What Can We Learn about Helen from Obituaries?

What Can We Learn about Helen from Obituaries?

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Genealogy Research journal #3, entry #3

Time to Look for Obituaries

I had to start somewhere with my research on Helen Correia. Since there were five sets of Pacheco parents that Helen could belong to, it was important to firmly establish who her birth parents were.  As she was thought to be one of the “Reds”, children of Joana (Gonsalves Cardozo) and Joao Pacheco, the next step was to track down her possible siblings.

Cal State University East Bay (or Cal State Hayward as we still call it) has a fine collection of Oakland and San Francisco newspapers.  When I did this research in the 1990s, it was all on microfilm.  I staked out a microfilm reader, got myself a cart, and loaded up several boxes of film.

Siblings Found

The obituary research, though tedious, proved fruitful. I found three obituaries in the Hayward Daily Review for Joana and Joao’s children: John (1982), Antone (1975), and Francisco (1960).  Each contained a sibling named Helen Correia. The obituaries helped confirm the information given by Isabella (Pacheco/de Braga) Ventura who was their sister.

The next step was to look at the Oakland Tribune and hope that the family published an obituary for their mother. It seems before 1950, the Portuguese Hawaiians were less inclined to have obituaries published in mainstream newspapers.  They chose the Portuguese language newspapers or had the obituary read over Portuguese radio.

Birth Mother’s Obituary

Joana’s obituary was easy to find. She was listed as the wife of Januario Fernandes, her second husband. There is a child listed as “Helen Correia” surviving Joana. As Joana died in 1952, this was the earliest piece of documentation tying Helen to her birth mother, Joana.

This is a partial transcription of Joana’s obituary:

FERNANDES–of 5231 East 12th Street, Oakland, March 31 1952. 

Joana, beloved wife of the late Januario Fernandes; loving mother of Mrs. Mary Andrews, Mrs. Isabella Ventura, Mrs. Helen Correia, Mrs. Eva Scripture, Frank, Tony, and Johnny Pacheco, and the late Theodore Pacheco, William, Joseph, and Adam Fernandes, and the late Theodore Fernandes; Loving sister of the late Maria Freitas of Honolulu; loving grandmother of 28 grandchildren; loving Aunt of Carrie Pacheco of King City.  A native of Portugal, aged 76 years old.

[Source:  Oakland Tribune, 1 Apr 1952, Classifieds Section, page 47, column 7]

We’ve firmly established a link between Helen Correia and her birth mother.  We can safely say that Helen was born a Pacheco.  Now, can we find her adoptive mother?


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