Sunday, April 11, 2010

Tampa Florida Website

I have just created a website for Tampa where you can find more information.


Ordered my father's military records this week.  He served in the Army for twenty years.  Go to my web page ---Other Websites for the link.  I could just tell you  here, but I'd like you to take a look at it.  There is a separate page for Ybor City, with  a paper attached and a slide show.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Florida Genealogical Society

For your research you may want to check out the following blog:

Florida’s Genealogical Society

According to their blog, they are Florida’s oldest genealogical society, founded in 1958. 
They are located in Tampa, so for the Tampa historian, this makes them a potentially very useful contact for research information.   The blog also gives information about, and links to sites, for other genealogical societies in Tampa, such as the Jewish Genealogical Society of Tampa Bay, and outside Tampa, such as the Southwest Florida Germanic Genealogical Society.  See the side bar for links to the other societies.     

Although the blog seems to deal mainly with reports about meetings of societies, there is information about hiring members to get copies of obituaries and funeral notices in the Tampa Tribune.  The Tampa Tribune is microfilmed and housed at John F. Germany Public Library in Tampa.  The fee is $15 an hour, plus .25 for each photocopy.  There is an online index database, called Trails, for the obituary notices in the Tampa Tribune at   You can search Trails to make sure there is an obituary available for your relative, and also to be able to provide the Florida Genealogical Society member with the exact dates of the individuals that you want the obituaries for.  They request you do the research before requesting a copy, and of course it saves you money.  

Also on the side bar of the blog are links to other blogs and podcasts.  A few that I found interesting were:

·         Cemeteries and Cemetery Symbols   (check out the side bar for links)
·         Genealogy Blogs and Newsletters which listed some other state blogs, like Mississippi, New Mexico, Missouri,  and Colorado, as well as genealogical blogs on ethnic groups, by libraries, and the top 50 genealogy blogs on Facebook.  It’s not a large collection, but it might be worth checking out. 
·         Genealogy Roots Blog This blog is finding and posting “online genealogy databases, records, and resources.” The focus is vital records for the U.S., but Joe Beine says he occasionally throws in other locations.  One informative article I read on his blog was July 20, 2006 “Ellis Island? Castle Garden? Which one? And When?” Beine not only gives information about the dates of operation for them, but for a third, the Barge Office, which I never heard of.  He gives thanks to INS/USCIS historian, Marian Smith, for her help with this article, so he seems to be doing some real research for his articles. 

One thing I have learned about researching online today is that there is often more to a site or blog then may appear at first, so it’s worth taking at least a few minutes to dig around on a site before deciding it’s useless. At first glance I was ready to discard this site because it seemed to be only a blog about meetings in Florida that I can’t attend.  But, learning that I can hire a society member to copy the obituaries of some of my relatives in Tampa for so modest an amount, was helpful to know.  Another thing I have learned today is that sometimes information for another genealogy project is on unlikely sites.  I would never think to look on a Florida site for links for my German genealogy research, but I found one through this blog.  So if a site comes up on your search results, take a a  minute or two before you jump off.    

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Yellow Fever and Fires, Cigar History

Yellow Fever 

The 1887-1888 epidemic would have affected the new factory town of Ybor City. 

“There are two mass graves at Oaklawn Cemetery.

Ft. Brooke, Mass Grave. 

Yellow Fever, Mass Grave.  The second mass grave contains an undetermined number of yellow fever victims.  Tampa, like many Southern coastal towns and cities, was seasonally assailed by this often-fatal form of tropical hemorrhagic fever, known throughout the South as “yellow jack,” or “bilious fever.” Tampa had five outbreaks between 1850 and 1905.  The worst was 1887-1888 and – not knowing the cause of the illness – locals hastily buried victims en masse, hoping to stem contagion.  Ironically a local doctor, John P. Wall (also buried at Oaklawn), was correct in suggesting that yellow fever was spread by the bite of the aedes aegypti mosquito, but he was widely disbelieved.
Source: Wikimedia Commons “Tampa history” ( : accessed 25 March 2010) 

John P. Wall stone:

Source of pictures:
Wikimedia Commons “Tampa history” ( : accessed 25 March 2010)

Another early challenge for Tampa was fires.   The original factories and clubs in Ybor City were made of wood, and many were rebuilt because of fires.  The 1908 fire was particularly destructive for Ybor City. 

This link is to a site that has pictures and brief information about them, including the 1886 fire which destroyed Don Vincente Ybor’s cigar factory in Key West.

Be sure to go to their main page for more cigar history and pictures.  Good site.

Monday, March 22, 2010


Article:  "The Afro-Cuban Community in Ybor City and Tampa, 1886-1910" by Nancy Raquel Mirabal

While Afro Cubans moved freely within Ybor City and worked next to white Cubans in the cigar factories, Florida’s segregation laws sharpened racial realities for Cuban immigrants elsewhere in the area and state. Schools, hospitals, certain businesses and private clubs all subscribed to Florida’s Jim Crow laws Afro Cubans often travelled to the African American section of Tampa to attend school, receive medical attention or go to the only movie theater that was open to blacks.”

What this means for the genealogist is that when looking for Afro-Cuban relatives in Tampa, look for them in the black community, as well as Ybor City. 

Book:  More Than Black : Afro-Cubans in Tampa by  SUSAN D. GREENBAUM , HENRY ALAN GREEN , and  MARCIA KERSTEIN ZERIVITZ.   Available through 

Port Tampa Cemetery, African American cemetery destroyed for MacDill Air Force Base.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Spanish American War

The Spanish American War is an important part of Tampa history.

Through the efforts of Henry B. Plant, Tampa became the “official port of embarkation for troops going to Cuba.”  The headquarters for the Army were at Plant’s Tampa Bay Hotel.  Among the notables that arrived in Tampa were Clara Barton, and Colonel Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders.[1]

Henry B. Plant’s Tampa Bay Hotel[2]

The story is told of the Rough Riders on their horses riding into Las Novedades Restaurant in Ybor City, and the owner Manuel Menendez offering them free drinks on the house. This story became known as “The Charge of the Yellow Rice Brigade.” [3]  
Las Novedades Restaurant[4]

Here's a short video on the Spanish American War:  It's about seven minutes, and is a good overview of “a splendid little war.”  It touches on Jose Martí, the “Butcher Weyler,” yellow journalism, the Maine, African American 9th Calvary, the Rough Riders, among other things.   

[1] Henry B. Plant Museum, The History, “The Spanish American War” (, accessed 14 March 2010).
[2]Wikimedia Commons, “Old Tampa Bay Hotel” (, accessed 14 March 2010).
[3] Frank Trebín Lastra, Ybor City, The Making of a Landmark Town (Tampa: University of Tampa Press, 2006), 47.
[4] Wikimedia Commons,  “Las Novedades Restaurant

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Ybor City Beginnings Text/Source for Podcast

One winter night in 1884, Don Vincente Martinez Ybor sat in his Key West residence discussing business with an associate from New York.  Ignacio Haya, like Ybor, was a cigar manufacturer. Workers constantly threatened to strike and disrupt their operations.  Haya had already sent his business partner Serafin Sanchez to look for a new location to build their factories. Ybor was no less determined to move his operations out of Key West and New York, to escape organized labor unions. This would not be the first time he would start over.  For thirty years he had run a successful brokering and manufacturing cigar business in Havana.  His “El Principe de Gales” brand of clear Havanas secured him a successful U.S. market. Then a series of events took place in the 1860s resulting in Ybor leaving Cuba.  First, his wife died, then cigar workers began to strike, and the Spanish raised taxes.  Though an elite Spaniard from Valencia, Ybor changed his political views, and gave his support to the separatists.  When war broke out in 1868, an order for his arrest was issued, and Ybor left quickly for Key West. 
As Ybor and Haya discussed their plans, they did not realize that their search for a new location would be resolved that night with the visit of Ybor’s old friends, Bernardino Gargol and Gavino Gutierrez.  The two men had just come from Tampa, and their positive report so excited the interests of Ybor and Haya, they booked steamship passage, and arrived the next morning.  With the cooperation of the Tampa Board of Trade, they purchased tracts of land on the northeast outskirts of Tampa, and began building the factory town that came to be known as Ybor City.   By March 1886 production had begun with the importation of cigar workers from Key West and Cuba, and by the end of year there were 176 dwellings for the workers.[1] 

[1] L. Glenn Westfall, Don Vincente Martinez Ybor, The Man and His Empire.  (New York and London: Garland Publishing, Inc. 1987), 17-79.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Oral History Sources Plus for Podcast

Tony Pizzo remembered Seventh Avenue (La Gran Septima Avenida[1]) as a “vibrant main drag.”  The best stores were there and stayed open until eleven p.m. on Saturday nights, because it was pay day for the cigar workers.  Everyone got dressed up to go down to Seventh Avenue. [2] Cuban, Italian, and Spanish families and vendors crowed the streets and sidewalks, bumping into each other it was so busy. People sat in chairs in the street, remembered Rosemary Craparo. [3]  When the shops closed, then the dances would start in the Latin clubs.[4] 

“The Septima” was also shared with the electric streetcar or trolley.  El Carrito Eléctrica was first installed in the 1890s.  “By 1913 Tampa Electric Street Railway System” connected Ybor City to all of the important areas of Tampa with sixty-seven coaches and fifty-three miles of track.  Frank Trebín Lastra remembers that during the 1920s through 1940s when he was growing up there, that the trolleys “were painted a soft yellow and their presence gliding through the streets seemed inviting, reassuring, and exciting-like the visit of a friend.  The entire family rode on them.  Children loved them, and many mothers and fathers rode them daily to get to their distant factories, though within the core area most walked to the local factories.  Their slow operating speed was perfectly suited to Ybor City’s small grid.” The street cars began operating at 5:30 a.m. and stopped between midnight and 1 a.m.  The trolley system was shut down in 1946.  However, in recent years a trolley line, called Teco Line Streetcar System became operational.  It connects Ybor City to downtown Tampa with vintage Ybor cars painted yellow.[5]   

The Gaceta, "the Nation's only tri-lingual newspaper and one of the oldest minority-owned and targeted newspapers in America."

Merchant Marines WWII: 

In searching for information about the Merchant Marines WWII  I came across this site containing military information for all wars, and branches of services. 

[1] Gary R. Mormino and George E. Pozzetta, The Immigrant World of Ybor City, Italians and Their Latin Neighbors in Tampa, 1885-1985, (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1987),245.
[2] Tony Pizzo and Interviewer, “Tony Pizzo’s Ybor City,” Tampa Bay History, 2 no. 1 (Spring/Summer 1980).
[3] Gary R. Mormino and George E. Pozzetta, “Immigrant Women in Tampa: The Italian Experience, 1890-1930,” Florida Historical Quarterly, 61 (1982-1983), 245, 246,309.
[4] Tony Pizzo and Interviewer, “Tony Pizzo’s Ybor City,” Tampa Bay History, 2 no. 1 (Spring/Summer 1980).
[5] Frank Trebín Lastra, Ybor City, the Making of a Landmark Town, (Tampa: University of Tampa Press, 2006), 98, 112, 115.  

Monday, February 15, 2010

Cuba Pictures, Tampa midwife records...

All of us who are trying to trace our Cuban American lines have the goal to get back into Cuba, and most of us would love to travel there to visit our family sites.  Until that happens, take a virtual tour of Cuba at Tampa Pix   There are 28 pages of pictures of Havana, Cuba and the surrounding areas through one link “pictures of Cuba”, and another 21 pages of pictures through the second link “more pictures of Cuba.”   

At the bottom of the page are also links to pictures of Tampa. 

Note that there is a link to the “Tampa midwife records” of Maria Messina Greco, births from 1908 to 1939.   Scroll down and read a few things about Tampa’s history. 

There is also a link to “Tampa Natives” on Facebook that some of you may enjoy reading or being a part of.    

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Columbia Restaurant Spanish Cookbook and Tampa City Cemeteries

Book Review/HistoryThe Columbia Restaurant Spanish Cookbook, by Adela Hernandez Gonzmart and Ferdie Pacheco. 

The authors of this interesting book, not only worked at and have strong ties to the celebrated Columbia Restaurant, but are renowned and colorful Ybor City natives.  Adela Hernandez Gonzmart graduated from the Juilliard School of Music.  She was a concert pianist and toured the United States and Cuba.  She was instrumental in forming the Tampa Symphony Orchestra, and has received numerous awards for her contribution in the community.  Ferdie Pacheco is an author, and painter.  His paintings have been on display in London, Paris, New York, and Miami.  He was Muhammad Ali’s personal physician from 1963 to 1977, and wrote about his experiences in Muhammad Ali: A View from the Corner, and Blood in My Coffee: The Life of the Fight Doctor.

The Columbia Restaurant is acclaimed as “the nation’s largest Spanish restaurant and Florida’s oldest.”  It was started by Coasimiro Hernandez, Adela’s grandfather, who purchased a bar in 1905 and started the Columbia Café, where he sold coffee, soup, and sandwiches.  The name Columbia comes from a popular song, “Columbia, Gem of the Ocean,” which represented his love of America.  His vision for the café must have prompted him to add to the Columbia sign, “The Gem of All Spanish Restaurants.”

This cookbook, containing some of the Columbia Restaurant’s recipes, is also a history of the restaurant.  Though I had eaten at the Columbia Restaurant, I knew little about the history until reading this book.  I found it interesting, including the four pages Pacheco writes about the history and making of Cuban bread.*  Although it is called Cuban bread, Gonzmart points out that it not like the bread she had in Cuba, which is lighter, and therefore should be called Ybor City bread or Tampa bread.  One interesting fact Pacheco relates is that “In the old days we would deliver the morning bread to each house by sticking it on a big nail on the front door frame.  You could look down the street and know we had been there.”  

The Columbia Restaurant customers included local political leaders, professionals, and mobsters “Santo Trafficante, father and son, kingpins of the world of bolita (the numbers games), and what Pacheo calls “zanies”:  "Pan con Chinches, the resident charity case; Pepe Lu Babo, the babbling newsboy; and Crazy Benny, who carried a rubber briefcase.”   Among the celebrities who ate at the Columbia were:  Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jack Dempsey, Rocky Marciano, Esther Williams, Cesar Romero, Carol Burnett, and President John F. Kennedy.   President Kennedy visited in November 1963, only days before his assassination.    Gonzmart tells about her and her husband’s visit with Generalissimo Francisco Franco in 1965 because of a report by his minister of tourism about the Columbia Restaurant.

Of course, the real treasures of the book are the recipes from this famous restaurant, so you can sample some of these gems of Ybor City cruise from your own kitchen.  Make sure you try the Chicken and Yellow Rice, Arroz con Pollo, a classic dish.   

I was researching online for Arroz con Pollo recipes and learned that there are endless variations, but none like the Ybor City versions I remember.  Fortunately, the website for The Columbia does have some recipes, including the recipe for Arroz con Pollo. Try it out.  Most people, Cuban or not like this dish.   You can leave out the wine, and use the prepackaged yellow rice (saffron is expensive) and it will still be delicious.   The website also has the recipes for three other classics:  Black Bean Soup, Spanish Bean Soup, and the Cuban Sandwich.  If you decide to make  the Spanish Bean Soup, and don’t care for the favor of chorizo (Spanish sausage), you can substitute a smoked sausage of your choice and get a flavorful hearty bean soup, though I guess we will have to call it American Spanish bean soup.  

*I promise I won’t write about Cuban bread again, unless it comes up in Ybor City’s history being used to smuggle weapons to Cuba or something.   But just in case you are interested in more history about  Cuban Bread and the Cuban Sandwich, visit this site which has pictures, and a short informative article, History of Cuban Sandwich, Cubano Sandwich:  

Genealogical Source: Tampa City Cemeteries

 The City of Tampa, Park Services maintains several cemeteries:  Jackson Heights, Marti/Colon, Oaklawn, Woodlawn, and Pyramid Crypts. You can search their database online.  Click on this link,   or in the future go to the side bar of my blog: Genealogy Research Links, Tampa City cemeteries.   There will be a link “Search the cemetery records database,” as well as individual links to the cemeteries.  The cemetery links will have pictures and some historical information about each cemetery. 

Oaklawn Cemetery was the first public cemetery, established in the mid-1800s.  It was for “white and slave, rich and poor.”  Tampa’s first mayor, Judge Joseph B. Lancaster was buried there.[1]  This is where the pioneers of Tampa are buried.  The next generation is buried in Woodlawn.

Woodlawn Cemetery was opened in 1888, when Oaklawn was full.  Until 1917, it was one of the most popular burial places, and many prominent citizens are buried there.  A fire in 1986 burned records of the grave sites.[2] In the center of the cemetery is a block of Confederate and Union soldiers side by side.

In 1942 Tampa City was given Jackson Heights.  Originally it was called Oakland and “Woodman of the World monuments are very prominent.”  

Marti/Colon is actually two cemeteries.  Marti is owned by Tampa City and the other only maintained by them.

Pyramid Crypts records are part of their database search page, although they are not listed on the main page, and no history is given.[3]  

[1] City of Tampa, City Cemeteries, ( accessed 7 February 2010).
[2] Janet Zink, “Cemetery Roomier Than First Thought,” St. Petersburg Times, 16 June 2005, online archives ( accessed 7 February 2010).
[3] City of Tampa, City Cemeteries.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Update Working Americans book series And More Food

This is just a short update for the book, Working Americans, by Grey House Publishing that I talked about in my last blog.  Fortunately, I was able to locate it online through the university library catalog.  Here are just a few excerpts from the section on Cuban cigar workers to give you an idea of the kinds of information in it.

In 1912, they did a family profile of the Cuban Rodenas family of four:  

"The father of the Rodenas as a hand cigar maker, making $.45 per hour working about 46 hours weekly; the average worker receives $.29 per hour.  Since cigar makers are paid on a piece rate, the man makes more than 1,000 cigars each week.  The woman works as a bander, making $.18 per hour,...the average wage for that type of work....cigar workers through the country set their own hours and protect that privilege vociferously."  

" lives in a one-story house which is very close to its are left open...conversations between neighbors take place from window to window..."  

"Parades, picnics, and festivals are important to the energy and social action of the society and take place often.  Seventh Avenue is a social magnet for the family, who promenade down the street on a Saturday night where everyone speaks and visits.

"Church attendance among Cuban cigar makers is poor, and donations to the Catholic Church are low, even while large social clubs are being constructed.   

"The social life of the family is centered around the El Centro Asturiano....The club includes more than 5,000 books, a staircase of Mexican onyx, a dance hall with a marble floor and magnificent chandeliers.  It boasts approximately 3,000 members...also includes a bowling alley and gymnasium for members...This club, like most Latin clubs, protects and promotes the idea of the supreme Latin male; women's auxiliaries exist to serve the male members.  

"Yellow fever is a constant threat to the family, along with typhoid, dengue fever, malaria, and tuberculosis..

"82 percent of Cuban males work in the cigar industry compared with 45 percent of the Italians and 78 percent of the Spanish men.

"Cigar workers, many whom are unable to read and write, are able to quote Shakespeare, Voltaire, Zola, and Dumas...become educated thanks to the traditions of lectors...or readers...hired to entertain the cigar roller.  They are paid by the cigar workers...they are usually seated in a chair elevated above the cigar roller tables so their voices can be easily heard...begin the day by reading excerpts from a local newspaper and a newspaper from Spain or Cuba, followed by a reading from a novel or the works of a political philosopher.

"West Tampa sections, where the Rodenas family lives, boasts 10 cigar factories, a $20,000 opera house, and streetcar service. 'West Tampa is just like the wild west, a frontier town.  There are cock fights, boxing matches, horses tied to hitching posts in front of cantinas.'"  

I think you can see how valuable this information could be in understanding the lives of your ancestors.  Numerous pictures were included in the article.

Here's a link to an article that talks about Cuban foods.

Among the foods mentioned that are typical to Cubans in Ybor City are:  black beans, Cuban-style yellow rice, shredded beef ropa vieja (Cuban staple with roots in the Canary Islands), plantain, cafe con leche, avocado, and of course the Cuban sandwich, which originated in Tampa.

Last blog I talked about making a good Cuban sandwich which could only be done with authentic Cuban bread.  The above article stayed  that  "La Segunda Central Bakery at 2512 N. 15th St. in Ybor City. It's the source for many a grocery and restaurant in Tampa."   The bread is also good by itself with butter.  I am getting so hungry for Cuban food.   So if you visit Tampa, you can at least know where to get it fresh.  Cuban bread gets hard fast, so it's best eaten the same day.  

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Working Americans, Visiting Tampa, National Park Services, Cuban Sandwich, and The Columbia Restaurant

“Working Americans” Book Series, Greyhouse Publishing:        

I just discovered this series of books that would be valuable for the American history and family history student or enthusiast.  I’m linking you to the publisher because if you scroll down you will see the titles of all the books in the series. There are ten volumes.  Click on the volume that interests you.  The book cover will appear in the top right.  On the top left of the page you will see a link “Table of Contents,” which will allow you to view the contents.

 Since these books are pricey at $145 most of us will want to check libraries for access to them. II believe they are worth the effort, because if you find them, you will have a resource that will add details to your histories and help you understand what your ancestors’ lives were like.  This would also be a great resource for writers.

Here is an example from the Table of Contents that will give you and idea of the kinds of material in these volumes.  Since this blog deals with Ybor City, and I assume you are looking for information about it, my example is about Cubans.  It's from Vol. 1, The Working Class. 

1912 Family Profile: Cuban Cigar Makers from Florida pg.129-141
    Annual Income
    Annual Budget
    Life at Home
    Life at Work, The Cigar Industry
    Life in the Community: Tampa and Ybor City, Florida
    Historical Snapshot 1912-1913

As you can see from this example, the material in the chapter is not massive so it would be a good place to start or a good place to go if you just want to add a few details. 

Now I’ve found this information, I’m going to make a trip up to the university library and check it out in person.  I'll get back with you.    

New Link List: “Visiting Tampa” 

In case you didn’t notice, I’m adding a new link list called Visiting Tampa. It is located at the bottom of the blog page.  These links will be to places, as a historian, you might like to visit if you ever go to Tampa, which I hope to do in a few months.  I actually lived in Tampa when I was in High School, but back then I knew little about my family history there, and even less about the history of the area.  You would think they would teach local history in high schools.  I never even knew who Henry Bradley Plant was, and my high school was named after him.  And he was a big deal in the history of the area.  So sad.  Anyway, I’m compiling a list of places I want to make sure I see.  I’m sharing them with you in case you  ever visit Tampa some day.  Even if you aren't of Cuban descent from there, they will be worth visiting as a historian.  

Added New Links:

Cigar History You can’t talk about Ybor City without talking about cigars, but this site has information about history, and about Cuba as well.

Lesson on Ybor City This is a really good lesson prepared for teachers to use about Ybor, which is short and has pictures.  If you want a good starting place to learn about the city, this is the one I first read when I started my journey into my family’s past in Ybor.

National Park Services--History

For the history researcher take a look at the National Park Services site. 
Tried linking directly to the Ybor City information, but something failed.  So I'm linking you to the main page,  Top left is links to the past search. Click and then on the top left is a box for entering in your search query.  Type in Ybor City, anything else you are looking for.  A couple things I learned from the site:

"Ybor City became Tampa’s 4th District in 1887, but retained its name and distinct identity as “Little Havana” for its prolific cigar production and high concentration of Cuban cigar makers." 

It also had the following information about the boundaries of Ybor City within Tampa:

Roughly bounded by 6th Ave., 13th St., 10th Ave. and 22nd St., E. Broadway between 13th and 22nd Sts.

This site has historical information for various subjects, so snoop around.  I know I would never have thought of going to the National Parks Service site for historical research.   

The Cuban Sandwich, History 

Anyone who has been in Tampa or Ybor City knows about the Cuban Sandwich.  I wish I could provide you with a taste if you’ve never had the pleasure, but even if I could make one for you, I couldn’t.  I would need Cuban Bread, and I don’t know of anywhere to get real Cuban Bread, except in Tampa.  Without the Cuban Bread it’s just not a Cuban Sandwich!   So when you make that trip to Tampa, try to find one and let us all know where to get it.  Make sure you ask a Cuban.  If my Aunt Dalia were available she would be the one to who could make you one.  She has to be the best Cuban cook I know.  The only place coming close to her cooking is The Columbia Restaurant, the last link I added today in the Visiting Tampa list. 

The Columbia Restaurant, Ybor City   Not only can you taste some of the history of Ybor City, but you will be experiencing history.  The restaurant was started in 1905 by Casimiro Hernandez, Sr.  Even though there are now other locations, the place it started was Ybor City.  The address is 2117 East 7th Avenue, Tampa, Florida 33605.   Seventh Avenue was the main strip in Ybor, but that’s another story, for another day.  Check out the site for the history of the restuarant as well.  For the food lover, there is a cookbook you can buy on their site, but I just found it on Amazon for $16.47 (weird price again).  I have to to get one!  You really can’t understand your Cuban relatives in Ybor unless you eat the food! 

I tried getting recipes from my Aunt Dalia, but she hangs on to her secrets as only a Cuban can.. She once owned a small lunch “shack” and when she sold it I heard the new owner made her an enormous offer for her deviled-crab recipe, but she turned it down.  Sometimes Cuban tenacity is a pain.  

P.S. I just ordered the Cookbook.  An early birthday gift to myself. 

Monday, January 18, 2010

Sideways and Down, All Around, and FL Death Index, FL State Census 1935 and 1945.

Doing family history is a challenge, Cuban or not, but that’s the fun of it. Sometimes to find your direct line ancestor, you may have to go sideways (siblings, cousins, etc.) and down (descendents), and all around, rather than just back.  Going sideways or down in research is a valid research method, and in a Latino ancestry is also relevant, because in the Latino community family includes almost everyone tied to your family in anyway. 

One day I was talking to a cousin (whose mother is the daughter of the only child of my grandfather and his second wife, Guillermina).  I’m related to his first wife, Pastora.  My cousin told me that our cousin had died. When she told me who he was, I didn’t recognize his name at all. After some research I discovered that our cousin was the son, of the daughter of the daughter, from Guillermina’s first marriage.  In spite of the fact I share no common ancestor with him, he is “our” cousin.   Anyway I’m happy to claim him, because what I read about him in an article in Cigar Magazine, he was a person with many admirable qualities and abilities.   

For the Cuban genealogists, the challenge will be to determine the actual relationship of all these “family” members, but in the process you may also find your direct line relatives.  And remember these non-direct lines are usually the people your direct line relatives associated with, because they were family in some way.  Searching this way is how I discovered my great-great grandmother, Dolores, and the mystery woman, Amparo that appeared on my grandmother’s delayed birth record.  Amparo turned out to Dolores’ daughter from a first marriage.

That was also how I recently connected to another “cousin”, Linda. Our common ancestor is Dolores.  Linda is related to Amparo.  I’m related to Dolores’ daughter, Mercedes from a second marriage.  From what I could work out on the relationship chart at, we are 3rd cousins one time removed. I think.  Anyway, the point is that Linda knew the first name of my maternal great-grandfather, who she is not directly related to. Something I did not know, or anyone in the family I talked to.     

Once I knew who Dolores was, and her maiden name, and  suspected name of her second husband, Tomas, I could search in Family Search, Pilot record search, which indexes everyone in the records.  Using Dolores with her maiden name I found her daughter, Mercedes.  It listed her father as Tomas, which matched the information Linda gave me. If I hadn’t researched Dolores’ first marriage family, I wouldn’t have found my grandmother’s death certificate.  Both my aunt and I had been searching over a period of twenty years, but until I searched sideways and down and all around, I never had the information to find her and be able to recognize that it was her, because the last name on the death index was misspelled so badly, I couldn’t search by that, and I didn’t know the names of her parents to know this Mercedes was mine.   

Are you totally confused by my sideways and down and all around journey? 

Well, here’s a source for you that is simple.  Go to and click on the Search Record tab on the left, go to Record Search Pilot, then under the discover your ancestors option is a link that says browse our collections, click on it and you will be taken to a page that gives you three options, click on the map, or click on down area to identify  the record area you are interested in or click on browse collection, which you may want to do just to see what they have.  

Under the United States you will find:

Florida Deaths 1879-1939 (index, no images of records) What is neat about this index is that it indexes everyone as I said, so if you can’t find the person, and know the name of the parents, try those.  You should search by the parents’ names as well, even if you do find the person under their name, because you may find siblings of your relative you didn’t know about.

Florida State Census 1935 and 1945.  (index and images of records).  This is a real bonus because U.S. Censuses are only available through 1930. 

If you find someone in the Florida Death index at this site, you can go to the, library catalog, place--Florida, vital records, deaths 1879-1939, click on the “view film notes” button on the top right, and find the microfilm number for the film that the record would be in…or  go to:
By going to any LDS family history center near you, you can have the film sent to you for a small fee, and if you are lucky, there may be more than one relative on the same roll of film.  

Here’s where you find a family history center near you.  On the site, under the library tab is a find a family history center near you option, fill in the information, click, and there you are, or go to:

Well, enjoy the roller coast ride-sideways, down, and all around, and check out the Florida sources at, if it’s the right time period.


Monday, January 11, 2010

Tampa, Historical Background

First off, if you are researching your Cuban relatives in Tampa, you will want to learn about Ybor City and West Tampa as well.  Though both were later incorporated into Tampa, they started out as separate cigar factory towns.  Ybor City was started by Vicente Martinez Ybor, a cigar manufacturer from Cuba, and Ignacio Haya in 1885, when they decided to move their cigar factories from Key West to the Tampa Bay area.   Though Vicente Ybor was not happy about it, Tampa annexed Ybor City in 1887.  West Tampa was built by Hugh MacFarlane who watched the achievement of the Ybor City cigar manufactures and decided to copy them.  By 1895 he was successfully competing with Ybor, and by 1905, West Tampa was the fifth largest city in Florida.  In 1925 Tampa annexed West Tampa.   Though both areas were annexed, they were distinctly Latin communities with personalities and histories of their own.  Initially the cigar workers were almost exclusively Cuban cigar makers, but later large numbers of Spaniards and Italians lived and worked there.   

For genealogists, this means reading and searching for material using the names of all three cities.   For family historians it means that you will find a different cultural history in Ybor City and West Tampa, then in Tampa. One of the best books on the history and culture of Ybor City that  I have read  is The Immigrant World of Ybor City, Italians and Their Latin Neighbors in Tampa, 1885-1985 by Gary R. Mormino and George E. Possetta.  The bibliography alone is thirty pages long, and each chapter of the book has endnotes. So this is a great book for history students. Even though their focus was on the Italians, it has very detailed valuable information about or related to the Cubans as well.  Chapter two of the book is a good short history of Tampa.  I bought the book for $20, but today, as of this posting, it is available on for only $13.57, a bargain price for the information.  (What’s with the $.57?  Are they catching on that we know that $13.99 is really $14?)    

If you are doing African American ancestry, be aware that there are African Cubans and African Americans from the South in Tampa.  Being located in the South, Tampa created a unique circumstance for the African Cubans.   The mixed race of the Cuban community created challenges for all Cubans.   For an interesting article on this subject read The Afro-Cuban Community in Ybor City and Tampa, 1886-1910 by Nancy Raquel Mirabl, OAH Magazine of History, Volume 7, NO 4, Summer 1993, online at:   

The last thing I want to mention is that if your family was living in Tampa during the l800s-early 1900s  and  seem to disappear, don’t assume they died.  So far in my work there seems to be a lot of movement back and forth between Tampa, Key West, New Orleans, New York, and Cuba.  This movement has a lot to do with the history of the Cuba.   Also they may not have become U.S. citizens.  Many intended to go back to Cuba, many did, or many just went back and forth between U.S. Cuban communities and/or Cuba.