DNA update!

In previous entries, I have written a bit on my DNA results which show that my genetic make-up is Mandinkan/Yoruba and Tuscan Italian. My mtDNA showed origins in West Africa/North Africa/Mediterranean areas but not much else. FamilytreeDNA.com continuously upgrades results as new advances come along in the technology and it’s always possible to log-in and find something completely different everyday.

Today, my mtDNA results seem to have been updated and I now have a ton of information on ancestral origins in Africa than show quite a few matches who are mostly Bantu (Fang, Ngomba, Galoa, Ndumu, and Punu)!!!!

I will update more info later on as I research more information on these particular tribes.


In Honor of a Great Man: Benedito Pires Gibau

Weeks before he passed away, my step-father, Bene, called me, my sister and two brothers into his room to talk to us as if he knew he didn’t have much more time with us. He said that there was nothing more important than family and that without it nothing else matters much. He looked at the four of us and said that he was a lucky man to have been a father to the four of us. He said that if all he had left in this world was one dollar, he would want us to share it equally because although he was my step-father, he raised all of us and we were all his children. 
I can remember breaking down at that moment for the first time since we got the diagnosis of his stage four cancer. 
When they married in 1975, I was only two. My memories always included Bene. I can’t really remember him not being there. My favorite memories are of sitting with him on our recliner on Saturday afternoons watching wrestling matches – Captain Lou Albano and Andre the Giant were my favorites. He made the best tuna fish sandwiches with a little onion and “malagata” or hots and taught me how to make rice and beans with potatoes in it. 
I don’t remember him ever missing a day of work at the leather tanning factory he worked in for over twenty years – the same factory that exposed him to the very chemicals that may have caused his cancer. When I was twelve, my parents bought a single family home down the street from the triple decker my grandmother owned. We had lived on the third floor. 
After receiving my masters from the University of Massachusetts- Amherst, I returned home that summer to look for a job to complete my residency. I found a position that would eventually move me to Connecticut. One afternoon before leaving,  my step-father asked me to give him a ride to the store. As we were pulling out of the driveway, he said that he wanted me to know that no matter how old I was or what I was doing in life, I always had a home there. He knew he couldn’t give me much more but he could always give me a home. 
He was a man of very few words but when he did it made a great impact in my life. No one ever had an unkind word to say about him and he was always there, in the background at times, because he was never one who liked to be the center of attention. He had a garden in the backyard that he tended faithfully. We always had corn, beans, zucchini, squash, cucumbers and strawberries. We had an apple and a pear tree in our yard and he grew grapes on a vine that covered most of our driveway and he even made his own wine. Every year, family and friends harvested the food and all were welcome to take whatever they could carry. That was the kind of man he was. 
The summer of 2011, I drove home to Massachusetts from Maryland almost every weekend. I watched my step-father grow weaker. The man who was part of my foundation was withering away into someone almost unrecognizable. Even while taking medication as his pain became unbearable, he would still ask us if my mother was ok and if she had her dinner yet (he was the cook in the house). He passed away in October of that year. It’s still hard to walk into my childhood home and not see him sitting in his recliner or hear him whistling as he tended to his pets in the yard or tending his garden. 
I think part of the reason why some of us do this genealogy “thing” is that we never want to forget people who are important to us. We don’t want others to forget either. My youngest niece was only two when my step-father died and there are things that I would want her to know about her grandfather like how he would get up very early every morning and make breakfast for the grandchildren when they stayed over. To this day, all the grand kids, my son included, remember that “Papai” made the best pápe or cream of wheat ever and no one has been able to replicate it since. I want her to know this and other stories about him and to never forget that this man, who raised me as his own, existed and though he was a man of very few words, showed us through his actions that he loved us all very much. 
Benedito Pires Gibau was born in Cham de Sousa, Nossa Senhora do Monte, Brava and was the son of Eugenio Rodrigues Gibau and Julia Turíbio Pires. He was the grandson of Querino Gibau and Rosa Rodrigues and of Turíbio Matheus Pires and Anna da Lomba Neves da Conceiçao. He was the great-grandson of Matheus Pires and Julia Gibau Fernandes of Pe de Rocha, Nossa Senhora do Monte, Brava. The were originally from Madeira and may have immigrated to Brava in the 1850’s. 
Bene’s father, Eugenio, traveled around the world several times over working as a cook on several ships and also lived a short time in New Bedford. He was said to be one of the best chefs in Brava. His maternal grandfather, Turíbio Matheus, along with two brothers, Francisco Matheus and Jose Matheus, were American citizens arriving in San Francisco, California in the early 1900’s during the rebuilding of the city after the great earthquake in 1904. Turíbio returned to Brava in retirement while Jose stayed in California and Francisco settled in Hawaii. 
Bene’s maternal great-grand uncle was Julio Gibau Fernandes, a whaler and ship captain married to Domingas do Canto, who lived on Acushnet Avenue in New Bedford at the turn of the century. Domingas was the godmother of my great-grandmother, Joanna, whom I’ve written about before. It was with them that she lived with in New Bedford when she arrived in 1917. 

Famine and drought in Cape Verde

In the 1930’s and 1940’s, there were events and shows taking place in New Bedford and other Cape Verdean communities in the United States to raise funds to send food and other necessities to Cape Verde where thousand were starving to death. So many people were dying that there wasn’t enough time to record their deaths and children and infants were the hardest hit.

I had the opportunity to present a series of slides that were part of Famine Relief slideshow originally presented in New Bedford in the late 30’s and 40’s. In trying to keep true to what I thought was the original intent and spirit of the original show I focused more on the actual images and was not very successful in telling the story of what was actually going on in Cape Verde that made the need for the slideshow necessary. 
Hindsight is always 20/20 but here is some of what may have made the presentation better- 
The arquipelago of Cape Verde is located along the Sahel which meant that land which may have been lush and green was prone to the same conditions as the area around the Sahara. With the population growth, there was a greater need for wood for shelter and cooking. Livestock was brought in from abroad that fed on any greenery further affecting  the already delicate environment. There are other factors that play on Cape Verde’s history of drought and famine that resulted in a total of more than fifty years total of drought since the 1700’s 
While researching my family line in Brava, I can recall feeling a lot of sadness going through pages and pages of deaths of children, some on the very same day as their parents. Among those were my great-grandmothers aunt and uncle,who lost at least three children in the early and mid 1890’s. During  the same period, my great-great grandmother, Rosa, born in 1887, lost her father in 1893 and her mother in 1896. She also had younger sister, Maria, born in 1890 but there are no records for after that. Sadly, Maria may have been one of the scores of people whose deaths weren’t recorded because there were too many at once. A devestating drought took hold of Brava during this time period and it is very likely my family members died from starvation. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the fact that Rosa was the sole survivor in her immediate family. 
It’s a very sobering thought made worse when you think about why she may have survived. What kinds of sacrifices might her parents have made so that she had enough to eat? 
When I first started putting all the pieces to this story together, I called my aunt to tell her what I had found. The next morning she called me in tears because the knowledge of what happened to our ancestors made her remember the severe drought in the late 1940’s. There was no food and the death toll was rising. She remembers my grandmother splitting one mango among her siblings one particular morning. She herself had nothing to eat. My aunt told me that as children they would try to find games to play to take their minds off of their hunger.  But that day it wasnt helping much. My grandfather was working in São Paulo, Brazil and hadn’t yet been able to send anything that month. Later on I learned that he was working in a bakery and being paid the equivalent of pennies a day. He was barely surviving himself and had lost so much weight when he returned to Brava that he was barely recognizable. 
My aunt went on to tell me how my grandmother got word later that day that they had received mail from America. A family member had sent them twenty dollars and my grandmother was able to buy rice to sustain her family. She remembers the excitement and probably relief that day like it was yesterday. 
Then there are the stories of drought in Fogo in the 1930’s and how my grandfather walked miles to get food, finally getting one single egg to feed his younger siblings. 
These stories and hundreds more would help to understand the task that Cape Verdeans in America undertook to save hungry family members at home in Cape Verde. This particular show raised around $3500! Twenty dollars and an egg meant survival for many of my ancestors!!!
Because of this slideshow and the people depicted in these slides, countless people were saved from starvation. 
Many of us are alive today only because of our ancestors sheer will to survive through unimaginable hardships and sacrifices; and because of Cape Verdean – Americans who never forgot where they came from and who responded to the poet, Pedro Cardoso, plea to the Cape Verdeans to “show the world their worth” and help their brothers and sisters in Cape Verde, in a poem written to the Cape Verdeans of the United States. 
This past weekend, my family had our first family reunion. Well over 300 people attended, among them were veterans, nurses and teachers, many people who in their own ways contribute to our society. We released butterflies in honor of our ancestors. I can only hope that they are looking down from heaven knowing that we are grateful for everything they experienced so that we could gather on a summer afternoon and celebrate our family. 
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