A few years ago, I was interviewed by a reporter from a Cape Verdean radio show. He asked me who I was and who my family was. Before I could filter what came out of my mouth, I said, I’m Nanie de Ramizi de Rosinha de Nha Maria Rosinha de Cham de Souza! In one breath, I had given him 5 generations of my family history in Cham de Sousa, Nossa Senhora do Monte, Brava. While I’m sure he would have been satisfied with my first and last name, I merely answered the question as I have heard many Cape Verdeans respond to the same question growing up in Massachusetts.
We joke about the fact the most Cape Verdeans don’t know each other’s official names. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have sat down to interview a family member and was given names like “Ma Lina Nha Sena”, “Lota de Nha Tansha”, “Genio Culung” and “Genia de Neka”. My own grandmother went by Matitita. I have cousins named Maria Lora, Maria Fidjinha, Maria Meninha and Maria Bia who are all “Maria” and are identified by their mothers, Laura, Virginia (Fidjinha), Meninha, and Bia. Then there’s Mane Bia, Mane Candia and Mane Creola, all family members named Manuel whose mothers were Bia, Candida, and … Well, I have no idea who “Creola” was, lol! Try finding these people in vital records where everyone is literally named Maria, Gertrudes, Manuel, Jose and Joao… Well, It might just be easier finding that needle in a haystack!
Naming conventions or naming traditions in Cape Verde can be a little tricky to navigate. Like many Portuguese “rules”, a first son may be named after the father’s father and the first daughter named after the mother’s mother. More often than not names were recycled in almost every generation! Middle names were often used by both men and women to identify which branch of the family they belonged. In my Coelho tree, Jose was the middle name given to all the sons and daughters of Jose Coelho. Not be confused with children of his brother Joao who also used the middle name Joao and sometimes Jose. Maria is also a common middle name for men, ie, Jose Maria Feijoo. There’s also the mysterious changing middle name. Marcelino Antonio Coelho was also Marcelino Jose Coelho.
The key is to understand how nicknames are used. When I tell people that I am Nanie de Jose de Sevala de Nha Nuka de Nha Tila de Nho Mane Valentina… lol… what I’m actually saying is that I’m the daughter of Jose, son of Sevala who was the daughter of Nha Nuka (Anna) who was the daughter of Nha Tila (Matilda), daughter of Manuel, son of Valentina. As you can see, the use of nicknames go from the fairly understandable.. Mane is short for Manuel to the inexplicable, Nuka for Anna. But when you see these patterns, the job of figuring of which “Manuel” you’re looking for in genealogy records becomes easier when you know that he was the son of Valentina. In my case, I had been looking for a Manuel dos Santos born around 1830 and knew I had the right one when I found a Manuel, son of Antonio dos Santos and Valentina de Burgo.
I think this is one tradition we should continue. People do refer to my children as “Nia de Nanie de Ramizi” or “Tyson de Nanie de Ramizi”. It will help later generations trace their trees much easier. Knowing that my Great-grandmother was known as Maria Rosinha made it easier to find records for her mother, Rosa.
So my real name is… Nanie de Ramizi de Rosinha de Nha Maria Rosinha de Cham de Sousa … AND… Nanie de Jose de Sevala de Nha Nuka de Ma Tila de Nho Mane Valentina… It’s also Nanie de Jose de Popinho de Nho Djedje de Relva. But you can call me Anna, Nanie or even the Creola Genealogist 😊
What’s your real name???
8 thoughts on “My real name is…”
ANNA–I’ve studied Portuguese for the past year at Rhode Island College and had a chance to meet the filmmaker Claire Andrade-Watkins, who produced the great video “Some Kind of Funny Porto Rican.” I own this video and it is a great documentary about the destruction of the Cabo Verdean community in Providence, Rhode Island. As I have not yet studied Kriolu, this is my question: Is the prefix “Nha” the Kriolu version of “senhor” or “senhora”? Also, can you recommend a Kriolu instruction book? Muite obrigada!
Dr Andrade-Watkins documentary is great and I also have family ties to Fox Pointe. “Nho/Nha” is a term of respect for your elders that is a derivative of Senhor/Senhora.
Manuel da Luz Goncalves has a Kriolo-English dictionary and is about to publish a new book soon. I believe there are classes offered at Umass-Dartmouth and Dr Silas Pinto has also offered a class through the Cape Verdean Progressive Center.
Muite obrigada, Anna. I’m hoping to learn Kriolo in addition to studying Portuguese. I have discovered an elder in my church of both Caboverdeano and Narragansett descent. I realize that I knew two Black men in my home church during childhood and youth who claimed to be Portuguese–I now realize they were probably Caboverdeanos. I also heard Dr. Leonard Heroo
preach back in the 1970’s; he was formerly president of Zion Bible College in East Providence, Rhode Island. He looked EXACTLY like an African-American neighbor, Willian S. Perry. Now I’m wondering if my neighbor was of Cabo Verdean descent….the resemblance between these two men is uncanny! I just might be your distant prima, one never knows! 🙂
Leonard Heroo’s mother was Mary Perry. I graduated Zion 1958
Mary (MINNIE) Perry HEROO was born in Cape Verde Islands.
EDDIE J. BIGBY–Thanks so much for the background information on Rev. Dr. Leonard Heroo’s
ethnic heritage! My parents and I used to travel up to Zion Bible Institute on Easter Sunday afternoons to catch the annual Easter Cantata performed by the Choir. (This was during the late 1960’s–early 1970’s.) ZBI used to bring some fabulous Pentecostal preachers and orators to the campus–people with highly trained intellects as well as powerful anointing! One year, I recall
hearing the Choir perform Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus” when they finished the cantata. It was
wonderful to hear Handel’s work sung with such intelligence and FERVOR–it made the music
ALIVE, the way it was meant to be interpreted! I never forgot that wonderful worship-in-performance,
when Baroque music met the Holy Ghost! 🙂
If you go in the image file of Google, you can see a great picture of Dr. Heroo standing outside the
Institute. He looked EXACTLY like my African-American neighbor next door, William S. Perry.
You can see pictures of Mr. Perry in this book on Black submariners in the US Navy:
BLACK SUBMARINERS IN THE UNITED STATES NAVY, 1940–1975.
Glenn A. Knoblock. McFarland, Reprint edition, 2011.
Mr. Perry later became a security guard for Electric Boat in Groton. He died in 2004.
I have often wondered if all the African-Americans named “Perry” have names shortened
from the original Portuguese “Pereira”, which literally means “pear tree.”
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Yes, Bro. Bigby, yes–it is soooo interesting! There were two men in my home church in New London,
Connecticut (Pentecostal Temple COGIC) who both claimed to be Portuguese. One was named David Smalley, the other was named Hirtle. (I forgot the first name.) I’m sure these men were of Cabo Verdean descent. I jus wish we knew about the Cabo Verdeano history and culture–one of the “cultures next door”, as it were. My family discovered their Portuguese ancestry when we began
an ethnography project in 2013. My brother’s Y-DNA came back PORTUGAL from African Ancestry.
My mother’s Mitochondrial also revealed “Iberian” ancestry and her diaspora DNA sequences matched
Afro-Lisboans and Cabo Verde, in addition to all the African, Native American and Middle Eastern
groups. We have Portuguese ancestry on both sides of our African-American family. 🙂