I’ve been on the web promoting Portuguese Hawaiian Genealogy for almost 20 years. First with AOL’s Golden Gate Genealogy Forum, and on the web with Genealogy Chats, Inc., and in between with my own website, yourislandroutes.com. Several times, I tried building online communities for those researching in the same area: Google Groups, Forums, Message Boards, etc. None of them really took off. It was mostly me talking at people, which I could already do through my blog and website.
About two years ago, I started a group on Facebook specifically for Portuguese Hawaiian Genealogy. The group grew slowly, but surely. The membership grew and so did the activity. This weekend we hit a milestone. We now have 503 members.
The group has a moderate level of activity. There are new posts and lively conversation. It’s a great place to hook up with others who are researching in Hawaii and those who have made their research trail back to Madeira, the Azores, and Portugal.
I am often surprised that there are so many Portuguese Hawaiian genealogist out there in the world. There were about 14,000 Portuguese immigrants who made their way to Hawaii during the Sugar Plantation Era. Perhaps not as large as other migrations, but distinctive from some of the other immigrants to Hawaii. While many Asian and other immigrants to Hawaii, planned to return home after their contracts expired, the Azoreans and Madeirans did not. Though they might have left for California after 1900, it is very rare to find an Azorean or Madeiran who had contact back home let alone returned. They assimilated easily and because of many factors, including poverty back home, had no intentions to return. The Portuguese from Portugal were a different story. They came in a later migration (after 1900) and did not find island life suitable. I suspect there might be more from this group who returned to Portugal than those who returned to the Azores and Madeira.
The descendants of those first immigrants to Hawaii spread throughout the country today. Some still find roots in Hawaii, even in the same towns where their ancestors first worked on plantations. Most live in other parts of the US and do their research from afar, through the internet, and sending off letters.
This is where online genealogy groups come in handy. When you don’t live near the place you want to research, it helps to have contact with others who are working in the same area. These folks pass on their tips, links to databases, addresses to write to for more information, and offer support when you hit your head on that brick wall.
Here’s to the continued growth of the Portuguese Hawaiian Genealogy Group on Facebook! If you would like to join us, go to http://www.facebook.com and search for portuguese hawaiian genealogy. Select the entry for “group”. Click on the button for membership. (Note: Because of some trouble makers, this is now a closed group. New members are accepted, but all members have to be approved first.)