Bibi had a secret #52 Ancestors 

Bibi had a secret #52 Ancestors 

My great-grandmother, Maria Coelho, affectionately known as Bibi, was one of the most pious women I have ever known. She was a devout Catholic and had a moral compass that was unparalleled. There was no in between with her. You were either right or you were wrong. She demanded that you treat yourself with respect and that you carried yourself with the utmost propriety. In the 30 years that I had the honor of knowing her, I am convinced that she never did anything wrong.

In 1998, Bibi suffered a major stroke. That morning, Vovo, my grandmother, called me to come over and help her with Bibi because she just wasn’t acting right. I was in grad school at the time studying to become a Speech and Language Pathologist and I immediately recognized that she was having a stroke. While she was still able to speak, it wasn’t making much sense. We got her to the ER and I’m with her as the Dr was checking her out. He asked if she spoke any English. I said “No”. Of course, Bibi looks at him and says “Dr, Nobody’s home!”… In perfect English!!!

I had studied in class certain phenomenon that happened with a persons language skills after a stroke, like forgetting their native language and only speaking a second language. So at that point, Bibi had started to speak only English. I had NEVER heard Bibi speak English in my life. There I was worried about my 94 year old great grandmother suffering a major stroke and I’m giggling in the ER in shear disbelief over what I just heard!

By the end of that day, she was stable but not speaking … In Criolu or English. I spent the night with her after and was with her when she woke up the next morning. I asked her how she was and she looked at me and said “Alberto”. Every time she opened her mouth to speak, she said “Alberto”. All I kept thinking was “Who in the world is Alberto?”.

Nobody knew who Alberto was. No one had even ever heard Bibi mention Alberto. Her husband’s name was Avelino. So who was Alberto and why was that the only thing she could say????

To make matters worse, a social worker visited my great-grandmother in the hospital to have some paperwork done regarding a Medical Power of Attorney, etc. She apparently asked Bibi who she wanted to handle her medical decisions and Bibi responded “Alberto”. So later that day, I arrived at the hospital and asked a nurse about Bibi’s condition and she told me she couldn’t talk to anyone except “Alberto”!!!!

Needless to say, I caused a bit of a ruckus and made sure everyone understood that she had Aphasia and could ONLY say that one word.

Bibi’s speech eventually came back and she was back to her normal self in no time. At 94, she wasn’t about to let a little stroke keep her from going back to being our family matriarch. One day, I asked her who “Alberto” was. She never responded but gave me that look that meant I better not ask again if I valued my life.

To this day, every time I look at vital records from Cape Verde, I’m always keeping an eye out for someone named Alberto who almost became my Great Grandmother’s Medical Power of Attorney 🙂

Finding Sylvania, #52 Ancestors

Finding Sylvania, #52 Ancestors

In 1905,  my great-great grandfather, Sebastiao Fortes traveled to America with a daughter Silvania Fortes. Until now, I had not known of this sibling of my great-grandmother, Anna. When I first found this record, I immediately set out to find more information about this unknown ancestor. I had to know who she was.

I was on a quest to find Sylvania.

Silvania was born around 1877 or 1878 and was the daughter of Sebastiao Correia Fortes Ramos and Hermelinda d’Andrade dos Santos. My great-great grandparents were married on March 18, 1871 in the Church of Nossa Senhora do Monte, Brava. Sebastiao was the son of Osvaldo Fortes, native of the island of Boa Vista, and Anna Correia. Hermelinda was the daughter of Manuel Antonio do Santos and Domingas d’Andrade who are noted to be the first parishioners of the Parish of Nossa Senhora do Monte.

sebastiao's marriage record

Marriage record of Sebastiao Fortes Ramos and Hermelinda dos Santos on March 18, 1871 in Nossa Senhora do Monte, Brava

Pa Tchoncha

Sebastiao Fortes Ramos

Hermelinda, was known as Nha Tilda, and her paternal grandparents were Antonio dos Santos and Valentina de Burgo. Family lore says that Antonio was from Braga (Portugal). Her maternal grandparents were Manuel d’Andrade and Escolastica de Barros. Given the time frame and the surnames, I am guessing that her maternal grandparents were from the island of Fogo. Sebastiao was born in 1847 and Nha Tilda was said to be much older. She may have been married before and had other children.

According to the immigration record of 1905, Sebastiao had come to America for the first time 30 years before in 1866 and was last in America in 1903. He would have probably come on a whaling ship in the earlier days and it has been quite difficult locating any of those records. Sylvania is listed as being 27 years old when she arrived with her father.

Silvana and Sebastiao

Sebastiao and Sylvania coming to America in 1905

By 1910, Sylvania is listed as working as a servant in a boarding house on 73 Joy St in Boston, MA. The boarding house belonged to Antonio Hypolito Brito and his wife, Theodora Fortes Ramos! At this point I’m convinced that there’s a family connection between Theodora and Sebastiao!

Silvana 1910

In 1915, Sylania marries Joao Fortes Lima, native of Boa Vista. The marriage is his first and her 2nd. Turns out that Sylvania was married before in Brava and has a daughter in 1905, shortly before coming to America.

Silvana marriage record

Marriage of Silvania and Joao F. Lima on January 12, 1915 in the city of Boston, MA

In 1921, Sylvania is listed as traveling from Brava to Massachusetts with Maria Fortes, age 14. Sylvania is 44 when she arrives and the record reports that they are going to live with Sylvania’s daughter, Olivia Fortes Almeida, and Maria is Olivia’s daughter.

Silvana and Maria

While I suppose it’s possible, this would mean that Sylvania became a grandmother when she was 30 years old. Olivia Fortes Almeida was born in 1901 in Brava and is listed in a 1917 immigration record as being the daughter of Carlotta Fortes, Sylvania’s sister.  It’s a possibility that this is the daughter she had with her first husband in Brava. In all other records and family stories, Olivia Fortes Almeida is listed as Sylvania’s daughter.

The last piece of information I found for Sylvania is of her being in a hospital in Boston in the 1940 census. What became of her is unknown but through contact with some of her descendants, I hope to learn more about her. What became of her second husband Joao? What happened to Maria and Carlotta? I have been able to find out that her daughter, Olivia, married Candido Almeida and had several children, including Mildred Almeida, who became Miss Massachusetts in 1951.

Mildred Almeida

When researching ancestors, it’s difficult not to imagine how they lived their lives. You become vested in their lives. Were they happy? Did they suffer? While I still have some questions about what happened to Sylvania, seeing that her descendants went on to be successful and even become Miss Massachusetts makes me feel a little better.

Teia’s Family Tree, #52 Ancestors

Teia’s Family Tree, #52 Ancestors

TeiaMy grandmother, Severa Fortes da Cruz Lopes, was born on March 25, 1920 in the village of Figueral in the parish of Nossa Senhora do Monte, Brava. She was the daughter of Domingos “Pa Mingo” da Cruz and Anna “Nha Nuka” dos Santos Fortes Ramos.

Nuka

Anna dos Santos Fortes da Cruz

Pa Mingo

Domingos Lopes da Cruz

 

When taking the test for her American citizenship, she was asked to name the first President of the United States to which she confidently responded “George Washing Machine”! At least her answer was 2/3 right, lol! She was an American citizen as was her father, Pa Mingo, who first came to America in 1907. He lived and worked in Portland, Maine before returning to Cape Verde. In 1912, Pa Mingo arrived in New Bedford where he stayed with his maternal uncle, Capt. Philip da Cruz.

Capt Philip da Cruz

Captain Philip Lopes da Cruz. Picture taken in 1908 in front of his ship the E.M. Story, New Bedford, Massachusetts

Pa Mingo was born on the island of Fogo in the village, Relva, on April 15, 1888, to Isidoro Jose Lopes and Maria Lopes da Cruz.

Isidoro

 

Isidoro was the son of Roberto Jose Lopes and Catherina de Barros Abreu (m. May 25, 1856). His paternal grandparents were Jose Antonio da Cruz and Ignez Lopes de Miranda and his maternal grandparents were Pedro de Barros Abreu, son of Manuel de Barros Abreu and Maria de Miranda, and Maria d’Andrade, daughter of Manuel d’Andrade and Beatris Donelha, daughter of Andre Donelha.

Maria Lopes da Cruz, Pa Mingo’s mother, was born in Relva to Domingos da Cruz and Maria Lopes, also the parents of Capt. Philip Lopes da Cruz. Domingos and Maria were married on December 14, 1856 in the church of Nossa Senhora da Ajuda and were residents of Relva. Domingos parents were Antonio da Cruz and Maria Gomes. His paternal grandparents were Joao da Cruz and Maria Espinhola. His maternal grandparents were Joao Gomes and Maria Fernandes. Maria Lopes’ parents were Francisco Lopes and Maria da Veiga. Her paternal grandparents were Luis Lopes Morino Friere and Maria Vieira Robello.

My grandmother’s maternal side of the family had roots on the island of Boa Vista, Cape Verde and Madeira. Anna dos Santos Fortes and her twin brother, Ayres, were born in 1886 in Figueral. Her father was Sebastiao Correia Fortes was born in 1846 to Osvaldo Fortes Ramos, native of Rabil, Boa Vista and Anna Correia and they were married in 1877 in Nossa Senhora do Monte, Brava. He had a half sister, Antonia. Her mother, Hermelinda dos Santos was the daughter of Manuel Antonio “Nho Mane Valentina” dos Santos (son of Antonio dos Santos and Valentina de Burgo) and Domingas d’ Andrade (daughter of Manuel d’Andrade and Escolastica de Barros). Manuel Antonio and Domingas d’Andrade were married in 1835 in the parish of Sao Joao Baptista, Brava.  Antonio dos Santos was a native  of Madeira.

Pa Tchoncha

Sebastiao “Pa Tchoncha” Correia Fortes Ramos

 

Papa’s Family Tree, #52 ancestors

Papa’s Family Tree, #52 ancestors

I always thought it was kind of funny to hear someone say that they were 1/2 Brava and 1/2 Fogo considering that these are two very small islands are less than 30 mins from each other and, historically, inhabited by descendants of the same families. Nevertheless, I am one of those mixed Brava/Fogo people, lol!

My paternal grandfather, Papa aka Joao Antonio “Popinho” Lopes, was born in Relva, Mosteiros, Fogo on September 30, 1913 to Jose Antonio Lopes and Maria de Barros Abreu. He married my grandmother, Severa (Teia) Fortes da Cruz in 1937. He had 3 sisters, Maria Fidalgo Lopes, Catherina Lopes and Rosa Lopes d’Andrade, and at least two brothers, Roberto Jose Lopes and Manuel Jose Lopes. His father, Jose Antonio “Nho Djedje” Lopes, born in 1875 and arrived in the US in 1907 with his cousin, Anibal Jose Lopes. Nho Djedje worked on building the railroad in Cape Cod. The last arrival I have found for him was in 1925, when he was 50 years old, aboard the Leonardo da Vinci.

Nho Djedje’s parents were Roberto Jose Lopes and Catherina de Barros Abreu who were married on May 25, 1856 in the church of Nossa Senhora de Ajuda. They were residents of the town of Achada Grande. Roberto was the son of Jose Antonio da Cruz and Ignez Lopes de Miranda, daughter of Manuel Lopes da Veiga and Isabel de Miranda. He had at least three brothers, Manuel Jose Lopes (b. 1859) Eugenio Jose Lopes (b. 1862) and Isidoro Jose Lopes.

Catherina was the daughter of Pedro Jose de Barros Abreu and Maria d’Andrade. Her paternal grandparents were Manuel de Barros Abreu and Maria de Miranda. Her maternal grandparents were Manuel d’Andrade and Beatris Donelha, daughter of Andre Donelha. Coming across the Donelha surname was a pleasant surprise. Dr. Trevor Hall, Johns Hopkins University, has written that “Donelha” was a transcription error in early records for “da Nolli” and that the Donelha family are descendants of Antonio da Noli, Italian discoverer of Cape Verde and its first governor. Mr. Marcel Gomes Balla has an equally compelling argument that they are descendants of the Ornelha family from Madeira who once hosted Christopher Columbus during his third voyage to America in 1498. Either way, it’s an interesting find to have a direct connection to this family. This Andre Donelha may be the author or a descendant of the author of the same name of “An Account of Sierra Leone and the Rivers of Guinea of Cape Verde” written in 1625. The book was published again in 1977 edited by Avelino Teixeira da Mota.

Papa’s mother, Maria de Barros Abreu, was the daughter of Pedro de Barros Abreu and Maria Michaelina Lopes Friere. Her paternal grandparents were Andre de Barros Abreu (son of Manuel de Barros Abreu and Maria de Miranda, referred to above) and Joanna d’Andrade, daughter of Luis d’Andrade and Rosa d’Andrade. Maria’s maternal grandparents were Joao Lopes Friere and Rosa Goncalves.

If you’re keeping up with this, Papa’s paternal great-great grandparents were also his maternal great-great grandparents making his parents second cousins and it gets even better…Joao Lopes Friere (Papa’s great grandfather) is family to Luis Lopes Morino Friere, my grandmother, Teia’s, great-great-great grandfather and her grandfather, Isidoro Jose Lopes, was Papa’s great grand uncle.

I had the opportunity to visit Relva, located on the northeast coast of Fogo. The home my grandfather lived in still exists with the most beautiful view of the ocean.

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