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Defending the Honor of Agueda Seminario Besada

In her magnificent article on Seminario genealogy, Isabel Ramos Seminario tallied up the results of a survey she did as she reviewed the records of Seminario baptisms in Piura's cathedral.  Of the 447 baptismal records for the descendants of Manuel Seminario Saldivar and Isabel Jaime de los Rios through 1902, she found 143 descended from legitimate ancestors, 270 from illegitimate ancestors, and 34 from slaves.

I mention this because Seminarios seem to know and care whether they descend from legitimate or illegitimate ancestors.  I've met the descendants of both, and they are all, in varying degrees, smart, quick, energetic, charming and impatient. I haven't met any descendants of the slaves, but it wouldn't surprise me if they share the same traits.  The Seminario genes are very strong.

The Seminario genealogists recognize illegitimate ancestors as members of the Seminario family.  In my mind, this is as it should be. The Bible says, "The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father... The wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself".  I find it hard to believe that any reasonable person, much less a good Christian, should treat someone differently because of an indiscretion committed by an ancestor six or seven generations ago.

However, the Seminario family genealogists do make one exception to their respectful treatment of the illegitimate.  In the Seminario online trees, Agueda Besada is shown as the illegitimate daughter of Miguel Gerónimo Seminario Jaime and Juliana Besada Valdez.  In almost all the trees, her name is shown as Agueda Besada, not Agueda Seminario Besada.  Some of the trees even carry the notation "no lleva el apellido del padre" (she doesn't have her father's surname) or "no reconocida" (not recognized).

I searched carefully for the baptismal of Agueda Seminario Besada.  Based on a woman's normal childbearing years, I figured that Agueda must have been born between 1805 and 1819, and searched the baptisms for these years, and a few years before and after, without finding anything.  Without her baptismal record, I cannot say with certainty whether she was recognized by her father. 

The fact is that Miguel Gerónimo Seminario had a number of illegimate children.  He didn't marry his legitimate wife, Juana Manuela Vascones Rodríguez, until October 31, 1814, when he was around 50 years old.  He seemed to have devoted his earlier years to having short relationships with several daughters of the good families of Piura without marrying them.  The Besadas were one of these good families.  In reviewing Piura church records on microfilm, I have found several marriages between legitimate Seminarios and Besadas.

The family genealogists recognize the other illegitimate children of Miguel Gerónimo as Seminarios.  Why not Agueda?

I think I understand the reasons, but have learned they are based on false information.  If you believe what the online trees say, Agueda had a child with her 14-year-old half brother, then moved on and had children out of wedlock with two or three other men.  Her record might as well be marked with a scarlet letter.

A couple of months ago, I discovered that Piura church records are available on microfilm, and have spent a good deal of time searching for old records that I've been trying to find for years.  In the process, I found several records involving Agueda that present a different picture of her life and call into question where she deserves the calumny of her descendants.

Marriage with José Toribio Seminario

Some of the Seminario trees record Agueda as the wife or partner of Juan Ignacio Seminario del Castillo, a son of Fernando Torcuato Seminario and his wife María Joaquina del Castillo who was born around 1802.  Some also say that Juan Ignacio was the father of Eleodora Seminario Besada, born in 1842.

In January 2016, I began to doubt the information in the Seminario trees when I found a death certificate for Eleodora Seminario Besada dated November 7, 1907 in Lima, which says that her parents were José Toribio Seminario and Agueda Besada de Seminario.  She died at age 64, so they figured she was born in 1843.  I was later able to verify that she was born on November 9, 1842. 

The only José Toribio Seminario who appears in the Seminario trees was a legitimate son of Miguel Gerónimo Seminario and Manuela Vascones who was born on May 31, 1828, and who was a half-brother of Agueda.  So he was 14 when Eleodora was born and 13 when she was conceived.  For two years, I have believed that Agueda had a daughter with her 14-year-old half brother.

However, after gaining access to the Piura Cathedral records on microfilm, I found the baptismal certificate of Eleodora, named at baptism María Eliodora de las Mercedes, although in subsequent documents she never used María and changed the spelling to Eleodora.

Family Search will not allow me to publish a copy of the original document, but it can be seen on this page:
(This link should work if you have an account with Family Search. If not, the document can also be seen by going to, options Search and then Catalog, microfilm number 8109874.  When the microfilm appears, enter image number 37.)

It is the first baptismal on the page, entry 1810.  For those who don't read Spanish or have trouble with the ancient handwriting, it says that María Eliodora de la Mercedes, illegitimate daughter, was baptized November 25, 1842, 16 days after birth, and her parents were José Toribio Seminario and Agueda Besada.  In the marginal note, there's an entry added later which says: "Legitimated by subsequent marriage on August 30, 1853".

But how can this be?  Agueda Besada never married Jose Toribio Seminario Vascones.  He married María Dolores Cortés Romero in 1858 and they had three children.

I searched for the certificate of the 1853 marriage and found it.  Here it is - entry 210:
(Microfilm 8109877, image 1603)

It says that on August 25, 1853, Toribio Seminario and Agueda Seminario were married.  The names are written twice, once in the margin and once in the text.  In both places, Agueda's name is shown as Agueda Seminario, not Agueda Besada.  But even though there is a minor date error, the marginal note on Eleodora's baptismal of 1842 leaves no doubt that the Agueda Besada shown as Eleodora's mother, and the Agueda Seminario on the 1853 marriage certificate, are the same person

Is it possible that José Toribio Seminario Vascones married Agueda in 1853 and then married María Dolores Cortés in 1858?

I kept searching and found a baptismal for another child of  José Toribio and Agueda Seminario here as entry 439:
(Microfilm 8109874, image 562)

It says that on January 15, 1851,  José Felix was baptized, at age one year and four months, illegitimate son of  José Toribio Seminario and Agueda Besada.  The godparents were Ignacio Seminario and Mariana Seminario y Castillo.  The record bears the same marginal note that the child was legitimated by subsequent marriage on August 30, 1853.

I then found another daughter of Jose Toribio and Agueda in entry 2376:
(Microfilme 8109874, imagen 92)

It says that on April 14, 1844, María de los Dolores Florentina was baptized, the illegitimate daughter of Jose Toribio Seminario and Agueda Besada.  The godparents were Jose Antonio Viña and Teresa Reyes.  This certificate also has the marginal note saying that the child was legitimated by subsequent marriage.

I also found this baptismal from 1837, entry 3122:
(Microfilm 8109873, image 2462)

It says that on November 11, 1837, Juan José was baptized one day after birth, illegitimate son of José Toribio Seminario and Agueda Besada.  The godparents were Pedro Seminario and Maria Josefa Seminario.  There is no marginal note regarding legitimation.

The birth of Juan José occurred when José Toribio Seminario Vascones was 9 years old.  The child was conceived when he was 8.  I can believe that a Seminario was capable of fathering a child at 13, but 8 seems impossible.  I figured out that the father of these children and husband of Agueda had to be another José Toribio Seminario, until now unknown by the Seminario genealogists.

I found the baptismal for the other José Toribio Seminario.  It is here under entry 752:
(Microfilm 8109873, image 587)

It says that on October 3, 1790, Josef Toribio (abbreviated Torbº) was baptized at three months of age, illegitimate son of Gerónimo Seminario and Teresa García.  The mother's name is a little hard to make out even though it is written twice, in the margin and the text.  I've consulted with an expert in paleography and we agree that "Teresa García" is the most likely possibility.  This also fits with the online Seminario trees, which show that Miguel Geronimo Seminario and Maria Teresa Garcia had a daughter named Carmen Seminario Garcia.

I searched in the same range of years to see if there was a baptism recorded for yet another José Toribio Seminario, but didn't find any.  The man born in 1790, though named Josef, used the name José, and was of a reasonable age to have fathered children in 1837, 1842, 1844 and 1851.  I believe he was the husband of Agueda and the father of her children.

Relationship with Juan Ignacio Seminario del Castillo

Some of Seminario trees say that Agueda was married to Juan Ignacio Seminario del Castillo.  I searched diligently for a marriage certificate without finding anything.  The evidence indicates that Agueda lived with Juan Ignacio for a few years when she was young, before her long partnership with Jose Toribio Seminario.

I found a record of a daughter they had in entry 1040 of the following page:
(Microfilme 8109873, imagen 2305)
It states that on November 17, 1834, Manuela Edelmira was baptized, at 11 months of age, the illegitimate daughter of Juan Seminario and Agueda Besada.  The Seminario trees say they had another child, Jose Manuel Seminario Besada, whose date of birth is unknown.  I could not find a baptismal certificate for him, but I have no reason to doubt the trees.

This partnership seems to have been short, maybe lasting two or three years, and ending around the time Manuela Edelmira was born, because Juan Ignacio married Maria Ignacia Echeandia Ramos on October 15, 1835, and they had 11 children.

The reason for ending the partnership is not known, but I don't believe it was due to Agueda's bad behavior.  In the above baptismal for Jose Felix Seminario Besada, baptized in 1851, the godparents are recorded as Ignacio Seminario and Mariana Seminario y Castillo.  I believe that this Ignacio was Juan Ignacio Seminario del Castillo since he had a sister named Mariana Seminario del Castillo.  It seems doubtful that they would agree to be godparents in 1851 if there was some scandal between Juan Ignacio and Agueda in prior years.


We should also consider the fact that the Church decided to recognize the 1853 marriage of José Toribio and Agueda.  I don't whether the policy of recognizing a marriage after many years of living together and having children was official Church policy, but I've seen several similar cases in Piura during this period, sometimes in families of impeccable pedigree.

For example, Miguel Seminario del Castillo, legitimate son of Fernando Torcuato Seminario and Maria Joaquina del Castillo, and permanent municipal administrator of Piura, lived together and had at least seven children between 1826 and 1839 with Lucia Guzman Palomino, legitimate daughter of Jose Guzman and Angelina Palomino.  But they didn't marry until July 12, 1846 in Tambogrande.  The baptismal certificates of their daughters Josefa Luisa, Anselma, Maria Josefa and Carolina have the same annotation as the children of Agueda, that they were legitimated by the subsequent marriage of their parents.  I have found the marriage certificate for Miguel and Lucia, as well as the baptismal certificates for the seven children, and they are available by email.

I cite this example because it seems logical that the Church would not consecrate a marriage if one member of the couple was notorious for shameful conduct.  Piura and the surrounding cities were small towns in those times.  The circle of landowning families was limited and they all knew each other.

Based on the findings, my conclusions are:

  1. Agueda never had a child with a 14-year-old half brother.  The problem arose from the confusion of similar names between Josef Toribio Seminario García, born in 1790, and Jose Toribio Seminario Vascones, born in 1828.

  2. In her youth, Agueda hooked up with her first cousin Juan Ignacio Seminario de Castillo and they had two children.  The partnership ended around 1834.

  3. Starting around 1836, Agueda partnered for about 17 years with a half brother, Josef Toribio Seminario, before marrying him. They had at least four children, of which at least three were legitimated by their marriage.  Perhaps they wanted to marry when they were young but could not obtain a dispensation from the Catholic Church.  But in 1853 they were married in the Church despite their consanguinity, and without lying about their names, since both were recorded as Seminarios.

  4. There is no evidence that Agueda had illicit relationships or children with other men.

  5. Even though she was the illegitimate child of Miguel Gerónimo Seminario y Juliana Besada Valdez, the evidence that exists indicates that she was a faithful and honorable person in her personal relationships.

The son of the son Agueda had with Juan Ignacio married the daughter of the daughter she had with Jose Toribio.  I believe that Agueda's greatest sin was making the Seminario family tree look like a pretzel.

I recommend that Seminario genealogists recognize Agueda in their family trees as Agueda Seminario Besada.

Bob Bordier,
Written:   April 27, 2018     Updated:  August 24, 2018