“Where do you live?” An innocent enough question, but for a group of Cuban genealogists it was the genesis for the formation of the Cuban Genealogy Club of Miami, Florida (CGC). A common “meeting” place for Cuban genealogists, at that time, was CubaGenWeb’s online Cuban Genealogy discussion list. This list was moderated by the webmaster, Ed Elizondo. Interested individuals could post messages and “discuss” topics relating to Cuban genealogy. In January of 2001, someone on that list asked “Where do you live?” to the other individuals posting information. A majority responded “Miami, Florida”. A generous and trusting individual, the late Carolina Calderin, offered her home for the face-to-face meeting, and so on Saturday, February 17, 2001, we met at the designated address. The rest, as they say, is history!
I was one of those lucky individuals on that Saturday, and as we all later commented, the time flew by! I don’t exactly recall how long we were there, but it was a wonderful afternoon of sharing information and stories. We felt as though we had known each other for years instead of hours. Even now, years later, it is hard to put into words the feeling of that day. I guess it was because I had finally found a group of people that felt the same passion that I had felt for so many years and could express it with no need for excuses or explanations! The following month we officially formed the CGC. In September of 2001, we also created our first website: www.cgcmiami.org, which in 2004 changed to our current website: www.cubangenclub.org.
We have planned and conducted multiple opportunities for researchers including a 2-day Cuban Genealogy Conference; a day-long conference on Researching Hispanic Roots with the noted author and accredited genealogist, Dr. George R. Ryskamp, J.D., from Brigham Young University; a Q & A Session with noted Cuban genealogist, the late Peter Carr; and a Q & A with Cuban historian and novelist Manuel Marquez-Sterling.
In the autumn of 2004, we undertook a large project: a journal on Cuban genealogy. Our President at the time, Martha Moreira-Yunis, aptly named the journal “Raices de la Perla”, or the “The Pearl’s Roots”, in deference to the island of Cuba which is referred to as the “Pearl of the Antilles”. Our Inaugural Edition was published in 2004 with two editions being published every year through 2013. Our journal is found in many libraries around the United States, including the Library of Congress, the Allen County Public Library, New York Library, multiple Florida Libraries including the State Library of Florida, and many others. On our website, you will find all editions of the journal (as downloadable PDFs) as well as an index to the articles published in the journal.
The club participates in community events such as the Hispanic Heritage Month presentations for the Miami-Dade and Broward County Library systems and HistoryMiami Museum’s “Operation Pedro Pan: The Cuban Children’s Exodus Exhibition”.
Our Vice-President, Lourdes del Pino, has also been researching the ancestry of Hispanic celebrities invited to participate in the PBS television show “Finding Your Roots.”
COVID-19 has changed our lives, but a positive result has been the addition of “Zoom” as a word in our vocabulary! Our monthly meetings are now more accessible to members, especially those that live outside of the Miami area. For our July meeting, we were able to have two noted authors and genealogists from the Canary Islands participate in the presentation given by one of our Directors, Mirelis Peraza. This would not have occurred if not for COVID-19.
We are immensely proud of our website, cubangenclub.org. All the content on the databases on our website are a result of thousands of papers we have requested and transcribed because of its genealogical value or was donated by our members from their personal research. Absolutely everything is the result of countless hours of volunteer work. We do not do genealogical research nor do we have “access” to depositories in Cuba, but we will gladly guide genealogists in the search for ancestors.
We believe that our club is a safe harbor for Cuban genealogy, history, and culture. As a result of that ideal, we have over 2,000 PDFs on our site accessible to anyone, not just members. Ninety-nine percent of the information on the site is not in the protected Members Only area. I invite you to peruse our website!
We are proud to say that we have more members than ever. We aim to have diverse topics at our monthly meetings. Past meetings have included topics such as: “Spanish Genealogy Resources”, “Bridging Sources – Basque Country”, “Bridging Sources – Resources for Catalan Research”, “Beyond the Family Tree-Ways to Share Your Family’s Story”, “Navigating FIU’s Online Catalog and Alternate Books for Cuban Genealogy”, “Using PARES (Spanish Portal)”, “FamilySearch.org Tutorial”, “Cuban Genealogy Resources – Exploring the CGC Website”, and “Bridging Sources – Canary Islands.” We also encourage members to present on topics of their expertise such as “Publishing a Family Book on Kindle”, and “Discovering Ancestors Using USCIS and FOIA (US Citizens and Immigration Services /Freedom of Information Act)”. In October we have another member presentation: “Cuban Holocaust: La Reconcentración and the Decimation of the Guajiros, 1895-1902.” Periodically we have a “Breaking Brick Walls” session where members can brainstorm and assist one another.
We believe members join our club not only for the guidance we can provide but also for the camaraderie, just like our first “meeting” in 2001!