Case Studies

Experiences and Case Studies

Adame-Apun Family Research

Case Study by Joseph B. Shumway

Unraveling a mystery that stretches from Portugal to Mexico.

Our client only knew small pieces of information about her grandfather, Roberto Apun Adame. He was born in Acapulco, Mexico around 1905 and came to the United States where he married the client’s grandmother and had four children. Unfortunately, Roberto left his wife and children not too many years later and returned to Mexico. As a result, the family did not know much about Roberto other than the fact he died around 1984 in Acapulco.

One of the pertinent mysteries that the family wished to solve was in regards to Roberto’s heritage. According to family traditions, Roberto’s middle name of Apun was of Japanese origin, but no other details were passed down that could provide further information. Knowing that finding Japanese connections in Mexico in the early 1900s and earlier was extremely rare, it was important to start the investigation by working from the known to the unknown.

Our researchers began by studying the records of Acapulco, Mexico to see if a document about Roberto’s birth could be found. The Catholic parish records were carefully studied and an exciting discovery was made when Roberto’s baptism entry was found! This record revealed some very important details, including his exact date of birth—19 October 1905—and the fact that he was an illegitimate child born to a woman named Rafaella Apun. In addition to her name, the names of her parents (Roberto’s grandparents) were reported as Pablo Apun and Sabina Maria Romero.

Figure 1 - Parish Baptism Registers of Acapulco, Mexico, 1906, p. 90, entry 545.

Although the origins of the Adame surname were not disclosed in this record, knowing the names of Roberto’s mother and grandparents was an important step in the right direction of identifying the history of the Apun family and surname.

Further research in the records of Acapulco, Mexico required a fair amount of time because of the conditions of the parish register books. The volumes rarely contained indexes and many pages were difficult to read. However, after several hours of searching, another record was found that illuminated the mystery surrounding the Apun surname!

Figure 2 – Parish Marriage Registers of Acapulco, Mexico, 1875, p. 43.

The marriage books for the Catholic parish of Acapulco revealed that Pablo Apun and Sabina Romero married on 7 June 1875. Furthermore, the document provides the following details about Pablo Apun (translated from Spanish):

“Pablo Apún, single, age 39 years and the legitimate son of Francesco Apún and Rosa Atín, native of Port Macau…”

While no reference to Japan was provided, the record does reveal that Pablo was born in Macau, China! The names of his parents, along with his age, were also listed.

Figure 3 – Modern map showing Macau in relation to Hong Kong (obtained via GoogleMaps)

Macau was historically a Portuguese colony from the 1500s. Later, China granted administrative authority of the area to Portugal. Many Portuguese came and settled there over the centuries. During the time Pablo Apún was born, Macau would have been an important trade city in Asia. Even without doing further searching in Macanese records, based on this one marriage document, we can suspect that Pablo’s family were actually of Portuguese descent and that they may have been merchants who came to Acapulco—an important port city on Mexico’s Pacific coast. Even though the family story of Japanese ancestry was not correct, it is easy to see how a thread of truth was present in the family lore regarding an Asian connection. It is also possible that over the generations members of the Apún family intermarried with Chinese people. Further resaerch possibilities for this family are exciting because records about the Portuguese in Macau stretch back to the early 1600s! Furthermore, supplementing the research with the AncestryDNA test would reveal whether there had been any Chinese intermarriage in genealogy.

Overall, our client and her family were thrilled to have solved one important mystery in their history! At the same time, they also discovered more exciting questions about the Apún family that will be fun to answer through further research.

Figure 4 - Ruins of St. Paul's Cathedral in Macau (Historic Portugeuse Church)

Research Manager on Project:

Joseph B. Shumway

Project Hours:

29 Hours

Joseph discovered the thrill of genealogy at age 12, and at 14, he began volunteering at his local Family History Center. By age 16 he was teaching classes and lecturing on various family history topics, and at age 18 was presented the Young Historian of the Year Award by the Wyoming State Historical Society.

He has worked as a British Reference Consultant at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City and has lectured at many regional and national genealogical conferences. He has been a part of the AncestryProGenealogists team since 2007. As part of his work, he has also made multiple television appearances on such shows as CBS This Morning, CNN's Starting Point, The Jimmy Kimmel Show and 12 episodes of Who Do You Think You Are?.

Joseph is a member of the Genealogical Speaker's Guild (GSG) and has served as both president and vice president of the Salt Lake Chapter of the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG). He has also served on the Board of Commissioners for the International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists (ICAPGen).

His primary areas of research expertise include the United States (South and Mid-Atlantic), England, Wales, Scotland, Latin America, Caribbean, African-American, probate and missing heirs, and immigration.