Thanks so much for the great response to this blog!
A special thank you to those who have passed it on to others. We are heading quickly to amazing page visits to this blog! Welcome to folks from all over the country and other countries as well, including Lisbon!!

The "Village", as it was called, is located in the northwest corner of the city of Taunton, Massachusetts U.S.A. It covers about 1 square mile with the center being School Street. A large portion of the Village population was Portuguese when I was growing up.

This blog covers a lot of the history of the Village, much to do with my years as a child there: 1940 through the late 1950's. I do have many wonderful photos and information prior to that that and will share those as well. Always looking for MORE PHOTOS AND MORE STORIES TO TELL.

If you would like to send photos or share a memory of growing up in the Village
e-mail me at
feel free to comment on the posts. Directions are on the right side of the blog posts. Jump in, the water is fine and it is easy!!!

I will be posting photographs but not identifying individuals unless I have permission or they are a matter of public record. It you wish to give me permission, please let me know.

I am looking for any and all photos of the Village...

Please note: the way blogs work is that the latest post is first. It you would like to start from the beginning of the blog, check out the post labels on the right of the blog and go from there. Thanks.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Madeira Meandering

Madeira lies 400 miles west of Morocco, approximately 700 miles southwest of mainland Portugal.  Madeira means "wood" in Portuguese and is named after the forests and dense vegetation that makes up the island ( we hope it still does, although Unesco has named these forests a world treasure protecting them).  Forests comprise 16% of the island which is an evergreen cloud forest.  Madeira is 36 miles long and 15 miles wide.  However, much of Madeira is volcanic and mountainous so travel distances vary widely.  Madeira is not part of the Azores.

The archipelago of Madeira is mountainous, composed of volcanic rock which are summits of submarine volcanoes. Madeira makes up 93% of the land mass of the archipelago, some of the smaller islands not even inhabited.  A verdant volcanic extrusion, Madeira rises from the floor of the Atlantic ocean 16,500 feet below sea level to a height of 6,109 feet at Pico Ruiva where the peak cuts through the clouds, its ravines plunging into the sea.  According to legend, the Madeira archipelago may be the mountaintops of the fabled lost Atlantis.

It was in this beautiful island that three of my grandparents were born.  Joseph Nunes Souza and Delphina Viera shared this heritage with many School Street villagers and their links to each other remained strong all their lives.  Delphina and Joseph were natives of Arco da Calheta a beautiful village sitting atop a volcanic mountain side which dips down into the sea.
                                                        This is an aerial view of it.

Arca da Calheta was the first area to be colonized in Madeira sometime in the 1400's.  Talk about ancient! Who knows how far back the Souza and Viera family go... When we went to the village in 1985 , it was a daunting ride from Funchal through breathtaking gorges and winding roads which often took us through tunnels carved through mountains.  Note how the sea can be viewed from the Village: amazing fact, so near and yet so far.  My grandfather, Joseph Souza, never learned to swim growing up in this Village.  This would mean the loss of his life, at his prime, in Fairhaven, Massachusetts. For all of my grandparents the move to the dreams of a new world would end in tragedy. When we visited the higher country of Madeira, we learned that many people never travelled down to the coast, this being in the days before motor cars for most of them. This was from the front page of the Taunton Daily Gazette in July of 1927, 22 years after Joseph  left his home village of Arca da Calheta with his young wife Delphina and their firstborn following soon after.  That first child would not live to adulthood,


Back now to  focus of this village, a natal village for my family. Our histories are all entertwined with the places our  ancestors originated, the facts of their youths 
coloring the history of all the family to come.

                                                                The Village Church
 You can see the bell tower of the village Catholic Church clearly in the first photo on this page.  We visited there in 1985 and my nephew David and his wife, Linda in the 90's.
David and Linda took these photographs.  The Church, as shared by another reader is
Igreja de Sao Braz.

There is an amazing similarity here.  This church is so like the Church that would be built in the School St. Village: St. Anthony's: same blue color, same domed saint's altars...did this vision stay in the mind of the Madeiranceans that lived in the Village? For a small Village it is quite an astounding Church. It was in this Church that many of my ancestors were baptized, confirmed, married and had their funerals. When we were there a woman cleaning in the Church remembered our grandmother Delphina doing the alter linens.  We know she took that task right on to St. Anthony's in the Village.  For her it was a task of worship, I am sure.

                                              Below a view of leaving the Church and the choir.

          Above is the tiled courtyard of the Church which I recall very well. It was very peaceful.

My grandmother Delphina Viera Souza went to school up to the third grade in this Village. She told a cousin of mine that she had a slate hung from a tree in the family yard so she could practice her sums.
This was in the 1800's.  We know so little about her and Joseph growing up, including how much schooling he received.  It must have been a fair amount as he had 
much success as a businessman in Taunton.

It is a blessing to visit one's roots, I wish I knew then what I know now.  I would
have done much more research there in that Village.  I would also have scoured the area
for photographs. Luckily, the younger generation took over: as they should.

 On top of all that I have lost most of the photos I took on that trip.
I am hoping others on the trip will contribute theirs....  Luckily, the younger ones
took over when they went.

Next post: Funchal and the last grandfather of Madeira.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Praying for Boston

As we know, Taunton is not far south of Boston.  We grew up into adulthood going into the big city for special events or just to walk the Common or Back Bay.  We know the Prudential and Trinity Church, Boylston St. and all of it.

For 100 years, the Boston Marathon has been going on.  It is a celebratory day for the city,
indeed for the state of Massachusetts.
  On a beautiful clear day....the unthinkable.

To watch the tragedy yesterday was heartbreaking.  I just felt that for a moment in our remembering of the happy times of our childhood,  we remember the victims, the families, the grieving.  Memories should not ever be for such a terrible, terrible act.  We deplore the senseless evil that inhabits those who seek to harm the innocent. We pray for peace,
for tolerance in the world.

                                     Nossa Senhora da Paz, da Consolacao, ragai por nos.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Magnificent Madeira

As we go about describing the Portuguese locales that our grandparents would always call home, my mind goes first to the big island, Madeira.  Three of my grandparents came from there: one of them would die there.  As part of my genealogical research then, study of Madeira was paramount. I will try, briefly, to summarize what I found. My family will recognize much that I wrote in my History of The Souza Family some years back. Other resources will be cited at the end of this series.

As far back as 72 B.C. the Romans described an island they called The Purple Island.  In a document dated 1351 preserved in Florence, Italy, there is a description of what must have been Madeira. It is thought that the Genoese knew of its existence. A legend says that  a pair of British lovers, Anna Dorset and Robert O'Machin, discovered the island in the 1300's.  After they left, it remained untouched until 1419 when two students of Prince Henry, Joao Gonsalves Zarco and Tristao Vaz Texeira, were blown off course on their way around the African coast.  An Italian seafarer, Bartolomeau Perestrela, was with them.

 Prince Henry the Navigator, one of the world's greatest  seafaring explorers, established a school of navigation in Portugal.  To this day, his charts are still used in navigational circles.  When Zarco, Texeira and Perestrala reported back to Prince Henry he sent them back to coloniza the island.  In 1440, Texeira was given Machico in Madeira, Porto Santo was given to Perastrala in 1444 and Zargo was given Funchal in 1451.  Zargo is buried in a convent church nest to the cathedral in Funchal, the capital of the Island which he founded.

Like those early discoverers, our family members have visited the beautiful island of Madeira. The youngest of us was my nephew David Souza, here pictured high up on its volcanic mountains   stepping where perhaps his great grandparents stepped....who knows? We were fortunate to go to Madeira in the 80's, long before I started my research.  Oh, the opportunities I missed!

I have always used black and white photos in the blog, but I could not resist this wonderful color. I must mention my nephew and his wife Linda are  excellent photographers ....

Madeira's history is fascinating. The first families of Madeira came from the the Algarve, along the mainland coast of Portugal.  After those initial settlers, others came from Flanders, Genoa, Poland, France, England, Scotland and Germany.  This gives us pause as to who our ancestors might have been.  I  have long wanted  (bucket list!)  to send a DNA sample to the National Geographic Society's Migration Project.  This  huge endeavor has as its goal mapping the DNA of the peoples of the world and their migrational pattern.  For a fee of $100 one can register, receive a kit with a cheek swab that you then return.  The DNA  will be analyzed and  you will find out where your ancestors originated.  In the case of Madeira and the Islands, this would be most interesting.  Not only are the countries listed here of consideration, but it is well to note that for decades Portugal and the Islands were occupied by the Moors.  You can still hear Moorish echos in  Fado music and architecture.
Here is the website address is you want to pursue it.


          As you read further you will see the many factors that will have influenced our bloodlines.

* In 1445, the first grapevines were brought to Madeira from Crete.

*In 1452, 800 families lived in Madeira.

*In 1452, Madeira received its first consignment of slaves from Africa and the Canary Islands. Later slaves are Moors and Africans.  Unlike American slaves, these slaves could buy their freedom and were less oppressed.

*In 1485, a famine in Madeira occurs and the agriculture changes from grain to sugar.

*In 1492, Columbus discovers America.  Christopher COlumbus married the daughter of the governor of Porto Santo (Madeira) and lived there for some time.

*In 1514, there are 3,000 families in Madeira.

*In 1552 there are 3,000 slaves in Madeira.

*In 1556, there is a pirate invasion of 11 ships and 1,300 buccaneers.  There is plundering and destruction of Funchal.

*In 1737, slavery is abolished in Madeira.

*In 1807, France invades Portugal.

*1807-1814, England's Admirel Hood and his troops are sent to defend Madeira from France. After Portugal signs a peace treaty with France in 1814 many of the 4,000 English troops remain and marry local women.

Ready to send in your DNA ????

                  next post: more about Magnificent Madeira now that our history lesson is over......

                 Meanwhile, enjoy this beautiful video and understand the wonder of Madeira.

                                                       Try it full screen...even better.


Monday, April 8, 2013


Early on in this blog we stated that the population of the Village was predominantly Portuguese in origin. We have become more familiar with our parent's lives and the years that my generation was growing up in the Village---going back to the thirties in some cases.  But what about further back than the years of our grandparents and great-grandparents?
There are tantalizing photos that we try to analyze and read, often just becoming
frustrated with a dearth of information.

This is my maternal Grandmother Isobel Bento Correia Motta as she looked when she first arrived in this country in 1915.  The photo was taken in Bristol, R.I., where after obtaining the record of her ship passsage, we found she first lived in the U.S. She had come to live with her sister Anna and Anna's husband.   It took me years and years to research and understand her life. This photograph and everything that happened to her after she
 immigrated here was uncovered slowly over time.

I love noting each detail,: her dress and its tiny pin, her hair.  The dreams still in her eyes.
Her hair was done up in the style of the day, wrapped around a clean rag to form that pompadour.  We will talk about styles of the time later.

We cannot know everything that happened to these long ago loved ones.  But, we can find out more about where they came from, and then what greeted them here,
 what some of their lives were like.

These posts are my tribute to them, to those courageous people whose journey allowed us to have our journey here.  I hope that others will share, too, as we build up a memory and knowledge tree to more
fully understand our origins.

 They were Portuguese but not homogeneous.  I am told by a friend who lived in the Village in the 30's that there was a melange of accents, a symphony, as it were.  As I child, I never took the time to listen to the differences in regional linguistics 
even though all related to the Mother Country.

* There was Lisboan such as that spoken by my Uncle John Bernadino who was born in Lisbon,
capital city of mainland Portugal.

*There was Madeirenses, Madeira from where three of my grandparents came.
To further refine that,
two of them (the Souzas) were from the high volcanic mountain country
in a little town called Arca Da Calheata.
My other grandfather (Motta) was
from the capital of Madeira: the harbor city of Funchal.

*There were the various Island accents of each Azorean island.
 My maternal grandmother was from
Sao Miguel, St. Michael's.  She was from the coastal city of Aqua d'Alto
on Sao Miguel.
But, there were other islands in the Azorean chain:
Santa Maria, Pico, Faial, Terceira, Flores, Graciosa, Sao Jorge and Corvo.

Let's pretend that we are on a whaling ship bound for all those places...exploring, learning, perhaps staying for a while or forever.....

and listen to the Fado music of Dulcie Pontes
embodying the saudade
which stayed in the hearts and memories of all of those
who came to America following a dream, and yet
leaving so much behind.