Azorean Portuguese Names in West Marin

Azorean historian and genealogist Paulo de Avila de Melo, 33, a resident of Angra do Heroismo on the Island of Terceira, this spring scoured his library to uncover the origins of some of the most recognizable Portuguese names in West Marin. 

Melo stressed that families of Azorean immigrants in West Marin are not necessarily descendants of the prominent figures listed here. In some cases, families may have acquired their names not through blood but through a priest or godparent or landlord. 

However, in other cases, West Marin families may find through genealogical searches that they are indeed descendants of nobility. Melo as done extensive research on his own families and has found West Marin names like Teixeira, Sousa, Leal, Azevedo, Brazil, Vieira, and Silveira in his blood. Here's what he told The Light:

*Mendoza - This name is unique among the Portuguese names in that it was taken from the name of a Spanish town, Mendoza (pronounced Men-DO-zah), in the region of Biscaia. Centuries ago inhabitants of the town gradually migrated into Portugal and brought the name with them. For example, one prominent man was called Ferdinand Furtado de Mendoza. 

In the 15th Century, some branches of the Mendoza family were among the first settlers of the Azores, and Graciosa Island in particular. Some people with this name in the Azores spell it Mendonsa and pronounce it Men-DONT-sah. 

*Teixeira and Tacherra - Aside from being the most confusing of West Marin's Portuguese names, it's "one of the most ancient names of Portugal," said Melo. The name originated from the Portuguese town of Teixeira (pronounced Tay-SHAY-rah) and was used as a surname for the first time by Hermigio Mendez de Teixeira, who was lord of Teixeira and the region of Gestasso. This was during the reign of King Sancho I in the 12th Century. 

The first known Teixeira on the Azorean Island of Sao Jorge was Geronimo Goncalves Teixeira Sotto-Mayor. He, as all rulers in the Azores were required to be, was a Knight of Christ. 

One branch of Teixeira immigrants to Bolinas had the spelling of its name changed to Tacherra to better match its American pronunciation. Another family, which settled in Dogtown kept the correct spelling, but the pronunciation changed to Tecks-AIR-Rah. Ironically, Dogtown immigrant JosŽ Teixeira was actually named JosŽ de Sousa, but he changed his name to Teixeira (his mother's maiden name) when he found his mother's mail going to another JosŽ de Sousa in West Marin. 

*De Souza and Sousa - This name, more than 900 years old was taken from the Portuguese region of Sousa. Melo called it one of the more "noble" names in Portugal, descending from King Afonso III. There were various early Sousa families on Sao Jorge Island. Among the most important Sousas was Amaro Soares de Sousa, who achieved prominence and nobility for helping King John IV seize the Castle of St. Philip in Angra do Heroismo on Terceiera Island. West Marin's Portuguese names beginning with De - meaning of - such as DeSousa, DeBorba, DeCosta, and DeFraga, fused the of with the name and gave it a capital D during immigration. 

*Azevedo - Originating in County Barcelos, Portugal, the name was taken from private property "ruled" by the landowner. Melo described the place as a sanctuary where people could be safe from political or religious persecution. The name goes back to the 13th Century or earlier. Many Azevedo families settled on a number of Azorean islands. 

*Brazil - A name unique to the Azores, it originated with Pedro Fernandes de Sousa, who was the landowner of Monte Brazil, a small but majestic mountain that overlooks the town of Angra Do Heroismo. Sousa in 1496 sold the mountain to Joao Vaz Corte-Real, whose wife was a cousin of Sousa's wife. Sousa acquired the nickname Pedro do Brazil, and his sons kept Brazil as their surname. 

*Moreda - Melo said this name probably belonged to the Moreira family of Sao Jorge Island prior to emigration. The R may have been changed to a D because the Latin R slightly rolled sounds like a D. Moreira is a Portuguese name that originated in the village of Santa Maria de Moreira in Celorico de Basto. The first known person to use the name was Pedro Pires Moreira, a knight who held the "Honor of Moreira" during the time of Kings Sancho I and Afonso II. 

*Vieira - The name means Shell. It came either from Vieira do Minho in the north of Portugal or Vieira de Leiria in Central Portugal. It has existed since the 14th Century, and the first person to use it was nobleman Rui Vieira, who held the "Honor of Vieira do Minho." Among the first and most important Vieiras in the Azores was Diego Vieira, who came to Terceira Island in the 15th Century and founded the Chapel of Jesus in the Cathedral of Angra do Heroismo, where he is buried. His descendants later spread out among the islands, especially Sao Jorge. 

*Silveira and Silva - All the Azorean Silveiras can say they are descendants of Dutchman Willem Van der Haagen, a 15th Century settler from Flanders. After passing spending time on the islands of Faial, Flores, and Terceira, he settled in the town of Topo on the southern end of Sao Jorge Island. The names Silveira and der Haagen are apparently Portuguese and Dutch translations for blackberry. Silva is the singular form in Portuguese. The Silveiras are historically one of the largest families in the Azores. 

*Borges and Borge - The name Borges became Borge in some cases after immigration. The name comes from the French city of Bourges. The first known Portuguese man to use the name was Rodrigo Annes, who served Philip II of France in defending Bourges against attack. For this deed, he was honored as a "Bourges Knight." Two members of his family immigrated to Terceira Island: Jo‹o Borges the Elder and Gregorio Borges. Their descendants spread out among the other islands in the 15th or 16th Century

*Almeida is a place name in Portugal and has existed since at least the 14th Century. Melo called it one of the most noble of Portuguese names. Various Almeidas immigrated to the Azores at different times. 

*Fontes - This means fountains. It has origins in numerous places in Portugal with the name Fontes. 

*Leal - The name has uncertain roots. Melo said it may have started by being "an honorable nickname" meaning loyal. Many early families in the Azores with the name Leal lived with nobility on the islands of Terceira, Pico, and S‹o Jorge. 

*Machado is one of the oldest Portuguese names, starting perhaps with Martim Pires, a knight in the time of King Afonso II. He was nicknamed Machado after he and his sons used axes, machados, to break down the doors of the Castle of Santarem. The name came to the Island of Terceira in the 15th Century with a woman named Mecia de Andrade Machado, who was reportedly the first woman to give birth at the Azores - on a boat off the coast of Terceira. 

*Pavao - The name means peacock and probably started as a nickname. Most Pavaos were from Sao Miguel Island. 

*Fialho - This is a Portuguese mainland name of unknown origin. It too may have begun as a nickname. The first known person to use it was Joao Fialho, a knight of the House of King John III. 

*Mattos comes from the name of an orchard estate in the County of Lamego, Portugal. The first known Mattos was Hermigio Pais de Mattos, whose father founded the Convent of Freixo on the estate during the time of Kings Sancho II and Afonso III. 

*Nunes, Martins, Francisco, and Lino - These began as first names and as surnames, they were historically common among peasant communities. Nunes is plural for Nuno, and Martins is plural for Martin. Francisco and Lino became surnames without pluralizing.