Family Networks in Goa and Macau

February 6th, 2014 10 Comments

Revised 2/22/2014 – (Author’s Note: This is the (revised) second part of an article on Macanese family networks. It begins with a transitional summary, then focuses on the early history of families in each community. The roman numerals indicate where footnotes will be inserted later.) —- 

The Church thus helped to solidify Luso-Asian customs and practice. By legitimizing racially-mixed unions through baptism in Goa, it also condoned bonds to other ethnic groups that were necessary for the survival of Portuguese trade. In the process, the Church became a powerful ally of Portuguese ambitions in Asia, and the future “guardian” of Macanese culture and community life.

And yet Portuguese “descendentes”, like other colonized groups, were not completely reliant on the Church or on colonial administrations for their survival. The expanding Asian trade provided other options. For while the “rules” of family practice were regulated by the Holy See and the Bishop of Goa, social and commercial relations among families, and the effects of those relationships on the Macanese community, were very much in play.

Family Networks in Goa

By most accounts, ties between families were common aspects of early colonial life in India that were later brought to Macau. In Goa, for example, where the number of Portuguese “descendentes” in the 1500s already numbered about 10,000, a mix of Indian, Malayan, and Sri Lankan influences through trade created a shared patois that researchers have called a “linguistic hybridization of Portuguese, Malay and Sinitic traits”.[i] This led them to conclude that “Maquista”, the creole language usually identified with Macau, is actually “the result of the mixing of different cultures and linguistic systems” adopted from other ports and probably first spoken in Goa and Malacca.[ii]

The wide range of cultural influences, which later included Japanese and Chinese, brought together by Portuguese colonization and the Church, resulted in unique familial traditions. In Goa the conversion of native Indians gave rise to the adoption of Portuguese surnames at baptism, the rearing and education of mestizo children according to Christian values, and even the incorporation of indigenous rituals into the marriage ceremony. A vivid example of the latter is provided by an Italian traveler, Pietro Della Valle, who attended a Goan wedding in the 1620s:

“The Bride and Bridegroom came under Umbrellas of Silk, garnished with silver, and in other particulars the Ceremonies were according to the custom of the Portugals, only I observed that, according to the use of the Country, in the Company before the Married Persons there marched a party of fourteen, or sixteen, men oddly clothed after the Indian fashion, to wit naked from the girdle upward, and their Bodies painted in a pattern with white Sanders (sand).” [iii]

The blending of old and new world elements, and the social ties they created, led to the establishment of a large Indo-Portuguese community in Goa, one of the original locations of “descendentes” in Asia.[iv]

Two examples of Portuguese family ties through Goa and Macau suggest the roles that generational networks played during this period. According to genealogist Jorge Forjaz, the descendants of Rui Lopes, a 12th century soldier on the northern Portuguese frontier at Chaves (then part of Spain), can be traced thirteen generations later to Antonio Rafael Alvares, a 17th century Captain-General of Diu, a Goan trading port. Although born in Lisbon around 1650, Alvares spent his military career in India, where he married a local woman and raised four sons and several grandchildren who were prominent in Goa’s military and religious establishment.[v]

Several of Alvares’ descendants appear throughout the 18th century as soldiers and physicians. One grandson, Vicente Alvares, was an officer who later became a pharmacist in 1726. His son, Manuel Caetano Alvares, was a doctor certified to practice in Goa and Portugal in 1755. Another cousin, Joao Jacques Floriano Alvares, was a doctor at the Medical School of Goa in 1849, and later was appointed Chief Medical Officer of Macau in 1872. Through the 19th century many Alvares family members also worked as researchers, attorneys, teachers, and university professors, with several moving between Goa, Macau, Hong Kong, and Portugal.[vi]

Another “descendente” family from India, the Barrettos, originated from the union of Antonio Lorenzo Barretto, born into the Maratha tribe of Goa, and Pascoa de Sousa, whose father was Portuguese. Upon his baptism, Barretto adopted the family name of his godfather, a descendent of Gomez Mendes Barretto, who lived in 12th century Spain. Antonio Barretto’s “descendentes” later became successful traders in India and Macau.[vii]

Antonio’s second son, Luis Barretto de Sousa, who was born in Bombay in 1745, founded the merchant firm: L. Barretto & Company. In 1797, Luis joined his younger brother, Joseph Barretto Senior de Sousa (1750-1824), to establish the first insurance business in Macau, the “Casa de Sequros”, securing the cargos of other merchants involved in the China Trade. The brothers also partnered with several uncles and a brother-in-law who owned trading firms.

The business from these connections allowed the Barrettos to purchase two merchant ships of their own. One vessel operated between the Cape of Good Hope and London. The other ship handled trade between Macau and the rest of China. Together these ventures created one of the earliest examples of “vertical integration” in the Far East, linking manufactured goods and distribution. As his wealth accumulated, Luis Barretto earned a reputation in 18th century India as “The Prince of Business”.

As the Portuguese empire declined in the late 17th century, many Goan born “descendentes” made their way to Macau, but the transition was slow because of changing political and economic conditions.

Family Networks in Macau

Macau represented Portugal’s tenuous foothold in 16th century China. During an interruption in trade from 1519 to 1550, the result of aggressive tactics toward local merchants, colonial officials focused their attention on Japan, which was discovered by Portuguese sailors in 1542. When relations with China were re-established, the first exchange of goods took place during an annual trade fair on Sanchan Island in 1552. By 1555 the fair was extended to Lampacao Island and the small peninsula on which Macao is located today.[viii]

The earliest settlers in Macao, including sailors, criminals, adventurers, escaped prisoners, traders, and Jesuit missionaries, arrived from Goa, Japan, Malacca, and bordering regions of China as early as 1553. It is reputed that local mandarins allowed them to remain permanently in 1557 in recognition of their role in expelling pirates who used Macau as a stronghold.[ix] The city then enjoyed a “Golden Era”, particularly while trade with Japan remained open, but fell into deprivation following the closure of Japanese ports in 1639.[x] In that period Macau overcame the Dutch invasion of 1622, the capture of the Malacca peninsula in 1641, but benefited in later years from a British-Portuguese alliance in 1661.[xi]

When Macau finally recovered in the early 18th century, assisted by the opening of Canton to foreign traders by China 1685, Goa and Macao emerged as the only entry points to Indian and China, and the principal trading centers in Asia.[xii] Macanese merchants soon were engaged as intermediaries between East and West, enjoying a virtual trade monopoly. This period of prosperity also corresponded with rising liberal fervor in Macau, while being virtually forgotten by Lisbon and neglected from Goa.[xiii]

Macau’s relative autonomy also came as a consequence of the Church’s long history in Asia. Following Portuguese, French and Spanish Jesuits into 15th century China, many religious orders built churches, schools, hospitals, orphanages, and convents to serve the growing community. Jesuit clerics, in particular, diligently preserved the journals of early Portuguese explorers, while chronicling the development of Macau as the “City in the Name of God in China”, even in the foundation stones of St. Paul’s cathedral, as well as in the work of artists, including the poet Luis Vaz de Camoes, a visitor in 1567.[xiv]  Students in religious schools were taught the classics, mathematics, languages, and commercial skills, including stenography, printing, and horticulture, anticipating the demands of trade in the coming years. As a result, the flow of regular ship traffic from Goa began once again, opening Macau to the first wave of “descendente” immigrants.

Many families were attracted by opportunities provided by the burgeoning trade. The next generation of Barrettos, for example, added to the family’s fortunes in India by moving some of its commercial interests to Macau.[xv] Joseph Barretto Junior’s son, Antonio Lorenzo Barretto Rodriquez, succeeded his father as director of the Casa de Seguros de Macao in 1810. A few years later he was elected to Macau’s ruling body, the Leal Senado. Antonio Lorenzo’s son, Bartolomeu Barretto Rodriquez (1748-1845), began as a tea merchant in Macau, and in 1822 became the third generation of his family to be director of the Casa de Seguros. In 1825, another of Antonio’s sons was elected chairman of Macau’s “Almatace da Camara”, the colony’s chamber of commerce. In 1831 at age 20, Antonio’s Lorenzo’s grandson, Bartolomeu Antonio Barretto, was a linguist, negotiator, and clerk for William Jardine, the most prominent “country trader” in Macau.  Following the Opium wars in the 1850s, Bartolomeu became Jardine and Matheson’s principal agent in Bangkok and Manila, and later purchased a rice mill in the Philippines, where he died in 1881.

There were similar patterns in other families. Leonardo ‘d Almada y Castro, a Goan born in 1815, was the son of a Portuguese father from Lisbon who married a “descendente” woman in the 1790s.[xvi] ‘D Almada worked for the British Superintendent of Trade in Macau in 1836 and was well-known in the community, helping to build a Portuguese-British theatre in 1839. Two years after ‘d Almada was transferred to Hong Kong in 1842, he married the daughter of a Portuguese-French woman from Macau, and when she died, married her Macanese cousin.

‘D Almada’s contemporary, Delfino Noronha, who was born in Macao in 1824 to a family from Goa, attended St. Joseph’s College in the 1830s.[xvii] There he was trained as a compositor on a printing press the Jesuits had imported from Lisbon. Noronha went on to establish Hong Kong’s the first commercial press in 1844, publishing the government “Gazette” from 1849, and trained a generation of compositors who followed him from Macau.[xviii]

The transition of the large Alvares family from 1700 to 1899 showed comparable changes. In the 18th century, 40% of Alvares males remained in the Portuguese army, 40% were priests, and 20% were doctors. By the 19th century 59% of Alvares men were physicians in Macau, while only 3% remained in the military and 6% entered the priesthood, some disenchanted with conditions in Goa.* Other professions also began to appear: more than 18% of Alvares men practiced law in Macau, while 12% taught in schools and universities, some in Portugal.[xix]

And so the migration of Portuguese descendants from Goa continued throughout the 19th century, now firmly enmeshed in a network of families and commercial ties. As British interests grew dominant after the Opium War, Macau’s position as a trading center faded once more. Hong Kong soon took its place in the 1850s, and to it came Macanese workers seeking new opportunities.


  1. B. Heijden says:

    Dear mr. Roy Xavier, About more data from the Botellhos:
    Jose ~ Magretha Jone (1770 Goa)
    their son: Pedro/Petro Botellho *Bandel-W.Bengal
    one of his kids: Laurance/Lourence Botellho ~ Henriëtta Cornelia Petronella
    one of their kids:Eduard Alexander had a relation with a woman, Thima, of the West Coast of Sumatra: their daughter: Eugenie Albertine Botellho ~ James Charles van Ginkel (my grandparents), their daughter:Lucia Sophia Lucia van Ginkel ~ Alfred Ludwig Heijden.
    Best regards,

  2. B. Heijden says:

    I am a descendant of Jose Botellho from Goa (1770) and his wife Margretha Jones.
    Maybe you can tell me where he comes from (Portugal ?) Their son Pedro (Pieter) is born in Bandel (West Bengal) ca 1796 and went later to Netherlands East Indies, now Indonesia. Married a woman from Indonesia, about 10 children from this marriage. one of them is Laurance Botellho. The grandfather of my grandmother: Eugenie Albertine Botellho.
    Hopely you can help with this problem.
    With regards B.Heijden. (from Holland)

    • Director says:

      Dear B.Heijden,

      Thank you for the inquiry. Although doing personal searches is not part of my research agenda, I got curious about your family’s origins in 18th century Goa and Bengal. Unfortunately, my initial search could not locate Jose Botellho, nor Laurance Botelho or Eugenie Albertine Botelho. Perhaps if you provided your mother and father’s names, and a little more information about your family’s history in Indonesia, I might have more luck.

      Best regards,
      Roy Xavier

  3. Lauren Robinson says:

    Thank you Dr. Xavier for you reply. I will continue my search for a Barreto/DeSouza family connection through other avenues. I am enjoying reading your website.

  4. Lauren Robinson says:

    Would any of your family research show the name Angelina Louisa Flora Gonsalves? I do not have a birthdate, but she passed 19 Sept 1840. I believe she married my husband’s third great grandfather 29 Mar 1837 in India. Looking forward to getting a reply to this post.

    • Director says:

      Dear Lauren,

      I checked my sources on Angelina Louisa Flora Gonsalves. Unfortunately, I was not able to find a record for her. If she was born in India or Portugal, the best sources would be birth records from archives in India (Goa) and Lisbon.

      Sorry I could not be more helpful.

      Best regards,
      Dr. Roy Eric Xavier

  5. megan desouza says:

    I am a descendant of Michael de Lima e Sousa, brother of Pascoa de Sousa who is mentioned in this article. we have a detailed family tree starting with her father Joseph deSousa. I’d like to know how I can go further up that tree, how do you know she was Portuguese and where I can get more information on the family.

  6. Delano Pereira says:

    5th paragraph
    5th line
    …Captain-General of DIU…

    Roy, I have been able to trace my mother’s lineage in Forjaz’ “Familias Goesas”. My father’s side started straight from a jump from Coimbra to Macau in early 18th Century, documented in Forjaz’ “Familias Macaenses”.

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