Oliver’s research into her mother’s family revealed that her mother, Martha Guiterrez, arrived in the United States at age 20 from Guerrero, Mexico where she grew up. Guiterrez was raised in a large family of 12 children. Of those, six came to the United States where currently three live in California and three in Utah.
Since the age of one Oliver was raised in Fontana by her mother and her stepfather, Antonio Garcia. She has one sister and two brothers. Her extended family includes 10 younger cousins. But she never met her biological father and only learned of his existence at the age of 15. The news put her into a tailspin for awhile, she said.
Finally, when Guiterrez graduated from Henry J. Kaiser High School in Fontana last year, she and her father communicated by email. Oliver’s father had last seen his daughter when she was six months old.
For the La Sierra University class project, Oliver contacted her father’s sister, Azalia Oliver, in Los Angeles for family history information but her aunt could only provide the names of paternal grandparents and their parents who were natives of Michoacán, Mexico. Magali Oliver also decided to try to reach her father again, not only to re-establish and strengthen their relationship, but to delve further into her family’s ancestry. On his birthday she worked up the nerve to call him for a first telephone conversation. “He didn’t answer,” she said, and she didn’t leave a message. “I just go so nervous. I just have that fear of, I don’t know what to say.” However she maintains hope for future contact.
Other students recounted stories of their families’ travels between countries and ultimately to the United States and the North American continent, usually seeking better wages, educational and living opportunities. Some ended up in North America for other reasons.
In the 1800s, John Demarbiex, student Corrie Demarbiex’s great grandfather, traveled from France to Mexico to fight as a dragoon with Mexico’s Emperor Ferdinand Maximilian Joseph who was selected to lead a second Mexican monarchy. The effort was backed by France’s Napoleon III. Frank and John, two of John Demarbiex’s children, owned ranches and gold mines, including the Red Rover mine which is currently operational. Frank also fought for the Mexican monarchy as a dragoon. He eventually settled in Scottsdale, Arizona. He married a woman named Ramona and had five children. Corrie Demarbiex discovered that Frank, a lover of trotter horses, died at the age of 34 from pneumonia. He acquired the illness after getting chilled in the rain while caring for a sick horse. She also discovered various spellings of her family’s name over the years including that of Demarbiuex, John and Frank’s last name.
Jackie Palinka, of Ukrainian ancestry, discovered the ship records documenting the immigration of her paternal great-grandfather, his wife and three children from Galicia in Spain, to Canada. The farming family purchased homesteads and eventually passed the land to Palinka’s father who in turn bequeathed it to one of her uncles.
Student Julian Elliott, of Scottish and Cambodian ancestry, discovered few official records of his family’s past. In his class paper, however, he discussed the cultural richness of his life celebrating both American and Khmer New Year events in January and April, eating an abundance of American and Cambodian foods and participating in Christian and Buddhist religious services. His Christian father of Scottish heritage met his Cambodian mother by unlikely coincidence when his mother was 18. She was a refugee and spoke no English, but somehow the two managed to get along, he wrote. Elliott enjoys busy holidays with a large group of aunts, uncles and cousins. His varied background has also produced in him an openness and respect for others, he said.