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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.