Portuguese Hawaiian Group on Facebook Hits 500 Member Mark

I’ve been on the web promoting Portuguese Hawaiian Genealogy for almost 20 years.  First with AOL’s Golden Gate Genealogy Forum, and on the web with Genealogy Chats, Inc., and in between with my own website, yourislandroutes.com.  Several times, I tried building online communities for those researching in the same area:  Google Groups, Forums, Message Boards, etc.   None of them really took off.  It was mostly me talking at people, which I could already do through my blog and website.

About two years ago, I started a group on Facebook specifically for Portuguese Hawaiian Genealogy.  The group grew slowly, but surely.  The membership grew and so did the activity.  This weekend we hit a milestone.  We now have 503 members.

The group has a moderate level of activity.  There are new posts and lively conversation.  It’s a great place to hook up with others who are researching in Hawaii and those who have made their research trail back to Madeira, the Azores, and Portugal.

I am often surprised that there are so many Portuguese Hawaiian genealogist out there in the world.  There were about 14,000 Portuguese immigrants who made their way to Hawaii during the Sugar Plantation Era.  Perhaps not as large as other migrations, but distinctive from some of the other immigrants to Hawaii.  While many Asian and other immigrants to Hawaii, planned to return home after their contracts expired, the Azoreans and Madeirans did not.  Though they might have left for California after 1900, it is very rare to find an Azorean or Madeiran who had contact back home let alone returned.  They assimilated easily and because of many factors, including poverty back home, had no intentions to return.  The Portuguese from Portugal were a different story.  They came in a later migration (after 1900) and did not find island life suitable.  I suspect there might be more from this group who returned to Portugal than those who returned to the Azores and Madeira.

The descendants of those first immigrants to Hawaii spread throughout the country today.  Some still find roots in Hawaii, even in the same towns where their ancestors first worked on plantations.  Most live in other parts of the US and do their research from afar, through the internet, and sending off letters.

This is where online genealogy groups come in handy.  When you don’t live near the place you want to research, it helps to have contact with others who are working in the same area.  These folks pass on their tips, links to databases, addresses to write to for more information, and offer support when you hit your head on that brick wall.

Here’s to the continued growth of the Portuguese Hawaiian Genealogy Group on Facebook!  If you would like to join us, go to http://www.facebook.com and search for portuguese hawaiian genealogy.  Select the entry for “group”.  Click on the button for membership.   (Note:  Because of some trouble makers, this is now a closed group.  New members are accepted, but all members have to be approved first.)





Updated Link Pages on YourIslandRoutes.com

From time to time even the laziest webmaster gets something done. That would be me. ;)

I have updated two of the link pages on YourIslandRoutes.com.

The first is the Portuguese Hawaiian Homepage Highlight.  Users have submitted the links to their family genealogy pages and websites.


The second is the Hawaii Related Indexes and Database on the Internet.  All the indexes and databases listed on this page are available to research for free.


All the links on both these pages have been verified and updated.  Enjoy!




Where were you when the Loma Prieta Quake Struck?

Damage in the Marina District, San Francisco

Damage in the Marina District, San Francisco

Today marks the anniversary of the Loma Prieta earthquake. 17 October 1989 started out as a day of hope and excitement. People were excited about the Bay Bridge Series between the A’s and the Giants. They got in their cards, sat down in a seat on a BART train, or waited for the bus to come.

The quake struck at 5:04 pm at the height of rush hour traffic. It measured 6.9 on the Richter Scale. It’s epicenter in the Santa Cruz mountains. The tremors were felt throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. Damage could be found all over the region from Santa Cruz to Sacramento. The worst of it was when the Cypress Freeway Structure and a section of the Bay Bridge collapsed. In all 69 people died and 3,757 were injured. If it weren’t for folks leaving work early to watch the World Series, things might have been alot worse.

Do you remember where you were when the earthquake struck? I sure do. I remember being in a great mood as I left work. I couldn’t wait to get home as my niece, who was 2 years old, had spent the day with my Mom and she’d still be at the house when I got home. I also was thrilled that the A’s were playing the Giants and might have a chance to beat them.

I left the Fremont Library and walked towards the BART station. The sky seemed so still and it was a beautiful day. I was half way to the station when the earthquake hit. I remember watching the building ahead of me wavering against the sky. The ground rumbled and bounced and then it was over.

To be honest, it didn’t think it was all that big of a deal. Once it was over, I continued on my merry way. When I got to the BART nothing seemed out of the ordinary. They announced that there would be a delay as they checked the system. So me and half the Bay Area (or so it seems) sat in our seats on the trains and waited…and waited…and waited.

About a half hour later it became clear that those trains weren’t going anywhere. They finally announced that we should get off the trains. I still hadn’t realized the magnitude of the disaster. I was more irritated by the fact that I was stranded in Fremont and might not get home in time to see my niece–after all, she was my only niece at the time!

I went down to the lower deck of the station and tried to call home, but all the lines were jammed. So, without anything better to do, I walked back to work. It wasn’t until I got back to my section where everyone was watching TV, that I realized something big had happened. I saw images of the Cypress Structure and the Bay Bridge. I saw houses in San Francisco with garages underneath buckled. I heard that people were trapped in rubbled in Santa Cruz. I watched all this and I could not assimilate that the minor earthquake I had felt caused all this damage.

I eventually was able to get through on the phone and arranged for my brother to come get me. He had been driving home and never even felt the earthquake!

Back home, the electricity was out and we were informed not to use the gas until it was determined it was safe. So, we did our best rendition of a camp out and lit up the BBQ. I was bummed out that my niece was picked up right after the quake as her parents wanted her nearby.

I think it took me a couple hours in the darkness to start to process what had happened. It wasn’t until we got our power back later that night and we had the TV on that I realized we had just been through a major disaster.

The whole experience was surreal. I remember the next day feeling so weird. The authorities asked people to stay home and we did. It seemed that we did nothing for days but watch images on TV, hoping and praying for survivors. We waited to see if the much anticipated Bay Bridge Series would continue, and we couldn’t really careless if it did, but we knew that we must move forward.  At work, we added a donation can to our Halloween celebrations and sent the money to one of the small cities that experienced alot of damage.

I can still remember watching on TV as they pulled people out of the Cypress Structure, and prayed along as a group of friends in Santa Cruz called out the name of their friend who was trapped in a building and had not been found. There was the image of A’s and Giants player clinging to the fence around the stadium looking as shocked and out of place as the rest of us. There was the guy who was rescued from his car after several days of being trapped, only to die soon after.

I think the most enduring story was one of heroism in a place you wouldn’t expect to find it. The Cypress Freeway Structure boardered a bad neighborhood.  One of the houses faces the structure was a crack house. One guy heard the crash and rumble of the crumbling concrete. He was in that crack house. Without thinking, he grabbed a ladder and crawled into the collapsed structure. He then proceeded to pull people out without concern for his own safety. There is something about a disaster that brings out the best in people.

So, where were you when the earthquake struck? I know where I was and I doubt that I will ever forget the experience.

View photographs from the disaster

Data from the USGS pertaining to the Loma Prieta earthquake

Photographs of damage from the USGS

Remembering Loma Prieta (photos and stories from the Exploratorium)

(Photograph in the public domain. Courtesy of the USGS.)

Other bloggers have written about the Loma Prieta earthquake. Read their stories:
Footnote Maven: I Too Survived the Loma Prieta Earthquake

Destination: Austin Family: I Survived the Loma Prieta Earthquake

(This is a repost of my memories of the Loma Prieta earthquake)