Thursday, 1 January 2009

Discovering the Da Costa Family

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.

33 comments:

patricia said...

It is a shame that the families were not close – it seems to me so odd that something like someone's religion would be such a big issue in family relations these days.

I do find it fascinating though, to have come from such a unique mix of ethnicities and faiths.

Dorothy Kew said...

Things were different in those days. It was long before the movement towards ecumenicism began in the 1960s. Everyone back then believed that theirs was the one true faith. Anglicans and Roman Catholics did not see eye to eye, and even among Anglicans those who were "high church", i.e. Anglo-Catholic, looked down on the more evangelical ones who were "low church". I hope we've come a long way since then.

Anonymous said...

I am also from the Dacosta family but cant find any Thrace of my grandfather who was Albert DaCosta from StMary in jamaica

Anonymous said...

My mother is from the Da Costa family also , most of my family members on her side are all from St.Elizabeth Jamaica We're all a close knit family we can trace our ancestors back pretty far

Anonymous said...

My mother was Dolores Henriques DeSouza and doing research have found much of what you have run into as the Carribbean was porous with Jamaica and Panama being springboards for many of that Jewish family. Many of Henriques DeSouzas are in the US and Canada now and are quite a large far flung family. Name is Buford Sexton-Henriques Desouza email is buford3927@aol.com

Joanna said...

I am from a Jamaican DaCosta family and have heard bits and pieces of a religious split and a racial split.

maggie said...

my name is Margaret DaCosta Patterson and my father is Adwin Rodriques DaCosta who married Sylvia Swaine and lived in Jamaica and who is the oldest of 10 brothers. any information on DaCosta's can be emailed to maggiepatterson@juno.com

maggie said...

correction to previous post. My name is Margaret Jennifer DaCosta Patterson. My parents are Adwin Rodrigues DaCosta II and Alice Maude McLennan DaCosta. My grandparents were Adwin Rodrigues DaCosta and Sylvia Swayne. Any information on DaCosta's can be emailed to maggiepatterson@juno.com

Anonymous said...

My name is Da Costa my family are based and are from st catherine Jamaica
If anyone can send me anymore info on tracing my family history please email marcdc@live.co.uk

LeGaQy said...

Just wanted to know, by any chance do you know a barbara dacosta dowding, she previously died. if so message me back ill be following your blog.

LeGaQy said...

By any chance do you know a barbara dacosta, just wondering i am following your blog.

Dorothy Kew said...

@LeGaQy:

I'm afraid I don't know Barbara DaCosta Dowding. Can you give me more information about her?

TwentyFourSeven said...

Hmm...mine is a littler different and my story is probably part legend and part fact. I was rather surprised when I found out that a young, beauty queen on my home island of St. Thomas (Virgin Islands) with the surname of DaCosta was related to me. Sadly, her name was mentioned to me because she died in a tragic car accident on the night of her graduation.

At first the name did not ring any bell to me until a few months back when her name came up again. I asked my mother what she meant (in 2010) that this young girl was related to me. My mother then told me there was some mix-up but that I should ask a first cousin of hers who was a little more familiar with the story. What I found out was stunning.

I was told that a Mr. DaCosta (I have no first name) came to the island of Nevis from Italy. That's one version and I think this MAY be partially true because the name can be traced back to Italy. The other story says that a Mr. DaCosta was kidnapped from a beach by British sailors either in Portugal proper or from Madeira, an island owned by Portugal off the northwestern coast of Africa. I am also speculating that he could have gone willingly as a young adventurer OR as an indentured servant. I doubt the latter because it appears his story originates in the early 1800s when slavery was still in force.

Supposedly the ship headed for Trinidad and then to Barbados and eventually on to Nevis. At some point, Mr. DaCosta came under the control, ownership or tutelage or a Mr. Marshall. Apparently, Mr. DaCosta took on the last name of Marshall, under which he fathered some children, one of them being my maternal great-grandfather, Walter Marshall.

I am told that Mr. DaCosta's sister tracked him down and either bought his freedom or simply took him away to neighboring St. Kitts where he fathered another set of children and gave them the last name, DaCosta, who ironically enough, had a large family reunion in the early 2000s but I knew nothing of it or knew about any family connections to me.

I understand there is a 90-year old man living in Georgia who I am going to try to contact right now, and supposedly, he is either a son of Mr. DaCosta or a grandson (I think the latter) and he personally knew Mr. DaCosta. I NEED to get Mr. DaCosta's last name. Does ANY of this sound familiar to anyone here?

TwentyFourSeven said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Dorothy Kew said...

Interesting story, 24/7, but I'm afraid rings no bells with me.

LeGaQy said...

She also is from st.elizabeth i believe. She married a dowding from kingston.

Felicia said...

My mother is also a Da Costa from Kingston, Jamaica. Her grandfather Adrian Aaron Da Costa migrated as an adult from Costa Rica to Jamaica in the late 1800's. He was a Sephardic Jew, and my mother remembers that the family "sat shiva" when he passed. In the Jewish faith typically at that time, religion would follow from the mother. His wife Elphrieda Ganier, my great grandmother, was not Jewish.

Dorothy Kew said...

Felicia, Aadrian Aaron DaCosta isn't in my family. I found references to him in the Gleaner on line. He was a cigar manufacturer in Kingston. His wife's name was Elfrida Gaynair. You can search for their children on www.familysearch.org and you will find quite a few.

Anonymous said...

I read your articles with interest, I also have a mixed race background and believe my family to be of Sephardi descent.

My 'uncle' known as Ken DaCosta was from St Kitts, he died aged 83 in Leeds in October 2011.

His mother used the name Augustine DaCosta - my family was also divided - some went to Bermuda in the 1920 and some stayed in the Indies.

I share Patricias view that are backgrounds are fascinating.

the family also use the name Henry I have a photo of a - beauty queen taken on the island of St. Thomas.

garryamarshall@msn.com

Anonymous said...

Can someone tell me if the Champagnie and also the Menzies family are related to dacosta . My grandfather was a Menzies and his brothers were Champagnie .

Dorothy Kew said...

In reply to Anonymous ... I'm not aware of any connction in my Da Costa family to the Champagnie or Menzies families. But, keep in mind, there are numerous Da Costa families, not necessarily related to each other

kimberly said...

Hi Everybody, but is it possible anybody knows about the Dupont from Portugal that Came to Jamaica in the 1800's with a slave woman? He had some land in Clarendon. I've been searching for years.

Dorothy Kew said...

Kimberly, I would think the name DuPont would be French rather than Portuguese. As far as I know the only DuPont I've come across in Jamaican records is Father Joseph DuPont who came to Jamaica as a Catholic priest in the 1850s

Anonymous said...

Hi. I have just discovered this site. I have been trying to trace my late father's family background for sevaral years now. I know he was born in 1907 in St Kitts and his mothers's maiden name was Da Costa. His surname was Lewis. if anyone knows of a Mr Lewis who married a Da Costa, probably early 1900s, please let me know, or if you might be related to us. My father had 3 brothers I know of.

Anonymous said...

My name is Jaime Maria DaCosta the great granddaughter of meldora Winona DaCosta my grandfather her son buck had brothers Lloyd slim Nigel aunt valce and more from Jamaica

maggie said...

I met a man who is doing research on the DaCosta line and is heading to Portugal to continue his research. His name is Cleveland DaCosta and his e-mail is clevelandoatman7@aol.com He seems to have a good amount of information.

Anonymous said...

My Grand Father was Adrian DaCosta my Grand mother was Elphrrieda Ganier my aunts were Juanita,Violet and Linda.

Anonymous said...

My name is Deanna Da Costa. My father was born in Redhills Kingston Jamaica about 1958. His father, my grandfather came to Jamaica from Nicaragua and was a Jewish Jeweller. This is all i know. deannadacosta@yahoo.co.uk

Anonymous said...

OMG, Dorothy - I couldn't believe my eyes reading your post. I'm Annie Alexander and I was born in Jamaica and came to Canada as a baby. I'm now wintering back in Jamaica (semi-retired) and have just started to delve into the family history. When I read your blog, I realized we're somewhat related. My Dad's (Alvin Errington Alexander) grandparents (on his mother's side) were Melbourne Rodriguiz Da Costa (1859-1930) and Abigail Henriquez DeSouza (1859-1938). Thanks for all the great info.

Anonymous said...

My grandfather was levy dacosta I also know my uncle who is audley dacosta. Besides those two im not familiar with any other relatives

aldacosta said...

My name is Albert da Costa, son of the late tenor Albert da Costa, great nephew of the late Harvey da Costa of Kingston, Rhodes Scholar, former Attorney General for Jamaica and subsequently Chief Justice for many of the Islands. His half sister was Violet da Costa of Kingston, who emigrated to the USA about 1900. I am wondering if the Violet mentioned by "anonymous" as her aunt is indeed my late grandmother.

Anonymous said...

My mothers name is Beverly DaCosta Her fathers name is Harry Dacosta. They are from St Ann, Jamaica i believe she has a brother residing in Canada but i don't know his name.
Any one with info can email almae41@hotmail.com.

Anonymous said...

My late father, W J 'Jack' Gawne flew in Bomber Command in WW2 with Huntley 'Butch' Dacosta who was from Jamaica. Dad took him home on leave to the Isle of Man a couple of times during the war.
Was Huntley Dacosts known to anyone?
Chris Gawne

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