This week’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks is easy. The theme is Favorite Place to Research and I know exactly where that would be.
This is a very specific location. It is where my Portuguese research began: E. 25th Street in Oakland, Alameda County, California.
What makes this street so special? Why am I drawn to it?
This map that I created in Google Maps will give you the answer. Almost all my Portuguese Hawaiian relatives lived there between 1905 and the 1960s. The red tags represent houses where my relatives lived.
Around 1905, family members began to move to Oakland, California. They all moved to one block, in fact, one section, of E. 25th Street in Oakland. The first family was Joao and Marie (Pacheco) Jacinto (aka John and Marie Cosma) with Joao’s father, Cosme Jacinto. Then, my great grandparents, Theodoro and Maria (de Braga) Pacheco (under their new surname Smith), with Maria’s father, Jozimas de Braga. They all lived in the house at 1935 E. 25th Street, saving their money until they could buy a lot and build their own homes. The three blue markers mark the three houses that the family crowded into the first couple of years.
The house in the middle in gingerbread style is 1935 E. 25th Street.
The Cosma’s were the first to build their own home. They bought the lot just opposite the 3 first homes. They moved in around 1911. The blue home with the red steps is the house that they built.
After this, family began to buy lots and build. Theodoro’s brothers, Manoel, Antonio, and Francisco moved to E. 25th street starting with Manoel around 1908 and the last being Francisco in the early 1920s.
When a family moved out of a home, a younger couple newly married or a family newly arrived from Kauai moved in. They rented from the first generation on the street. When they finally saved enough money, they bought their own home on the street or on one of the adjacent streets.
This house with the red garage door was owned by Manoel and Marie Grace (de Braga) Bonita. It is where my Mom grew up. Her parents, John and Anna (Jackson) Pacheco Smith, rented it from the Bonita’s starting in 1937. But, from 1930-1935, my grandfather’s cousin, Marie (Cosma) Avelar and her husband, Antone, lived there.
That is why E. 25th Street is so special. From 1905 until the early 1960s, my relatives and the families their intermarried with found their home on this street. Those who were established sponsored others keeping a steady flow of Portuguese Hawaiians to their homes.
The street was an insular community unto itself. Almost everyone within a certain range of houses had a blood or marriage relationship to everyone else on the block.
When I imagine E. 25th street I can picture the people who lived there…
Can you see Marie (Pacheco) Cosma, the family doctor, hurrying off with her medical bag to deliver another Pacheco baby?
If you look across the street, you see the mothers who watched over the children when they went to school and when they played.
Can you hear my great grandparents weeping over the loss of their 13 year old son, Willie?
In the evening you will find the fathers gathered on each others porches after a hard day of work. Antonio Pacheco is making lassoes. He is on the left with his daughter, Sophie. His nieces, Louisa and Georgina (by his brother, Manoel) are standing on the steps. The house was owned by Mr. Dias who sits in the middle.
Look, there is Auntie Bonita carrying her homemade bottle of wine to her relative by marriage, Joana Fernandes.
And, what is that smell? It’s the men burning old rubber tires so no one rats them out for making alcohol during prohibition.
Do you hear the sounds of the parade with the queen and her court in the yearly Festa celebration that will be held in the Holy Ghost Hall at the end of the street?
Everyone is excited because cousin, Joe Braga, has come all the way from Honolulu arrived in 1931.
And, there is my 8 year old mother beating up on Bobbie Silva because he was bugging her.
Her aunts are making her brother, Donald, say his name because his has a speech impediment and says shit instead of Smith.
I hear the Portuguese and Pidgin English being bantered over fences as women hang their laundry.
Do you see everyone in their cowboy outfits dressing up for the block wide parties in honor of the 1939 Expo Days?
The Souza family is gathering for their mandatory Sunday family dinner.
My grandfather has run over to Elsie (Santos) Spirou’s house because her baby is crying and keeping him awake. He’ll entertain her son with his flashlight.
Can you smell the Portuguese and Hawaiian dishes that my grandmother is cooking? She was an Irish/English California, 16 1/2 and pregnant when she married Joao “John” Pacheco Smith. She she learned how to cook for her in-laws!
Do you see Marie Gloria (Bonita) Medeiros reading palms telling someone their future?
There are the young guarding their newly born babies because the older woman have terrified them of the evils that may happen before their babies are baptized by a Catholic Priest.
Yes, I can see, smell, and hear E. 25th Street.
I have fallen in love with E. 25th street because it is the place where my ancestors come to life. It is the place where I have learned about my Portuguese relatives and the world that they created. It is where my genealogy started. If they all hadn’t live on this one street in Oakland, I might not have learned so many stories and filled in so many leaves on my tree. Without E. 25th street, my tree would be pretty bland.
How did I find out all this information about East 25th Street?
My mom helped me map out the block as she remembered as well. Then, cousins added their remembrances. But, memory is one thing, proof is another.
I went through city directories and the census and noted who was living where. Then, any birth, death, or marriage records that listed addresses were noted. Even old obituaries were helpful as they list the person’s address.
I have yet to get access to the property records. I hope they will be digitized in the near future. Then, I can see who really owned the property.
For now, this database has been invaluable. It is the City of Oakland Interactive Planning and Zoning database. If the building still exists, one can learn when it was built, whether it was remodeled, and other details. I encourage anyone researching in Oakland, Alameda County, California to use this database!