Palmdale college sophomore Anthony Ray was the first recipient of the fledgling Suzanne Winsor Freeman Student Genealogy Grant program in 2011. At the time, Anthony had never attended a regional genealogy conference, although he had been a featured presenter and volunteer at the Antelope Valley Genealogical Society and headed the society's cemetery indexing project.
Anthony attended the 2011 SCGS Genealogy Jamboree and went on to use the grant funds for research expenses. He graduated in May 2013 from West Coast Baptist College with a degree in religious education, emphasis in music. He's now pursuing further studies at Antelope Valley College and plans to continue his music studies at California State University Northridge.
Anthony Ray researching with his family in Sonora, Mexico, Summer 2013.
Left to right is Judy Jones (Anthony's grandfather's cousin), Maria Magdalena (Maruca) Medina (Anthony's grandfather's mom's cousin), Grandparents Arthur Ray and Cristina Ray, Anthony Ray.
In 2013 Anthony realized a long-held goal of researching his family history in the small Mexican pueblo of Santa Cruz, and was joined on the trip by his grandparents. Anthony writes:
As soon as we crossed the border, I saw the church where my grandmother was baptized, her siblings, and where my great grandparents were married. My dreams were finally starting to unfold. An hour and a half later, and only about twenty miles away from Nogales, we reached the small pueblo of Santa Cruz. We had to travel by dirt roads, crossing rancho after rancho. The desert was so beautiful and the skies so clear!
We finally reached the town. It was very emotional for me to be there, where so many generations of my family were born, married, had children, died, and were buried. I’ve always imagined what the town would look like, what the cemetery might be like, the church, the municipio (town hall). The first stop we made was at a tiny adobe structure just outside of town. That small, little building is said to be where my 3rd great grandparents once lived. It was humbling. From there we drove by the cemetery and then to the municipio. The church was just right across the street. The total area of the town would probably equal to less than a square mile.
When we walked into the municipio, I found that nearly everyone we encountered was related to me. The secretary was very accommodating, and she pulled out all of the records that they had for my cousin, Homer, and I to look through. In Mexico, privacy laws are not nearly as strict as they are here in the states. I looked at birth records all the way up to about 1950. It was amazing the access that we were granted! For one, everyone knew my cousin, Homer, and everyone was happy to see him. That helped to facilitate that access.
Anthony spent hours searching local cemeteries and reading records at the mortuary that had served his family for generations. In Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, he met with the city historian and searched newspapers in the archives; he then visited the local church and convinced reluctant officials to allow him to peruse the official records.
When the Student Genealogy Grant program was founded in 2010, we weren't sure if young genealogists would be interested in attending a genealogy conference and spending time talking about records, repositories, and sources. Students like Anthony Ray, Elyse Doerflinger, A.C. Ivory, and Mike Savoca showed us that the future of genealogy is already here, and young family historians are searching for answers and ready to learn more about genealogy today.
Grant applications are now being accepted for the 2014 Student Genealogy Grant to be presented at the 45th Annual Southern California Genealogy Jamboree. Visit the Suzanne Winsor Freeman Grant Webpage for information and application materials. Applications close March 31, 2014,