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.