Everyday Life 

Everyday Life 

This is one of my most prized possessions. It’s an old photograph that belonged to my great-grandmother. She’s the one standing second to the right.


I “informally” inherited it, as I had all of her photo albums filled with photos that were often “indefinitely borrowed” from other people’s albums. I laughed when I found some of my old photographs I thought I had lost long ago in one of her albums. Most of her oldest photographs were of our ancestors wearing beautiful clothing, posing or maybe sitting in an ornate chair with a drawn background,  and always with the same emotionless stare that made you wonder if people back then even knew how to smile.

This is one of my favorite pictures because it depicts the rawness of the everyday lives of our ancestors. The women are all wearing hats or lenços. But for as long as I knew my great grandmother, she would quickly remove her lenço if she had visitors or was about to take a picture. It surprises me to see her here with a hat on her head.

I can’t help but notice that the two people standing on each end aren’t wearing shoes. But what’s more interesting is that you can’t see anyone else’s feet. Did they have shoes? Or were they just too embarrassed to show their bare, maybe worn feet for the camera? The women weren’t dressed in their very best, they weren’t posing by a fancy piece of furniture with a drawn backdrop. They weren’t all wearing the same somber stares. These people are actually smiling in this picture! Even Bibi looks like she’s struggling to contain her smile. And what is in that mug the woman standing next to Bibi is holding? Could a little grogue have something to do with those coy smiles???

When I look at photos like this, I wonder about who these people were, what their personalities may have been like, and how they were all related to one another. I notice what they’re wearing, their poses, their features including skin tones. I wonder if they were standing in the back or to the side because of their color or if it’s just a coincidence.

Photos like this can tell us more than what our ancestors looked like. For instance, the women standing in the middle of this particular photograph may be family elders and therefor placed in the middle as a symbol of respect. The way people are placed within photos may give clues to their status within their family or community.

I can spend hours pondering their individual stories!

Although I knew Bibi for the first 30 years of my life, I have come to realize that she never spoke much of the harshness of life in Brava. But this photo reminds me that she and her aunts may have been wearing black because within a span of less than 10 years she had lost both her parents and her husband. And it wasn’t very many years before that her grandparents and many other family members had died from starvation during one of the worst famines to hit Brava in the 1890’s.

I’d like to imagine this photo was taken taken on a sunny day by water, maybe in Feijão d’Agu. I imagine that Bibi and her family decided to perhaps forget all of their worries by spending it together, telling stories, with a picnic on the beach. For at least one day, the camera captured a moment of happiness.

I’m so grateful to have this treasure that allows me a glimpse into the everyday lives of my ancestors. I can’t help but feel blessed by my very comfortable life in the suburbs of Washington, DC in contrast to the stark depiction of life in this photograph. I am truly blessed.

Aye, Nha Leandra! # 52 Ancestors

Aye, Nha Leandra! # 52 Ancestors

The only spanking my great-grandmother, Bibi, ever got from her father was when she refused to go to the cemetery to put flowers on the grave of her sister, Clara. She said that her father told her that she shouldn’t be afraid to go there because sooner or later we would all end up there. But it wasn’t fear that made her refuse. It was because the cemetery was located on a mountain in Nossa Senhora do Monte named after her great-great grandmother, “Nha Leandra”.

When someone passed and was buried at this cemetery, someone would inevitably recite something like;

“Aye, Nha Leandra! Dja bu toma’m nha mae!”                                                                                                                (Aye, Nha Leandra! You’ve taken my mother!)

Bibi just hated the fact that people said that her ancestor had taken their loved one! I don’t really blame her for taking the risk of a spanking to avoid visiting a place associated with such sadness and knowing you have a more personal connection with its namesake.
Of course, being the genealogy sleuth that I am, I had to find out who Nha Leandra was and why she had a mountain named after her.  

Leandra Pereira Dias  

On December 29, 1811, in the church of São João Baptista in Brava, Joaquim de Barros son of Antonio de Barros and his wife, Maria Pires, married Leandra Pereira, daughter of Angelo Dias and Maria Pereira.

 

My great-great-great-great-great grandparents received a special dispensation by the Bishop of Cape Verde to marry since they shared the same great-great grandparents. In older marriage records, such marriages included a notation such as ” forão dispensado a 4 com 4 grãos de consanguinidade”. There were 4  “degrees” of separation between each of my great x5 grandparents and their common ancestor. Siblings are 1 degree removed from their parents, first cousins have 2 degrees of separation from their common grandparents, second cousins or first cousins once removed have 3 degrees of separation, etc.

Joaquim’s father, Antonio de Barros, left one of the largest wills known to exist in the national archives of Cape Verde. It contains over 650 pages and contains information that includes ownership vast amounts of land in Brava and how it was devided between his heirs. The will also includes information of slaves the family may have owned and probably freed after he died. It was customary in Cape Verde that any enslaved people were to be freed after their master died.  I hope this was the case for my great x6 grandfather. I have not been able to actually read this will as I am still waiting for special permission to receive a copy after proving my descendancy.

This may help to explain how Leandra came to have a whole mountain named after her. In baptism records for her grandchildren, Leandra is listed as the sole grandparent listed without Joaquim which means that he probably died young. I have not seen any information that said women didn’t inherit from the husbands. It is safe to assume that Leandra would have been left with any land and property from her husband.

GENERATION 1 

Joaquim and Leandra had five children that I have been able to find so far;

1. Manuel de Barros (b. 1816- d. 1891)

2. Joanna de Barros (b. April 8, 1825)

3. Alexandrina de Barros

4. Anna de Barros (b. 1816- d. 1889)

5. * Aniceta de Barros married Celestino Duarte, son of Zacharias Duarte and Isabel de Barros.

GENERATION 2

Aniceta was known as “Nha Nicetra de Leandra”. Celestino and Nha Nicetra had at least 12 children, including my great-great grandmother, Clara de Nha Nicetra. I have only found records for 8 of the 12 children.

1. Catherina Duarte married to Antonio Jose Lopes

2. Julia Duarte married to Antonio Tavares, child – Eugenia Tavares ( Jania de Neka)

3. Manuel Duarte married to Maria Pires do Livramento, child – Joaquim Manuel Duarte

4. Carlotta Duarte (b. 1847)

5. Joao Duarte (b. February 20, 1845)

 6. Emilia Duarte married to Joaquim Rodrigues

7. Eugenia Duarte married to Jose Tavares da Silva

8. * Clara Duarte married to Jose Coelho (b. 1845) , son of Marcelino Jose Coelho and Desidaria Rodrigues.

GENERATION 3


Clara Duarte married Jose Coelho on February 12, 1870 which fell on a Wednesday. Their marriage also received special dispensation by the Bishop of Cape Verde as they shared great-great grandparents. They had at least 9 children;

1. Adelia married to Augusto Jose Fonseca

2. Henrique Jose Coelho (b. 1870) aka Henry Rodgers married to Margarida Duarte

3. Joao Jose Coelho (b. 1871) married to Maria Ozorio

4. Carlotta Coelho (b. July 2, 1873)

5. Julia Coelho (b. 1878) married to Francisco Jose da Lomba, children – Maria and Jose

6. Maria Coelho “Ma Mulatta” married to Joaquim da Costa – children Joao, Arminda, Clara and Carlotta (twins)

7. Manuel Jose Coelho (b. June 15, 1881) married to Mariana Jose Coelho

8. Luis Jose Coelho (b. October 7, 1887) married to Amelia Tavares

9. * Antonio Jose Coelho (b. 1879-1918) married to Rosa da Lomba Goncalves (1886-1918), daughter of Julio Goncalves and Carolina Correia da Lomba.

GENERATION 4

My great-great grandparents, Antonio and Rosa, lived in Tome Barraz and had four children;

1. Julio Antonio Coelho (b. 1908 – d. 1971) married to Rovilla Fern Youle, children – Myrtle and Rose Coelho and their descendants live in Northern California

2. Carolina Coelho (b. 1912 – d. 1998) married Joao dos Santos, children Antonio, Joaquim, Arthur, Irene and Idilia dos Santos and their descendants live in Cape Verde, California, Massachusetts and Rhode Island

3. Clara Coelho (b. Unknown)

4.  * Maria “Bibi” Coelho (b. 1904- d. 2003) married to Avelino Rodrigues (b. 1900 – d. 1929), had one daughter Rosa Rodrigues (b. 1923 – d. 2003) married to Raimundo Fortes Lima, son of Marcelino Teofilo Rodrigues and Joanna Fortes Ramos Lima (b. 1876 – d. 1961). Their descendants live in Massachusetts … Except for one who lives in Maryand and calls herself the Creola Genealogist 😃.

Cachupa Memories

I decided to make some cachupa today. It’s a dish I grew up watching my mother, my grandmother and my great grandmother make. It’s basically a stew made with dried hominy, lima beans, collard greens and pork. Nothing fancy, but for me growing up, it was a delicacy that no gourmet dish from a five star restaurant could ever top.

I remember watching my great-grandmother, Bibi, sit at the table peeling a couple of garlic cloves and putting them into her small ‘pilon’ or mortar and pistle. She would add salt to the garlic and pound the mixture until it was a coarse, ground consistency. She would already have the pork cut into small pieces and used the garlic salt to “tempre” or season the meat. I remember her having the dried hominy in a large bowl of water overnight and then washing it several times then picking any pieces that didn’t look good. She did the same with the dried lima beans.

On the stove was a HUGE kettle that I probably could have fit into myself. In went the seasoned pork to “rafuga” (sauté) with olive oil, sliced onions and fodje de Loro (bay leaf). She would add water and let that come to a boil. The beans went in first then after a while, the hominy. While that was boiling she would cut some collard greens into small pieces, wash them and set them aside until it was time to add them to pot.

After what seem like an eternity, I had my bowl of cachupa in front of me, in complete bliss!

These days we’re accustomed to ready-made, drive thru foods. I am very guilty of the Uncle Ben’s microwave pouch of rice for dinner (often). But with that, you miss out on a huge process that’s more than cooking itself. I learned so much back then. As I watched my family cook, I learned my language and my culture. I learned about the “old country”. As I watched my grandmother, Vovo, make the “manse” or dough for gufunginho, cuscus, or rolinho, she and my great-grandmother might be talking about the latest news coming from Cham de Sousa, Tome Barraz and family from Pabason. I learned that there was some significance to times when they would talk about there being no rainfall, although I don’t think at the time I could have ever imagined the hunger and grief that was associated with their words.

Today you can find recipes for cachupa all over the internet, mostly for cachupa rica or rich cachupa. This is a variation from what I grew up with as it might contain a variety of beans, meats like linguica, and sweet potatoes, mandioca, and “batata ingles”. When I first heard of cachupa rica it hit me that cachupa may have represented how well a family was doing in Cabo Verde. Some years, harvests were good and you could afford the different meats and ingredients that went into the “rich” version of the dish. During years of famine and drought, you may have only had enough hominy and beans to make the “poor” version. Although I never heard anyone refer to a poor version, I can imagine that a whole family can be sustained for a while on the dried corn kernels and dried beans that can be made into a stew. During numerous droughts and famines, our families were able to sustain themselves and survive.

So as I prepare my cachupa today with hominy, lima beans and collard greens, I am thankful and feeling blessed for everything I have. It’s been 10 years since Bibi and Vovo passed but I still miss them as if it were yesterday. To them I say “Thank you and I will always love you”.

Do you have any cachupa stories? I would love to hear them!

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