Early last year, I was fortunate enough to visit the Providence Children’s Museum’s Coming to Rhode Island exhibit that features the stories of real people who immigrated and settled in Rhode Island. One of the people featured is Antonio Jose Coelho, captain of the Nellie May, a native of Brava and an ancestor.
The first time I actually came across his name was while I was searching for my great-great grandfather with the same name who I knew visited the United States many times before he died in 1917 in Brava. I also knew that he lived and worked in Providence. My great-great grandfather had a wife and children in Brava so I wasn’t exactly excited to see an Antonio Jose Coelho married and living with his wife and two kids in Providence! A word to the wise- always pay attention to birth dates! My Antonio was born in 1879 while Capt. Antonio was born in 1851… And both are ancestors of mine.
Capt. Coelho is said to have first arrived around 1866 which may have been on a whaling ship. My Coelho ancestors in Brava include a very long line of mariners.
He was married to Maria de Jesus d’Azevedo, also from Brava and had two sons, Joaquim and Cesar, all of whom followed Antonio to the United States between 1894 and 1897.
According to this 1900 census, Maria is quite a bit older than Antonio but both have 25 as the age they were when they first married. This, then, had to be Maria’s second marriage. In 1900, they were living on Traverse St. The 1910 census shows only Antonio, Maria and Cesar living together. Joaquim disappears from the records and I have not been able to locate him. He may have died but it is also possible that he returned to Brava or perhaps took up the family trade of whaling.
Antonio purchased the Nellie May from John Waters from Newport, Rhode Island and sailed the ship carrying people and goods from the States to Brava in 1892 and again in 1893 when a series of mishaps resulted in the captain of that voyage, Jose Godinho, beaching the ship to have it classified as abandoned and then purchase it himself at auction. Antonio fought two years, making appeals to Presidents Cleveland and McKinley, to get his ship back. Antonio died at the age of 92 without any compensation. During his life in Fox Point, Antonio was a well-known figure, helping many in the community with housing and employment and serving as an interpreter. (Excerpted from Cape Verdeans in America: Our Story, ed. Raymond A. Almeida. Boston: Tchuba-American Committee for Cape Verde, Inc., 1978. Boston. Based on original research by Michael K. H. Platzer and Dr. Diedre Meintel, with additional information collected by Cape Verdean community scholars.)
Antonio Jose Coelho Genealogy
Antonio was born on May 7, 1852. (Records have him born anywhere between 1851 and 1853.) He was the son of Joaquim Jose Coelho and Maria de Senna from Sao Joao Baptista, Brava. He also had a brother, Bernardino.
Maria de Jesus d’Azevedo was born around 1842 in Sao Joao Baptista and was the daughter of Antonio de Jesus d’Azevedo and Genoveva Tavares.
Antonio’s parents (Joaquim and Maria)
Joaquim Jose Coelho was the son of Francisco Jose Coelho and Claudina Maria da Graca.
Maria de Senna was the daughter of Francisco Ribeiro and Rosa de Senna
Antonio’s grandparents (Francisco,Claudina)
Francisco Jose Coelho was the son of Manuel Jose Coelho and Domingas da Graca
Claudina Maria da Graca was the daughter of Manuel Jose Gomes and Maria da Graca.
*Francisco and Claudina were married on June 17, 1811 and they were 2nd cousins, probably on their mothers’ sides.
Antonio’s Great Grandparents
Manuel Jose Coelho married to Domingas da Graca and parents to Francisco Jose Coelho.
Manuel Jose Gomes married to Maria da Graca (first cousin of Domingas da Graca) and parents of Claudina Maria da Graca.
*as with anything in genealogy, the stories come with differing opinions and versions of fact. I have presented information found in records of Cape Verde for the generations before Antonio, his parents, grandparents and great grandparents. Capt Coelho has descendants who still live in New England.