Gordon: Manoel “Emmanuel” Tavare de Miranda was born on the island of Graciosa, a few kilometres from where we are staying, in 1648. He was my seventh great-grandfather.
According to the genealogical records that Ruth has researched, Manoel became a sailor and left the island of his birth as a young man for the bright lights of 17th century Quebec. Records show that in the New World he was unlucky, but persistent, in love. At the age of 22 he contracted for marriage with a “fille du Roi”, but it was subsequently cancelled. Five years later he was “keeping company” with another woman, but she was ordered by the city authorities at Quebec “to clear out of this city and its outskirts within three days, owing to her bad reputation”. Manoel apparently cleared out as well, though not with his recent lover. He appeared again four years later in Nova Scotia, where he married an Acadian widow, Marguerite Bourgeois, my seventh great-grandmother. Manoel settled down to a life of farming and family, eventually having nine children, as well as 18 cattle, 8 sheep and 30 hogs on 25 arpents of land. I don’t know if anyone in my family has been as successful since.
A couple of days ago Ruth and I cycled through Guadalupe, the parish where Manoel was born. A woman gardening by the road waved us down and peppered us with the usual questions. After a few minutes I disclosed my distant familial connection with the island. The local woman, Maria, was dismissive until Ruth pulled out the family tree she had developed for Manoel. His great-grandfather, Captain Domingos Pires da Covilhã, was an important figure in the early history of Graciosa. Sometime near the end of the sixteenth century O Capitão brought an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe to the Island from Mexico. This was housed in a church in Guadalupe that he founded.
Maria became quite excited when she realized that I was a descendant of Captain Covilhã. She insisted we come to the house museum on Monday morning, telling us she had a local history book we should review.
This morning we cycled to the house museum at the agreed time, but found the museum closed. Calling the contact number posted in the window, I immediately realized that I was speaking with Maria. She drove up in a few minutes and gave us a complete, private tour of the museum. It is located in a late-18th century house crammed full of artifacts. The main floor was a general store, at one time the only one on the island, and the upstairs was the home of a successful local businessman and his family. Maria followed us around, provided non-stop commentary and documented our movements with a large number of photos. We were treated to homemade cookies and candies, and two types of local liquor.
Eventually emerging into the street, Maria insisted that we follow her to other sites relevant to my forebears. We visited the location of the church founded by my ancestor, now in ruins, as well as the site of a house that had been occupied by the priest at the church. There was a final trip to the municipal office to photocopy the family tree developed by Ruth, an exchange of addresses, and the verbal assurance that we would see each other around town in the week we are remaining on the Island.
Don’t you love a place that treats you like a prodigal son after an absence of 350 years?