This week’s theme for 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks is “Easy”. When it comes to easy to research ancestors, nothing beats my Azoreans! I didn’t start exactly on the right path considering all the information my grandmother gave me was wrong. But, once I got all that sorted out, it was a breeze.
I know. Other Azorean researchers are thinking, “What? Are you nuts?” Yeah, probably. However, compared to my other lines, the Azoreans were easy.
My great grandparents were Theodoro Pacheco and Maria de Braga. Despite changing their surname to Smith, Theodoro and Maria left me a trail that was easy to sniff out. Also, I was lucky to know exactly where they lived from my mom and grandmother’s stories. It was E. 25th Street in Oakland, California. So, that was my starting point.
One of the reasons this line was so easy was because I had a lot of help. My grandfather’s Portuguese Hawaiian cousins were incredibly willing in my plot to research the family. It all started with a letter to my mom’s cousin’s wife, Wilma Souza. She lead me to my mom’s cousin, Ted. He lead me to a couple of more people and they lead me to more. I found many cousins as survivors in obituaries and contacted them. I had more cousins than I knew what to do with.
This made following the line back to Hawaii easy. Everyone knew they were from Kilauea, Kauai and that they lived and worked on the Kilauea Sugar Plantation. Once I figured out how to spell Kilauea, I was able to find census, birth, and church marriage records.
Theodoro and Maria parents were kind enough to leave behind very clear immigration records. From their passport registrations I knew that Theodoro was from Achada, Nordeste and Maria from Maia, Ribeira Grande—both villages on the island of Sao Miguel in the Azores.
This was the mid-1990s before records went online. I ordered baptismal certificates with my iffy birthdates and then waited several months for a reply. When the documents arrived, they confirmed the information that I had.
Now, things got a little dicey at this point. I was completely intimidation by the Portuguese language records. I procrastinated for a year before I made a trip down the Family History Center to read them on microfilm. What a dork I am!
With a couple of language aids and a Portuguese English dictionary, I was able to muddle my way through them. I found that with practice I got better at it. The records, like most church records, follow a pattern. Once you learn the pattern then it’s pretty easy to read the rest of the records. Also, their were several people I could lean on when I got stuck.
I was able to find both of my great grandparents in their respective villages. Before I knew it I was back to the 1700s.
When I started out, I really thought this would be my most difficult research. I didn’t know any Portuguese except swear words. I don’t know any French either, but another relative was already working on that tree long before I got started.
I found that language was the least of my worries. Foreign language records are like cracking a code. Once you have know what the words mean you can work through them. My maternal maternal line is still stuck at roughly 1848. But, I’ve been able to take some of the Azorean lines back to the original settlers in the 1400s. And, I’ve been able to make the leap back to Portugal before that date.
Thank you, Theodoro and Maria! You left enough detail to make this a whole lot easier.