When I began researching my family history I knew little or nothing about my father's mother's family, the Da Costas. I knew that my grandmother's maiden name had been Da Costa. What little I knew about her family came from my Uncle Rodney, whose facts weren't always accurate. As I mentioned in one of my earlier posts, he claimed my grandparents, Leopold Levy and Alice Da Costa, had been married in Haiti. Thanks to Madeleine Mitchell, who found a notice of their marriage in microfilm of the Gleaner, they were married in Colon, Panama. Here is the notice from the Gleaner of July 23, 1886:
The reference to Haiti was not entirely without some validity. When Essie, their fourth child, was born in 1891 Leopold was listed on the birth record as being in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his occupation being given as "accountant".
At the time I was hearing about my grandmother's family from Uncle Rodney I did not know her father's name ... that came much later ... and Rodney didn't know it either. He did know that Alice had two brothers, Joe and Melbourne, but nothing else about them. As for my father, Michael, he never spoke of his family and when I was younger I didn't ask the questions I should have of him. There seemd to have been some sort of estrangement between my mother and her mother-in-law. I gather there was resentment on my mother's part that she had had to wait quite a long time to marry my father as he was helping to pay off the mortgage on the house at 22 Beeston Street. I got the impression that my father's family was not well off. My grandfather, Leopold, was a travelling man, supposedly an oculist, but in all the records I found which mentioned him that occupation was never given. I found such occupations listed as "book clerk", "accountant", "book-keeper". I know that he went to Colon, Port-au-Prince, and Havana, and no doubt to other places in Central America and the Caribbean. He seems to have rarely been at home, though often enough to father seven children. Leopold died in Cuba in 1917 and my father's two brothers and his sister emigrated at various times to the United States, leaving my father as sole support of his mother.
When I finally did get around to working on my Da Costa family I had very little to go on but the names Joseph, Melbourne and Alice. I was fortunate enough to find a cousin here in Ontario, also from Jamaica, who turned out to be the great granddaughter of my great uncle, Melbourne Rodrigues Da Costa. She had done quite a bit of research herself, questioning family members and recording all she had found. Curiously, I knew nothing about her family, and she knew nothing about mine. My cousin, Kay, is Jewish, and it appears that Melbourne embraced the Jewish faith as a result of marrying Abigail Henriques DeSouza who was Jewish. They were married in 1882 by a Presbyterian minister, Alexander Robb. As Melbourne was Catholic and Abigail was Jewish, neither could have been married in the faith of the other.
It is an interesting picture. Joseph, Melbourne and Alice were all baptized in the Catholic faith, and the children of the former and the latter were brought up in the Catholic church, but Melbourne's nine children were brought up in the Jewish faith. Religion brings people together and it can also keep them apart. I am sure that the reason I know so little about my Da Costa relatives has a lot to do with that.