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 vora, 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
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
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.
- 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
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.