Your Stories: An Artist and her Family Tree

Posted April 22, 2015 by Amanda | No Comment
Geni user story: Theresa Renée Eléna Delgado-Tossas

Theresa Renée Eléna Delgado-Tossas

We love hearing from our users, especially when they are as passionate and enthusiastic for the World Family Tree as Theresa Renée Eléna Delgado-Tossas, also known as the artist, Renée Walker.

Theresa Renée was born in Berlin, Germany on an Air Force instillation where her parents were stationed. An artist and performer, she splits her time between Arecibo, Puerto Rico and the Mannheim/Heidelberg areas of Germany.

Several events sparked her quest into her family’s genealogy, beginning at a young age,

“The first curiosity began when I was the tender age of 7½ years old. I was informed by my paternal first cousin and her husband that I was adopted within the family.”

During the 1980’s, her paternal grandmother, Eléna vda. Tossas (Correa Vazquez), lived with the family in New Jersey.

“[She] had confided in us that she was the 8th great granddaughter of the legendary hero of Arecibo, Puerto Rico: Antonio de los Reyes Correa.”

In addition, her adoptive mother turned to a professional genealogist to investigate the family’s history, but the work was lost.

Geni user story: Theresa Renée Eléna Delgado-Tossas

Aunt Norma & her eldest son, HBO comedian Gene Merola / photo courtesy of Gene Merola

“This work, which was likely lost to one of the many floods [that] occur often enough on the Jersey Shore, I never saw more of than, the front cover and the coat of arms, which was created for my adoptive father.”

The pull towards knowing and preserving her family history came again after a death in the family.

“Just before my Aunt Norma passed away in the early years of 2000’s, she told me ‘You know, it will be your calling to keep the family together, then.’ in reference to when she was gone. Though, I had begun researching a few years before her passing. After the fact, I took ‘the burden’ of this responsibility very seriously and intensified my efforts, threefold, from then on.”

During her research, Theresa Renée came upon an amazing discovery.

“I believe one of the most entertaining stories I have to offer, in regards to researching family, was when I had located President John Adams, his son, John Quincy Adams, Gerald Ford, Ulysses S. Grant, a Pierpont and Lady Bird Johnson, within my Whitney branches, with the help of the Whitney Research Group’s extensive archives and documentation. This led me to post a Facebook status update stating, ‘I wonder if I could go be marked down as one of the pop/rock stars with the most connections to the Presidents of the United States of America?” To which an old school friend, Ken Kerrigan, commented back with a link to a girl (BridgeAnne deAvignon), who had recently (at the time, end of 2012) constructed a family tree connecting all the U.S. Presidents (except Martin Van Buren) to King John Plantagenet of Magna Carte & Robin Hood fame, and stated all I had to do was prove I was related to her, somehow. So, I joined her site and promptly received the answer that I was related to all the Presidents of the U.S. through my maternal lineages! That was likely, the biggest breakthrough I have experienced researching.”

In February 2013, Theresa Renée joined Geni and quickly took a liking to it.

“I was always interested in connecting the world, somehow, through genealogical lineages, having been convinced and a true believer of the ‘Everything is connected’ concept, since my youth and the Big Geni World Family Tree was exactly the perfect platform to actually attempt this massive feat.”

And she’s been lucky enough to get her family involved too!

Geni user stories: Theresa Renée Eléna Delgado-Tossas

The Cromer/Sullenberger/Whitney families of Ohio & Manistee, Michigan / photo courtesy of Lance Wave

“I have invited about 20 family members here on Geni who have accepted the challenge and are actively involved in the process of patching our common branches together and adding their own perspective ‘otherwise related.’ I have a handful of cousins here who are also passionate about genealogy. A few I’d like to mention by name, as they truly deserve credit for their extra ordinary engagement in researching and collaborating on our common roots. These are: Yenira Tossas Burgos, Maria Antonia Rivera Domenech (my husband’s cousin), Manel Tosas (our Catalan branch connection), Joan Tosas Rius (our main Catalan connection, who, very unfortunately, passed away very suddenly this past November), Teresita Munoz Landron, Monica Frances LaMont, Marilu Vazquez Pasarell, my wonderful husband (who has never once complained that I spend every free moment possible working on our tree), as well as all of the wonderful new found cousins, who are always supporting and assisting each other here in (usually) fruitful collaborations!”

She’s had a blast with Geni’s relationship paths to find her connections to some very famous relatives, such as Lucille Ball, Julia Roberts, William Shakespeare and many more.

And through Geni, Theresa Renée has also found some close cousins as well.

“Through Geni I have located a good handful of very close cousins, previously unknown to me. All between first cousin once removed to fifth cousins. Being included in my Geni “family group” – this has naturally led to collaborations of the best kind, as well as, to the planning of small reunions and personal meet ups!

Although not much has changed for me respectively, as my family was always very large, I have heard from some of the new found close cousins that it has been very important for them, having been ‘the only child of an only child and not realizing they were part of a really big family,’ which has been extremely satisfying to myself on my ‘mission’ bestowed upon me by my Aunt back at the beginning of 2000’s.”

After years working on her family tree, Theresa Renée has some words of advice for genealogy beginners,

“I think my most useful bit of advice would be: Connect and collaborate!!!

Family trees, being much like an enormous puzzle, are best completed with other connected families. It seems that everyone has exclusive knowledge of their immediate branches, which they can add, making the best tree possible, only truly possible, together.”

Thank you Theresa Renée for sharing your personal journey with us! Do you have a story to share? Let us know at

All photos provided by Theresa Renée Eléna Delgado-Tossas

Post written by Amanda

Amanda is the Marketing Communications Manager at Geni. If you need any assistance, she will be happy to help!

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