52 Ancestors: The Longest Migration

This is week 6 of 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.  The theme is So Far Away.  I decided to write about my great great grandfather, Jozimas de Braga, who had the longest migration of them all.  I should note that my great grandmother, Maria (de Braga) Pacheco Smith, his daughter, also had a similar migration path.  His migration may be more remarkable.  Whereas Maria was a child when she first left her village, Jozimas was 33 years old.

When I think about my Azorean ancestors and the journey they took from their homeland to Hawaii and then to California, I am in awe.  These are  people who spent their entire lives on Sao Miguel Island in the Azores.  In fact, they most likely spent most of their time in one village. Their ancestors were from those same villages. My great great grandfather, Jozimas de Braga, has roots in the village of Maia going back to the 1600s.  His wife, Maria da Conceicao de Mello, has ancestors who were married in Maia in 1590.

It must have taken tremendous courage for them to sign those sugar plantation contracts in 1882 and get on that ship with three small children in tow.  Even harder to leave one of their children behind “just in case”.

This is a snippet of his sugar plantation contract signed in 1882 and completed in 1885.


Hawaii was some mythological place many miles away.   They had to travel around South America up to San Francisco and then to Honolulu just to get there.

This wasn’t the only migration that Jozimas de Braga made.  His wife died in 1902 and he never remarried.  He had spent almost 25 years on Kauai.  He made a good life for himself.  Yet, when his son-in-law needed to escape Hawaii to avoid deportation (he had leprosy), Jozimas packed up his belongings and migrated once again.

It is said the ship they were smuggled upon went to Japan first.  Then, it made it’s way to San Francisco.  Jozimas and his daughter’s family got off the ship and headed for Oakland, CA.  I don’t believe the side trip to Japan.  All I know is Jozimas arrived in San Francisco in May 1907 on the SS Mongolia.

Thanks to my Bonita cousins we have this one photograph of Jozimas.  It was taken in Chular, Monterey Co., CA about 1915.

jozimas de braga enlarged

That wasn’t the last time he picked up roots.  In 1914, he headed with his daughter and her family to Spreckels, CA.  She was recently widowed.  Perhaps she needed a change of scenery or needed to be closer to her family.  It may just be that she had three teenage sons and a seven year old to take care of and the work which was plentiful on the Spreckels Sugar Beet Farm.  Jozimas returned to Oakland sometime after the 1920 census 1920.  He moved back to Oakland and died in  1922.

Jozimas, who had spent his first 33 years in one village made not only one migration, but three.  He crossed the Atlantic, the Pacific, and then Pacific again.  He went from the Azores to Hawaii to California.  He then went from Oakland to Spreckels and back to Oakland.  He restarted his life multiple times.

I can’t imagine what that must have been like to pick up roots like that.  Hawaii was so far away.  Then, to live there for over two decades and leave again, it must have taken tremendous inner strength.  I’m fairly sure the first migration was by choice.  The second, I’m not so sure.  I’d like to think that his bond with his children who left Hawaii for California was so strong that he decided to be with the family in his later years.  I guess I will never know.


This is Jozimas de Braga’s tombstone at St. Mary’s Cemetery, Oakland, Alameda Co., CA.  He is buried with his granddaughter, Sophie (Bonita) Guido.


52 Ancestors: Women Worked on Hawaii’s Sugar Plantations, Too

This is the fifth entry in the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge. The theme is Ploughing Through.  I wonder how many researchers with Portuguese Hawaiian ancestry realize that their female ancestors were under contract, too?  My great great grandmother was one of those women.

debraga documents 029 debragamariamellosugarcontract497crop

This is the original sugar plantation contract that my great great grandmother, Maria da Conceicao (de Mello) de Braga signed before leaving for Hawaii.  The original has been in the hands of the Bonita descendants for many decades.

The contract gives us some details about the sugar plantation system.  Maria and her husband, Jozima de Braga, would be on the ship the SS Monarch in 1882 with their children.  It says that she would be employed as a laborer in agriculture.  She would be given shelter, food, and medical care.  Her children would get schooling, though agriculture work was also a part of their lives.

Maria would work out in the cane field hoeing rows most likely.  In exchange for working 10 hour days, 6 days a week, she earned $5 a month.  Her husband, Jozimas, got $9 a month for similar work.

Jozimas and Maria were sent over to the Kealia Sugar Plantation on Kauai.  The work was difficult.  Maria was 37 years old when she signed this contract.  She also had 3 children to worry about who were ages 8, 6, and 3 years old.  I wonder if she had help or took the youngest into the field with her (many women took their babies with them).  Perhaps the older ones kept watch over the younger.

The couple completed their contracts 19 Jun 1885.  A 3 year stint.  I am not sure how long they stayed on the Kealia plantation.  They were living on the Kilauea Sugar Plantation by the 1890s.  Maria’s health was fading.  She died in 1903 in Kilauea at the age of 58.

There are no photos of Maria that I know of.  Her tombstone and the contract above are the only records of her small contribution to Hawaii’s sugar plantation history.

Braga tombstone Kilauea Catholic Cemetery






Are Genealogists Wired Differently?

Are genealogists wired differently?  I have asked myself that many times in the past.   It isn’t our remarkable ability to flesh out the dead.  Though, that is a remarkable skill.  No, I am talking about our love of making lists and organizing data into different forms and fashions.

It isn’t enough for a genealogist to collect data.  It isn’t enough to input it into our databases and to file it into folders.  No, we must play with it.

For instance, I’ve been over the moon with two new projects I started.  Project number 1 involves using Google maps to create a map of my Portuguese relatives who left Kauai, Hawaii for E. 25th Street in Oakland, California.  Oh, I’ve got all that data on a handwritten map and on lists.  But, I needed to see it on a map.

I spent a week pinpointing the houses where my grandfather’s 30 or so first cousins and his great aunts and great uncles lived.  Next, I will probably add the “marry ins” because they also lived on the same street and came from Kauai (many of them also from Kilauea)

This project gives me joy.  I consider in fun.  Once it is done I will be able to share with my extended family and everyone will be able to see where their grandparents and great grandparents lived in connection to all the other relatives.  Isn’t that exciting?

My second project involves putting photos into RootsMagic for all my relatives.  I plan to create descendant wall charts, then post them to my private family Facebook group.  I think this will make it easier for cousins to figure out where they fit in.  I’m having fun finding the photographs and adding them to the media gallery.

The neat thing about this project is that the last time I added photos to Rootsmagic I didn’t have many.  This time when I did three generations of my de Braga tree, there were only three blank spots on my chart.  One is my great great grandmother.  I probably will never have that spot filled.  The other are two of my grandfather’s cousins.  I hope to some day fill in those faces.

Both of these projects have been challenging, interesting, and fun.  Only genealogist would say cropping photos, pinning addresses on a map, and researching when houses were built is fun.


Yes, I do believe we are wired differently.