Sooner or later it was bound to happen. I was going to make a connection to Canada with my Portuguese lines. It was just a matter of time. I had thought it would be with Canadian tenor, Remigio Pereira, instead it is on a different line.
Working from Maia to the Kingdom of Hawaii to the US East Coast to Canada
My Massachusetts cousin, Rita, and I are related multiple ways through our lines in Maia, Ribeira Grande, Sao Miguel Island, Azores. One of those ways is via the Mello Castanhos. Rita made contact with a woman in Canada researching similar surnames from Maia. We’ve yet to make a direct line link to her tree, but found one indirect connection through marriage. Eventually, we will link our direct lines together. It is only a matter of time.
One day while randomly searching for cousins because you can never have enough cousins, I made a discovery. There was an online tree for Manuel Melo Castanho who migrated to Canada. His parents were from Maia. It turns out Rita had already been in contact with the person who had posted this family tree.
At first, I could not find our connection. It is one thing to find a family in Canada with a similar surname. It’s another to work them back to the Azores to our own research. It is even more complicated if there is a generation gap like with Remigio Pereira’s lines. It is not easy to bridge gap where the records are not readily available.
I found a possible connection in my RootsMagic database but the names were off. Going over my research, I realized that I had an error in the name of a female ancestor in that line. After fixing my mistake, I compared our two trees. It turns out the other researcher had made a similar error. When these two discrepancies were settled, I was able to figure out where her line fit in. Now, we officially have cousins in Canada!
How Do the Relationships Work Out?
- My 2nd great grandmother was Maria da Conceicao de Mello (her family did not pick up the Castanho) who married Jozimas de Braga. They brought their family to Hawaii under sugar plantation contracts in 1882.
- Rita’s grandmother was Engracia Mello Castanho. Engracia married Joao Moniz Thomas. Joao went first to Fall River, MA, in 1907.
- The Canadian line’s immigrant ancestor is Maria Moreira de Melo Duarte. She was born in Maia in 1927, but migrated to Canada probably in the 1950s. She is the daughter of Manoel Mello Castanho and Maria do Espirito Santo Moreira.
This is how we are related (pay close attention, it will be a bumpy ride…LOL)
- Maria da Conceicao was the daughter of Felicianno de Mello and Rosa Jacintha Boteilho
- Engracia Mello Castanho was the granddaughter of Antonio de Mello and Roza Izabel de Braga.
- Maria Moreira de Melo Duarte was the 2nd great grandaughter of Joao Jacinto de Mello and Caetana Pereira.
Felicianno, Antonio, and Joao Jacinto were the children of Joam de Mello and Maria Theresa de Medeiros. Joam was from Povoacao while Maria Theresa was a native of Maia. You’ll notice that none of them were born with the surname Mello Castanho. It was added onto the family name sometime around 1830. Felicianno was away on military duty. When he returned in the late 1830s, he didn’t adopt Castanho even though his siblings were using the compound surname exclusively.
The Mello Castanho’s were on the Move
The Mello Castanho’s (aka Mello, Melo, Castanho, and Melo Castanho) seem to be a migratory bunch. A couple families, like my great great grandmothers, went to Hawaii to work the sugar plantations. Several others headed off to Fall River, MA to work the cotton mills. Now we know another group migrated to Canada. This migration was later, after 1950. They headed to Gatineau, Quebec, Canada, for the same reasons–to find work.
Learning that I had cousins on the East Coast was a kick. It made me realize how many people from Maia set out for greener valleys. Some went to the US, some to the Kingdom of Hawaii, some went to Brasil, some to Canada…well, you get the picture. If I was a conspiracy theorist, I’d think they were plotting to take over the world.
I would like to create a migratory map and show the relatives who left Maia and where they ended up. When you think of how small these islands are, it is pretty remarkable to see how far they have spread.
Genealogy isn’t just about learning names, dates, and places. It’s about answering how and why. I’m busy enough searching my direct lines, but it find it more interesting to follow the branches. I’ve learned a lot about the Mello Castanho and their migrations, but I think their story is universal among Azoreans. They left their homeland in hopes of finding work and a better life. That’s really the immigrant story, isn’t it?
Genealogist and writer. Creator of the Portuguese Hawaiian Genealogy and Heritage website, yourislandroutes.com