52 Ancestors: My Grandma Helped the Homeless

anna don on horse

The topic for the  52 Ancestors challenge this week is “Good Deeds”.  I was somewhat stymied.  I have not done much property research on my ancestors.  I’ve only found a couple of deeds and have written about those previously.  I decided to go with the second meaning of this prompt and focused on someone who did good.

anna don on horseThe young woman in this photo was known as Anna (Jackson) Smith at the time it was taken in around 1931.  We knew knew her as Grandma Shellabarger.  She was barely 18 and married about two years.  Her son, Donald, was probably just hitting his second birthday.  The Depression was in full swing.

My Grandma was a somewhat pushy woman with an obstinate streak.  But, she could laugh hysterically at the slightest thing–a trait she shares with my Mom.  Despite her obstinance, she had a soft spot for those who were in need.

The second photo shows my grandma with my mom sometime around 1936 a few months before they left Salinas to return to Oakland.  My grandfather’s job on the sugar beet farm and my grandma’s job sweeping up at a beauty salon had come to an end.  They needed to return to the city for work.

Back in Oakland, working as a housekeeper, she made 33 cents and hour.  Her husband, Joao “Bohne” Pacheco Smith made 31 cents an hour digging graves.  It was a source of contention in their relationship that she made more than him.

You wouldn’t think they wouldn’t have much to give away.  But, my Grandma did just that!  The homeless showed up on their doorstep begging for food on a regular basis.  My grandmother never turned them away.  Though they had very little money, they had a vegetable garden and chickens.  They were well fed by Depression era standards.annajacksonshellabargerjoannlassalleca1937476

She would make a plate of food and the man or woman would eat out on the porch or on the sidewalk.  One time it was a family that had driven all the way from the Midwest.  They had no water for the radiator of the car so they urinated in a jug and kept the car going on that.  She fed them all.

My grandfather was not happy about what he saw as food leaving their table.  He didn’t have a problem with the occasional person drifting by, but they were becoming a steady stream.

One day he took my grandma outside to show her something.  He pointed to a mark on the sidewalk in front of their house.  It was a mark the hobos left behind.  It meant that the people inside would provide them a meal.  He felt that my grandma’s kindness was being taken advantage of.  But, she couldn’t turn anyone away.  So many were starving.

In fact, on top of the homeless that she fed, she also made an extra meal for the elderly woman who lived next door on E. 25th Street.  My mom told me that the houses were close together and grandma would pass the dinner plate to the woman through the kitchen window.


This is one of my favorite photographs.  It shows Grandma and her sister-in-law, Maria (Pacheco Smith) Souza/Correia on the Souza stairs.  They are enjoying a pleasant moment.

My grandma’s kindness must have rubbed off on my mom.   We were always encouraged to think of those less fortunate.  We didn’t really have much ourselves.  Yet, we would routinely clean out closets and drawers to give away outgrown shoes, clothing, and toys to the needy.  One year, a relative’s house caught on fire.  I remember taking bags of stuff to Santa Cruz that they could use to start over.  If you couldn’t use it, someone else could.  My Mom believed that.  She also believed that you never knew what life would deal you.  You would want others to show you the same kindness if you were down on your luck, wouldn’t you?

That is the lesson my grandma taught my mom and she taught us.  There will always be someone in need, someone less fortunate than yourself.  There will always be someone who can use a little kindness.


52 Ancestors: My Heart Belongs to Antonio Medeiros Cordeiro

It’s not what you think.

The theme for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge this week is Love.  This can be interpreted in many ways.

My heart belongs to Antonio Medeiros not because I have a weird crush on my ancestor, but because he expanded my tree by many generations.  When my arthritis got bad, I had to give up researching at the family history center.  A fellow researcher told me about an important book called “Genealogias de S. Miguel e Santa Maria” by Rodrigo Rodrigues that had recently been published and was available for purchase.  I bought a copy hoping that I might find an ancestor within.Rodrigo Rodrigues Genealogias

The book is in Portuguese (naturally) which slow me down a bit.  But, I am tenacious and didn’t let a little thing like a language barrier stop me.  I began going through the index and comparing names to my pedigree chart.  It is alphabetized by first name making it a little difficult to work with.  You can imagine the amount of people with first names of Maria, Jose, Francisco, Antonio, Isabella, and so forth.

I got part way though the letter A and noticed this entry:

Antonio Medeiros (cc Francisca de Sousa) 304, 305

I had an Antonio Medeiros married to a Francisca de Sousa, but my guy was Antonio Medeiros Cordeiro.  I made note just in case.

Although my ancestor, Anna Pacheco de Medeiros isn’t listed as one of their children, her brother, Manoel de Medeiros Sousa was!  I had picked up his daughter, Barbara’s line along the way.  So, I was pretty sure this was my family.

I was able to follow this line back to the original ancestor, Rui Lopes, who came to Sao Miguel Island sometime in the mid 1400s.

I then followed other parts of the tree.  I found that I was also a descendant of another founder, Goncalo Vaz Botelho.  This book kept me very busy for many months as I followed and recorded each line.

Now that the records are online, I am able to search for the original baptismal, marriage, and death records.  I can verify the work that Rodrigo Rodrigues did and add to it.

It’s no wonder that I have a research crush on Antonio Medeiros Cordeiro.  He has produced volumes of research notes and filled in several boxes in my pedigree chart.  Also, somewhere along the way I picked up enough Portuguese to read most of the entries without the aid of my dictionary.  The picked up ancestors and I learned more of the language.  Thank you Antonio!






52 Ancestors: The Longest Migration

jozimas de braga enlarged

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.