Thursday, June 9, 2011

Do You Know the Name José?

In some old records, the name José often appears as Joseph or Josef. You might think that scribes were adopting an English spelling or other European spelling, but that’s probably not the case. Could it be bad transcriptions of the Old Spanish form of the name, which was Josepe?

Fray Angelico Cháves makes brief mention of the old-style name Josepe in his book, “Chávez: A Distinctive American Clan of New Mexico.” (Cháves also mentions that Bernalillo is Old Spanish for “Little Bernie.”)

José is a common name in our family, passed on from generation to generation. It – like María for women – was often a first name. For example: María Andrea Trujillo and José Crespin Torres. Most of our ancestor Crespin’s brothers had the first name of José, as did his father, José Anastacio.

For those who were born in the early 1900s, their name appeared in Latin on their baptismal records because the Catholic Church was using Latin forms at the time. So some José boys were recorded as Josephus.

Then when English became more prevalent, many Josés in the family started to go by the name Joseph, or Joe. And the accent mark had long faded from use.

An exception was Crespin’s son, José, who had no middle name.
Some 20th-century records do show him as Joseph, but at some point he decided on a signature that suited him.
He signed his name José T. Torres. The T was for his mother’s maiden name, Trujillo, and he used an accent mark over the é. Here’s a copy of his signature from his daughter’s 1931 report card.

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