-1921, married J.R. Hester)
• Thomas Jefferson Alsbury (1851-1945, married Mary Bertha Edwards) (my line)
• Young Perry Alsbury, Jr. (1855-1925, married Mary Elizabeth Jowers)
• Mary Ann Alsbury (about 1860-about 1900, married Albert Moody)
Although no marriage record has been found, a search of military pension records revealed the next best thing. In 1877, a deposition was taken when “Mary Rodriguez y Alsbury” requested a continuation of her husband’s pension after his death. She stated she and Alsbury were married by “Rev’d. Smith, Protestant minister”on October 13, 1849 (but with no mention of parents). A non-Catholic marriage could possibly indicate disapproval by Mary’s parents. Was the year mistakenly written as 1849 instead of 1847? Were they married twice to assure legality, once in Mexico and again in Texas? My speculative guess is that “Rev. Smith” may have been William P. Smith (1795-1870), who worked with the soldiers of the Texas Republic as both a doctor and a Methodist minister. Did the marriage take place on a military base? Is there a record of marriages performed by Dr. Smith? Might the record list Mary’s parents? Lots of questions, no answers found.
At one point in my search, I contacted the DRT Library in San Antonio and a very helpful librarian sent me a brief unpublished biography of Young Perry Alsbury written by Taylor Thomson in 1910. Thompson wrote that Alsbury married “the daughter of a wealthy Spanish family who had a dower of several thousand acres of broad Texas land, as well as numerous flocks and herds.” No parents were named, but if a dowry was involved, land records might provide a clue.
A potential bingo! In November 1847 (just after Y.P. and Mary’s marriage) Young Perry Alsbury signed an agreement to purchase 200 acres on Salado Creek from Maria de Jesus Olivarri y Rodriguez, wife of Ambrosio Rodriguez. Ambrosio was a well-known soldier of the Republic of Texas, a Texas patriot, and a wealthy merchant and rancher who died in 1848. Could these be Mary’s parents? It certainly seemed like a strong possibility.
Looking back further at the land records, I found that in February 1841, Ambrosio Rodriguez had signed this property over to his wife, Maria de Jesus Olivarri y Rodriguez, stating that one of his wishes was “to secure to my children all the benefits which were given to them by my deceased mother Maria Antonia Curbiere consisting of money and property.” Ambrosio Rodriguez had purchased his Salado Creek land in 1837 from Francisco Rodriguez as part of the estate of Juan Courbiere. The land was originally known as the “Courbiere Tract on the Salado Creek” and had consisted of almost 9,000 acres–in 1807 it had been a Spanish land grant to Ambrosio’s maternal grandparents. If Mary and her husband received 200 acres of this property when they married, it seemed another strong reason to suspect Mary was one of Ambrosio’s children.
An additional connection is found in an 1846-1847 tax roll record for Bexar County, in which Ambrosio Rodriguez is recorded as “agent” for “Ma. de Jesus Alsberry y Rodriguez.” This seems to verify the 1847 marriage year and relate to the Salado Creek land, but does not state the nature of Ambrosio’s relationship to Mary.
In fact, everything fits almost perfectly (surname, time period, location, birth year) for Mary to have been a daughter of Ambrosio Rodriguez and Maria de Jesus Olivarri, who married in 1828–BUT, frustratingly, NO PROOF can be found.
Mary was not named in a 1913 family history and genealogy of the Ambrosio Rodriguez family written by his son, Webb County judge Jose Maria Rodriguez (“Rodriguez Memoirs of Early Texas”). Eight children were said to be in the family, but no Mary. Nor was Mary named in Ambrosio’s will; he died in 1848. (That she was not named in his will could theoretically be explained because she was “already provided for,” meaning married with land.) Mary was not named in any future land dealings by Maria de Jesus Olivarri, who lived at least into her 80s and was still alive in 1895 (found in city directory). It would be interesting to find if a will exists for Maria de Jesus Olivarri y Rodriguez. Although Mary pre-deceased her, perhaps grandchildren might have been named in Olivarri-Rodriguez’s will. But, to date–no will found, at least not in my on-line searches.
We don’t even know Mary’s full birth name. Did her formal name include “de Jesus” as in the tax roll record? One record (an 1851 deed in futuro written by Leah Alsbury, Mary’s mother-in-law) records Mary’s middle name as “Ramona.”
One of Ambrosio Rodriguez’s documented daughters, born in 1834, was named “Romana.” “Ramona” and “Romana” are strikingly similar names. Was Romana the same person as Mary? A search soon revealed that they could not have been the same person. Romana was younger than Mary by 2 or 3 years. Romana never married. 1850 and 1860 census records show them living in different households with different people. Romana died, unmarried, in 1871. Mary died in 1880.
So, back to square one. Even if Mary was not a daughter of this family, it certainly looks like she was connected to them in some way. Could she have been an orphaned or illegitimate child of a relative? Perhaps Ambrosio and his wife were serving as her guardians? If this was the case, who could her parents have been? Presumably someone close to Ambrosio’s family.
A baptism record could answer that question, but nothing clearly pops up online. I would like to look at the old San Fernando church baptism records in person but I live in California. (Any researcher in San Antonio who would be willing to do that?) Some, but not all, of Ambrosio’s children are found in the old Catholic archives, but no child named Maria Rodriguez (or a variation thereof) born in 1831 or 1832 is listed with Ambrosio Rodriguez and Maria de Jesus Olivarri as parents. Could she have been born elsewhere? In census records Mary always put “Mexico”as her and her parents birthplaces, but not where in Mexico. Texas was still part of Mexico when she was born, but wouldn’t she have put “Texas” as her birthplace in later censuses? Impossible to know.
One other very tantalizing clue exists, which could be the most important of all. Back to old family records. A family letter written in 1928 says that Thomas Jefferson Alsbury (1851-1945), a son of Mary and Young Perry, told family members he believed his mother (Mary) had two brothers, Santos Rodriguez and Pedro Rodriguez, and that “there were just those three in the family.” Old 1838 and 1839 Bexar land records indeed show a Santos Rodriguez and a Pedro Rodriguez. AND–in 1838 Santos Rodriguez sold land to Ambrosio Rodriguez, with the transaction witnessed by Horace Alsbury, a brother of Young Perry Alsbury! Whoa, what is the connection here???
To date I have not been able to trace Santos or Pedro Rodriguez. The family letter says Santos went to California at the time of the Gold Rush in partnership with one of Young Perry Alsbury’s brothers, Thomas. Thomas Alsbury (1811-1858) is found in early California records, but I haven’t been able to find Santos. And there is no indication of who Santos’ or Pedro’s parents (and maybe Mary’s) may have been. Too many mysteries, too few records.
Any information, suggested resources, research help, or ideas are welcomed. I would dearly love to learn the names of my 3rd great-grandparents. My e-mail is [email protected]