Checking the Facts: Is Greg Abbott's Wife Really Texas' First Hispanic First Lady?

Jan 7, 2015

Gov. Greg Abbott on NBC's Meet the Press in December.

The next Texas governor said his wife is making history as the “first Hispanic first lady of Texas.” The Austin American-Statesman’s PolitiFact Texas fact-checking team was on the case, digging up ancestry research to assess the validity of Abbott’s claim.

Abbott made the declaration in early December on an episode of Meet the Press.

Skip to 3:21 on the clip below.

Statesman staff, determined to verify the accuracy of the governor’s statement, found information via ancestry.com about Abbott’s wife, Cecilia Phalen Abbott.

“Our Dylan Baddour dug in with help from the Statesman’s Addie Broyles, who knows her way around the ancestry.com, the online genealogy database," said Gardner Selby, also of the Statesman.

"Together they found information attributed to the 1940 United States Federal Census indicating Cecilia Phalen Abbott, the governor-elect’s wife, is the granddaughter of Mexican immigrants – Leonara and Augustin Segura – who settled in San Antonio before 1935."

Selby said that his team also found actual census records that indicated the same.

“A federal website included a chart showing Maria de la Luz Segura, Cecilia Abbott’s mother, was born in 1935 in San Antonio, where she lived with her parents, grandparents, and siblings,” he said.

As for Cecilia Phalen Abbott’s father’s side of the family, they most likely were of Irish descent, according to the Statesman’s research.

So Texas’ new first lady is of Mexican descent. But does that make her the first Hispanic first lady?

Yes, Selby said.

“When the region was ruled by Spain and then Mexico, there were multiple Latina first ladies,” he said. But since statehood in 1845, no, there has not been a Latina or Hispanic first lady. So Abbott’s claim, the publication concluded, is true.

Read more about the research that went into this fact-check, as well as about how the Statesman defines "Hispanic," over at the paper's PolitiFact site