Finally Confirming the Name of My 2nd Great-Grandfather, Refugio Nieto

Nieto Family Crest

My last two blog posts focused on my 2nd great-grandmother Maria Aurelia Compean (1858-1963), and in particular on the discrepancies over her birth year and age. Aurelia immigrated to the U.S. in 1919, with some of her children, from their home state of San Luis Potosi, Mexico. She spent the last 44 years of her life starting anew in Los Angeles County, California. Aurelia, according to U.S. Census records and family recollections, primarily lived at different times with two of her children — her daughter (my great-grandmother) Maria Hermalinda “Nana” Nieto (1887-1973), and her son (my 2nd great-uncle) Juvenal Joseph Nieto (1898-1978).

Aurelia, affectionately referred to as “Little Grandma” was well known by my paternal grandfather and his siblings, and also by my dad and his own cousins. Because Dad went to live with his grandmother (our “Nana”) when he was five years old, he also lived with and grew very close to his Little Grandma, who resided with her daughter Nana at that time. Dad recently shared with me how traumatic it was for him to lose his great-grandmother in 1963. Although I have only just started to make progress on Aurelia’s history, her name has been well known to me despite never having met her.

The name of Aurelia’s husband, however, has been a big mystery. All we have ever known is that his surname was Nieto, and that he died in Mexico before his family immigrated here.

Name Not Known

Dad doesn’t remember ever hearing a first name for his great-grandfather (Little Grandma’s husband). No one in our branch of the Nieto-Robledo family knew his name. Not even Nana’s lone living child (my great-uncle, and Aurelia’s grandson). In a family history questionnaire that I asked my great-uncle to fill out back in 2003, my great-uncle left the name of his maternal grandfather blank (he only filled in the name of his grandmother, Aurelia). The 1963 obituary for Aurelia fails to include my 2nd great-grandfather’s name — he is simply referred to as “her husband.” How does a spouse’s name get left out of an obituary? Aurelia still had living children at that point, who certainly knew their father’s name. Didn’t they realize what sort of frustration this would plunge future generations of family historians into???

Maria Aurelia Compean Scanned Obituary Clipping
Clipped obituary, from family files. Independent. Long Beach, California, United States Of America.

And for years, I have struck out on locating a Mexico marriage record for Aurelia and her husband, or a baptism record for their children Maria and Juvenal.

Possibly Raphael

Over the last handful of years, I have come across other grandchildren, grandchildren-in-law, and great-grandchildren of Aurelia who have public trees on Ancestry. Those that identified a spouse for Aurelia recored him with the name Raphael — although no source documents are attached on any of the trees as evidence to support that name.

But, Raphael became  the working name for my 2d great-grandfather, as I kept searching on Ancestry and FamilySearch for records that might substantiate that fact.

Last month, I finally received a copy of my great-grandmother Nana’s 1973 death certificate from Los Angeles County. Noted on her death certificate is the name of her father (Aurelia’s husband)…Raphael Nieto.

The same name in those Ancestry trees. We were starting to get warmer.

Maria Hermalinda Nieto Death Certiificate
Personal data section of the 1973 Los Angeles County death certificate for my great-grandmother, Maria Hermalinda Nieto (married name Robledo).

The death certificate identifies Nana’s second youngest son, my now-deceased uncle Alfred Robledo, as the informant. So Uncle Alfred was most likely the person who provided the names of his mother’s parents. Nana’s father is listed as Raphael Nieto. But the maiden name of Nana’s mother is incorrect. Nana’s mother (Aurelia) is identified with the maiden name Sanchez. It should be Compean. Sanches is Aurelia’s maternal surname (apellido materno), not her paternal surname (apellido paterno) — or what we call a maiden name. Uncle Alfred was clearly not too sure about his grandparents’ names.

I also ordered a copy of Aurelia’s death certificate from Los Angeles County at the same time, however the county sent me a notice that the were unable to locate a death record for her. I had hoped her death certificate would identify a spouse’s name, a name that was hopefully identified by one of Aurelia’s children, who had to know the name of their father.

Possibly Refugio

In that same batch of Los Angeles County vital record requests, I had asked for the 1978 death certificate of my 2nd great-uncle Juvenal, hoping it would provide some clues about Juvenal and Maria’s parents — particularly their father, my 2nd great-grandfather Nieto.

When I received Juvenal’s death certificate in the mail, I encountered a new name for my 2nd great-grandfather — Refugio. The informant on Juvenal’s death certificate is his wife Mary, who might likely have known my 2nd great-grandfather back in Mexico. Mary also got the surname correct (Compean) for Juvenal’s mother, my 2nd great-grandmother Aurelia.

Juvenal Nieto Death Certiificate
Personal data section of the 1978 Los Angeles County death certificate for my 2nd great-uncle, Juvenal Nieto.

This is the first time I encountered the name Refugio used in connection with my 2nd great-grandfather. But it wasn’t the first time I had heard that name used in connection with my family. Refugio is the name that Aurelia’s daughter Maria (my great-grandmother Nana) gave to her first-born son. My great-grandparents Maria Hermalinda Nieto and Jose Robledo named their first boy Refugio Raphael Robledo (born 1915 in Mexico). There were both of those names…Refugio…and Raphael. It would seem my Nana named her first son after her father.

Was Refugio Raphael the name of my 2nd great-grandfather? Was Raphael the name he preferred to go by, which might explain why those Ancestry trees and my uncle Alfred identify him as Raphael?

The namesake grandson, my now-deceased great-uncle Refugio Raphael Robledo (the baby born in 1915) also preferred to go by the name Raphael, or his parents just called him Raphael, because much of the documentation I have identifies him as Raphael. Although his sole living sibling, and his nieces and nephews, say that he actually went by the nickname of Ray.

The search to learn my 2nd great-grandfather’s name was definitely getting warmer now.

Refugio Confirmed

And then last week, that search grew hot. Really hot.

As stated in my last blog post about my 2nd great-grandmother Aurelia, on May 6th I finally — after 15+ years — found the marriage record for Aurelia and her husband, in the non-indexed/non-searchable browse-only collection of Mexico Catholic church records on FamilySearch! The marriage records identifies my 2nd great-grandfather as Refugio Nieto.

Maria Aurelia Compean married Refugio Nieto (1863-1909) on 18 October 1883 in the Villa de Yturbide (now Villa de Hidalgo), a municipality in San Luis Potosi, Mexico.

Marriage declaration by Aurelia Compean to Refugio Nieto, FamilySearch
Marriage declaration made by Aurelia Compean to Refugio Nieto. From the full record of marriage. FamilySearch.”México, San Luis Potosí, registros parroquiales, 1586-1970,” images, FamilySearch (,167668102,168345101 : accessed 6 May 2015), Villa Hidalgo > San José > Información matrimonial 1880-1886 > image 491 of 755; parroquias Católicas, San Luis Potosi (Catholic Church parishes, San Luis Potosi).

Now that I had my groove down browsing through those non-indexed/non-searchable Mexico records on FamilySearch, I was on a roll. That same afternoon I came across another record I had been hunting for 15+ years — the Mexico Catholic church baptism record for my great-grandmother Maria Hermalinda “Nana” Nieto. Nana’s baptism record identifies her parents as Aurelia Compean and Refugio Nieto.

Maria Hermalinda Nieto Baptism Record
Baptism record for Maria Hermalinda Nieto, 08 November 1997.
“México, San Luis Potosí, registros parroquiales, 1586-1970,” images, FamilySearch (,167672202,167990403 : accessed 13 May 2015), Armadillo de los Infante > Santa Isabel > Bautismos 1877-1892 > image 629 of 943; parroquias Católicas, San Luis Potosi (Catholic Church parishes, San Luis Potosi).
Click to view larger image.

I think I may also have found the baptism record for my 2nd great-grandfather Refugio Nieto, but I will save that discussion for another post.

What About Raphael?

At this point, I have to consider Raphael to be a nickname. The name is used by family members too often for it to be dismissed as simply a mistaken name. And since Refugio’s granddaughter Maria Hermalinda (my Nana) named her first-born son Refugio Raphael, I have to think that the name Raphael is rightly associated with my 2nd great-grandfather.

Visiting with Dad this weekend, he had another suggestion. That Raphael might be my 2nd great-grandfather’s Catholic confirmation name. That theory will have to wait to be explored when I have time to browse through the non-indexed/non-searchable Mexico Catholic church confirmation records.

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0 thoughts on “Finally Confirming the Name of My 2nd Great-Grandfather, Refugio Nieto”

    1. Colleen Greene

      Thanks. Now if only I could find documentation corroborating those 21 children! Or at least more than the 4 or 5 I have identified so far.

  1. Congratulations Colleen! You are on a roll. Love that you refer to the collection as non-indexed/non-searchable browse-only – a mouthful but a perfect description for collections on FamilySearch. Genealogists need to be better informed about these. Indexed and searchable records are wonderful but people may not realize that these are only the tip of the iceberg.

  2. James Mallory

    Hi Colleen! Thank you so much for the work and time you have invested. We share a common anscestor. It looks like one of Maria and Refugio’s daughter’s, Ascencion Nieto, is my great-grandmother.

    1. Hi James,

      So sorry for the belated reply. I have been overwhelmed the last 2 years with my regular full time job plus teaching for another university as well.

      I just met Ascencion’s son Greg and granddaughter Roberta yesterday, at a lecture I gave about Aurelia’s life. I believe your Mom and I are now Facebook Friends, too.

      Thank for contacting me.


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