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Family history moments: The gentleman blacksmith

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Alone on his horse, Detective Sergeant Tiofilo G. Cervantes rode from Orange County, California, down into Mexico in the early 1900s to single-handedly apprehend and bring back a murderer. He had a gift for investigation that allowed him uncanny insight into the criminal mind. He was a law enforcement legend and enjoyed a colorful local reputation.

Not only was he the first constable for Orange Township, a deputy constable in the Santa Ana Township, and one of the first plainclothes detectives for the Long Beach Police Department. He was also a blacksmith.

Even with such renown, however, my grandfather's origins remained elusive. In 1993, I sent a diskette away to be uploaded into the Ancestral File.

On Jan. 24, 2000, I received a letter from Officer Todd Houser, chairman of the Long Beach Police Department Historical Society, who was researching my grandfather, Detective Cervantes, "the gentleman blacksmith from McPherson." I immediately called him. I learned that Officer Houser had accessed the Ancestral File of the Church to find the information he was seeking and had identified my name as submitter.

The lack of information about my grandfather was a puzzle that intrigued him. I told him that I had photographs of my grandfather and could regale him with a few stories about early California police work. We arranged for a meeting.

I visited with Officer Houser several times. He was able to provide valuable historical information regarding my grandfather's law enforcement service. I provided him with a photograph of my grandfather on his horse, which has recently been included in an almost life-sized historical photographic display in the chief's conference room at the Long Beach Police Department.

The Ancestral File has been a vehicle through which prayer has been dramatically answered, connections have been made and information previously lost to our family shared.

Linda Cervantes Briggs, Laguna Niguel 1st Ward, Laguna Niguel, Calif.


Another in a series of "Family History Moments."

Illustration by John Clark.