Archival work has been a fun, exciting, yet often confusing journey for me so far. Currently, I am working on the Ana Begue de Packman Papers, which is a collection that consists of Packman’s photographs, newspaper articles, manuscripts, genealogies, maps, correspondence pertaining to the history of the city of Los Angeles, California missions, and Southern California ranchos.
Specifically, within the collection I have been sifting through Box 10, folder 8. This folder consists of material related to cattle brands of rancheros in Southern California, which is rooted in Mexican Los Angeles history. The artifact that piqued my interest is this piece of paper titled ‘BRAND on RANCHO PALOS VERDES’. Within this paper, 3 brands are drawn in pencil in the left margins of the paper. Indented to the right of these brands are the text description of the brand. The first brand is in an elaborate S shape with a small v as an accent in the middle. This brand per the description is confirmed to Dona Maria Juana Pantoja, widow of Don Dolores Sepulveda, and was recorded on June 11, 1855. It is noted that this woman married Don Jose Antonio Machado. The second brand is in a heart shape, with a Y as a stem at the top of the heart. This brand per the description is identified for the cattle of Don Juan Maria Sepulveda, and was issued on October 23, 1839, by Alcalde Tiburcio Tapaia. The third brand is also heart shaped but more round, and has a sort of cursive y as the stem. This brand per the description is registered to Don Juan Sepulveda and Dona Felipa Alaniz de Sepulveda and was confirmed on November 13, 1855 by John W. Shore.
This piece of paper seems to be an objective document that logs the different cattle brands of Rancho Palos Verdes. However, there is no physical stamp or ink indication as to whether or not this is an official documentation by some local government or a document written for personal use. Because the brands were drawn in pencil, this makes the document seem unofficial, and raises further questions to whom this document was written for. When I read through the text, the first questions I asked were ‘Who were these people’? The three brands were either issued to someone with the last name Sepulveda or related to someone with the last name Sepulveda. As a UCLA student, I recognized that Sepulveda is one of the major streets in the city of Los Angeles. A quick secondary research online said that Rancho de los Palos Verdes was a part of a land dispute claimed by Jose Dolores Sepulveda, a Mexican colonial for the Sepulveda family. This document holds information that could be chronicling the genealogy of the Sepulveda family and it could be a potential lead for more information about the development of Mexican Los Angeles specific to that region. The second question I pondered was, ‘Why are there different dates?’ The dates jumped from 1855, to 1839, to 1855 again. This seems to solidify the idea that the Sepulveda family won the claims, had been on Rancho Palos Verdes for many years, and that the lands were generationally passed down. Other questions that I asked were for what purpose was this document written? Was it written to be similar to a family tree but with cattle brands? Was it purely for informational and identifying purposes to officials and to authorities? These questions may or may not be answered as I continue to go through my archival research but nonetheless, they pose interesting circumstances that I would have otherwise never come across.