Researching the Dominguez Family (Part 1)

In planning a trip to Spain for next year, I thought it would be fun to research where in the country my family, the Dominguez family, is from. Turns out, it’s a tall order! While census records from San Francisco in 1920, 1930, and 1940 were very enlightening, I have not been able to find any written documents pinpointing an exact city where my great-grandfather Benito Dominguez and his relatives may have lived prior to coming to the United States.

Family lore has always said Benito immigrated from the Cadiz province in the Andalusia region of Spain, but I have not been able to find any supporting documentation. He was born in Spain about 1885-1886 (that much, census records can confirm), and he came to Honolulu, Hawaii, in about 1910, when sugar cane plantation workers were coming from Spain and Portugal en mass.

In about 1908, he married his first wife, Rita Borrego, and they had several children over the years:

  • son Benito Dominguez Jr. was born about 1911-1912 in Hawaii
  • daughter Theresa Dominguez was born about 1912-1913 in Hawaii
  • daughter Mary Dominguez was born about 1917-1918 in Hawaii
  • daughter Antonette Dominguez was born about 1918-1919 in California
  • I also found a death record index on FamilySearch.org for a Jose Dominguez, son of a Rita Berreio and a Benito Domingnez, in 1917. He was 2.

They eventually moved to San Francisco, which is where Antonette would have been born and where Rita died. Following his wife’s death, Benito remarried fairly quickly to my great-grandmother Mary Menacho. He would have been about 34 and she would have been 15, so times were different to say the least! According to census records, she was born in about 1904 and also immigrated to Hawaii in 1910. My grandmother Carmen says Mary was from the same area in Spain as my great-grandfather.

They had 10 children:

  • son John Dominguez was born about 1920 in California
  • son Tony Dominguez was born about 1924 in California
  • daughter Francis was born about 1925 in California
  • son James Dominguez was born about 1926 in California
  • son Frank Dominguez was born about 1927 in California
  • son August (sometimes recorded Gustave, but he went by Gus) was born about 1928 in California
  • son Vincent was born about 1929 in California
  • son Fred was born about 1931-1932 in California
  • daughter Carmen was born on October 10, 1932 in California
  • daughter Justine “Josie” was born about 1935-1936 in California

In the 1920 Census, Benito Sr. was listed as working as a fruit picker in an orchard and his wife Rita was a laborer in a junk shop in San Francisco. They lived on 152 Langton Street in San Francisco.

In the 1930 Census, Benito was listed as a bottle washer who worked at a dairy company and Benito Jr. was listed as a butcher. Theresa worked as a laborer. They lived on 53 Chesley Street in San Francisco, which is in the same neighborhood as Langton Street, and paid $20 a month rent.

In the 1940 Census, Mary was now the head of house and no occupations were listed as the eldest child at home was Francis, who was 15 years old. They lived at 2442 24th Street in San Francisco, where they paid $25 rent per month.

Also in the 1940 Census, a 14-year-old James Dominguez was listed as living with his grandmother, also named Mary Menacho, in Santa Clara. She was 65. He, his uncles Fred, Tony, Johnnie and Philip, and his cousin Johnnie Mendez worked as laborers. Fred worked at a wholesale packing house, Tony and Johnnie worked at a wholesale canning facility, and the young cousins worked with wholesale dried fruit. Together, they paid $12.50 rent per month for a place on Bellomy Street. Most of them had education up to either 7th or 8th grade, except James, who stopped school in 4th grade.

Also in the 1940 Census, Benito Jr. was listed as living with his wife and daughter at his in-laws’ place at 1200 27th Avenue. Joseph Bradway was the head of the house, his wife’s name was Lucy and their son’s name was George. Benito Jr.’s wife, Marian, was 22 and he was 28 and the owner of his own butcher shop. Their daughter Francine was just 3 years old. The families paid $57.50 per month for rent.

If anyone has some exact birth dates or additional details, I would love to know them. Of course I’ve met many of these people over the years, but as a child, I didn’t think to ask anyone when they were born, let alone make note of it.

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Finally, I met my grandmother, Carmen Dominguez

Grandma Carmen on the Becky Ann riverboat on the Mississippi River. It was an extremely hot day and ended up walking much farther than intended to get to the boat. Luckily, it was air-conditioned inside. As we were sitting there, a couple of the crew in uniform walked by. "Excuse me, do you know CPR?" Grandma Carmen called.

Here, Grandma Carmen cools off on the Becky Ann riverboat on the Mississippi River. It was an extremely hot day and ended up walking much farther than intended to get to the boat. Luckily, it was air-conditioned inside. As we were sitting there, a couple of the crew in uniform walked by. “Excuse me, do you know CPR?” Grandma Carmen called.

Until recently, I’d never met my grandmother. I turn 30 years old this year, but I’ve lived in California all my life. Meanwhile, my grandmother, Carmen Dominguez (born Oct. 10, 1932, to Spanish immigrants Benito Dominguez and Mary Menacho), lives in Lake St. Louis, Missouri. A couple months ago, my dad, step-mom and I went out to visit.

I learned a lot of things. I learned where my dad got the Gift of Gab, how my grandparents met (it was totally classy), and that Grandma Carmen loved working for General Motors until she retired.

The Gift of Gab

Carmen Dominguez and Steven Gullickson (my grandmother and father) back in the day.

Carmen Dominguez and Steven Gullickson (my grandmother and father) back in the day.

Growing up, my dad would always talk forever on the phone, and my sister and I would have to drag him away from conversations when it was time to leave a social function. My grandmother, it turns out, is equally as talkative. She loves to talk about the weather (once a tornado tore up a neighbor’s house just one cul-de-sac over), working at G.M. (she used to make huge plates of “enchiladies” for work parties and everyone would call her “mom”), and even my grandfather, who she was hoping would join her in Missouri after she moved there about 30 years ago but who never did.

How George Gullicksen and Carmen Dominguez met

My grandparents were neighbors before they ever met. They lived across the street from each other in San Francisco. Grandma Carmen’s apartment building had a series of steps to get to the street. One day, she was hopping down the steps. George spotted her from across the street and called something along the lines of “It looks like two bouncing footballs!” referring to her chest.

Obviously, true love.

I told you. It was classy.

How they were married

George was four years older and in the Navy, so when he was on the ship, he would still make a point to call Grandma Carmen on special occasions, such as her birthday. They eventually eloped, but George’s mother, a devout Catholic, freaked out and demanded they be married by the Church.

Grandma Carmen was 17 at the time, so she needed parental consent. She and George tracked down her mother and pulled her out of a movie theater so everything could be done officially.

After they were married, George Gullicksen and Carmen Dominguez had four children. From left, Christina "Tina" Gullickson, Otto Gullickson, George Gullicksen, and Steven Gullickson.

After they were married, George Gullicksen and Carmen Dominguez had four children. From left, Christina “Tina” Gullickson, Otto Gullickson, George Gullicksen, and Steven “Steve” Gullickson.

Working for General Motors

Grandma Carmen never finished high school, but she did earn her GED afterwards — I believe to work for G.M. For a while, she worked out of a factory in California, but when that factory closed, the company made employees an offer — move on, or move to Missouri, where they could still be gainfully employed.

My grandmother decided to move out to Missouri, where my grandfather bought her a house on Lake St. Louis. He left with the agreement to return, but never did. Meanwhile, Grandma Carmen kept busy at the factory, where she gave as good as she got. Once, a guy slapped her on the butt as she was walking past. Her response was something along the lines of: “Don’t you dare! The only man whose allow to put a hand on me is my husband, and you’re not him!”

Yeah, she’s pretty hardcore.

She also lost part of her finger when a machine double-punched, had a lot of friends there, and got a cool shiny jacket upon retirement.