Presentation Notes: 2007-2008

Cape Verdean Immigration

Presented by James J. Lopes - March 12, 2008

Notes by Carolyn Weiss

Mr. James J. Lopes is an entertainment lawyer who grew up in New Bedford and is of Cape Verdean extraction. He is also on the board of the New Bedford Whaling Museum. He became interested in his genealogy and now has 16,000 connected names in his genealogy database. His names stretch from New Bedford to the Cape Verde islands to Portugal.

The bulk of the Cape Verdeans who came to the United States arrived after the Civil War. Ninety percent of those who came immigrated to New Bedford, and from there spread out to Providence, Cape Cod, and other New England locations. His father had collected family obituaries for over thirty years, and Mr. Lopes used them to help establish family relationships and gather genealogical information. His father's family, the Lopes di Silvas, emigrated from Portugal to Cape Verde in the late 1700s, where they established schools.

He mentioned that the Family History Library has filmed Cape Verdean records and that these are now available on microfilm at the New Bedford Library. Some of the records go back to 1450. Passenger lists of Cape Verdean immigration are also available at the same library.

Mr. Lopes presented a PowerPoint slide show of Cape Verde postcards dating from the late 1800s into the early part of the 20th Century, which he had purchased on E-Bay. The show also included photographs from the collection of the New Bedford Whaling Museum as well as his personal collection of family photographs.

He noted that by 1900, fifty percent of the whaling crews were from Cape Verde. Ships would leave New Bedford and travel to Cape Verde where they picked up crew. There was island music and dancing aboard the whaling ships showing the Cape Verdean influence.

Cape Verdean immigrants, men, women and children, also worked in the cranberry bogs, especially on the Cape. They lived in New Bedford in the winter and worked on the Cape in the summer.

Portuguese immigrated to the Cape Verde Islands in 1455, around the time of the Spanish Inquisition. Portuguese Jews left Portugal and sailed for Madeira, the Guinea Coast and Cape Verde and were then involved in the slave and molasses trade. In order to be permitted to trade slaves, the Portuguese businessmen had to marry into an African family. Some time later, Italians and English settled in the islands. There are many Jewish cemeteries on the Cape Verde islands. DNA research has been done on members of the Cape Verdean army.

In the 20th Century, quotas were imposed on Cape Verde immigrants, so there are two groups of Cape Verde immigrants, pre- and post- quotas. The quota system led to discrimination within Cape Verde families in New Bedford and led to those families being torn apart. The segregation of the school system in the early 1960s only reinforced the problems.

For further reading, Mr. Lopes recommended Between Race and Ethnicity by Marilyn Halter as a terrific book for Cape Verde genealogy. This book also contains passenger lists. There are many Cape Verde Web sites on the Internet.

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