Anniversaries: Maria Aurelia Compean Born 154 Years Ago Today

Maria Aurelia Compean (1858-1963)

One-hundred fifty-four years ago today, on January 1, 1858, my great-great-grandmother Maria Aurelia Compean was reputedly born (I don’t yet have an actual birth record for her).  Maria, who went by her middle name Aurelia, is better known to her grandchildren and great-grandchildren as “Little Grandma”.

Biographical Snapshot

Maria Aurelia Compean was born January 1, 1858, in the municipality of Armadillo de los Infante, located in the state of San Luis Potosi, Mexico. The village in which she was born is referenced as Tomascal in my records, but is also spelled Temascal and Temazcal in other sources. Her parents were Santiago Compean and Eutimia Sanches, who were married on September 14, 1859 in the same town — meaning that 1) Aurelia was born out of wedlock, or 2) that our family records list an incorrect birth date for her or wedding date for her parents.  Since the only sources of birth I have for Maria Aurelia Compean are the 1920 US Census and death-related records (California Death Index, a phone interview with her mortuary, and her 1963 obituary), I do not put a whole lot of faith in the birth date I have for her. As of yet, I have been unable to locate an actual birth record for Maria Aurelia Compean — just the Mexico Catholic Church Parish Records for her baptism and possible marriage.

This family photo of Maria Aurelia (far right) with (R-L) her daughter, granddaughter and great-granddaughter illustrates why she was affectionately called “Little Grandma”. The daughter standing next to her, my great-grandmother, wasn’t much taller than my 5’1″ tall frame.

I am not certain of the name of Maria Aurelia Compean’s husband.  Family records indicate his name was Rafael Nieto, but Mexican Catholic Parish records show a possible marriage to Jose Refugio Nieto on October 18, 1883 in Villa De Hidalgo, San Luis Potosi, Mexico. A distant cousin that connected with me about five years ago, who still has living family members in Tomascal that remember Aurelia, says that her living relations in that village indicate there was some sort of local scandal involving Aurelia’s husband or husbands. Family members and my research indicate that Maria Aurelia’s final husband died in Mexico.  Surviving family members say that Maria Aurelia told them she came from a wealthy ranching family, that she gave birth to 21 children (including my great-grandmother Maria Nieto Robledo), and that she was able to care for this many children with the help of their many servants.

What Maria Aurelia Compean Nieto’s hometown of Armadillo de los Infante looked like in 1909.
I’ve had this photo for years, and forgot to make note of the original source, so I apologize for the lack of attribution.  I will take the photo down of sharing is contested.
Armadillo de los Infante
A more contemporary look at Armadillo de los Infante.
Photo copyright Flickr user Armadillo de los Infante S.L.P.

Both the 1920 US Census and Aurelia’s obituary indicate that Maria Aurelia Compean Nieto  immigrated to the United States in 1919; family members say as a result of the Mexican Revolution (I have not yet located a border crossing or naturalization record for her). US Censuses and family members confirm that she first settled in Long Beach, California.  Her obituary and family members confirm that she later lived in Glendale and Norwalk, both in Los Angeles County, California.

Maria Aurelia Compean is thought to have lived to 105 years of age.

Research Roadblocks

  • Missing any type of actual birth record.
  • Missing the names of all 21 children.
  • Missing her date of immigration in to the US.

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