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“Questions I’ve always had but never knew… or thought… I could ask” Series. 

(If you don’t want to get mad you may not want to continue reading)

1. Why do we refer to our Kriolu language as “Portuguese dialect”? Or a mixture of Portuguese and African? 

Both terms are factually incorrect. A dialect infers mutual intelligibility. Portuguese and Kriolu are not. Most Cape Verdeans understand Portuguese because it’s taught in the schools and is the language of business and commerce. It’s a second language for them. Unless Kriolu is being taught in Portuguese classrooms somewhere that I’m not aware of, it’s a safe bet that Portuguese aren’t referring to our language as a dialect of their own, as they would the Portuguese spoken in the Azores, Madeira or Brazil. 
As a matter of fact, we only have to read historical texts, that they wrote in their own words, to see depictions of Kriolu speakers as dumb and uneducated. They ridiculed our ancestors and the way they spoke! It was a “nonsense” language. They NEVER attempted to identify it as a “dialect” of their language. We, Kriolu speakers, are the only ones making this argument. They don’t claim it so why are we holding on to an idea that only perpetuates colonization of our minds and identity. 
Why do we insist on calling the language that embodies our “Caboverdeanidade” something IT IS NOT!?!?!
Even if we hold on to the false narrative that we speak a “dialect”, why can’t it be a dialect of Wolof, Fula or Serer? Those were the mother tongues of the majority of the blacks that set foot on the islands as enslaved captives. “African” is not a language… it’s crazy that I even have to make this distinction! It’s a continent…!!!!
So much has been done to erase our black history and ignore the contributions that our ancestors made. Can we really continue to ignore that they made significant contributions to the language we use to identify ourselves? 

Kriolu is not a dialect but a “Creole language”. It basically means that vocabulary from various contributing languages were combined with a grammatical set of rules that some believe we are all born with (Bickerton). This (very simple) definition implies and demands that there is more than just Portuguese contributions (or Spanish, Italian, etc for that matter) in Kriolu. I am very sure that Blacks weren’t a literal “silent” majority in Cabo Verde to the extent that their native tongues were not an integral part in the creation of Kriolu. To ignore this fact is to perpetuate an already egregious insult to our ancestors. They deserve to be remembered just as much as some CV’s remember AND celebrate our European ancestors. 

Another aspect of a Creole language is that it evolves. Every known language has. It becomes less a creole and becomes structurally independent “target language” just like English (which was also a creole). What we speak is a LANGUAGE… it is NOT a dialect, nor a slang and definitely not some nonsense jargon. I understand the legacy of colonization is to blame, I just don’t agree with perpetuating my own colonization. 

When I speak the language of my ancestors, I honor them. 

N ta papia Kriolu, e bo?

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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.

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The Ancestors Are Smiling


When I’m not doing genealogy, I’m a Speech Pathologist. A few months back I had a conversation with a patient and her family about genealogy and started helping them with their family tree. I traced them back to a former slave named Charlotte who bought a bunch of land after Emancipation and the civil war. The family still lives on this land today.

Part of this research traced back to a place called Piscataway.

While trying to find my way to a new patient’s home the other day, my gps brings me down a wrong road and guess where I find myself???? … The historic village of Piscataway!!! So I figure “What the hay” and drive up one of the plantation looking driveways and knock on the door.

A sweet looking lady answers the door and after I tell her what I was researching, she invites me in! Then she gets on the phone with the president of their small historical association and has me speak to the person so I can find the plantation where Charlotte once lived. And would you believe she knew exactly where it was!!!!

After I get off the phone, the sweet homeowner apologizes for not having offered me anything to drink. She says she had just gotten home from the hospital after suffering a stroke and her memory isn’t so good. I point to my scrubs and tell her that I’m a speech therapist and I see patients like her in their homes and that I will be there next week for her first session.

I always knew speech therapy and genealogy went together perfectly! 😊

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The Cardoso Family from Santo Antonio, Fogo

I first met “Pa Bedju” in 2000, the great-grandfather of my soon to be born son. A normal part of any introduction in Cape Verdean culture is to ask about what family you come from. I remember saying that I was the grand-daughter of Nho Popinho de Mosteiros.

Pa Bedju’s face lit up and he said something like; “Ka bu fra ma bo e neta de Popinho! / Don’t tell me you’re Popinho’s granddaughter!”

I remember the wave of nausea that overcame me as the realization hit me that if he knew my grandfather, they may be related… Which would mean I was related to my child’s father😦

“Nos era grande amigo! / We were great friends!”.

Luckily, the two men had been childhood friends with no family connections that I have been able to find, lol!

My son is now 15 and Pa Bedju is no longer with us. And as I reminisce about that first meeting, knowing that my son is the great-grandson of these two best friends, I am honored to include the story of Filenio “Pa Bedju” Cardoso in The Creola Genealogist.


Filenio Cardoso (1911-2006) and Etelvina Barbosa da Silva (1906-1995)

Filenio Cardoso was born on January 18, 1911 in Santo Antonio, in the parish of Sao Lourenco, Fogo. He was the son of Eusebio Cardoso and Ana L. Amado. Filenio was married to Etelvina Barbosa da Silva, born on May 29, 1906. She was the daughter of Filipe Barbosa da Silva and Francisca Correia.

The full surname for the Cardoso’s of Santo Antonio is de Jesus Cardoso. Eusebio was the son of Filenio De Jesus Cardoso (son of Manuel de Jesus Cardoso and Francisca Borges de Souto Cardoso) and Maria de Jesus Barbosa (daughter of Martha Monteiro Robelo).

There is a family story that Pedro Monteiro Cardoso, poet, who published the first book of Cape Verdean poetry in 1915 was a family member. Pedro was very outspoken about African – Cape Verdean identity and signed his work as “Afro”. He was the founder of several journal publications and author of at least fourteen books.


Pedro Monteiro Cardoso (1883-1942)

Pedro was born on September 13, 1883. Some sources say he was born in 1890. He was the of Manuel Benecio Cardoso and Ana Teodora Monteiro Barbosa in 1883. While researching the records of Sao Lourenco, I found a record for a Gertrudes Benecio Cardoso, daughter of Felipe Benecio Cardoso and Filomena de Jesus Cardoso in Santo Antonio. This is a very small village and the chances of this being the same family as Pedro’s is very likely.

This is only the beginning of my research into my son’s paternal family tree. Some of this information may have to be revised in time but that’s part of the fun of genealogy!



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Just A Thought…

It’s “Black History Month”, the shortest month of the year dedicated to the history of Black people in America.

As a child of Cape Verdean immigrants, some may say that I don’t have a direct connection to the history of Blacks in America, slavery, Jim Crow or even the Civil Rights Movement.

To those people AND my fellow Cape Verdean-Americans, here’s a little reminder…

Cape Verde was once the hub of the Atlantic Slave Trade. Where do we think some of the enslaved Africans who worked tobacco and cotton fields came from??? They were mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and cousins to the very ancestors that worked sugar cane and coffee plantations in Santiago and Fogo and salt mines of Maio and Sal. Come on now, People!!!

And while I haven’t (yet) found a direct ancestor who picked cotton in the fields of Mississippi, I do know of my great-grandmother who picked cranberries and blueberries for pennies a week in Cape Cod. I know that she and other Cape Verdeans weren’t allowed to live in certain areas, use certain bathrooms or sit in certain seats. And they certainly weren’t allowed to vote.

Cape Verdeans were here before America was America. Cape Verdeans helped build this country and defend it in the same segregated military. It was a Cape Verdean who was the first Black representative of the Maryland Assembly in 1642! It was a Cape Verdean who became the first black Federal Judge, Hon. George Leighton (Leitão from Brava), and who was considered for appointment to the US Supreme Court along with Thurgood Marshall, who was later selected!

So the truth of it is, Black History month is about our history as well.

But what do I know… I’m just the proud daughter of Cape Verdean immigrants 😊

The Essence of Caboverdeanidade: The thing that makes us who we are is difficult to put into words so our ancestors put it to music

The morna is synonymous with the concept of Caboverdeanidade. The melancholic melodies and lyrics full of sodade has captured the essence of our culture for at least two centuries. Some might describe the Morna as a musical form that expresses the sadness and isolation of our people but I’ve never perceived it that way.

The Morna is about “Sodade” which is defined as a “nostalgic longing to be near again to something or someone that is distant, or that has been loved and then lost”. But it also about “the love that remains”. For me, Morna is exactly that. One of my favorites, “Nos Morna” by Ildo Lobo, says the Morna is the “inspiration of our poets, the princess of our serenades, on a quiet moonlit night, under the window of your love, and the quiet cry of my violin”. Cabo Verde without Morna would be “a land with sun, without heat, a bride without lace, victory without glory”.

The Morna is truly who and what we are.

The love for the country and culture of our ancestors is ingrained in my DNA. That love has remained and been passed down through generations of Cape Verdeans in Cabo Verde and throughout the diaspora, alike. The melancholic tunes immediately triggers the same reaction in me today as it probably did in my ancestors in the 1860’s when the oldest known morna, Brada Maria – Composed by Jose Bernardo Alfama and lyrics added later by Eugenio Tavares, was penned.

Our cousin, António Germano Lima, professor at the University of Cabo Verde, has written that the origin of the Morna is the “Lundum”, music of the Bantu people that spread from Angola to most of West Africa. It is believed it that was brought to Cape Verde by enslaved Africans to the island Boa Vista.

The Lundum has been preserved in Boa Vista and is traditionally heard during wedding festivities as the bride groom dance for the first time as a couple.

Lundum do Cabo Verde by Karin Mensah

Musicologists point out the connection and relationship of the music of Cape Verde and Brazil, especially as it pertains to Lundum. Today, it is taught and celebrated among descendants of enslaved Africans in Bahia, the northern part of Brazil.
Lundum em Belem do Para

The essence of our Caboverdeanidade, the thing that makes us who we are, is difficult to put in words so our ancestors put it to music.


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This is why I love genealogy and history…

Some time ago, I posted a picture on FaceBook entitled “Retrato de Duas Mulheres” which features two very striking women and got a lot of attention. Most asked who these women were. At the time I had no idea. I was mostly focused on what I’ve come to call the “Lima Nose”. These women had the same nose as my great grandmother, Joanna, and her family member, Padre Manuel Antonio de Brito Lima.

Duas Mulheres

Duas Mulheres – Boa Vista, 1926


My Great Grandmother, Joana Fortes Lima Gomes – Born in 1876 in Rabil, Boa Vista

Many people reposted this picture and it finally got to a woman in Boa Vista, Joana Lima Ramos​, who identified the two as Maria Barbara and Nha Luci! When I inquired, she was, in fact, referring to Maria Barba, a very well known singer from the island of Boa Vista who, at the height of her career, performed at the Exposiçao Colonial do Porto in 1934 in Portugal. ExpoColonial1934001

The only picture I had ever seen of this woman was a fuzzy image that didn’t show her remarkable features. She was young when she married and had her first child in 1930. The picture I posted was from 1926!

Maria Barba

Maria Barba

Maria Barba was born in 1910 in Boa Vista and died in 1974. Musicians made famous a song called “Maria Barba” about this very same woman. I grew up hearing this song and I am honored to get a closer glimpse of this woman from the island of my Lima ancestors.

“Maria Barba” sung by Bana

Maria Barba, canta mais uma Morna (Para despedida do Sr. Tenente Serra ) 2x

S’nhôr Tenente, ‘m câ pôdê cantá más

‘m ti ta bai nhâ camin pâ Manga

Pâ matança di gafanhôt

Oh, Sr. Tenente, oli cóbe d’plícia

Djál bem bscóme

Ai, s’um ca bai, el tâ mandam’

Prese pâ Porte, oi, oi,…

Quem é o chefe desta povoação ) Porque Maria Barba tu não vais ainda )2x

Nôs cóbe-chef ê Nhô Tôc d’Chuc Canóche

Amim’ ti ta bai nhâ camin pâ Manga

Nhâ mãe ê fráca, nhâ pai ê môrte

Amim’‘m câ tem q’êm raspondê pa mim,oi,oi

Maria Barba, canta mais uma Morna

Porque eu falarei com o vosso cabo-chefe

Maria Barba, canta mais uma Morna

Se tu fores presa, responderei por ti

Saúde, Sr. Tenente, saúde Sr. Inginher

Um muito obrigada de Maria Barba

Oh S’nhôr Ten. Serra ora bocê bai pâ Lisboa

Ai câ bocê squêcê di nôs, oi, oi, …

Maria Barba não me esquecerei de vocês.

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I Think I Found Alberto!!!

In my previous post, Bibi Had A Secret, I mentioned that I hadn’t been able to find and “Alberto” in vital records from Brava… Until now!!!!

I think I found Alberto!!!! 

This Alberto was born in 1896 in Ponta Achada, Sao Joao Baptista to Fernando Vieira Martins and Virginia d’Andrade Martins. His paternal grandparents were Boaventura Martins and Palmira de Abreu Vieira Martins and his maternal grandparents were Jose Lourenco d’Andrade and Rosa Pires, natives of the parish of Sao Nicolao, Lisbon. 

It may be a long shot but this is the first record I have come across for an Alberto. Hmmmm!

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My real name is…

A few years ago, I happened to be interviewed by a reporter for a Cape Verdean radio show. One of the questions pertained to who I was and who my family was. Before I could filter what came out of my mouth, I said, “I’m Nanie de Ramizi de Rosinha de Nha Maria Rosinha de Cham de Souza”! In one breath, I had given him 5 generations of my family history in Cham de Sousa, Nossa Senhora do Monte. While I’m sure he would have been satisfied with my first and last name, I merely answered the question as I have heard many Cape Verdeans respond to the same question growing up in Massachusetts.

We joke about the fact the most Cape Verdeans don’t know each other’s official names. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have sat down to interview a family member and was given names like “Ma Lina Nha Sena”, “Lota de Nha Tansha”, “Genio Culung” and “Genia de Neka”. My own grandmother went by Matitita. I have cousins named Maria Lora, Maria Fidjinha, Maria Meninha and Maria Bia who are all “Maria” and are identified by their mothers, Laura, Virginia (Fidjinha), Meninha, and Bia. Then there’s Mane Bia, Mane Candia and Mane Creola, all family members named Manuel whose mothers were Bia, Candida, and … Well, I have no idea who “Creola” was, lol! Try finding these people in vital records where everyone is literally named Maria, Gertrudes, Manuel, Jose and Joao… Well, It might just be easier finding that needle in a haystack!

Naming conventions or naming traditions in Cape Verde can be a little tricky to navigate. Like many Portuguese “rules”, a first son may be named after the father’s father and the first daughter named after the mother’s mother. More often than not names were recycled in almost every generation! Middle names were often used by both men and women to identify which branch of the family they belonged. In my Coelho tree, Jose was the middle name given to all the sons and daughters of Jose Coelho. Not be confused with children of his brother Joao who also used the middle name Joao and sometimes Jose. Maria is also a common middle name for men, ie, Jose Maria Feijoo. There’s also the mysterious changing middle name. Marcelino Antonio Coelho was also Marcelino Jose Coelho.

I think this is one tradition we should continue. People do refer to my children as “Nia de Nanie de Ramizi” or “Tyson de Nanie de Ramizi”. It will help later generations trace their trees much easier. Knowing that my Great-grandmother was known as Maria Rosinha made it easier to find records for her mother, Rosa.

So my real name is… Nanie de Ramizi de Rosinha de Nha Maria Rosinha de Cham de Sousa … AND… Nanie de Jose de Sevala de Nha Nuka de Ma Tila de Nho Mane Valentina… It’s also Nanie de Jose de Popinho de Nho Djedje de Relva. But you can call me Anna or even the Creola Genealogist 😊

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In Their Own Words

Ask anyone who has spent many hours painstakingly sifting through baptism, marriage and obituary records and they will tell you that it is a labor of love. We will admit that its tedious at best but it’s completely worth it to find the one gem in a sea of minutiae of awful handwriting and abbreviations that make no sense. And when the awful handwriting and nonsensical abbreviations are in a different language… well you might begin to understand why we may not always want to just give away what we worked so hard to find.

I recently found a marriage record for my great-great-great-great-great grandparents, Manuel da Lomba and Dorothea de Burgo, who were married on April 4, 1816 in the Sao Joao Baptista in Brava. Manuel’s parents were Antonio da Lomba and Rosa Rodrigues and Dorothea’s were Nicolao de Burgo and Maria de Andrade Gilmete. From this record, I now had the names of MY great-great-great-great-great-great grandparents! Its such a great feeling to be able to go back one more generation.

But when you really think about it, I had just found the names of the great x6 grandparents for thousands of people. These people don’t just belong to me. No matter how much I would like to believe that my tree only belongs to me because I am the one doing the research, the reality is that it belongs to all the descendants of these people. I don’t own my ancestors.

It’s this idea that makes me share my research and my ancestors with others. I hope that what I’ve been able to uncover will inspire others to expand this tree or work on their own. The best feeling is being contacted by someone who has found one of my blog posts and tells me that they are a descendant of that person and they want to know more about the family and the culture. Helping people connect with their Cape Verdean roots is just as gratifying as finding the names of an elusive ancestor.

But most importantly, these are stories about our ancestors in their own words through records that date back to the early 1800’s. We have been accustomed to other people telling us about who and what WE are. So with this in mind, I will continue to “share” my ancestors and I will tell their stories in hopes of creating a new narrative of what it means to be of Cape Verdean descent in their own words.

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