This may be why I can’t find the marriage

This weekend I decided to redo the work another researcher did for me on Francisco de Medeiros and Josefa de Mello.  The town of Maia isn’t on the Azores Archives website yet, so I thought Povoacao was as good as any place to research.

I found their son, Joao de Mello’s, baptismal record first.  Then, I went searching for his brother, Apollinario.  Found him relatively easily.  It helps when you already have the dates.

I wanted to see if they had any more siblings and began to work backwards from Apollinario.  I started at 1767 and got back as far as 1762 before calling it quits.  6 years between children with a Portuguese couple seemed too many years.  I decided to look for the marriage.  As both couples and the children were from Povoacao, it was as good as place as any to start as any.

I went from 1767 back to 1762 without a nibble.  I started to suspect maybe I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.  So, I went to my database to verify and the first thing I realized was Apollinario was born in Maia, Ribeira Grande, not Povoacao where he was baptized.  That seemed weird to me.  These people didn’t travel all that much.

I couldn’t make out mention of Maia on Apollinario’s baptismal record.  What did jump out at me was “Nossa Senhora da Graca”.  This was not the church I was working in.  So, I followed the line.  It told me that Josefa de Mello was from the parish of Nossa Senhora da Graca and the village of Porto Formoso!  I did a quick check on Jose’s record and sure enough, it said the same thing.  She wasn’t from Povoacao after all.

This leaves me with a quandary.  I have one parent born in Povoacao, one in Porto Formoso, both children baptized in Povoacao, but one might have been born in Maia.  Sigh…where do I look for the marriage?

I think I’ll go back a year or so in the Povoacao records.  Then, if nothing comes up, I will switch to deaths and see if I can find their death records.  Though, it might be better to see if their are any other children born to this couple listed in the baptismals after Joao in 1771.  I know that both died before 1796, but that’s a wide range from 1771-1796 to be looking for a death record especially without an index.  I could look for Francisco de Medeiros’ baptismal record, but I’m a little leery.  I found two other Francisco de Medeiros’ having children baptized at the same time as Joao and Apollinario.  Since I don’t have the names of Francisco’s parents, I can’t determine if any record I find is for the right person.  The records for Porto Formoso and Maia are not online yet, so I can’t go that route either.

This may explain why I haven’t found a marriage record.  The couple might have been married in Josefa’s village.  And, they may have even been married where Apollinario was born.  Looks like I have my work cut out for me.  At least I figure out the discrepancies before I went through the records twice.



We are not all related

I hate to break the news, but genealogically speaking we are not all related.  Oh, sure, depending on what you believe we have Adam and Eve or Lucy in our past.  But, when it comes to genealogy research connecting us all is impossible.  Even connecting everyone in the same town of village would be hard to do.

I’m reminded of this each time I see a post on one of the forums I participate in.  It goes like this “I have Pacheco’s too.  Are we related?”  Never mind that mine went through Hawaii and then to California and yours went to Rhode Island.  Never mind that mine were from Achada, Sao Miguel Island, Azores and yours were from Portugal. We’ve got the same surname, right?

Wrong!  Especially wrong when it comes to people born before 1750 or so.    We see surnames as a permanent, finite thing.  I have my Dad’s surname, he has his Dad’s surname, and his Dad had his own Dad’s surname.  But go back just a generation or so and you find maternal surnames given to children.  You see children who got their Godparent’s surname.  You even find children being given the surname of another relative, a prominent person in the village, or a close family friend.  You might see compound surnames that come and go.  You may see a nickname adopted as a surname.  I’ve seen this in Portugal and a little in France.  I am sure that it was common elsewhere too.

Though more common before 1750, you can find it after 1800.  My de Mello’s mysteriously became Castanho’s sometime around 1830.   They are not related to any other Castanho’s unless they came from the village of Maia on Sao Miguel Island.

The issue is even more complicated when it comes to females.  In France, I was happy to see that females are recorded with their maiden names in most records.  But, in the Azores many times women are recorded with no surname at all.  They could be recorded with their religious name (dos Anjos, da Conceicao, etc.)  And, these religious names can change over a woman’s lifetime.  This makes researching difficult.  It would be easy to connect to the wrong couples or think your ancestor had two wives when it might be the same woman using different religious names at different times in her life.

This may seem rather frustrating and confusing to a genealogist.  It is.  But it tells us something about the people we are researching, the cultural rules behind naming, and how they viewed surnames.   It tells me that having proof of identity probably wasn’t that big of a deal a hundred or two hundred years ago.  You might even go through life never even having to sign your name to anything (you probably did not know how to anyway).

I am going to admit that when I first began researching I also held this same myth that all people with similar surnames were related in some way.  It was partly due to the fact that I knew no other Pacheco’s.  My knowledge of geography and how surnames worked in each region was non-existent.  But, I learned.  Now it feels rather silly to even have assumed that those connections existed merely based on a surname.  But, we all have to start somewhere.

It would be much easier if say, all the Pacheco’s on Kauai came from the same line, but they don’t.  It would be really nice if all the Kelly’s in San Francisco had a common ancestor.  But, it’s not true.   All surnames will have many roots leading all over.  This is why it’s so important when posting online to be specific.  Give the names, the places, and the time frames.  Tell people something that will help them connect with your lines.  Although we aren’t all related, there a many people out there researching–and, one of them might be your cousin.

Inconsistent surnames are just another fact of life when it comes to genealogy.  Confusing, but not necessarily impossible to overcome.



Maria (Sousa Sampaio) Barbosa da Silva’s Individual Summary

Maria is my 10th great grandmother.  I don’t have any dates for her.  She was probably born around 1550 on Sao Miguel Island, Azores.

Name:    Maria SOUSA DE SAMPAIO-2625
Sex:    Female
Father:    Jorge CORREIA-2651 (    -    )
Mother:    Isabel Pacheco da SILVEIRA-2633 (    -    )

Individual Facts

1. Heitor BARBOSA DA SILVA-2623 (    -1629)
Children    Capitao Jorge CORREIA BARBOSA-2619 (    -    )