It was a hot day in Highland Park. Len and I had just returned to the campaign headquarters for Gil Cedillo, candidate for Los Angeles City Council, District 1.

Even though we live in La Cañada and despite the endorsement of Cedillo's opponent by our mothership, the L.A. Times, Len and I had decided to walk precincts in Highland Park and Cypress Park.

Cedillo was in a runoff against Jose Gardea, the chief of staff to the outgoing L.A. City Councilman, Ed Reyes.

Gardea and Cedillo may be indistinguishable to some La Cañadans, but there were two reasons we had taken on this task. First, there's a family connection. Len's cousin, Dan, was brought in as Cedillo's campaign manager for the runoff. In the primary, Cedillo, with 49.32% of the ballots cast, was less than 120 votes shy of avoiding the runoff. Dan is a lawyer with considerable campaign credentials. His daughter, Christina, also worked on the runoff campaign. Family matters.

The second reason we were pounding the pavements had to do with a La Cañada connection.

We were hanging out at the headquarters when we met some female members of the extended Barragan clan. The Barragans are longtime and admirable social activists in Highland Park.

I had just asked Luisa Barragan Palacios why she supported Gil Cedillo.

“Porque este es mi tierra,” was her reply.

This translates to “Because this is my land.”

“That's nice,” I replied. I was thinking “Kumbaya” and campfires.

But then, her niece, Olga Barragan, chimed in.

“She means that it really is our land,” Olga said. “Have you ever heard of José María Verdugo?”

So, there we were, in Highland Park, at the Gil Cedillo headquarters, talking to direct descendants of the true founding father of La Cañada Flintridge.

José María Verdugo Carrillo was the son of Juan Diego Verdugo and María Ygnacia de la Concepción Carrillo. He was born around 1750 in Baja California. In 1784, Verdugo received a land grant for a 36,000-plus-acre parcel known as Rancho San Rafael, with boundaries from the Arroyo Seco to San Fernando.

In the late 1770s, Verdugo married María de la Encarnación López. They had 11 children.

The Barragans are descended from María Ignacia Verdugo López, one of those 11 children.

María Ignacia married an Anglo named James (or Jonathan) Wilcox Smith, whose ancestry can be traced back up to the American Revolution.

“This is my land,” said Luisa, this time in English.

“You should talk to my mom,” said Olga. “She's the family genealogy expert.”

To be continued in a few weeks…

ANITA SUSAN BRENNER is a longtime La Cañada Flintridge resident and an attorney with Law Offices of Torres and Brenner in Pasadena. Email her and follow her on Twitter @anitabrenner.