Family Finding in Mexico Begins With a Name

Every process has a starting point. A family finding search starts with the name of the parent or family member you want to find. When doing family finding for someone in Mexico, the other vital piece of information you must have is the state in Mexico where this person lives or lived. These are the two building blocks of information necessary before a family finding search can be conducted. So let’s look at the structure of the name and its importance in a family finding case.This particular case involved the identification and location of biological grandparents in Mexico. The only available information was the city and the one apellido. If you are unfamiliar with Spanish, apellido is the term for last name, commonly referred to as a surname. Now when I say that your starting point is a name, I’m always referring to a complete name that includes both the father and mother’s last names.Let’s say that you have only one surname and it’s Hernandez, one of the top 10 most popular names in Mexico, then more information would be needed to have any real hope of finding any adult relatives. In this case, the surname of the child’s grandparents was listed as Gaimes. The city given for the family finding search was San Luis Potosi. Gaimes is not a very common name so a search was done to see if there were indications of any records with this surname in San Luis Potosi.Unfortunately, no evidence was found that there are records for anyone in San Luis Potosi having the surname Gaimes. The family finding search was extended to several cities beyond San Luis Potosi. Nothing. At this point, the surname Gaimes is now suspect. I like the principal of Occam’s Razor when it comes to a family finding in Mexico. This principle states that when there are two competing theories making exactly the same predictions, the simpler one is the better. In this case, which is the more likely, that all of the Gaimes family left San Luis Potosi or that Gaimes may be a misspelling?When no records are identified, it often indicates that there is a misspelling of the surname. An expert in Onomastics, the study of proper names, reviewed the surname Gaimes. After an exhaustive search, no record could be found of Gaimes as a Hispanic surname. This search included surname origins from Spain and most of Latin America. The closest surname spelling was Gamez that shows up in many Spanish countries.Of course, not everyone who lives in Mexico has ancestry in Mexico so it’s quite possible that Gaimes is a legitimate surname from non-Hispanic origins. However, with no indication of the existence of current records with this surname, the probability is that Gaimes is a misspelling. The good news is that a potential issue has been identified. There is still the possibility that after review, better information can be gathered for a renewed family finding effort.Anyone in Child Welfare should be familiar with the Fostering Connections Act of 2008 that requires state agencies to do family finding to identify and notify biological adult family members, especially grandparents, when a child is entering foster care. It’s also the law for organizations to do family finding to notify a biological parent in cases where a child is up for adoption. Unfortunately, family finding in Mexico can be very challenging as this case demonstrates.It’s important for state agencies to acknowledge that specialized family finding services are often needed to help with cases involving family members, in Mexico, of children in foster care. This case is still ongoing and now that an expert in Onomastics has reviewed the information, it’s possible that better information will allow for another family finding search that can ultimately unite the grandparents with their grandchild.