This weeks Genealogy Blogger prompt asks Genea-Bloggers to write about their areas of expertise. My main area of expertise is Portuguese Hawaiian genealogy research. This spreads from work in Sao Miguel Island (Azores), Hawaii (mainly Kauai), Oakland (California), and the Salinas Valley (California).
I have done research in all these places. In following my families as well as the families surrounding them, I’ve been able to get a pretty good idea of the migration patterns, the work they’ve done, and the records that are available. These were a nomadic people who left the Azores Islands for a better life in Hawaii in the 1880s. Then after 1900, many made their way to Oakland or Salinas. It was not uncommon for them to migrate between the two as jobs dried up and became available. It’s caused me to research in many localities which really expanded my research knowledge.
Because of the close knit communities, I’ve become very familiar with many of the families who lived in the sugar plantation communites who then made their way to Oakland and the Salinas Valley. I’ve compiled a database of the Portuguese families who lived on Kauai. Many of the same families also went to Oakland and Salinas. Many married into my lines, so they are hard to avoid.
Some might thing I’m crazy for wasting so much time putting together a database on hundreds of people who aren’t in my tree. I beg to differ. By recording all these families, I’ve got a pretty good idea of who belongs where. I have a good idea of naming patterns and am pretty adept at separating the Spanish sounding names of the Filipino families from the similarly named folks who are Portuguese. I know which names sound like the names their parents gave them and which are more likely anglicized.
It’s also helped me become very familiar with the available records and how much one should expect to find. It’s knowledge that has come in very handy with my own research and that of people who visit my website, yourislandroutes.com
Knowing the ins and out of the Portuguese Hawaiians of Kauai has also helped me understand my people much better. They were illiterate peasants when they arrived in Hawaii. I am sure most of them had never even heard of Hawaii prior to signing their contract. They labored hard in the fields (men and women) getting paid in gold because Hawaii had no currency. They saved that up and used it to buy houses on E. 25th Street in Oakland around 1905. The street became a haven for family members. Some made their way to the Salinas Valley to work the sugar beet plantations. It was work they were very familiar with. Those families moved between Oakland and Salinas quite regularly.
And by doing all this, I’ve gained a tremendous amount of respect for these people. Can you imagine living your whole life in one tiny village on an island where your ancestors were before you and deciding to pick up everything and move your family to another island on the other side of the world? All for the promise of good wages, education for your children, and a better way of life? They were truly remarkable people!
Genealogist and writer. Creator of the Portuguese Hawaiian Genealogy and Heritage website, yourislandroutes.com