About My Ancestors · Azorean Roots · Famous People · New England Genealogy

I’m Related to a Nobel Laureate

I have a confession to make.  For the longest time I have been jealous of Randy Seaver because he seems to always find connections to Presidents.  He wrote about his connections to Barack Obama with this article “Yep, Barack Obama is My Cousin.”  My immigrant ancestors didn’t seem to marry into any famous lines, certainly none of our Presidents or their wives.

Oh sure!  I have a few links to royalty via my Azorean ancestors.  But let’s face it.  If you get far enough back in Europe, sooner or later you will hit nobility.  The odds are in your favor.

You can image my glee when fellow researcher, George Pacheco, told me that my de Mello line from Maia, Ribeira Grande, Sao Miguel Island, Azores connects to a Nobel Laureate (No, not that Nobel Laureate–though he was born in Hawaii)!  I was thrilled to find that even a distant cousin had reach such great heights.  Although George sent me information on the connection, I found myself delving into the trail as well.

So, who is the genius in our family?  His name is Craig Cameron Mello.  He won the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine in 2006 for his work on the discovery of RNA interference (your guess is as good as mine…LOL)  Craig is a biologist and a professor of Molecular Medicine.  Wikipedia has extensive information on Craig’s career under Craig Mello.

He is the son of James Mello, a paleontologist, and Sally Cameron, an artist.  Ironically, my cousin, Rita, and I had been working on the de Mello’s (aka de Mello Castanho) for years.  I have been researching Craig’s great grandfather, Eugenio de Mello, for a long time.  Eugenio’s parents took out a passport in the mid-1880s so they could do contract work on a sugar plantation in Hawaii.  Unbeknownst to me, they never left Sao Miguel Island.  I spun my wheels for years trying to find a trace of them in Hawaii, only to realize they weren’t there!

It wasn’t until a couple of weeks ago that I found Eugenio and his brother’s Manoel and Mariano emigrating to Massachusetts–a long way from Hawaii! As genealogy goes, I was working on one end of the tree, and then another researcher presents me with the other end.  I like when it works out this way.  LOL

So, how are Craig and I related?  You have to go back to the 1700s to find the connection.  Our common ancestor is Joao de Mello, b. 7 Feb 1771, Povoacao, Sao Miguel Island; d. bef 1840, and his wife, Maria Theresa de Medeiros, b. 13 Aug 1778, Maia, Ribeira Grande, Sao Miguel Island.  They were married in 1796 at Divino Esperito Santo Church, Maia, Ribeira Grande, Sao Miguel Island.  Craig and I share the same fourth great grandparents. According to RootsMagic’s relationship calculator, Craig and I are fifth cousins.

Here’s a summary of how we connect:

My line

My Grandparents:
Joao “Bohne” Pacheco Smith, b. at sea outside of San Francisco and Anna (Jackson) Shellabarger, b. Oakland, Alameda Co., CA

~My Great Grandparents:
Theodoro Pacheco, b. Achada, Nordeste, Sao Miguel Island and Maria  Esperito Santo de Braga, b. Maia, Ribeira Grande, Sao Miguel Island, Azores

~My Great Great Grandparents:
Jozimas de Braga and Maria da Conceicao de Mello, both b. in Maia, Ribeira Grande

~My Great Great Great Grandparents:
Felicianno Francisco de Mello and Rosa Jacintha Botelho, both of Maia Ribeira Grande

~My Great Great Great Great Grandparents:
Joao de Mello, b. Povoacao, and Maria Theresa de Medeiros, b. Maia, Ribeira Grande

Craig’s line:

~Craig’s Grandparents:
Frank “Bullet” Mello, b. Massachusetts, and Elena Primiano, b. Warren, Bristol Co, RI

~Craig’s Great Grandparents:
Eugenio de Mello (aka Eugenio de Mello Castanho) and Maria da Gloria Moniz Botelho, both born in Maia, Ribeira Grande

~Craig’s Great Great Grandparents:
Antonio de Mello and Maria da Conceicao Pascoal (aka Maria Tomasia), both b. in Maia, Ribeira Grande

~Craig’s Great Great Great Grandparents:
Manoel de Mello (aka Manoel de Mello Castanho) and Anna Joaquina Medeiros, both b. in Maia, Ribeira Grande

~Craig’s Great Great Great Great Grandparents:
Joao de Mello, b. in Povoacao, and Maria Theresa de Medeiros, b. in Maia, Ribeira Grande

Hey, it’s long way to go back to find a connection, but I’m sticking by it!  It’s not every day that you find a Nobel Laurete in your tree!  It just shows how far we’ve come from are humble laborer roots to the many achievements of the descendants of Joao and Maria.

You also know what this means, don’t you?  I will be spending the rest of the month tracking down obituaries, city directory pages, census sheets, and anything else I can find in Massachusetts and Rhode Island on the de Mello family.


Here’s some information on Craig Cameron Mello:

Wikipedia, Craig Mello

Craig C. Mello, Nobel Prize, Autobiography

Craig C. Mello – Photo Gallery–Some neat photographs of Craig at the Nobel Prize Ceremonies

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