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de Freitas Family History

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The Surname

The de Freitas surname is Portuguese in origin. Freitas is among the early Madeiran Surnames noted on the Lusaweb site. There are several branches of the name, and I have no information as to which branch my family belongs. The information there is in Portuguese, so a rough translation follows (thanks Jo-Anne!).

Freitas - this surname has various branches: the Freitas e Abreu branch comes from AntŪnio de Abreu, from the town of Calheta, married in 1678 in SČ to In·cia Pinto, of Santo AntŪnio. They had several children, among whom was Manuel de Abreu (or Manuel Pinto de Freitas), married in Campan·rio to Bernarda Mendes da Trindade, son (?) of Alferes In·cio GonĮalves, from whose union were born Captain Francisco de Abreu e Freitas (or de Freitas e Abreu) and three more siblings with many descendants. Dr. Pedro de Castelobranco (Baron of S. Pedro) is from this family, as well as D. Josefina de Castelobranco da Cunha, Pedro Maria GonĮalves de Freitas (Viscount G. de Freitas), D. Gabriela de Castelobranco Machado, D. Augusta Maria Accialuoli Prado and others.

The Freitas de Gaula (or of Gaul) family or the Freitas Almadas came from the paternal line of Manuel Fernandes, who was married, by 1620, to Francisca JosČ, de Gaula (of Gaul). There are descendents, such as great-grandsons like Diogo Martinho de Freitas and others.

The Freitases, of Madalena, come from Joao Rodrigues de Freitas, native of Lagos (Portugal), nicknamed 'the Old One', e (?) 1450 in the court of Madalena do Mar. He was first married to Senhorinha Eanes, widow of the Prince of Poland, Henrique, o Cavaleinro (or Henrique the German), and the second time to Isabel Lopes de Švora, nanny or lady (aia ?) of the second Donatario of Funchal, de Guimaraes. The latter union produced many noble descendants which ended (?)in D. Beatriz Helena Lomelino de Barros Lima, and outside of marriage, in the singer Nuno Lomelino da Silva, Joao Augusto da Silva and others.

The Freitases of Santa Cruz came from GonĮalo de Freitas, son of the Treasurer of the Infante D. Joao (fifth son of King Joao 1), who came to Madeira around 1460 and took up residence (?) in the town of Vila de Santa Cruz with a country house in Santa Catarina. He was a nobleman of the Casa Real (Royal House), married to D. Maria Valvez de Correao, with whom he had several children, with descendants coming only from the firstborn Joao de Freitas Correia, also a Noble of the Royal House, founder of the modern parish of Santa Cruz for which he received royal reward/favour from the Capela-Mor (Capela is Chapel) noted on (?) his tombstone. From this branch, on the maternal side, are descended the last Morgado dos Freitas, Joao JosČ de Bethencourt de Freitas, without descendants, and grandchildren from a sister married to the late General Mimoso, such as D. Leonor Mimoso Aragao and D. Isabel de Vasconcelos da Cunha Santos.


The Family History

Our de FREITAS line most likely originated in Madeira, a Portuguese island in the Atlantic now famous for it's wine. In the mid 1840's, the demand for laborers on the estates in the West Indies increased drastically due to the total emancipation of slaves in the British Empire in 1838. During this time, living standards in Madeira were poor. Wages were low, poverty was everywhere, famine was common, and military conscription a possibility. These circumstances made emigration an attractive option to Madeirans. Many Madeirans were recruited as indentured servants to come to the West Indies and work on sugar plantations. It was thought their agricultural background on Madeira would make them suitable for this type of difficult work. A small group of Madeirans fled their country due to religious persecution after they became Protestants. There is no evidence to suggest that our family is descended from any of these exiles.

In the colonies, the Madeirans were looked on as second class citizens, hardly up to the social level of the other Europeans, notably the French and British Creoles. In time, the Madeirans became the "bridge" between the upper class, white planters, and the colored labor class. They prospered as merchants in this middle man role, and eventually worked their way into "civilized" society.

Henry de Freitas The oldest ancestor I have identified in this line is Henry Alexander de Freitas. He was born on the island of St. Vincent, most likely to descendants of indentured farm workers from Madeira. He found his way into the United States Army as a member of the Quartermaster Corps in the Spanish-American War, and is believed to have served in Cuba. In fact, family legend says that a picture exists of him with Teddy Roosevelt taken in Cuba. He ended up in Trinidad after the war, as did many Portuguese Madeirans from St. Vincent. He went into the leather tannery business and became quite susccessful. He extended his holdings into real estate, and became involved in civil service, most notably as the Mayor of Port of Spain. He was honored by the Crown with the Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (M.B.E.).

Henry Alexander had quite a few children, several of which died relatively young in life. Of the remainder, only one stayed in Trinidad.


The Family Today

Most of Henry Alexander's descendants emigrated to Canada, England, and the United States. My Grandfather, Robert Anthony de Freitas, died while my Gandmother was pregnant with my father. As a result, my father was raised in H.A.'s household until my Grandmother remarried. My family moved to the United States in 1978.


Research Goals

  • Determine Henry Alexander's parents
  • Trace the remainder of his ancestors
  • Obtain his military records
  • Discover more about his businesses
  • Obtain the record of his M.B.E. award
  • Eventually trace the family back to Madeira

Bibliography

Ciski, Robert. "The Vincentian Portuguese: A Study in Ethnic Group Adaptation." Ph.D. dissertation, University of Massachusetts, Ann Arbor, MI., 1975.: Univeristy Microfilms, 1999.

Ferreira, Jo-Anne S. The Portuguese of Trinidad and Tobago: Portrait of an Ethnic Minority. St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago: Institute of Social and Economic Research, The University of the West Indies, 1994.