You never know who will have your family’s photos

This week I was reminded of the importance of networking on the web.  It’s not a term you usually see associated with genealogy.  But, we have to reach out on forums, blogs, message boards, and whatever sources we have because you never know who might have the tidbit of information you need or a forgotten photograph that you’ve never seen.

This week I was sent the photograph below…

wedding of mamie and john correia minnie ventura smith manuel ventura with them

It is the wedding photo of Mamie Ventura and John Correia, ca 1918.  The person who sent it to me is a new found cousin and is related to the Correia’s.  As I was reading the notes I made an astonishing discovery.  I immediately recognized Mamie’s brother, Manuel Ventura.  But, I would have never guess the young woman on the left was my own great aunt, Minnie (Ventura) Pacheco Smith!

I have one photo of her take maybe 5 years after this one.  It is Manuel’s wedding photo (to Isabella Pacheco de Braga).  All the other photographs of Minnie come from the 1930s and 1940s.  You can imagine how excited I was to get this one from her teen years.

The person who had this had no idea of my relationship to Minnie.  When she sent it on, she was filling in my gaps on the Correia family.

It makes me wonder how many photographs might be sitting in dusty boxes in Hawaii or California that have my relatives pictured.  I suspect it’s many.  By 1970, my great aunt, Maria (Pacheco Smith) Souza/Correia, her second husband, Anthony Correia, and my grandmother, Anne (Jackson) Shellabarger, were the only ones left from that generation in the Pacheco Smith clan.  My Grandma had cut ties in the 1960s.  I am sure most of the Pacheco and de Braga cousins have forgotten about this side of the family–especially those in Hawaii who probably hadn’t heard the surname in decades.

This makes me want to redouble my efforts to find cousins.  As each year goes by we lose another part of a generation.  There are fewer and fewer people to pass down stories and there are even fewer who can name the people in old photographs.  It becomes even more important to compare what we have so we can save whatever there is of our heritage.


An Example of Sugar Plantation Employee Records

Several years ago, I contacted the Hawaiian Sugar Plantation Association to see if there were records for the Kilauea Sugar Plantation as well as others on Kauai that were of interest to me.  At that time, the records were still held by the Association.

I found that they had no records for Kilauea and scant few for the rest of Kauai.  They were willing to check some names for me, so I sent them a reasonably short list.  All they could find was one document from the Kekaha Sugar Plantation with Augusto Clemente’s name.

I know that other researchers like myself would love to find employment records from the sugar plantation that their ancestor worked for.  The sad reality is that most of the records don’t exist anymore.   Hawaii was late to the game for preserving sugar plantation records. I believe it was the 1980s when the project was begun.  By that time, plantations had come and gone and records had been toss out, destroyed, or changed hands so many times the trail was hard to find.  The association did an amazing job preserving what they found.  Most of these records will be more of historical value rather than of value to the family genealogist trying to find out if Great Grandpa really worked at such and such plantation.

The document I received was three pages long.  I’ve decided only to scan the first page.  The second pages just have hash marks denoting if a worker worked on a certain day of the month.

This is the document that I have in my files (Sorry about the quality, I had to use my camera as it was so large).  The document is from July 1900.

hawaii wage shee_20131005_1783DSCN2432

The columns say: BAL. CR., a handwritten word that looks like “Sugar”,  Cash Adv., Sundries, RICE, Deposits, Total Deductions, NAMES.  I have no idea why rice is in all Caps (the emphasis is theirs not mine).  Page two has RATE  and then a column for every day of the week.  The third page completes the days of the month, then DAYS, WAGES, CASH, BAL. DR.  BAL CR.

We can derive a couple of things from this sheet.  One, the workers were allowed to take out cash advances from their wages.  Two, they had to pay the plantation for certain things shown in the rice and sundries column.  We know what their pay rate was, how many days of the month they worked, and so forth.  The money they owed the plantation would be subtracted from what they earned before they got their monthly pay.

You can see that the identifying information is vague.  Some people only have a first name.  Unless your ancestor had an usual name, like Augusto Clemente, or you know exactly where they worked and when, it will be difficult to determine if you have the right person.    It would be a nice document to have in your collection, but it isn’t going to provide much information about your people.

[Note:  Augusto Clemente is not my ancestor.  But, he connects to my tree a couple of times including via my great aunt, Minnie (Ventura) Pacheco Smith.]



Wedding Chapel Wednesday: The crazy way names are spelled

Recently, I’ve heard several Portuguese Hawaiian genealogist lament trying to find their ancestors in records because there are so many variations with the names.  It’s true.  No matter where your ancestor were originally from chances are you are going to find them in records under at least a handful of different names and spellings.

It can be confusing.  But, it is the reality.  You have to accept it then make room for it when you research.

I thought this marriage license from Kauai, Hawaii is a good example of how messed up names could be.  Someone (not me) wrote the real surnames above the names making it easier to identify the couple.    The groom was Jose Simao, but he is noted as Jose Simanch.  The bride is Maria Jesus, but she is noted as Maria Joesu.

How can someone get it so wrong?  Let’s think about this a bit.  Let’s say whoever reported the information was illiterate or let’s say the person recording the information wasn’t familiar with Portuguese names.  The names are going to be recorded as they were heard, phonetically.

Simao sounds a lot like Simon (the ao making a on sound in Portuguese).  Given accents Simao got recorded as Simanch.  Maybe the person reporting this had a speech impediment.

It’s easier to understand how Jesus became Joesu.  I have a distant cousin whose grandfather used the surname Jesus.  Later he switched to Santos for no reason that anyone can put together.  She pronounced it “Jeh-zoo”, similar to Jesuina (Jeh-zoo-ee-na).  When you say that out loud you can see how it could become Joesu.

Let’s look at some of the other names on this.  Joe’s parents were Manuel Simanich and Maria Ezabell.  Ezabell clearly a strange way to spell Isabel/Izabel.

Maria’s parents are given as John Joesu and Juon Rose.  Her mother’s real name was Joana Rosa.  You can see how Joana can become Juon.


marr lic for post


Next time you are having trouble finding your ancestors in the records, try sounding the names out phonetically.  Say them out loud.  If you don’t know how they would have sounded in your ancestor’s language, find a resource online that will give you the audio or use a language learning book or dictionary to get the sounds.  Once you hear it, you can come up with different ways to write it.

In some ways, I like finding these different spellings.  Okay, I don’t like it that much.  But, if the person giving the information was my relative, I’ve gotten a tiny window into the way they spoke.  I can visualize them saying the words to the person recording the information.

Try not to fret when names don’t match up perfectly.  Remember to keep variations in mind.  And, if you can’t find them say their names out loud the way they would have said them.  You might come across a spelling you hadn’t considered.