52 Ancestors: Rosa Boteilho was a Tough Woman

This is my entry for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge, week 3: Tough Woman.

It’s not easy to flesh out the stories of Azorean women.  You are dealing with baptismal, marriage, and death records.  That’s it.  Often, women are elusive because of naming practices which involved taking a religious name rather than a surname.  A religious name that can change throughout their life.

Rosa Jacinto Boteilho was born 24 Feb 1824 in the village of Maia in Ribeira Grande on the island of Sao Miguel.  She was the daughter of Antonio Boteilho da Rocha and Antonia Leonor.

Rosa married Felicianno de Mello (aka Felicianno Mello Castanho) 26 Oct 1840 at Divino Espirito Santo Church in Maia.  He was 33.  She was only 16.  He was a soldier who had left the village for some time, but returned about 3 years prior.

This is a photo of their village and how it looks today.


To say that Rosa endured hardship is an understatement. Rosa had at least 12 children.  As I’ve worked through the obitos (death records), I’ve seen those children die one by one.  I’ve only worked in the 1860s and so far I’ve found 5 of her children have passed away before the age of 5.  From what I’ve seen in the records, I suspect some sort of epidemic came through the village and affected children the most.  One year there were over 100 deaths (usually 30-40 were normal) and 90% were children.

Rosa died at the age of 44 on 1 Feb 1869.  When she died, only three of her children were alive.  By the time Felicianno died in 1884, only two were surviving.  My great grandmother, Maria, and her brother, Jose.

I don’t know Rosa’s cause of death, but if they had written down heartache I would not have been surprised.  I can’t imagine what it would have been like for her to watch one child after another pass away.  She lost three children in 1863 alone.

She may be a strange candidate for tough woman since she only lived to 44.  I can only imagine the emotional pain that she carried with her.   She gave birth to her first child in 1841 and her last in 1864.  The fact that after each child died she continued to get pregnant and try again says something about her and her inner strength.   Or, perhaps I choose to see it that way.  I think it was a tough life, with much suffering.  That is why she wins the award for tough woman in my tree.  No one should have had to endure what she did, but I know, many have.




Portuguese Newspaper Find: Photo of Seraphim de Braga

I am a believer in going back to databases from time to time and rechecking my searches.  Sometimes I’ve learned things since the last search.  Sometimes there have been updates to databases.  Whatever the reason, it’s a good practice to get into.

The University of Massachusetts has been adding Portuguese newspapers to it’s collection for sometime now.  Recently, they began uploading newspapers from Hawaii and California.  These are of the most interest to me.

The database is a little clunky to work with.  I often have to exit and restart before looking at a new page or doing a new search.  It’s cumbersome, to say the least.  But, persistence can pay off and this week it did.

This is from the 18 May 1912 “O Luso” newspaper.  The article took up the entire front page.  It’s all about an organization called “A Real Associacao Beneficente Autonomica Micaelanese”.  I have never heard of it in my 24 years of researching Portuguese Hawaiians.

Most important is the photograph.  The man sitting in the second chair from the left is my great great uncle, Seraphim de Braga.  This is the first time I’ve gotten to see what he looks like–and that makes me very happy!

Seraphim had an interesting story.  My great great grandparents, Jozimas de Braga and Maria da Conceicao de Mello, came to Hawaii in 1882 on the Monarch.  They brought all their children but one, Seraphim.  It was a fairly common practice for the Azoreans.  They feared not making it to Hawaii or calamity striking them once they got there.  Some families left a child behind “just in case”.  Seraphim was that child.

I was completely unaware of Seraphim until about 5 years after starting my research.  The Pacheco Smith’s had no memory of him.  It wasn’t until I found his sister, Marie Grace (de Braga) Bonita’s obituary that I had even heard of him.  And then, I thought it was a mistake.  I wrote about Seraphim’s story in this article “The One They Left Behind“.

This photograph speaks volumes.  I only know that Seraphim was a carpenter by trade.  He was also a musician.  But, now I know he was elected representative in this organization.  To me that means Seraphim was establish and he had moved up in society.

Seraphim de Braga newspaper photo

Welcome to the family, Seraphim!  It’s nice to know what you look like.

Next challenge?  Figure out what this organization was.


Did the de Braga Family Meet the Same Fate as the de Mellos?

I remember when I showed my grandma this photo of her mother-in-law several years ago. Her comments come to me today.  She said “Look at how her eyes droop. That’s from malnutrition. Poor Voe.” Voe being the Portuguese word for grandmother.
My great grandmother Maria de Braga Pacheco Smith

I didn’t think much about it at the time, but it has crossed my mind more than once lately.  I’ve been researching Maria (de Braga) Pacheco Smith’s family in the parish records for Maia, Ribeira Grande, Sao Miguel Island.  The obitos (death records) don’t provide a lot of information, but they can give insights into families and regions.

I found Maria’s grandfather’s obito first.  He died at the age of 80.  His record says that only two of his children were alive when he died.  A few days later, I found her grandmother’s obito.  She was in her late 70s and her record states that three of her children were alive when she died.  She died after her husband so I need to find out what the real number is.

You may remember my post No More Descendants to Follow in the de Mello Tree that several of the children of Felicianno and Maria de Mello died young.  To date, I’ve found 11 children born, but only two made it to adulthood.  They were from the same village as the de Braga family.  It appears by looking at the amount of obitos that the early 1860s were particular harsh on children.

Is it possible that the de Braga family met the same fate as Felicianno and Maria de Mello’s children?  My research shows that they had at least 10 children.  Two of them had the same name as Maria’s father, Jozimas de Braga, so we can assume those two died.  Will I find seven children who died before they came of age?  I hope not.  But, we never know what the records will reveal.

Perhaps my grandmother was right.  Her mother-in-law’s family was probably poor.  Food may have been hard to come by.  Maria’s aunts and uncles may not have made it to adulthood just like her husband’s aunts and uncles.  I will know when I go back to the records.

If it holds true, I may possible have the shortest Azorean descendant line with only five children out of 21 making it to adulthood and having children of their own.  This is quite a contrast to the Pacheco family in Achada and Fenais da Vera Cruz (aka Fenais d’Ajuda).  Whatever passed through Maia may not have touched those villages.