I Didn’t Plan to Research the Whole Village of Maia

I Didn’t Plan to Research the Whole Village of Maia

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I didn’t plan on researching the whole village.

No, really. I didn’t.

I started out following the trail of my great grandmother, Maria (de Braga) Pacheco Smith, in Maia  like a good genealogist.  Maia is a village on Sao Miguel Island in the Azores.

Village of Maia Ribeira Grande Azores
Isn’t Maia a beautiful village?


I found more ancestors and added more lines.  I found the siblings and added them.  I found their children and noted them, too.

Then, I met a woman who might be related to Maria. We exchanged information, made one connection, and then another.

The parish records came online and we worked together to fill in our trees. We found more crisscrossed lines. Soon, I had as many of her surnames in my tree as she had in mine because you see, we shared several of the same ancestors.

Collaborating on Genealogy is More Fun

We traced them to Hawaii and Massachusetts. We began to get hints that there might be cousins in Canada. Then, another researcher came into the picture with roots in Brasil.

It became abundantly clear that my cousin and I were related to a majority of the families in Maia. They were no longer my surnames and hers, but ours–and theirs (if you count the other genealogists we connect to).

My great grandmother Maria de Braga Pacheco Smith
It all started with Maria (de Braga) Pacheco Smith

And now, what we’ve been waiting for…immigration records for Ribeira Grande have been posted online. They come in the form of the Ficha de Emigrante cards.  Through them, we are bringing the lines forward.

Record Gaps are Difficult to Surmount

There’s a gap in immigration and parish records of about 10 years. Unless the church record keeper wrote the marriage in the margin of the baptismal record, it’s difficult to fill the record gap from where the parish records stop in 1905 and the Fichas begin in 1950.

Sometimes we are lucky, though.

It’s a painstaking process but by using other records and finding possible living relatives, we figure out how these later immigrants fit into our tree. And, then it’s world domination!

Why Would Any Genealogist Research a Whole Village?

So, why am I researching the whole village? Well, I wasn’t planning on it, but it seems with every person I follow, I end up with a new line and a new cousin.

There are other reasons.

My cousin and I are trying to resolve some missing person cases. My gr gr grandmother’s brother should have been in Hawaii in the 1880s, but I can’t find him. My cousin’s grandfather migrated back and forth between the US and the Azores and then disappeared. Where did these people go?  We want to know!

I must admit that I have an ulterior motive. DNA matches.

My paternal grandfather’s line is Azorean. My Portuguese DNA matches will fit into either my de Braga or Pacheco lines. But where? The only way to find out is by researching the lines.

Along the way, I’m getting a pretty good idea of the lives they lived, the work they made a living at, how long they lived, when their might have been epidemics, how hard is was to raise a child, why they left…and why they stayed.

I’m getting historical perspective.

So, here I sit with my folder full of Maiatos hoping that at some point it will all click. At some point I’ll figure out some DNA matches. Hopefully, my cousin and I will find our missing persons.

Here I sit researching a whole village. I never meant to do that.

In Surname Saturday: de Braga of Maia, Ribeira Grande, I give information about the family that has me researching a village.

10 thoughts on “I Didn’t Plan to Research the Whole Village of Maia

  1. Your genealogy escapades always entertain and intrigue. I can imagine it would be fun to get to know an entire village historically. Mostly I bump into impenetrable walls. It doesn’t help that one branch of my family has an exceedingly common surname. : )

  2. I take great interest in the way my ancestors lived. While working on my great-great grandfather, I plunged into Civil War research and now am working my way through the men in the same company he was in (100 of them). I’m hoping to form a timeline and be able to visualize his time in the Union Army and as a prisoner of war.
    I fully understand how you got to the point that you are at.

  3. Virginia, It’s so easy to get caught in the other people related to your area of research. I think it helps to understand our ancestors better when we see what was going on around them. You’re going to have a pretty good picture of his company and his own movements when you complete your timeline.

    I’ve done similar research with the people who worked the Kilauea Sugar Plantation. Many of them married into my Pacheco family, migrated to Oakland, California, and lived on same street as my Pacheco family. By researching them all I’ve got a pretty good understanding of why they migrated and how close all the families were.

    Genealogy gets to be more than names and dates which makes it so much more interesting!

  4. Kathryn, When you realize how close these families were in these small villages, it’s difficult not to end up researching them all. I find the same thing with those who were immigrants. They kept such tight communities as they slowly assimilated.

    I can understand your brick walls! Some ancestors seemed to have done everything possible to thwart research. I have one great grandfather who was a sailor. Apart from knowing that he was from England and ended up in San Francisco around 1903, I know nothing about his parents or siblings. I’ve been stuck on him since the day I started.

  5. Your article on being related to everybody from Maia made me laugh, because that has been my experience in doing my Portuguese maternal line. I have some info on about 10 generations with a lot of missing records. My tree on Ancestry is PEREIRA RUSSELL tree. My g was Jose Raposo Ramalho PEREIRA, (later changed to RUSSELL in Newport RI USA). But I also have many of the PACHECO, MEDEIROS, BOTELHO, RESENDES, DA PONTE, etc. PEREIRA RUSSELL tree has an east coast line in RI and a west coast line in CA (2 brothers married 2 sisters). I would be interested in any help from others doing Maia especially and Ribeira Grande area, although other freguesias and Concelhos are included even back to early people brought from the Algarve. I hope to hear from you and will keep reading your columns. Muito obrigado! Raymond Russell Shea, Nashville TN USA.

  6. My maternal line is from Maia. Jose RAPOSO RAMALHO PEREIRA RUSSELL is my grandfather.
    I have many of the names you mentioned. Will keep up with your articles and appreciate any leads from you or anyone else doing this research.
    Muito Obrigado! Raymond Russell Shea Nashville TN
    P.S. There is an east and a west coast line – 2 brothers married 2 sisters.

  7. Thank you for stopping by, Raymond! Nice to meet someone else with roots in Maia. I have seen the Ramalho surname in the Maia records, though I don’t think I have a link to it (yet…LOL). It’s not a very common surname, at least in that village.

    I see that we have some other surnames in common. There is a possibility that we will link up at some point!

  8. Re Jose Raposo Ramalho Raposo Russell

    Hi Melody, thanks for your message. My public tree is on Ancestry.com and you are welcome to look at it.
    I do not have documents for some of the info. I have not mastered that yet. There are 2 branches of our grandfather’s tree, one in New England, mainly Newport RI area and another in CA (central valley plus other places) because 2 brothers (Jose and Augusto PEREIRA) married 2 sisters, (Margarida ANDRADE ALMEIDA & her sister Maria Ines) Both PEREIRA men took the name RUSSELL when they got married, so all USA born descendants are named Russell. My mother was Mary Virginia Russell.
    All the children of the PEREIRA RUSSELL brothers are 1st cousins. Which branch are you connected with? My widowed gg Margarida Candida ANDRADE was the first to arrive with her 3 daughters. My grandmother Margarida Andrade Almeida Russell had 11 children, 2 who died as children, one early on and 1 around 12
    yrs old in the 1918 flu epidemic.
    In addition to the NW Ribeira Grande Maia area in S. Miguel, there are also people from Ponta Delgada in the south.
    I don’t have info on Hawaii and Brazil connections yet, although some hints have come up suggesting some.
    Any info you or anyone else has on these S. Miguel ancestors would be most welcome. The lineage goes back to the early settlement of the island. I am not a trained genealogist, so I am in the dark about a lot of
    the nuances of searching.
    My paternal line is from Ireland to Newport RI also. I was born in Providence RI. The Irish records are even more hard to come by that the Azorean ones.
    Some time after “Joe Russell” my g died at an early age (from an accident) my grandmother married Manuel GARCIA from mainland Portugal in Newport.
    He is the “grandfather” I knew growing up.
    Please keep in touch and I will continue to follow this blog.
    P. S. Do you have a public tree?
    Best wishes, Raymond

  9. Raymond, I think I found your tree on Ancestry. I didn’t see any immediate connections, however, if your family stayed in Maia a couple of generations, there is a good chance that we will connect.

    I also have relatives in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut, so they may have crossed paths in the US as well.

  10. Raymond, I sent you an email earlier this week. Hope to hear from you as I think I have found a link between my lines and your Ramalho’s but there may be a generation gap. I’d love to figure it out.

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