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AfriGeneas Free Persons of Color Forum

Portuguese of 17th Century Virginia

The shame of African enslavement is the 800 pound gorilla in American history. The recently popular but wholely undocumented attempts to link early hispanic surnames to Angolan ancestry badly obscures the history of the Portuguese in colonial Virginia.

The limiting factor has been the lack of surnames in the records of early Portuguese. It is unlikely that we will never know the surname of the Portuguese who lived with the Saponi Tribe as the Indian trade spread to the frontier, or those of the Portuguese sailors who were servants of the trader Robert Page.

In early Norfolk, between 1640 and 1650 several Portuguese are mentioned - "a Portingall called by the name of Tawney", "Anthony a Portungall", and "Manuell ye Portugesse"- who fathered a child by Ann Watkins. Marra Mello, who changed his name to Mills, may be another. The history of these servants may parrallel that of "Simon (Lovina)a Turke".
The Portuguese Tawney and Anthony, and possibly Manuell, "came into the country for fower yeares yet Mr. Page promised him that in respect hee had coasted up and downe for him that he should bee servant but for three yeares and further sayeth not.".
Thus proven Portuguese ancestry of the 1600's appears to be lost in the maze of adopted English surnames. Should anyone know of a documented Portuguese surname other than Sherry, Silvedo, Watkins and possibly Mills, I would appreciate the tip.

Thanks,
James Nickens


18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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