California Spanish Genealogy
by SFgenealogy

Californio Families, A Brief Overview

by Alexander V. King

In 1769, the Spanish colonial government began expanding their authority into Alta California with the establishment of military presidios and Franciscan missions. At the time of Mexico's independence, there were twenty-one missions, four presidios, three pueblos and several ranchos.1 By 1845, the presidios had been long abandoned, the missions had been secularized and were in decline; but the rancho economy held full sway. The non-native-American citizens of the Mexican province numbered 10,000 or so2. These "Californios" bore 200 or more different surnames. Many were third or fourth generation descendants from progenitors who arrived during the Spanish colonial era.

In general, these founders of Ca1ifornio families arrived under one of three circumstances: as soldiers, as colonist/settlers, or as traders.

The Portolá3 expedition of 1769 founded presidios and missions at San Diego and Monterey and escorted Father Junipero Serra into the province. Wives and children of several soldiers began to join them beginning in 1774.

Most. of these soldiers were leather-jackets, or "soldados de cuera", and were Mexican-born, including such progenitors as Pedro Amador and Josef Francisco de Ortega born in Guanajuato; Josef Raymundo Carrillo, Mariano Antonio Cordero, Pablo Antonio Cota and Josef Ygnacio Olivera from Baja California; Felipe Sebastian Alvitre, Jose Gabriel de Arce, Jose Joaquin Cayetano Espinosa, Juan Ismerio de Osuna and Josef Maria Soberanes from Sinaloa; and Bernardino Alvarado.

Some of the soldiers were Catalonian Volunteers from Spain. These included Domingo Aruz from Gerona and Antonio Yorba from San Saturnino in Catalonia; and Manuel Buitron from Molina in Valencia.

Routine changes in military posting brought more soldiers and their families from Mexico thereafter. Sinaloan-born Jose Manuel Perez Nieto arrived about 1772. Later came Jalisco-born Jose Antonio Romero and Sinaloans Jose Calixto Ayala, Felipe Santiago Garcia, and Jose Bernardo Heredia.

With Anza's4 second expedition in 1776 came soldiers who founded the presidio of San Francisco and settlers for the pueblo of San Jose, founded the following year. These included Luis Joaquin Alvarez de Acevedo, Jose Antonio Sotelo, Pablo Pinto, Jose Antonio Sanchez and Cristobal Sandoval. Born in Jalisco was Juan Atanasio Vasquez; while Manuel Ramirez Arellano was from Puebla. Jose Antonio Quitero Aceves, Nicolas Galindo, and Jose Vicente Antonio Hernandez were from Durango. Josef Manuel Valencia was born in Zacatecas. Juan Pablo Grijalva and Josef Joaquin Moraga were both born at Mission Guevavi near what is now Tubac, Arizona.

But by far the bulk of the party were from Sonora and Sinaloa. The Sonorans included Justo Roberto Altamirano, Domingo Alviso, Juan Antonio Amesquita, Josef Vicente Feliz, Josef Manuel Gonzales, Ygnacio Maria Gutierrez, Ygnacio Antonio Linares, Jose Valerio Mesa, Juan Salvio Pacheco, Gabriel Antonio Peralta, Felipe Santiago de la Cruz Pico and Ygnacio de Soto. The Sinaloans included Juan Francisco Bernal, Nicolas Antonio Berreyessa, Pedro Antonio Bojorquez, Joaquin Isidro de Castro, Josef Antonio Garcia, Ygnacio Anastacio Higuera, Pedro Antonio Lisalde, Sebastian Antonio Lopez, Jose Miguel Silvas and Felipe Santiago Tapia.

In 178l, Rivera y Moncada5 escorted soldiers and colonists to found the pueblo of Los Angeles and the following year, the presidio of Santa Barbara was begun. Los Angeles "pobladores" included Jose Cesario Moreno, Jose Antonio Navarro, and Pablo Rodriguez of Sinaloa; Antonio Mesa and Luis Manuel Quintero of Sonora; Josef Antonio Basilio Rosas and Jose Vanegas of Durango; and Josef Fernando de Velasco y Lara of Cadiz, Spain.

Most were Sinaloan-born soldiers, including Jose Maximo Alanis, Ildefonso Dominguez, Josef Rosalino Fernandez, Isidro German, Justo Lorenzo Hernandez, Gaspar Lopez, Jose Manuel Ygnacio Lugo, Francisco Xavier Mejias, Juan Matias Olivas, Jose Antonio Ontiveros, Jose Antonio Basilio Parra, Vicente Villa de Rodriguez, Efigenio Ruiz, Francisco Xavier Sepulveda, Jose Melesio Valdez, Jose Manuel Valenzuela, Juan Jose Miguel Villalobo and Juan Antonio Ybarra.

Soldier Jose Francisco Juarez was born in San Luis Potosí and Josef Dario Arguello in Querétaro. Juan Agustin Leyba was born in Nayarit. Sonoran-born soldiers included Anastacio Maria Feliz, Josef Manuel Machado, Josef Maria Martinez, Vicente Quijada, Jose Ygnacio Rodriguez, Jose Pedro Loreto Salazar, Josef Maria Gil Samaniego, Juan Ygnacio Valencia and Juan Segundo Valenzuela.

Military postings brought several more families to Alta California over the next 50 years. Coming in this period were: from Sinaloa, Jose Maria Ygnacio Aguilar, Mariano Dominguez; from Sonora: Miguel Antonio Guillen and Francisco Morales; and from Baja California: brothers Jose Mariano and Jose Ramundo Estrada. Also arriving were Pablo de la Osa from Mexico City, Jose Antonio Romero from Puebla; Jose Antonio Romualdo Pacheco from Guanajuato; Juan Francisco Sanchez of Colima; Jose Ygnacio Rendon of Nayarit; and Gil Cano, Francisco Marquez, Francisco Rico and Jose Alvino Zurita of Jalisco. Jose Joaquin de la Torre, born in Santander, Spain and Agustin Juan Vicente Zamorano, born in what is now St. Augustine, Florida also arrived in this period.

In 1797 eight colonists arrived to begin the ill-fated pueblo of Branciforte (today's Santa Cruz). These included Jose Ignacio Acedo, Jose Maria Arceo, Jose Barbosa, Jose Vicente Moxica, Jose Agustin Narvaez and Jose Antonio Robles, all probably from Jalisco.

In 1800 twenty-one orphans from the Lorenzana orphanage of Mexico City arrived in Monterey. All were given the surname "Lorenzana", and among these were Jacinto Lorenzana and Felipe Lorenzana. But organized Spanish colonization was over.

Although officially closed to unauthorized commerce, Alta California was increasingly visited by trading ships, trappers and other merchants, especially after Mexico's independence in 1824. Among those that permanently settled were Juan Lorenzo Bruno Bandini and Juan Malarin from Peru; Joseph Chapman, William Edward Petty Hartnell, Santiago Johnson, William A. Richardson, Juan Francisco Smith ("Jean Noel"), Michael Claringbud White ("Miguel Blanco") and John Wilson of Britain; and from the United States came Juan Bautista Robert Livermore, Juan Francisco John Gilroy and Francisco Pliny Fisk Temple; also Miguel Luis Nathaniel Pryor and William Wolfskill of Kentucky; Jacob Primer Leese of Ohio; and Daniel Martin Call, William Goodwin Dana, Henry Delano Fitch, Daniel Antonio Hill and George Joseph Rice of Massachusetts.

In 1834, Mexican authorities, motivated by political considerations as well as the Russian presence above the San Francisco Bay at Fort Ross, organized a hapless enterprise called the "Hijar-Padres6 Colony". Recruited from Mexico City and the Valley of Mexico, among those that settled in Alta California permanently were Jose Abrego, Juan N. Ayala, Charles Baric, Mariano Bonilla, Jose Ygnacio Franco Coronel, Jose Maria Covarrubias, Nicanor Estrada, Zenon Fernandez, Gumesindo Flores, Francisco Guerrero, Auguste Janssens, Francisco Castillo Negrete, Jesus Noe, Francisco Ocampo, Simon O'Donoju, Agustin Olvera, Victor Prudon, Jose de la Rosa and Florencio Serrano.

Lastly, due to economic and political events, emigration from New Mexico began in the 1830s and included the Workman-Rowland7 Party in 1841. New Mexican citizens re-settling in Alta California included Antonio Maria Armijo, Salvador Armijo, Gregorio Atencio, Juan Manuel Baca, brothers Julian Chavez and Mariano Chavez, Hipolito Espinosa, Antonio Garcia, Jose Francisco Gonzales, Juan Jose Jaramillo, Juan Miguel Marques, Jose Antonio Martin, Juan Molina, Joaquin Moya, Roque Ortega, Juan Felipe Peña, Manuel Quintana, John Rowland, Ygnacio Salazar, Isaac Slover, Manuel Lorenzo Trujillo, Feliciano Valdez, Baltasar Velarde and Wil1iam Workman. Settlers and war with the United States arrived in 1846, annexation by the same in 1848, and the Gold Rush swamped the Californios in 1849. By 1850, California became a full fledged state of the United States. It can be conservatively estimated that there are between 320,000 and half-a-million descendants of Californios alive today.

1There were between 21 and 25 ranchos granted by the King of Spain. Unlike the later, more numerous Mexican grants, these "royal grants" were often made to retired soldiers for the remainder of their life, but reverting to the crown on their deaths.
2Estimates vary. Leonard Pitt in his The Decline of the Californios (Univ. of CA Press, 1970) states there were 15,000 in 1849; while in his memoirs, Tales of California, Antonio Coronel stated there were 5,000 Californios in 1835 (dictated in 1877 to Thomas Savage for Bancroft, a version edited by Doyce B. Nunis, Jr. and published by Bellerophon Books, Santa Barbara).
3Gaspar de Portolá.
4Juan Bautista de Anza.
5 Fernando Xavier de Rivera y Moncada.
6 Jose Maria Hijar (the financier) and Jose Maria Padres (the organizer).
7 William Workman and John Rowland, born in the United States, but residents and citizens of New Mexico since the 1820s.

January, 2004. Reprinted by permission of Alexander V. King. The article was first published by the Society of Hispanic Historical and Ancestral Research (SHAAR) at