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???