Sunday, 22 March 2009

Discovering Da Costas: And Joseph Makes Three

Today is Mothering Sunday in the Anglican Church, a day when mothers are celebrated. Mothering Sunday has a long tradition in English customs as it was the day when those in service were given the day off to visit their family, and it was also the day when one returned to the mother church, such as the Cathedral in one's Diocese. Mothering Sunday falls in the middle of Lent and is a break from the abstinence of the season; the tradition is to serve Simnel Cake and give the ladies a flower to celebrate the day. I bring this up because I'm feeling rather guilty for neglecting the family blog I've been mothering these past several months ... so, once again, I'm returning belatedly to the Da Costa story.

In my last post I wrote about Melbourne and his family and how I found out about his parents, Jacob and Selina Rodrigues Da Costa, who were also, of course, the parents of my grandmother Alice. I knew that Melbourne and Alice had a brother, Joseph, but I had not so far done any research on him. I did have a photo of a tombstone in Calvary Roman Catholic Cemetery which was very likely that of my great uncle, Joseph Rodrigues Da Costa.

So I started doing some research on Joseph. I went looking first of all for a marriage record for a Joseph Rodrigues Da Costa, figuring that he would most likely have been married around the same time as Melbourne. I did find such a record, on 22 November 1888, which stated that Joseph Rodrigues Da Costa, a tavern keeper, age 41, son of Jacob Rodrigues Da Costa, had married Hannah Lindo, a spinster, age 38, daughter of Jacob Lindo, at 101 Harbour Street (which both had given on the record as their abode), by a William J. Brown, the witness being one Ada Clement Da Costa. It seemed very likely that Joseph was the brother of Melbourne and Alice, as his father was also Jacob Rodrigues Da Costa, so the next question was, did this couple have children?

With the assistance of Father Gerry McLaughlin at the Roman Catholic Archives in Kingston, I was able find out more about Joseph and Hannah. They did have children, three in fact, all of whom were born quite some time before the marriage of their parents! The children were Ida Clementina, born 1871, Eugene, born 1873 and David, born 1876. Father Gerry also found a record of Joseph's marriage in the register, in Latin, entered by the Rev. Fr. William Spillman, S.J., as follows:

"A. D. 1888, die 22 Novembris conjuncti sunt in Matrimonium Joseph R. Da Costa & Hannah Lindo a P. Guls. Burns, S. J. praesentibus testibus D. M. Leon, Ida Clement Da Costa. Ex reg. civili G. Spillmann, S. J."

The witness, Ada Clement Da Costa was in fact their eldest daughter, Ida Clementina, who would have been seventeen years old. Why did it take so long for Joseph and Hannah to get married? What was the impediment? That's probably something that we'll never know. Was Hannah Jewish, and was there some resistance on the part of her family to her marrying a Catholic? What evidence I've been able to find shows that Hannah was a devout Catholic, but it's possible that she might have been a convert to Catholicism.

My next step was to find Joseph's death record and see if he had left a will. Success on both counts! Joseph died at 57 East Queen Street on 26 September 1910 of chronic heart disease, as certified by Dr. F. H. Saunders. The informant on the death record was his youngest son, David, who had been living in England but had come to Jamaica during his father's illness. And Joseph did make a will, which was probated in the Supreme Court of Jamaica.

His will gives the definitive proof that he was indeed brother to Melbourne and Alice as in it he left "to my brother Melbourne DaCosta one hundred pounds and to my sister Alice Levy one hundred pounds." He appointed his wife, Hannah as joint executor with his younger son, David; he left £300 to each of his children, and the rest and residue of his estate to his wife, Hannah.

Knowing as little as I did about this part of the family, I wanted to find out more about Joseph and Hannah, and I was fortunate enough to learn more by researching in the pages of the Jamaica Gleaner on line. In my next post I'll describe what I found there.

And now for a little shameless self-promotion. I've just today received an email from Blog Jamaica who are featuring my blog this week! Naturally, I'm pleased!

Arras Memorial

Arras Memorial

Trooper Victor Dey Smedmore

Trooper Victor Dey Smedmore
My uncle Victor