|"Behind every corner lies a wealth of untapped history to be unraveled."
- Randall Davis
Introduction to this History
By Randall S. Davis
At this site, I have highlighted selected portions of a longer completed book printed in 1996 on the history of two families (the Contreras family and the Cavazos family) who came to the United States from Mexico over a hundred years ago. Although much of the content deals directly with my own Mexican ancestors, I feel it is of interest to many individuals:
How I Got StartedIn writing this history, I have relied on many resources including oral interviews with family members, local and federal government records including the Census, government vital records, court and church records, and land, property records, and most recently, the World Wide Web, to piece to together an interesting collage of people and events.
First of all, starting in 1982 and the summer of 1983, I began interviewing my mother about her own upbringing and memories of the past. From these early interviews with my mother, I was able to establish some of the basic facts, enabling me to compile a short family history.
Then, in August and September of 1983, I went to stay with my grandparents, Abel and Ana Maria Contreras in Fresno, California. During that time, I interviewed many family members including my grandmother's older brother, Amando Cavazos and Esther Hinojosa Cavazos, wife of Luis Cavazos. I recorded each interview on cassette tape and made copies of old family pictures, jotting down notes about each one. At that time, I did not speak Spanish, so I was unable to transcribe the conversations at that time. In October of that same year, I was called to serve as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Venezuela, so my research was on hold for about two years. (Actually, it gave me the needed opportunity to learn Spanish that would be so vital later on.)
After I returned to the States in 1985, I moved to Utah and began my studies in Spanish Education at Brigham Young University, in Provo, Utah. Fortunately for me, the largest genealogical library in the world is located just 40 miles north in Salt Lake City, with over 1.5 million roles of microfilm and a vast collection of books containing vital statistics, census records, land deeds, military records, naturalization records, and so on from around the world. One of the major branches of this center is found at the BYU library. Using the information (names, dates, and places) obtained during oral interviews with relatives, I tried to locate any information relating to those events in these films. Thus, you will often see the initials FHC (Family History Center) followed by a number in the notes of some of the chapters. These refer to the number of the microfilm roll found at the Family History Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. (These films can be ordered through many branch family history libraries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints around the world.)
From 1986 to 1990, I did as much research as I could why continuing my undergraduate and graduate studies. At the same time, I contacted other family members by phone and letter, trying to add to the colorful picture of our family. I also made two trips in 1987 to California with my wife, Shirley. During those visits, I interviewed my grandmother and grandfather again, and visited with other family members. I also showed a video I put together about the Contreras family at a reunion. I also spent time downtown at the Fresno City Library looking up articles in the newspapers about the family, and I obtained other vital records from the Office of Vital Statistics. With this information in hand, I visited several local cemeteries to verify information at some grave sites of family members.
In 1991, my wife, daughter, and I moved to Tokyo, Japan, and I started teaching at a business college. During the first two years, I did not do much family history research because I did not have any of my records with me. The other factor was distance; I didn't have access to the records like I had in the past. (I later realized that there was a family history center in Tokyo that provided me access to public domain information, including the Social Security Index, that helped me continue my work.) Not wanting to delay my research any longer, I decided to publish this history, especially because some of the key people who help so much during the initial stages have passed away or are older now. Actually, this kind of research never ends. Behind every corner lies a wealth of untapped history to be unraveled.
In 1996, I published my first family history book, and since returning to Utah in 1999, I have continued to collect and compile more information on our family. A couple of years ago, I produced an audio CD set of interviews with family members covering a span of 20 years, and a selection of these might appear on this site in the future. I am contemplating writing a second edition of my earlier 1996 history, but no date has been set for this project.
Where do we go from here? Most important, I would like to get more people involved in futures projects of collecting information on our family roots. Specifically, I would be interested in working with those who have greater access to information because they live in proximity to where past events occurred. This would enable us to piece together some of the missing links to our family puzzle. If you are interested in knowing how you could be of help, please contact me.