Since we’ve had the royal wedding this week, I thought it would be good to talk about royal roots. Not many Azorean genealogists realize the rich history of the islands and how they were first populated by Portuguese nobility. If you’ve got Azorean roots, there is a very good chance you also have royal blood.
The islands were first discovered in 1427, when Santa Maria island was sighted. Goncalo Velho Cabral is given credited for officially discovering the islands in 1431. No doubt there were others prior to this date, but none have been officially been noted.
How did nobility end up on the Azores Islands? Infante D. Henrique ordered them to settle the islands. So, in 1432, the first groups set out to make the Azores their home. The islands were populated by these minor nobles and their servants. Those nobles may have been considered minor, but their roots were long. Many connect to the royal lineage across Europe and the Middle East.
What does this mean to the modern Azorean genealogist? Noble roots on the island have been well documented by Rodrigo Rodrigues, Gaspar Frutuoso, and others. If you can get your line back before 1700, you have a fairly good chance of finding a connection to nobility. It won’t be easy. You will have to work back through the digitized/microfilmed records. Then you’ll have to find a link in one of these books. If you do find a connection, you may find yourself adding several generations to your tree.
Do I have nobility in my tree? Yep! Doesn’t it show? I have been very fortunate with my ancestry in the town of Maia, Ribeira Grande, Sao Miguel Island. A couple of my lines started out in Maia in the 14oos and they stayed there until I hooked up with them in the 1880s. I have not been so lucky with my lines in Achada, Nordeste or Fenais da Vera Cruz (aka Fenais d’Ajuda). But the people of Maia have been very, very good to me.
It was my ancestor, Antonio Medeiros Cordeiro, who really got things rolling. Antonio was married in 1753 to Francisca de Souza. He is the son of Gaspar de Medeiros Moniz and Maria Furtado. Antonio’s line is connected to the Barbosa da Silva’s. It goes back several generations to the original settler, Rui Lopes, a knight, who settled on Sao Miguel island. He was the son of Rui Esteves Barbosa and Filipa da Silva, and married Branca Gil de Miranda in 1511 in Lisboa (Lisbon), Portugal. Rui Lopes is Antonio’s Gr Gr Gr Gr Gr Gr Great Grandfather (that’s 7 greats).
I did a search on Geni.com and I found that one of my ancestors, Goncalo Vaz Botelho, O Grande, has his tree in their database. Goncalo was born around 1420 in Portugal. He is the 8th Great Grandfather of Antonio Medeiros Cordeiro. While Rui Lopes tree stops with his parents, Goncalo’s goes back to Portugal and spreads across Europe through the royal families. This tree goes back many, many, many generations and connects to monarchy and pretty much everyone else. It no doubt makes me my own cousin many times over.
I still don’t have a connection to William and Kate that I know of. I suspect if I bring anyone of these lines forward. One royal will marry another and branch off to Great Britain.
It was never my goal to find a royal connection. Heck, with all my peasant laborer ancestors, I wouldn’t have even thought it possible. It does make me wonder what happened between 1600 and 1700. By the time the first shots are fired in the American Revolution, my ancestors have lost their land and their titles. Their working someone else’s land. By the 1880s, they were clamoring for a new lease on life, which is probably why they so eagerly signed sugar plantation contracts and set off for Hawaii. Shoot, with all my connections to Kings and Queens I should least be a Duchess.
Pretty much everyone with European roots will link to nobility at some point. The problem is whether the records are available to take you back far enough to make a connection. Some folks, like me, get really lucky. Others hit road blocks that make it difficult to get beyond their great grandparents.