When I first started my family tree, I didn’t worry about my French lines because my Aunt had been working on those for years. I thought the Irish and British would be a piece of cake. I feared the Portuguese because I didn’t know the language.
My perceptions turned out to be all wrong (except for the French!) The Portuguese turned out to be a breeze. Although I had a rocky start to my research due to incorrect information from my Grandma, it all worked out. I got them from Oakland, CA, to Spreckels, CA, to Oakland, CA, back to Kilauea, Kauai, HI, and was ready to search in Maia and Achada, Sao Miguel Island, Azores in roughly five years.
I absolutely dreaded researching in the Portuguese language records. I didn’t know Portuguese and was sure that I would never find my people. With the help of a a couple research guides and a syllabus, I found it rather easy going. The Azores are limited on the type of records available for peasants–church records only! So, all I needed to learn was how to read a casamento (marriage record) or baptismo (baptismal). Obitos (death) records weren’t done for everyone so I put that aside.
The records followed a certain format, so using examples got me through the important stuff. Also, the same Priest almost always entered records for a number of years, so once you got his style of writing down you pretty much could pick out the important details and skip the rest. There was one bad patch where “shaky hand Priest” wrote the records in Maia. His writing was shaky and he left off the ends of words. Once he was out of the books, the records were easy to read again. I swiftly got the Pacheco’s and de Braga’s back to the 1700s. A couple of the de Braga lines hit nobility and are back before 1400 and spread throughout Europe.
The Irish and British lines have been a completely different story. It’s been a painstaking process from day one. One of my British ancestors, Harry K. Jackson, very carefully covered all his tracks. He left no record of birth place, parentage, or names of siblings after he came to California.
My other British line, Thomas Augustine Jones, was a little easier. I traced them from San Francisco to Sydney, Australia in 1850, where I’ve got them firmly stuck. I believe they originated in England but as yet, I don’t really know if they migrated to Australia or were born in Australia.
My Irish lines are even more troublesome. The danged fools were in San Francisco in the 1850s but died before the 1906 earthquake. Their trail is faint. I’ve been able to follow the Kelly’s and the Dolan’s from San Francisco back to Boston. The Kelly’s were in New Hampshire in 1850. But, beyond that I cannot say. All roads lead to County Roscommon, Ireland, but I don’t have that one definitive records that says “YES!”
When researchers tell me “Oh, I can’t possible research my Portuguese lines. I don’t know the language”, I just laugh. How easy it is to become intimidated. The Portuguese turned out to be a piece of cake because the church ruled the records for the time period I needed. A minimal amount of language skills was needed to sort out the records.
The Irish and British, on the other hand, are a big fat pain! They migrated several times. What few records they left were more than likely destroyed in the San Francisco Earthquake and Fire. Oh, there are many alternative sources to work with, but the work is far more painstaking and one needs to be a little more creative.
Some day, I will get the Irish back to Ireland. I’m not sure about getting old Harry Jackson out of San Francisco, though! But if I do, I will no doubt find that my Irish and British roots will hit nobility and then those ancestors will marry my Portuguese ancestors. Once again, I will be my own cousins.
Genealogist and writer. Creator of the Portuguese Hawaiian Genealogy and Heritage website, yourislandroutes.com