Jan 25, 2018

Searching for Great Grandpa Varon

We know his name, Ruben Varon Ramos. 

We know he was born in Colombia, in 1868 or 1896, May 5th. 

We know he died in Panama, in 1918. 

We know he was the Father of our maternal Grandmother, Gertrudis Varon de Arosemena.  He had two other children, my Grandma's siblings: Rosario Irene Varon and Ruben Emilio Varon.  He was a General in the Colombian Army prior to Panama declaring its independence from Colombia in 1903. 

Great Grandpa Varon was married to our Great Grandmother, Angela Enriqueta Icaza from Panama.  I have a copy of their marriage records, inscribed in big leather bound book that is kept in the registry of records offices in Panama City, Panama. 

Long ago I got special access to these books with staff from the registry office who handled everything very carefully, almost in slow motion and with white gloves. I was allowed to request copies and very carefully the pages were photographed. I got copies of everything I could. 

His record of death, information documented in a book written by hand long long ago, almost 100 years.  Ruben Varon according to the records died in the Chiriqui Province of Panama on April 19th, the year 1918. His cause of death diabetes.  Based on the records, he was 49.  I remember Grandma Chichi specifically telling me he died when he was 39. Who knows what is accurate ?

General Ruben Varon Ramos 

I tried without success to find information about Ruben Varon online via ancestry websites, databases, to no avail. A few sentences are written about General Ruben Varon in several history books detailing events specific to the Independence of Panama from Colombia in 1903. This information I'd seen before, but there is nothing more than the few sentences. 

I finally decided to pay a genealogy service to help me at least get a start.  I found Legacy Tree Genealogist out of Seattle Washington, I signed up for a "Discovery Plan" service. For a set fee you tell them as much as you know about your loved one, what your goals are and they come back with a discovery plan, they document all the places where you can do the research your own.  

Civil registration began in Colombia is 1865, but was not adopted nation-wide until 1888. The genealogy company recommended I start with church records. 
They provided the name of the organization in Seattle that has a digital database of the records of most of the Catholic churches and parishes from Colombia from the 1800s through today. In addition they provided the digital microfilm index numbers so I would have a starting point of where to look since there are countless number of pages with single line entries of baptismal records. Those records then reference book and page numbers where you find the details of the baptism. 

And they gave me research tips, for example: search Ruben Varon, Ruben Baron and incase he was not a child legitimized by marriage, search Ruben Ramos. I also searched for records related to his parents, Dionisio Varon and Maria Ramos. And I even searched for years before and after of anyone with the last names, Varon, Baron and/or Ramos, perhaps finding siblings.  


Once you log into the database and find the appropriate digital files, the searching is not difficult, you have to be EXTREMELY PATIENT and have a big screen computer.  I purposely started my research on one of the coldest and wet days in December in Jacksonville, I searched non-stop for 4 hours.  My eyes ran across pages and pages and pages of records.  The records were basically kept with a index type system, a book tracking names associated with additional books that had the details. I found one female name Adelaida Teresa Varon, baptized in 1875 to 1880, but when I went to the corresponding record book to page 262 where the actual baptismal details were recorded, the parents names were completely different.  

I know the day I started this I was excited and until I figured out the system, how to scroll back and forth and up and down to get to the actual years I wanted to research, I may have missed something. So I'm going to start all over again, like I'd never seen these pages before. 

The genealogy firm commented in the report they prepared, the civil registry records may be available, however it would be necessary to do this research in country in Colombia. Onsite research would also be necessary for the military records, what is available digitally does not go as far back as the early 1900s. 
A trip to Colombia is probably in my future. 

I've asked myself a thousand times over why I never specifically asked my Grandma Chichi about her DAD. Why ? Why ? Why ? 

All those hours that I sat with her at the finca in Arraijan in Panama, we talked about so many things. The only vivid memories she shared of the Father, the large festive gatherings her Dad would host on Sundays, lots of people, great food, everyone having a grand time. 

I knew my Great Grandmother, she was alive and lived with my Arosemena Grandparents until I was about 9 or 10 years old. We used to call her Abuela Enriqueta. I remember she lost her sight, yet she could walk around inside the house and outside with the chickens, without ever stumbling or falling. She was quiet, reserved and regal in an old fashioned and very simple way. She had beautiful eyes and long thick beautiful silver hair. 

I will keep you posted on my search.  I want to know if Ruben Varon Ramos had siblings, and if yes, do we have family in Colombia ?