I recently came across the marriage record for Juan Nepomuceno Castil de Oro who was the military doctor in Mexico I posted about previously. He was the son of Antonio Castil de Oro y Echaire. Antonio’s brother was Francisco Castil de Oro y Echaire. Apparently they were considered members of the high society of New Spain. Don Francisco married Maria Ynes Mariscal Rada, a “dama de la corte virreinal” or a Lady of the Viceregal Court. Viceroy was the title given to the principal governors of Spain’s American colonies, with the capital of New Spain located in Mexico City. Don Francisco and Maria owned several houses in the capital, as well as a garden along the San Cosme road. This is a Currier & Ives print from 1847 depicting the view from the Convent of San Cosme looking across the road towards Mexico City. In the background you can see the prominent aqueduct headed towards the city as well as examples of the fancy gardens in that area.
This reference to Juan Nepomuceno Castel de Oro is from a book entitled Los Cirujanos de Hospitales de la Nueva España (1700-1833) by Maria Luisa Rodriguez-Sala. Apparently he was a surgeon and involved in the military. It is the first example I’ve found of a Castel De Oro in Mexico that actually connects the surname back to a specific area of Spain, namely the kingdoms of Castile in the Guipúzcoa Province of San Sebastián in the Basque Country of Northern Spain.
The following post is adapted from an article that I wrote for the first Castel De Oro Family Reunion which took place in June of 2014. It’s my attempt to summarize my research so far into the history of my family name, which I hope to eventually trace back to it’s “source” – the point at which the names Castel and Oro originally combined.
Where did the Castel De Oro families come from?
According to Spanish family naming conventions, the surname of a child is frequently a combination of the surnames of the two parents. Therefore the surname Castel De Oro, alternately “Castel de Oro,” likely came from a father with the surname “Castel” and a mother with the surname “de Oro” or simply “Oro.” The family name Castel has it roots in the Occitan language of Southern France, also known as lenga d’òc (pronounced roughly “len-gah-doo”), which is a derivative of the Late Latin castellum or “castle” meaning fort or walled city. The family name de Oro also has Latin roots, and is considered derived from the “Romance languages” of Portugal, Spain, France and Italy.
The journey from Europe to Mexico is consistent with the colonial period of Mexican history (1521-1810), when the area was conquered by explorers from Spain and known as “New Spain.” The oldest records of a Castel De Oro I’ve found are for Francisco Castil de Oro (also referred to as Francisco Castil de Oro Echaire), listed in baptismal records as the father of several children born in Mexico around 1730. Although Francisco shares the same surname, with presumably the same etymology, there is (as of this date) no direct evidence linking this person to the contemporary Castel De Oro families. However, this record places the name Castel De Oro in Mexico squarely within the colonial period, in the same town as known ancestor Norberto Castel De Oro.
The story of the current Castel De Oro families in Arizona and California starts in Mexico with two people: Norberto Castel De Oro and his wife Catalina Acuña. Norberto was born in Mexico D.F., the Distrito Federal of Mexico more commonly known as Mexico City. Presumably attracted by the opportunities represented by mining, Norberto made his way to Baja California. His wife Catalina was born about 1874 in Mulegé, Baja California Sur. Their first child Maria Castel De Oro was born 5 February 1888 in Santa Rosalía, Baja California Sur. It seems likely that Santa Rosalía, a port city and a mining town just north of Catalina’s birth city of Mulegé, is also where Norberto and Catalina first met.
Santa Rosalía was the site of the El Boleo mine, run by a French mining company. Foreign-run companies were not unusual during this era of Mexican history, under the leadership of the dictator Porfirio Díaz, known as the Porfiriato:
During the period of the Porfiriato (1877–1911), in Baja, as throughout Mexico, the government encouraged foreign investment as its principal development policy. In addition to the problem of capital, Mexico also lacked the technical knowledge to promote the development and production of her economy. Díaz, who favored the development of the nation by the economically powerful, encouraged foreign investment through legal statutes that leaned heavily in favor of foreigners. As a result, American, British, and French capitalists competed for control of Mexico’s resources.
There is ample evidence to suggest that the northward migration of Norberto and Catalina was motivated by this economic context. Even today, these areas of Baja California and Sonora Mexico are relatively sparsely populated. Social networks formed among the concentrations of people in these mining communities. When the resources of one mine depleted, and word spread of new opportunities in other mining towns, families would migrate accordingly to follow the work. The birthplaces of the Castel De Oro children in Mexico all correspond to cities with major mining operations. The Calmallí mine and the San Juan mine at Las Flores have vanished into ghost towns, and only the most dedicated desert explorers are able to find sparse remnants today.
Children of Norberto and Catalina Castel De Oro by Birth Date
Maria Castel De Oro
5 February 1888
Santa Rosalía, Baja California Sur
José Castel De Oro
Calmallí, Baja California Sur
Jesus Castel De Oro
25 December 1895
Las Flores, Baja California Sur
Reymundo Castel De Oro
Las Flores, Baja California Sur
Silviano Castel De Oro
27 February 1902
La Colorada, Sonora
Josefina Castel De Oro
La Colorada, Sonora
What became of Norberto and Catalina?
Catalina Castel De Oro remarried on 18 October 1909 to Frederico Arce. Immigration documents show Catalina crossing the border with her children Reymundo, Jesus, Josefina and Silviano to join her new husband in Bisbee, Arizona. Her son José Castel De Oro appears to have stayed behind in Cananea, Sonora, Mexico. Her oldest daughter Maria married Alejandro Lopez in Cananea and later settled separately in Arizona with her husband and, interestingly, her grandmother (Catalina’s mother Jesus Guerrero) and her uncle (Catalina’s brother Alejandro Acuña).
Pending any new discoveries we can only guess what became of Norberto. His last child Josefina was born in 1905 in La Colorada, Sonora, Mexico. His oldest daughter Maria was married in 1908 in Cananea, Sonora, Mexico. His wife Catalina, living in Cananea, remarried in 1909. So we can place Norberto’s death between the years 1905 and 1909, probably in Cananea. There was an historic labor strike and rioting in Cananea in 1906. Mexican workers, upset that they were being paid a fraction of what American workers were making, rose up against the Cananea Consolidated Copper Company. The Arizona Rangers crossed the border to deal with the unrest and there was armed conflict. Reports vary, but by some accounts up to 150 Mexican workers may have died in the violence. Did Norberto Castel De Oro fall victim to these circumstances? One would think if he was involved in such an historical event, the story might have been passed down. But it’s important to remember that the children who went on to establish the Castel De Oro families we know of today in Arizona and California were all quite young at the time.
Catalina Acuña Castel De Oro Arce died in Tucson, Arizona on 16 June 1919 at the age of 45. Her death certificate indicates she was buried at Holy Hope Cemetery in Tucson, although the cemetery has no record of the exact location of her most-likely unmarked grave. Frederico Arce made periodic trips to San Diego, California to work as a laborer. His ultimate fate is unknown.
What became of their children?
As stated previously, Maria Castel De Oro married Alejandro Lopez in Cananea, Sonora, Mexico in 1908. They had 9 children: Armando, Lidia, Julia, Ernestina, Herndena, Alejandro Jr., Delia, Lucia and Ernesto. The family lived for a while in Tucson, Arizona and then relocated to Los Angeles, California. Maria died on 27 January 1960 in Los Angeles. Presumably there are members of the Alejandro and Maria Lopez family living in the Tucson and Los Angeles areas today that are related to the Castel De Oro family. As the oldest child of Norberto and Catalina, Maria probably knew the most about the journey through Mexico from her own firsthand experience.
José Castel De Oro is referenced in immigration documents as the son of Catalina Castel De Oro, living in Cananea, Sonora, Mexico at the time she crossed the border to be with her husband. The only other evidence of José found so far is a World War 1 draft registration card, which indicates that by 1917 he was living in Los Angeles, California. The card also states he was married at the time, however no evidence of a family has been found.
Jesus Castel De Oro married Anita Leon and founded his Castel De Oro family in Tucson, Arizona. They had 11 children: Hortencia, Lydia, Leonora, Jesus Maria, Armida, Gerardo, Armando, Roberto, Dora, Celia Linda and a child that died at birth. Jesus died about 1987.
Reymundo Castel De Oro married Rita Leon and founded his Castel De Oro family in Tucson Arizona. They had 8 children: Katie, Catalina, Reymundo Jr., Socorro, Mary, Norbert, Olivia Virginia and Frank. Reymundo died in Los Angeles, California on 13 March 1958.
Silviano Castel De Oro married Louse Yanez and founded his Castel De Oro family in Los Angeles, California. They had 5 children: Joe Manuel, Norbert, Virginia, Tommy, and Katherine. Silviano died on 4 March 1933.
What became of Josefina Castel De Oro remains a mystery. The most recent piece of evidence found so far shows her crossing the border together with her mother Catalina at age 4 to join her new father Frederico Arce in Bisbee, Arizona in 1909.
The last name Castel De Oro is rare. I find it remarkable to consider that every known Castel De Oro in both Arizona and California can trace their roots to Norberto and Catalina Castel De Oro. Their journey through the harsh deserts of Baja California and Sonora Mexico must have been arduous. Norberto never made it across the border, but there are 5 men named Norbert Castel De Oro who were born in the United States named after him, including my own father. Catalina managed to have 6 children and marry twice before dying at the age of only 45. If your last name happens to be Castel De Oro, or if you are related to somebody with that name, you should take at least a moment to remember Norberto and Catalina.
1. Hanks, Patrick. Dictionary of American Family Names. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2003.
3. “México, Distrito Federal, registros parroquiales y diocesanos, 1514-1970,”index and images, FamilySearch (accessed 30 Nov 2014), Asunción Sagrario Metropolitano (Centro)>Bautismos de españoles 1730-1735>image 411 of 986; parroquias Católicas, Distrito Federal [Catholic Church parishes, Distrito Federal].
4. Death Certificate for Silviano Castel De Oro, 4 March 1933, File No. 2998, County of Los Angeles Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk.
5. Ibid., also National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington, D.C.; Manifests of Alien Arrivals at Naco, Arizona, May 24, 1908 – ca. December 1952; Record Group: 85, Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service; Microfilm Serial: A3372; Microfilm Roll: 6.
6. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington, D.C.; Naturalization Records of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, Central Division (Los Angeles), 1887-1940; Microfilm Serial: M1524; Microfilm Roll: 50.
11. Ancestry.com. Arizona, Select Marriages, 1888-1908 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014. Original data: Arizona, Marriages, 1888-1908. Salt Lake City, Utah: FamilySearch, 2013.
12. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington, D.C.; Manifests of Alien Arrivals at Naco, Arizona, May 24, 1908 – ca. December 1952; Record Group: 85, Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service; Microfilm Serial: A3372; Microfilm Roll: 6.
14. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington, D.C.; Manifests of Alien Arrivals at Naco, Arizona, May 24, 1908 – ca. December 1952; Record Group: 85, Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service; Microfilm Serial: A3372; Microfilm Roll: 1.
15. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington, D.C.; Naturalization Records of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, Central Division (Los Angeles), 1887-1940; Microfilm Serial: M1524; Microfilm Roll: 50.
16. Ancestry.com. Arizona, Select Marriages, 1888-1908 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014. Original data: Arizona, Marriages, 1888-1908.
Salt Lake City, Utah: FamilySearch, 2013.
19. Registration State: California; Registration County: San Diego; Roll: 1543649; Draft Board: 2.
Also Year: 1920; Census Place: San Diego, San Diego, California; Roll: T625_131; Page: 10B;
Enumeration District: 313; Image: 906.
20. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington, D.C.; Naturalization Records of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, Central Division (Los Angeles), 1887-1940; Microfilm Serial: M1524; Microfilm Roll: 50
21. Death Certificate for Maria Castel De Oro Lopez, 27 January 1960, File No. 7053, County of Los Angeles Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk.
22. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington, D.C.; Manifests of Alien Arrivals at Naco, Arizona, May 24, 1908 – ca. December 1952; Record Group: 85, Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service; Microfilm Serial: A3372; Microfilm Roll: 6.
23. “United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918”, index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.2/9MN2-C9QS : accessed 16 Jun 2014), Jose Castel De Oro, 1917-1918.
25. Death Certificate for Reymundo Castel De Oro, 13 March 1958, File No. 5240, County of Los Angeles Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk.
26. Death Certificate for Silviano Castel De Oro, 4 March 1933, File No. 2998, County of Los Angeles Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk.
27. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington, D.C.; Manifests of Alien Arrivals at Naco, Arizona, May 24, 1908 – ca. December 1952; Record Group: 85, Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service; Microfilm Serial: A3372; Microfilm Roll: 6.
Louise Yanez is my great grandmother, she married Silviano Castel De Oro around 1919. She was born August 27, 1903 in Chihuahua, Mexico and died June 25, 1966 in Los Angeles, California. Louise had no siblings that I am aware of. Her death certificate lists the names of her parents as Luis Yanez and Mary Rivas.
Esteban Peralta is my 3rd great grandfather, born 1838 in San Pedro de la Cueva, Sonora, Mexico and died April 27, 1902 in Vernon, California.
He was married to Ramona De Los Reyes at Catedral de la Asunción, Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico on May 3, 1858. The marriage record of that event lists his parents as Calletano Peralta and Eujenia Quijada. To date I have been unable to locate any additional information regarding his parents…
I’m planning to start up this blog again. The theme will be History and I will share stories from my own research, which currently involves mostly genealogy and local history (the greater Los Angeles area), and my adventures changing careers from Visual Effects Artist to full-time Archivist and Historian.