Tracing family lineages to colonial New Mexico

Michael (Miguél) Torrez, by day a research technologist in the Laboratory’s Materials Physics and Applications Division, spends much of his free time researching New Mexico’s family histories and helping interested parties verify or fill in their family tree by complementing any existing document trail with the genetic testing that has become available in recent years.

“Tracing one’s family history is quite tricky,” Torrez says. “Accurate records are often missing or difficult to find, and verbal accounts of a family’s origins might get modified or misunderstood as they are passed from generation to generation or translated into different languages. But nowadays we have much greater access to genealogical information than ever before, and genetic testing has really changed the game. All you have to do is get your cheek swabbed. It’s no big deal, doesn’t hurt and is relatively inexpensive.”

“Tracing one’s family history is quite tricky”

Yet even in Torrez’s own family it can take time to tease out fiction from fact. Torrez and his sisters-in-law were in his kitchen one day when one of the women suggested that their grandmother, whose maiden name was “Jacquez,” had been born in France.

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