Forgotten Child, Maria

Forgotten Child, Maria

Maria was 10 days old when she was baptized on August 31, 1890 in the church of Nossa Senhora do Monte. She was the daughter of Julio Goncalves and Carolina da Lomba and born at midnight on the 21st of August in Cham de Sousa. Her paternal grandparents were Francisco Goncalves and Angelica Pires and her maternal grandparents were Joaquim da Lomba and Theresa Corrêa.

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I immediately knew this was my ancestor and assumed this was my great-great grandmother. I had vague recollections of my great-grandmother, Bibi, saying that her mother was very young when she was born, but 14???? She was herself very young when her mother died so she didn’t have very much information. But something about this just never really sat well with me. Bibi was born in October, 1904 which would have meant that her mother would have just turned 14 and married when she was 13. Possible, I guess, but it still didn’t feel right.

20140225-171112.jpg These are my great-great grandparents, Rosa Goncalves and Antonio Jose Coelho

Bibi was known as “Nha Maria Rosinha” which meant that she was Maria, the daughter of “Rosinha” or Rosa. This was a baptismal record for Maria. Bibi always told me that her mother was the only child of Julio and Carolina. They both died very young and Rosa was raised by her grandmother, Angelica. So who was Maria?

I found a record for my great-great grandmother, Rosa, born in 1886 to Julio and Carolina. My great-great-great grandparents were married in 1883. Julio died on December 22, 1893 and Carolina died on October 22, 1896. Rosa was orphaned when she was 10 years old. Then I found this….

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On the 1st of June, 1893 a child named Maria, three years old, died at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. She was the daughter of Julio Goncalves and Carolina da Lomba, residents of Cham de Sousa, property owners. She was buried in the parish’s public cemetery. Within three years the family was almost completely gone. Maria was so young. Maybe she died from a fall or disease. There may have been an cholera or malaria epidemic that took the life of her father six months later or maybe it was from hunger during drought and famine.

We’ll probably never know what happened to little Maria. I don’t think Bibi ever knew that she had an aunt with the same name. It was the custom to not speak about dead children and when you combine that with the death of both parents I can understand why the family may not have spoken about it.

Maria was forgotten for 121 years and was found almost by accident. She existed, if only for a short time, and now she is a part of my ever growing family tree.

Cape Verde DNA

The Creola Genealogist

While researching my family tree, I decided to look into genealogical DNA testing. There are different types of testing available. Males are able to have yDNA testing which tests a particular part of the DNA that is passed down from father to son. Females and males can have mTDNA which tests mitochondrial DNA that is passed down from mother to sons and daughters. These two tests will tell you where your genetic line started.

My testing showed that my maternal line goes back 80,000 years to North and West Africa. People who have come up as matches for me are primarily in the Middle East and northern Africa with some in West Africa. The third type, autosomal testing, can tell you your genetic/heritage make-up going back 5 to 6 generations. It can’t tell you whether you inherited any genes from your maternal or paternal side but rather gives overall composition…

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Cape Verdean Genealogy

The Creola Genealogist

View of Chao de Souza and Thome Barraz, Brava.
This picture was taken during one of the many
droughts in Cape Verde.

I have been interested in my family history since as long as I can remember. I was that pesky kid constantly asking questions of anyone who would answer me. Countless hours were spent listening to my grandmother and great grandmother talking about the “old country”. I heard about the festas in Cova Rodella, family from Pabason, neighbors in Pedra Mollar and Tome Barraz and about trips to Feijão d’Agua.

I had a picture in my mind of what these places looked like but nothing could prepare me for the real thing. My first trip to CV was in November 2009 with my mother and two children. It was so surreal to actually walk on the same ground that my ancestors walked. I felt like I was truly home.

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A Letter from Maria Coelho Rodrigues to Her Long Lost Brother, Julio #52 Ancestors

It must have felt like an early Christmas the day the letter arrived from California in October 1962. It had been over forty years since Bibi, my great-grandmother, had heard from her younger brother, Julio. He was very young when he boarded a ship, around 1920, bound for the United States never to return to the island or family he left behind.

This is the letter Bibi wrote to her brother after receiving the letter

(Here is my rough translation)

The dearest brother of my entire heart is you, Jolio Coelho. It is with much joy and sorrow that I attempt these few letters to tell of my well-being, my daughter and grandchildren. I only wish to one day see you, your wife and children well. Brother Julio, today we have such joy that is so admired by many, this love of our brother. There was and is only us – 3 siblings.
We are saddened because of your illness and that you have not been well but it is the hand one has been dealt, Oh, patron Saint of Patience, the will of God, my brother. You are so young, still. But illness is for us sinners. God will bring you health.
Brother, I hope that when you receive this letter, you reply because you have left me with much sadness that you did not describe your illness.
Now, I send your Baptism Certificate. Whatever you need here, I am ready to do what I can with best intentions
Brother Jolio, today I have had so many people in our home wishing us well because of your letter. And everyone is elated with your correspondence. I hope that you write us more often and that you recover.
When you receive this (Baptism) Certificate, tell me that you have received it and I, and our sister Culinha, will be satisfied. We have for so long cried for you, our dear brother, our nieces and sister-in-law, for we have not even seen them in pictures.
Julio, I am so saddened now because I know you did not write us with your own hand. I have to know whether this is because of illness or injury you suffer.
Sister, Culinha, will be writing you, as well. Brother, I received the 5 dollars in the letter to pay the cost of the certificate. I will wait for your response.
I am, as well, a widow. My husband died so young. Rosinha is married and I have 6 grandchildren. Sister, Culinha has 5 children, all men and women now. They were all surprised that Uncle Julio has remembered them.
Brother, accept my embrace with much love for you, my sister-in-law, and my nieces. I wish to know their names. I will write to them now that I have your new address.
Many compliments and appreciation for this person who wrote you this letter, whoever they are.
That is all for now,
Your sister, your best friend until death,
I am Maria Coelho Rodrigues
(PS) Brother, whatever it is you suffer I hope you will let me know what it is.

(Additional message added from Culinha)
Much Saudade our sister Colinha and your nieces and nephews send to you and will write you often.

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Cachupa Memories

I decided to make some cachupa today. It’s a dish I grew up watching my mother, my grandmother and my great grandmother make. It’s basically a stew made with dried hominy, lima beans, collard greens and pork. Nothing fancy, but for me growing up, it was a delicacy that no gourmet dish from a five star restaurant could ever top.

I remember watching my great-grandmother, Bibi, sit at the table peeling a couple of garlic cloves and putting them into her small ‘pilon’ or mortar and pistle. She would add salt to the garlic and pound the mixture until it was a coarse, ground consistency. She would already have the pork cut into small pieces and used the garlic salt to “tempre” or season the meat. I remember her having the dried hominy in a large bowl of water overnight and then washing it several times then picking any pieces that didn’t look good. She did the same with the dried lima beans.

On the stove was a HUGE kettle that I probably could have fit into myself. In went the seasoned pork to “rafuga” (sauté) with olive oil, sliced onions and fodje de Loro (bay leaf). She would add water and let that come to a boil. The beans went in first then after a while, the hominy. While that was boiling she would cut some collard greens into small pieces, wash them and set them aside until it was time to add them to pot.

After what seem like an eternity, I had my bowl of cachupa in front of me, in complete bliss!

These days we’re accustomed to ready-made, drive thru foods. I am very guilty of the Uncle Ben’s microwave pouch of rice for dinner (often). But with that, you miss out on a huge process that’s more than cooking itself. I learned so much back then. As I watched my family cook, I learned my language and my culture. I learned about the “old country”. As I watched my grandmother, Vovo, make the “manse” or dough for gufunginho, cuscus, or rolinho, she and my great-grandmother might be talking about the latest news coming from Cham de Sousa, Tome Barraz and family from Pabason. I learned that there was some significance to times when they would talk about there being no rainfall, although I don’t think at the time I could have ever imagined the hunger and grief that was associated with their words.

Today you can find recipes for cachupa all over the internet, mostly for cachupa rica or rich cachupa. This is a variation from what I grew up with as it might contain a variety of beans, meats like linguica, and sweet potatoes, mandioca, and “batata ingles”. When I first heard of cachupa rica it hit me that cachupa may have represented how well a family was doing in Cabo Verde. Some years, harvests were good and you could afford the different meats and ingredients that went into the “rich” version of the dish. During years of famine and drought, you may have only had enough hominy and beans to make the “poor” version. Although I never heard anyone refer to a poor version, I can imagine that a whole family can be sustained for a while on the dried corn kernels and dried beans that can be made into a stew. During numerous droughts and famines, our families were able to sustain themselves and survive.

So as I prepare my cachupa today with hominy, lima beans and collard greens, I am thankful and feeling blessed for everything I have. It’s been 10 years since Bibi and Vovo passed but I still miss them as if it were yesterday. To them I say “Thank you and I will always love you”.

Do you have any cachupa stories? I would love to hear them!

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Hidden History of Cabo Verde???

I came across an interesting passage in a book called “Corografia Cabo-Verdiana, ou Descripcão Geografico-Historica” (Chelmecki, 1841) where the author, very matter of factly, stated that there was a tradition in Cape Verde that the island of Santiago was inhabited by Jalofs (Wolof) at the time of its discovery. Using the word “discover” usually implies “previously unknown”. But the islands were referred to by ancient writers, including Ptolomy, as Hesperedes or Gorgades. Ancient maps depict the island group off the coast of Africa well before the traditional “discovery” date of 1460 (even this date is debatable) by Italians under the Portuguese flag… But I’ll save that argument for another day. So it seems to me the more accurate description of the Portuguese arrival on the archipelago is “settlement” versus “discovery”.

The history of the Wolof people is said to have begun around the 12th or 13th centuries, when they migrated west to present day Senegal from Mali after the fall of the Ghanaian Empire in the 11th century. Their oral histories tell of their Fulbe ethnic origins. The distance between present day Mali and Senegal is roughly 700 miles. The distance between the coast of Senegal and Santiago is less than 405 miles. And we are to believe that they could travel over 700 miles by land but not 400 miles by sea? The volcano in Fogo is an historically active volcano with periodic eruptions. The eruption, smoke and ash would have reached the coast of West Africa. Yet we are to believe no one knew of their existence? Except for the Arabs who are said to have traveled thousands of miles to procure salt from the island of Sal. And the Ancient Greeks and Phoenicians traveled thousands of miles, and who wrote about visiting these islands and told stories of the “women of Gorgades” (this is also supposed to have been the home of Medusa).
The Chinese may have even visited the island of Santo Antão and left writing depicting their travels. 20140224-231036.jpg

But somehow, the idea that people from the African continent traveling and settling there seems unfathomable according to many contemporary historians. Hmmm…

The Portuguese dealt with many insurrections of enslaved Africans during colonialism. On the island is Santiago it is said that many enslaved people escaped slavery and took refuge inland where the Portuguese didn’t occupy. They became known as “Badius” or vagabonds. It is also said that many “rebelados” or rebellious people were spread around to the other islands to lessen the danger of further insurrections. Chelmecki mentions that prior to the volcanic eruption of 1680 when masses of people from Fogo fled to Brava, there were about 200 descendants of “rebelados” living in Brava. Hmmm…

Aside from brief mentions in a few older books not much proof exists today that these Jalof/Wolof people were inhabitants of Santiago in 1460. Today there are many Cape Verdeans who are proud to call themselves Badius from the interior parts of Santiago. They may be the only group of Cape Verdeans who can claim to have fought colonial rule before our eventual independence in 1975. It would be interesting to have people with ancestry from this island have DNA testing to see if they resemble other Cape Verdeans who, on average, show to be 50/50 African and European. If there are people who show to be 100% African, would that prove that there were native people prior to colonization? Maybe, maybe not. But it would definitely add to the conversation of “what is a Cape Verdean?”.

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