Before arthritis (also known as the time period B.A.), I used to go to the Family History Center in Oakland once or twice a month. I spent many hours pouring over the microfilm for Achada, Nordeste, Sao Miguel Island, Azores.
I had a mystery to solve and the answer was in those microfilms. I had found all but one of the children of Ana Jacinta de Melo and Jacintho Pacheco in Achada. I found Ana’s family in Achada. I found Jacintho’s family in Fenais da Vera Cruz (Fenais d’Ajuda). But, I could not find Ana’s baptismal. I could not find Jacintho’s baptismal or death record. I could not find their marriage record. And, I could not find their oldest son, Antonio’s, baptismal record. I searched nearby towns to no avail. I exhausted the Achada baptismal microfilm without finding Ana or Antonio. I was stuck.
I had all the surrounding documents. But, those basic documents alluded me. I began to form hypothesis about the family. Antonio was adopted. Ana and/or Jacintho were married multiple times. Ana and Jacintho never got married. They were born in other villages, possibly Algarvia, which is a surname the Pacheco’s took on after 1900 in California. They had changed their names because the story that Ana had killed off five husbands was really true. I had many hypothesis, but no answers.
Around 2000, my arthritis seeped into my neck and shoulder. The motion of turning a microfilm reader handle or simple sitting and staring for hours and taking notes was getting to be too difficult. I had to give up going to the Family History Center and rely on online records.
Well, I waited. 12 years to be exact. Just this weekend I found out that the village I needed, Achada, had been digitized and was online. I couldn’t wait to get started!
So, I spent bits and pieces of three days going frame by frame through the Achada baptismals. I worked from 1833 back to 1827 when Ana’s parents were born. I didn’t find Ana but I found a couple more of her siblings. I thought I might have messed up because for awhile I found myself looking for Jacinta instead of Ana.
This was just like working on a microfilm reader. Page by excruciating page. I finished one group. Then, I worked the other direction from 1833-1835. I was on my last page (well, about my fifth last page). And, there she was! In 1835, I found Ana’s baptismal record. She did exist!!!
I haven’t translated the record yet. Right now, I’m just admiring its beauty. I can now give Ana a real birth date instead of 1827-1840. I can add her Godparents. I now can search for a marriage record knowing that Ana was 20 years old in 1855. That would be 8 years before her first documented child.
How satisfying it is! This is the reward for searching relentlessly for years and never giving up. I now have my Great Great Grandmother’s baptismal record!
Genealogist and writer. Creator of the Portuguese Hawaiian Genealogy and Heritage website, yourislandroutes.com