Genealogy regarding Texas Mission Native Americans can today be explored by the traditional methods, documentation and oral history, and the new procedures involving DNA research. Because Natives did not have written documents until the arrival of the Spanish language, the oldest written records which chronicle the lives and history of Mission Natives in Texas began essentially in the early 1700’s. The early documentation in the Spanish Colonial era (1700 to 1821) in Texas consisted of sacramental records, military records, and various government documents including census records. All records from this period are incomplete due to losses from the effects of revolutions, civil disturbances, fire, theft, floods, etc.
As an example, the early sacramental records for San Juan Capistrano are missing and the only records existing are those which were combined with San Jose’s records after 1811. San Jose’s records start around 1778, the earlier records having been destroyed or lost. Combining the information on the existing sacramental records and census data allows somewhat effective but limited genealogical work.
Before going any further, there needs to be a clarification as to what is meant by the term “Mission Indian”. Some scholars and institutions would limit this term strictly to those individuals which were at one time classified as “neophytes”, that is, those individuals that were at one time wards of the Church that had come directly into the mission administration from the field. This description is too restrictive. There were no formal documents which classified anyone as a “neophyte”.
We should consider that the Spanish captured many Native Americans who were forced into the Spanish culture, for example, and who later moved into life in the evolving mission communities. Also, there were Indian groups, such as the Tlaxcaltecans, from Central and Northern Mexico, which taught the local Natives the farming techniques necessary to raise sufficient crops. These are no less “mission Indians”.
The plan of the government and missionaries was to have the Indian people move into the missions, and have them assume the Spanish culture and religion. After ten years of being on their own, and showing that they had forsaken their old ways, they would be considered “Espanol”, and not “Indios”. On census records, one can see the transition from “Indio” to “Espanol” as the years ensue.
Two mission families fit into these categories. They are the families of Dias (Diaz) and Tejada.
The Dias family began at San Jose around 1770. The patriarch of the family was an individual by the name of Manuel Diaz. He was originally from an area near San Luis Potosi in Mexico called “el Valle de Santa Isabel”. With the use of the information on census records later written by him, (1803 census) it can be estimated that he was born around 1747 or so.
He was married to Gertrudes Gonzales, a Lipan Apache, who was born about 1757. According to the 1793 census, she was a native of Bexar.
At the time that Manuel arrived at San Jose, it was not legal for an Indian to travel without documents. To do so, an indigeneous person had to have written permission from the military or the Church authorities. So it seems likely that Manuel Dias was brought to San Jose by the Church to either help in the construction or to help provide the farming necessary to ensure sufficient food for the mission inhabitants. It is not clear if Manuel came to San Jose alone, with his family as a young man, or with a group of others.
Probably, he was of Tlaxcalan ancestry, or, possibly, Coahuiltecan.
The Tlaxcalans were a large nation never conquered by their enemies, the Aztecs. The Tlaxcalans, with the Spanish military, defeated the Aztecs and then became the predominant tribe in Mexico after the Conquest. The Tlaxcalan People, with the material help of the Spanish, colonized most of northern Mexico, establishing Indian towns in Saltillo, San Luis Potosi, and Monclova in the 1500’s and 1600’s. The Tlaxcalans served as a buffer and as mentors to the warlike northern Mexico tribes. The northern Mexican tribes had suffered many injustices with the slave-hunting expeditions by the Spanish and the Natives would attack any intruder whenever possible. Tlaxcalans were also the teachers of farm skills to the northern Mexican and Coahuiltecan tribes, and over time, the various tribes intermarried and assimilated into the Spanish, and, later, Mexican society.
Because the early sacramental records for San Jose are missing, we do not have records of the births of the older children of Manuel and Gertrudes. The first record is a baptism in 1779, when their child, Maria Antonia Dias, was born at San Jose. The priest, Fr. Pedro Ramirez, baptized the child as “Yndia”(Indian female). Likewise, in 1783, another of their children, Jose Bernardo Diaz was born and he was christened as an “Yndio”, while the priest described him as “hijo legitimo de Manuel Dias y Gertrudes Gonzales, Yndios”, or “legitimate son of Manuel Dias and Gertrudes Gonzales, Indians”.
Another of their children, Maria Gregoria Dias, born in 1784, was classified as “Yndia” by Fr. Jose Maria Salas. Two different priests over the course of several years considered the Dias family as Indian. Obviously, the Dias’ were part of the mission community but it is not clear where Gertrudes spent her earlier years. Gertrudes Gonzales may have spent the early part of her life at one of the other missions, namely, Valero, or, the Alamo. There were Apaches at the Alamo mission at different times in the colonial period.
The Dias family moved to Espada Mission around 1790. Manuel Dias became the alcalde or mayor of the small pueblo. It is thought that he died around 1819, because, after that, his name no longer appeared on census records.
His son, Santiago Dias, born at San Jose in 1775, also a farmer, moved to San Juan, about 1811, and became alcalde of that pueblo in 1819. Santiago had several children.
Among them were Canuto, Julian, Leonor, Maria Escolastica, Rosalino, Maria de Jesus, Romana and Margarita.
Canuto and Julian served as soldiers and scouts with Jim Bowie and the others at the Battle of Concepcion and at the Siege of Bexar in 1835, a few months before the Battle of the Alamo in 1836. Both Canuto (b. 1811, d. 1887) and Julian were awarded pensions in the 1870’s for their service in the Texas Revolution.
Canuto married Margarita Zamora, (b. 1819, d. 1872) and they had the following children:
The head of the Tejada family was Jose Tejada born about 1752. Jose was a member of the Pacao Indian Nation. The Pacao were one of the founding tribes of Espada. The 1795 census shows his wife as Dorothea Perez.
Venancio Tejada, also of the Pacao Nation at Espada, was 23 years old in 1772 according to a Church Inventory. Subsequent censuses show him married to Maria Santa Perez. In the 1793 Census, Santa is a widow, having four children. Therefore, Venancio must have died prior to that - she had a 1 year-old in 1793, so Venancio must have died in 1791 or 1792.
All the Tejadas of Espada showing in the Espada censuses, in all likelihood, are related to one another. The 1815 census shows Jacome Tejada married to Josefa, having a son, Sevastian, 4, and a daughter, Maria, 2. He was also caring for his mother, Dorotea Perez.
The 1809 census shows Clemente Tejada as being the son of Dorotea Perez, so, it seems Clemente and Jacome were brothers. The 1819 census shows Jacome, 34, married to Maria Menchaca while the 1826 census shows "Citizen" Clemente Tejada, 31, as Alcalde of Espada, married to Josefa de Leon, 32. Children are Agapito, 14, Hignio, 13, Josef, 6, Homobono, 3, Maria Andrea, 2.
Three of the Clemente's children, Agapito, Hignio, and Jose, later served in the Texas Revolution in 1835 as soldiers and scouts against the government of Santa Anna. They received pensions from the State of Texas in 1874 for their service. Sevastian Tejada, son of Jacome Tejada, according to pension records, carried the "express" to Gonzales after the capture of San Antonio in 1835. He was also awarded a pension in the 1870's.
The above facts illustrate only a part of the evolution and integration of the Indigenous into our near history and culture over a course of several generations. This is only a start.