Portuguese Power Lunch

7 Oct

In the heart of Palama, I entered the modest office space for the Portuguese Genealogical and Historical Society.  A sole volunteer staff person was researching at the large work table at the center of the room surrounded by bookcases lining each wall with volumes of family history binders, passenger lists, vital records and other treasures.  Some of the walls had enlarged “show and tell” foam core boards with historical photos of early Portuguese immigrants, another a timeline of sorts of the “Famous” Portuguese in Hawaii.

I was greeted warmly and invited to have a seat, quickly my host asked what  I needed and proceeded to ask my ancestors’ name, he then got up and sat himself in front of the lone PC desk near the door.  We jumped into our conversation,spelling and typing names and I apologized and introduced myself and asked his name, with a smile he said, “Charlie.”

Within minutes Charlie Lake tapped into the Society’s proprietary database of Portuguese in Hawaii and had my Great-Great-Grandfather Lino Fernandes and wife Maria Gonsalves da Encarnacao on the screen.  A whiteboard above the desk had a running total of the databases’ treasure trove of names, in excess of 259,000. The PGHS database was built over many years collected from public records including censuses (1890 – 1930), vital records (1909 – 1949), obituaries (1996 – Present) and the personal histories of hundreds of descendants.

Another quick click of the mouse and Charlie printed a descendants chart and my direct line Family Group Records with citations.  He said he could continue printing but suggested I return on another visit since it would take several hours to do the Family Group Records for all the descendants.

Charlie pulled the passenger list books for the S.S. Hankow which brought them from Funchal, Madeira Portugal in 1883.  The sailing took 66 days to complete the journey and came as he said “the long way” around Cape Horn through the Straits of Magellan.  They would arrive with two children Manuel 3 years old and Marie 1 year old and a newborn about one month old, Henry Lino, born at sea (one of 19 births aboard the ship).  It was the first time I’d seen the actual Passenger List — the page he shared however didn’t reference the newborn addition.  On a return visit I’ll be sure to ask if I can personally examine the ledger to see where they might have noted the birth.

Charlie made sure I received a copy of the passenger list ledger page, a copy of the Hankow photo courtesy of the National Maritime Museum Greenwich, London and an article excerpt originally published in the Pacific Commercial Advertiser telling of the voyage of the steamship Hankow and detailing the grand reception  for her arrival including His Majesty, King Kalakaua who was present for the concert and arrival of the 1,403 passengers.

Meanwhile, he handed me three books of Passenger Registrations donated by Robert De Mello in 1984 (a pencil inscription signed in the front cover of each).  None of them had a citation or record of my ancestors. But there was a clear photo of the same xerox copy he’d handed me and I shot a quick photo of the page.

Steamship S.S. Hankow

I got really excited about a resource that Charlie showed me which was also the source for some of the citations in the reports on my ancestors– the website for the Arquivo Regional da Madeira (ARM) or the Madeira Regional Archives.(http://www.arquivo-madeira.org)

My one hour break time was up and it was time for me to leave. I quickly filled out the society membership application and happily paid my annual $10 individual dues (family dues were just as affordable at a mere $12).  Charlie said the next quarterly newsletter was due out soon.  Beaming, I thanked him for his kind assistance. He said he’d be there again on Wednesdays.  Looking forward to my next lunch break to do a Portuguese Power Lunch.

Portuguese Genealogical & Historical Society

Palama Settlement

810 N. Vineyard Blvd., Room 11

Honolulu, Hawaii 96817

Monday, Wednesday, Friday 10am – 2pm

P: 841-5044


One Response to “Portuguese Power Lunch”

  1. Russell Borges April 5, 2016 at 9:13 am #

    Unfortunately we lost Charlie Lake in March of 2015. He was an invaluable asset and friend. Charlie and his family were of tremendous help in moving the PGHSH office contents and setting up at our new location: 1616 Liliha Street, Suite 308, Honolulu, Hawai‘i. Same phone number: (808) 841-5044 and new web site:
    Thank you for remembering Charlie,

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