52 Ancestors: John Breil, Born Near My Birthday

I could have written about a few ancestors for this prompt, but I’ve already written about several of the ancestors who have a birthday closest to mine.  This time I’ve selected Jean Breil who was born 3 days after my birthday.

Jean Breil was born 31 Jan 1812 in Izeste, Pyrenees Atlantique, France.  He was the son of Jean Breil and Marie Anne Claverie Moulare.

Jean married Jeanne Mazou Berges who was from the same village.  I don’t have their marriage yet, but their earliest child was born in 1834.  They had at least five children from 1834 to 1845.

Jean’s profession was miller.  It was the same as his father.

Sometime between 1834 and 1839 when the second child was born, the family moved to the village of Castet.  It’s not too far from Izeste.

This Google Map shows the two locations. Castet wasn’t that far from Izeste.

View Larger Map

Jean died 17 Mar 1862 in Castet.  He was 62 years old.

There is one thing that is different between Jean and his descendants.  It’s the spelling of his surname.  The people in this region of France were literate and signed records for themselves.  He and his father used Breil.

In 1827, his father remarried.  He signed his name Jean Breilh.  The children of Jean Breil the son are all recorded in baptismal records as Breilh.  Braille is the spelling we are more familiar with for this French surname.  Breil must have been a regional spelling.    Why they decided to stick an h at the end in the 1820s is a mystery to me.

Jean Breil, the son, is my third great grandfather.



52 Ancestors: Rosa Boteilho was a Tough Woman

This is my entry for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge, week 3: Tough Woman.

It’s not easy to flesh out the stories of Azorean women.  You are dealing with baptismal, marriage, and death records.  That’s it.  Often, women are elusive because of naming practices which involved taking a religious name rather than a surname.  A religious name that can change throughout their life.

Rosa Jacinto Boteilho was born 24 Feb 1824 in the village of Maia in Ribeira Grande on the island of Sao Miguel.  She was the daughter of Antonio Boteilho da Rocha and Antonia Leonor.

Rosa married Felicianno de Mello (aka Felicianno Mello Castanho) 26 Oct 1840 at Divino Espirito Santo Church in Maia.  He was 33.  She was only 16.  He was a soldier who had left the village for some time, but returned about 3 years prior.

This is a photo of their village and how it looks today.


To say that Rosa endured hardship is an understatement. Rosa had at least 12 children.  As I’ve worked through the obitos (death records), I’ve seen those children die one by one.  I’ve only worked in the 1860s and so far I’ve found 5 of her children have passed away before the age of 5.  From what I’ve seen in the records, I suspect some sort of epidemic came through the village and affected children the most.  One year there were over 100 deaths (usually 30-40 were normal) and 90% were children.

Rosa died at the age of 44 on 1 Feb 1869.  When she died, only three of her children were alive.  By the time Felicianno died in 1884, only two were surviving.  My great grandmother, Maria, and her brother, Jose.

I don’t know Rosa’s cause of death, but if they had written down heartache I would not have been surprised.  I can’t imagine what it would have been like for her to watch one child after another pass away.  She lost three children in 1863 alone.

She may be a strange candidate for tough woman since she only lived to 44.  I can only imagine the emotional pain that she carried with her.   She gave birth to her first child in 1841 and her last in 1864.  The fact that after each child died she continued to get pregnant and try again says something about her and her inner strength.   Or, perhaps I choose to see it that way.  I think it was a tough life, with much suffering.  That is why she wins the award for tough woman in my tree.  No one should have had to endure what she did, but I know, many have.




52 Ancestors: #2 Goncalo Vaz Botelho, Descendant of a King

This is week 2 of 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. This week’s theme: King. I am writing about Goncalo Vaz Botelho, descendant of kings and queens.  In scanning the list I see the first connection is Fernando I, the King of Castille and Leon (1345-1383).  Goncalo is his 12 great grandson.

Not many know, and I certainly didn’t before I delved into genealogy, that the Azores Island were first populated by minor nobles.  They were ordered by the Infante (you know him as Henry the Navigator).  Goncalo showed up on Sao Miguel Island in 1450.  He is known as one of the founders and first settlers of the island.  It would be interesting to see if my Botelho’s of the 1800s link back to Goncalo.

Goncalo was probably born around 1420 in Portugal.  His parents were Pedro Botelho, a High Commander in the Ordem da Cristo (the Order of Christ) and Isabel Anes Buarcos.

I do not know the name of his wife, but according to the works of Gaspar Frutuoso and Rodrigo Rodrigues, they had five children:  Nuno, Antao, Goncalo, Joao, and Francisco.  Amazingly, they all took the same surname:  Goncalves Botelho.

I descend from his son, Nuno and his wife, Catarina Rodrigues.

According to Wikipedia, Goncalo is the founder of Vila Franca do Campo on Sao Miguel Island.  It was considered one of the larger settlements.  Today, Vila Franca do Campo looks like this…

Vila Franca do Campo

By Ruben JC Furtado (Photo taken by contributor) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Frutuoso doesn’t say much about Goncalo in his book “Livro Quarto das Saudades da Terra: Volume 1″.  He does note that Goncalo was a favorite of the Infante.  He also notes that he had the nickname “O Grande”, noting that he was large in size and stature, a respected man on the island.

My connection to Goncalo is through my 3rd great grandmother, Rosa Medeiros Pacheco, who was born in Maia, Ribeira Grande, Sao Miguel Island in 1810.   Goncalo is my 15th great grandfather.  Think I can cash in on some of that royalty today?