In 1842, he was born in the Canary Islands, a string of islands off the coast of Africa owned then by Spain. When he came to Key West is undocumented, as many arrivals were. The historian at the Key West Library surmised that he most likely came to Key West from the Canaries by way of Cuba. The only information I found of an Antonio Cruz arriving in the US from Spain was a ship's record from Spain to New Orleans. Whether this is our Antonio remains a mystery. Whether he came with his family is also unknown. There are no records for his parents, so I'm assuming they were either dead or he left them behind. Cenus records prove that his parents were also born in the Canary Islands, so it's safe to say our family history dates back to those islands from at least the early part of the 19th century. I do know that his future father-in-law Sylvestre Perez was also from the Canary Islands. Whether they knew each other before they lived in Key West can't be known.
The next event we can know for sure: In 1871, Antonio, age 29, marries Mary Concepcion "Concha" Perez, age 16. Mary is the daughter of Sylvester Perez and Juana Arias. She was born in Key West, though her parents were from the Canary Islands. Together, she and Antonio would have 11 children together. Their first child, a daughter Carmen, was born two years after they married in 1873. Their second child would become my great-great grandfather, Antonio "Tony" Cruz, Jr. He was born in 1874. Antonio and Mary would have three more sons before the 1880 census was taken: Sylvester, John, and Enrique.
The 1880 census records them as living with Mary's parents on Eaton Street. At age 38, Antonio was a seamen. Mary, age 24, worked at home. Carmen, 7, was in school, and the four boys, ages 5-infant, were at home. Because they were all living together, it can be deduced that it was a struggle for everyone just to get by. Even if the house was fairly large, which I'm sure it wasn't, I imagine it was very tight quarters. By 1887, they may have gotten their own home. According to Bensel's City Directory, there was a Antonio Cruz, cigarmaker, living on Whitehead Street. (While census records show Antonio as a seamen, it is known that his sons were cigarmakers, and he may have been a cigarmaker also.)
Due to a fire in Washington D.C., almost all of the 1890 census records (recording nearly 63 million Americans) were destroyed.
The next information available for Mary is the 1900 census, which shows her as being married but the head of the house. It is perplexing why Antonio wasn't named as head of the house, and the only reason I can come up with was that since he was a mariner, he was at sea during the time the census was taken. In 1900, they were renting a house at 604 Margaret Street. Carmen, her oldest child, is not listed in the census. It is assumed she married and left home.
My great-great grandfather Antonio, who worked as a cigarmaker, was married to my great-great-grandmother Lula Mayfield Knowles. They lived next door with their children Oscar and Florine. Antonio and Mary's next oldest son, Sylvester, was married to Irene Russell. They lived with the Russell family a few streets away on Southard.
John, Joseph, and Henry still lived at home with Mary. They were all cigarmakers. John, age 20, is listed as married, and his wife Winifred Knowles (Lula's sister) lived with them. Joseph, age 18, and Henry, age 17, were single. Also living with Concha were the rest of she and Antonio's children: Rafaela (15), Frank (12), Alma (10), and Leno (4). Rafaela, Frank, and Alma were in school.
Antonio dies sometime between 1900-1910, as Mary is listed as widowed in the 1910 census. In 1918, Joseph's WWI draft card lists his mother as his nearest relative. There's a Concha Cruz listed in 1920, living with her are three sons, John (29) (widowed, his wife Winifred died in 1918), Joseph (22), and Edmund (19). But there's a problem, this Edmund is new to the scene. There's no earlier record of him. Leno, who would have been 14, was not listed at all. The three sons were still cigarmakers. The 1910 also states that Mary had 11 children, but only 9 living. Carmen and Enrique must have died young. Her daughter, Rafaela, lived next door with her husband and children.
Mary must have died before 1930 as she's not listed in that census. A burial card exists for her, so she is buried in the Key West Cemetary, but her grave is unmarked and the location isn't known. Her burial card only contains her name, no date.
Antonio & Mary's legacy:
Carmen Cruz: At some point before 1900, Carmen married Florendo Camero. They lived in Key West for a while, and had three daughters: Eulalia, Florinda, and Calmeline. They eventually moved to Havana, Cuba. Obviously, no records of Carmen can be obtained today, but she is mentioned in her brother Antonio's obituary in 1939 as still living in Havana. When she died is not known at this time.
Antonio, Jr. married Lula Knowles and they had 7 children: Oscar, Florine, Albert (my great-grandpa), Hubert, Frank, Doris, and Jack. Antonio was a cigarmaker turned fireman. He died in Lake City, FL. (More about him later).
Sylvester married Irene Russell and they had 5 children, 3 boys and 2 girls: Helena, Guy, Bernard, Eddison, and Evangeline. In 1920, Helena was an assistant for a photographer, Guy worked at the US Naval Air Station, and Bernard was a printer. Sylvester worked as a cigarmaker. He died in 1931.
John mostly worked as in the cigar factory, but when work was needed on Lower Matecumbe Key for Flagler's railroad, he and his son followed. According to other family researchers, John ran the restaurant at the ferry terminus in Matecumbe. His son Louis was the engineer on the ferry, Monroe County. Both John and Louis were killed during the Labor Day hurricane of 1935. John was swept away. Louis presumably left the ferry to find his father. Both were lost. John Cruz's body was found at Bouy Key, near the Everglades in Florida Bay, by the Coast Guard and is buried there. Burial place. Louis's body was never found. He was 35 when he died and left his wife Ruby and four children.
Enrique: Born in 1880, he was 2 months old when that census was taken. There are no other records for Enrique, but he was mentioned in Antonio's obituary as living in Key West in 1939.
Henry (born in 1884) and who must have been named after his older brother Enrique, married an English girl named Priscilla. They had 7 children together: Edward, Harold, Florida, Isabel, Mary, Leo, and Evonne. Henry did not follow the cigarmaking industry, but rather was a clerk in a restaurant. Prior to the Depression, he was the owner of a restaurant. In 1930, his son, Edward, was a laborer for the golf course. Son Harold was a seaman for the lighthouse. In 1945, he was a bartender. Henry died in 1959.
Rafaela married a German tailor, George Loessner. Together, they had three children: Alvina, Ernest, and Florence. Their travelled often, appearing on passenger lists from Cuba to New Orleans, and George would apply for a passport to travel alone for three months abroad in 1911. They would eventually settle in Lake City, Florida, which is where they are buried. Rafaela died in 1976.
Alma was 10 during the 1900 census. No other record of her exists. It's possible she was married and not living at home when the 1910 census was taken.
Leno was the baby of the family. At some point, he married a local Key West girl, Camille Cook. They had 1 daughter together, Mary. Leno works as a chauffer. But Camille dies young in 1931. Poor Mary was just 8 years old. Leno remarries soon after, to a woman named Jennie (maiden name unknown). They have 3 children together: Ondina, Betty Jean, and Gilbert. In the 1945 census, Leno works as a truck driver. He died in January, 1956.