Origins of the Coelho family

Maria Coelho Rodrigues

My great grandmother, Maria, was the the daughter of Antonio Jose Coelho from Nossa Senhora do Monte, Brava, born in 1879 to Jose Coelho and Clara Duarte of Thome Barraz. I have been able to trace my Coelho line to the late 1700’s to a Manuel Jose Coelho m. Claudina da Graca, of Sao Joao Baptista, Brava. There is also a branch of the Coelho family that was deeded the island of Maio by the Portuguese Royal family. I haven’t actually researched as much about those Coelhos. The Coelho’s of Brava include another Antonio Jose Coelho, born in 1852, the uncle of my great-great grandfather, who was the first Cape Verdean to own a packet ship, the Nellie Mae, that he purchased from John Waters of Newport,Rhode Island. The ship was used to bring food and other necessities from the US to Brava during one of its periodic and severe droughts. The ship was intentionally moored by its captain so he could buy it at auction. Antonio fought this and even brought his case to Presidents Cleveland and McKinley. He had already become one of the wealthiest Cape Verdeans in Fox Point, RI, but he was never able to get his boat back. He died in RI at 92. His grave was recently rediscovered during construction work in Providence and his great- granddaughter is now trying to have it designated a national historic site. There has also been a museum exhibit in RI where children can experience voyages on a replica of Antonio’s ship.

Captain Antonio Jose Coelho

I have always heard stories in the family that the Coelho’s were from the Azores or possibly, Lisbon. I have also heard a story that someone in the family had been able to trace the family directly to Azores however I have not been able to find Out anymore about this.

Antonio Jose Coelho
1879-1917

So, I decided to investigate the actual origins of the Coelho family. I found that the very first person named Coelho was a nobleman named Soeiro Viegas Coelho who had earned the nickname “rabbit/Coelho” because of his stealth-like tactics used to fend of the Moors out of Portugal. He was born around 1160 and his family can be traced to around 940 AD to D. Moninho Viegas. o Gasco born around 940 AD.

So… While it has been difficult to connect the first Coelho’s in Cape Verde to the Azores, it’s nice to have been able to discover the origins of the family in Portugal.