You may have come across this in your research. A family migrates to Hawaii. They have 7 children before they left, but only 6 arrive in Hawaii. Did one child die prior to migration? The answer may be as simple as making sure someone in the family survives.
An Uncertain Voyage to Hawaii
For immigrants leaving their country has a certain level of uncertainty attached to it. The thought of dying on the voyage to this new country was scary and real.
These fears were especially strong for the Portuguese who went to Hawaii. The trip was long and to a destination they knew nothing about. Who knew what awaited them on Hawaii’s shores?
Because the fear of the entire family being wiped out at sea played on people’s minds, some parents decided to leave one child behind. This child would carry on the family name in case something happened to the rest of the family.
How Awful for the Child Left Behind
It’s hard to imagine that this was an easy thing to do. Parents may have been comforted by the fact that their child was going to be raised by trusting relative.
It must have been torturous for the child. They’d have parents and siblings one day, and then, they were gone…forever.
With many immigrants being illiterate, there might not have been any communication between child and parent. Even if there was, it would be several weeks before the family was settled in Hawaii. The child would have to accept the fact that they may never see or hear from their family again.
Sometimes these children were not young. Male children who were of draft age may not have been able to leave. In the mid-1800 there was an antagonistic relationship between the islanders and mainland Portugal. Some males left on whaling ships to avoid conscription.
It would have been more difficult to add that son to their father’s passport or for them to sign a sugar plantation contract themselves.
The fines for avoiding conscription were steep if caught, most families did not have money to pay the fines.
Did They Ever See Each Other Again?
Chances for a reunion were slim. Keep in mind that very few Portuguese left Hawaii to return to their homeland. The migration was permanent in most cases. Money was an issue, but seriously, who’d want to do that voyage around South America more than once to retrieve a child?
There were some instances when the child was sent for. Since the early Portuguese laborers were paid in gold, they were able to save some money. There was a chance they might save enough to bring the last child to Hawaii within a couple of years.
If another relative was set to sail, the child might be included in their family group. I doubt an underage child would travel alone, though I could be wrong.
The Case of Seraphim de Braga
There is one case of a child being left behind in my de Braga line. My great great grandparents, Jozimas de Braga and Maria da Conceicao de Mello left behind their youngest son, Seraphim, with family back in their home village of Maia.
When I started researching this family, I had no clue about Seraphim. His name was not on any family documents and their were no photos of him. It wasn’t until I found my great great aunt, Maria Grace (de Braga) Bonita’s obituary that I saw him listed as a sibling. And then, I thought it was a mistake.
But, no, Seraphim was real. And, in 1882 the de Braga family boarded the SS Monarch without him.
Seraphim did eventually make the journey to Hawaii in 1894. In the mid 1890s, his mother became very ill. The family feared she was dying and Seraphim was sent for. He was a teenager when he was sent for. It is unknown if he made the trip alone.
Reunions are Sometimes Short Lived
Seraphim joined the family on Kauai in 1894. I don’t know the details but he didn’t stay for long. By 1900, he was living in Honolulu. None of the de Braga’s were living there, so he was pretty much alone. His mother lingered until 1903, so there was no rush to depart.
Perhaps the time separated from family had been too long. They were practically strangers at this point having been separated for 12 years. They were assimilated in the new world that was Hawaii and he was an Azorean through and through.
Ironically, Seraphim was the only one of the de Braga children to make Hawaii his permanent home. home. Maria, Marie Grace, and Jose all joined their father in California around 1907.
Have You Found A Child That Didn’t Make the Journey?
If you have a family story that says there were five children, but you can only find four, there could be a reason. If no proof of the fifth child can be found in the US, you may have to look for that child in the village records where your ancestors originated from.
There is a good possibility the missing child was left behind.
© 2004-2021 Melody Lassalle