#52 Ancestors- Antonio Jose Coelho – Ancestor #5

Early last year, I was fortunate enough to visit the Providence Children’s Museum’s Coming to Rhode Island exhibit that features the stories of real people who immigrated and settled in Rhode Island. One of the people featured is Antonio Jose Coelho, captain of the Nellie May, a native of Brava and an ancestor.

20140313-002649.jpgCaptain Antonio Jose Coelho

The first time I actually came across his name was while I was searching for my great-great grandfather with the same name who I knew visited the United States many times before he died in 1917 in Brava. I also knew that he lived and worked in Providence. My great-great grandfather had a wife and children in Brava so I wasn’t exactly excited to see an Antonio Jose Coelho married and living with his wife and two kids in Providence! A word to the wise- always pay attention to birth dates! My Antonio was born in 1879 while Capt. Antonio was born in 1851… And both are ancestors of mine.

Capt. Coelho is said to have first arrived around 1866 which may have been on a whaling ship. My Coelho ancestors in Brava include a very long line of mariners.

In this naturalization record from 1891, Antonio identifies 1866 as his arrival date in the United States.

He was married to Maria de Jesus d’Azevedo, also from Brava and had two sons, Joaquim and Cesar, all of whom followed Antonio to the United States between 1894 and 1897.


According to this 1900 census, Maria is quite a bit older than Antonio but both have 25 as the age they were when they first married. This, then, had to be Maria’s second marriage. In 1900, they were living on Traverse St. The 1910 census shows only Antonio, Maria and Cesar living together. Joaquim disappears from the records and I have not been able to locate him. He may have died but it is also possible that he returned to Brava or perhaps took up the family trade of whaling.

Antonio purchased the Nellie May from John Waters from Newport, Rhode Island and sailed the ship carrying people and goods from the States to Brava in 1892 and again in 1893 when a series of mishaps resulted in the captain of that voyage, Jose Godinho, beaching the ship to have it classified as abandoned and then purchase it himself at auction. Antonio fought two years, making appeals to Presidents Cleveland and McKinley, to get his ship back. Antonio died at the age of 92 without any compensation. During his life in Fox Point, Antonio was a well-known figure, helping many in the community with housing and employment and serving as an interpreter. (Excerpted from Cape Verdeans in America: Our Story, ed. Raymond A. Almeida. Boston: Tchuba-American Committee for Cape Verde, Inc., 1978. Boston. Based on original research by Michael K. H. Platzer and Dr. Diedre Meintel, with additional information collected by Cape Verdean community scholars.)

Antonio Jose Coelho Genealogy

Antonio was born on May 7, 1852. (Records have him born anywhere between 1851 and 1853.) He was the son of Joaquim Jose Coelho and Maria de Senna from Sao Joao Baptista, Brava. He also had a brother, Bernardino.

Maria de Jesus d’Azevedo was born around 1842 in Sao Joao Baptista and was the daughter of Antonio de Jesus d’Azevedo and Genoveva Tavares.

Antonio’s parents (Joaquim and Maria)
Joaquim Jose Coelho was the son of Francisco Jose Coelho and Claudina Maria da Graca.
Maria de Senna was the daughter of Francisco Ribeiro and Rosa de Senna

Antonio’s grandparents (Francisco,Claudina)
Francisco Jose Coelho was the son of Manuel Jose Coelho and Domingas da Graca
Claudina Maria da Graca was the daughter of Manuel Jose Gomes and Maria da Graca.
*Francisco and Claudina were married on June 17, 1811 and they were 2nd cousins, probably on their mothers’ sides.

Antonio’s Great Grandparents
Manuel Jose Coelho married to Domingas da Graca and parents to Francisco Jose Coelho.
Manuel Jose Gomes married to Maria da Graca (first cousin of Domingas da Graca) and parents of Claudina Maria da Graca.

*as with anything in genealogy, the stories come with differing opinions and versions of fact. I have presented information found in records of Cape Verde for the generations before Antonio, his parents, grandparents and great grandparents. Capt Coelho has descendants who still live in New England.


Author: The Creola Genealogist

My name is Anna Lima. I am the daughter of immigrants, born and raised in Massachusetts. I am the mother of two and a Speech Pathologist. My love of family history began as a child listening to my elders speak of “the old country”. Through their stories grew a love for the culture and traditions of my ancestors and I wanted to know more about who they were. My great-grandmother, our family Griot, was my greatest inspiration as she passed down stories and traditions that have helped me become the person I am today. I believe that remembering our ancestors strengthens who we are. I hope to continue my great-grandmother’s legacy, to continue to pass down the stories of not only my own family history but also the stories of the ancestors of anyone who wishes to remember. My blog is dedicated to the ancestors, those remembered and those yet to be found.

10 thoughts on “#52 Ancestors- Antonio Jose Coelho – Ancestor #5”

  1. Maria daGraca; great great granddaughter of Antonio Jose Coelho and Maria de Jesus Acevedo says:

    The only genealogical correct here number one.The others are incorrect and not related to Antonio Jose Coelho, my grandmother’s grandfather.Generations 2 and above , belong to another Coelho family, not related to Antonio of the packet trade.The Coelhos of generation2 and forward, belong to a family from the Azores, that settled n Brava.Antonio Jose Coelho’s family, of the packet trade, came from Lisbon, not the Azores. These 2 different families share no true relation, though they both settled in Brava.Generations 2-4 are those of the author, but are not related to generation 1.

    1. My email is down, so I am writing this on my husband’s iPad , to thank you for clarifying the generational info above; so that I can now retract my original comment and say thank you.My aol email is down, but I now have a gmail; mariadagraca797@gmail.com.Thank you

  2. The info first printed as going forward from my GreatGreat grandpa was in correct and you corrected it by putting it behind him as his ancestors. Rather than descendants , still is incorrect according to Ancestry.com. I think your Coelho family , not related to mine is getting erroneously written as mine. Also it does not match the info you shared with me years ago. This is simply for clafificatio, as anyone can make an honest mistake. Thank you.

    1. Not sure what you’re actually speaking about other than first names were often recycled. Everything I have documented is backed up by the actual records from the archives in Cabo Verde and I definitely don’t only rely on ancestry dot com for my information. I was 30 when my great grandmother died and I grew up hearing stories about the schisms in the Coelho branch of her family. This isn’t the first time that someone claimed my branch wasn’t related to theirs. My great grandmother told me it basically started when her father married her mother who was a direct descendant of a formerly enslaved woman. After all, the Coelho ancestors were primarily slave traders. Everything I know started with stories that came directly from my ancestors. What I have documented is according to my family history and genealogy. If you have documents form Cano verde that disprove anything I wrote about the generations of Coelho’s, prior to Antonio, in Cabo Verde, please feel free to share. If there are errors… Well, I suppose that I as I continue delving into the records contained in the Arquivo Nacional de Cabo Verde and find any records that provide a different history, I will update it accordingly but not because I’m trying to prove or disprove my personal connection to any particular person or family. My purpose is not to try to write (or re-write) anyone else’s family history

      1. My grand mother was raised by Antonio , and he was not a captain, but owner of the boat, The Nelly May, to correct the error on the narrative.I too have my grandmother’s info, snd she was his direct descendant.Slso, according to Brava naming tradition dog the time, the first born son was always named for their grandfather, making the son Joaquin, not Bernardino .Bernardino was Antonio’s brother, not his child/son. Thank you

      2. I’m not sure where the confusion is. There is no reference to Bernardino being his son. It clearly says his sons were Cesar and Joaquim. As for the term “Capt”, it is I reference to how he is referred to in other publications. If this is in error, I agree that it should be corrected. Again, not sure where the confusion is. The piece clearly lists parentage, grandparentage, etc. Not children, grandchildren, etc.

  3. I was interested reading and then seeing you from so close to my family made me read more. I’m originally from Worcester, MA and my family Plymouth, MA. Can you direct me to help find info. My daughter did 23 and me and I knew always most of my nationalities but then I seen Brava Cape Verde so I started looking up my great grand father Nebo Mendes and I get stuck. Any help is appreciated

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