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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Searching for a Portuguese Ancestor

Jerry's Question:
I'm trying to establish the birth town (island) in Azore Islands of Manuel Thomas born 1835. It is unknown what date Manuel arrived in the U.S. or which port he entered. Subsequent census data indicates his wife arrived in 1875 (see info below).

Known facts on Manuel:

Manuel and wife Maria (de Jesus Ambrose) Thomas are first located on the 1880 federal census of Erie, Erie County, Pennsylvania along with four of their children all shown to be born in Pennsylvania (Mary 1874; Manuel Jr. 1875; Antone 1877; and John 1881). John is the only child baptized at St. Andrews Catholic Church in Erie. The other siblings may have been born elsewhere in Pennsylvania or another New England State? Their fifth child (William) was born 1883 in Oakland.

Manuel Thomas is buried at St. Mary's Cemetery @ 4529 Howe St, Oakland, California. Location: Dormitory 2, Station 27, Area 7, Grave 1. Burial Mass: Sacred Heart Church, Oakland, California (4025 Martin Luther King Way, Oakland) Father Hayes. Record #2/4228

Laborer; lived in California 20 years according to his death record which is in question. He died at Fabiola Hospital from chronic nephritis. Mortuary record indicates he was 52 years old at the time of death. Physician was Thomas Olmstead, MD of 1127 Telegraph Ave. Undertaker: J.L. McCarthy of San Pablo Ave. Information obtained at Oakland Main Library, History Section.

Known facts on Maria de Jesus Ambrose:

Maria (Mary) de Jesus Ambrose born Dec 1, 1854 Azore Islands; married Manuel Thomas but it is unknown if marriage took place in U.S. or in the Azore Islands where both were born. After Manuel Thomas died, Maria married Joseph Main(s) in Oakland approximately 1897 after Manuel's death. The 1900 federal census shows her having arrived in U.S. in 1875 (25 years in U.S. at time of death) but her first born child occurred in 1874 in Pennsylvania.

She is buried at St. Mary's Cemetery in Oakland, California. Location Section 2, Space 3-9-1. A member of St. Columba Parish Church, San Pablo Ave (at 64th St.) Oakland. She was 46 years old at the time of death. Source records are almost non existent for this husband and wife team.
Any direction that can point me where to locate data most greatly appreciated

Olive Tree Answer: Hello Jerry, I hope that you have already joined LUSAweb and entered your data in the Portuguese Roots database. There are many people there who share your interests. Your frustration is evident: you have been diligent and yet somehow unrewarded.

I assume that you have consulted the Catholic records in Erie and Oakland. Occasionally, priests required documentation of parents' baptisms and sacramental marriage before baptizing a child.

Erie City directories are available at the LDS; if Manuel is listed, that may help you determine when he arrived there. has many City Directories online

Was there some construction project in Erie around 1873? Was there something which drew people from Azores there? Are there many people of Portuguese origin in the area?

I would check the Erie County naturalization records: unfortunately Manuel died before the 1900 census which would indicate if he were naturalized, but it might well be a fruitful search. The LDS have films of county records, and of the Erie County Historical Society card index. has Naturalization Recordsicon from NARA

You mentioned Maria's birthdate, but not Manuel's. Do you know his exact date? Perhaps on his headstone? That would help immensely when searching Portuguese records. It might also be of interest to find out who else is buried in that section of the cemetery.

The good news is that the LDS have microfilmed many parish records in the Azores; the bad news is that you need to know which island, which district before you can find what you seek.

More good news - the Portuguese archives is online; more records are being added all the time.

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