The Macanese in Yokohama

June 27th, 2014 3 Comments

Guliherme da SilvaSubmitted by Angela Rainsberger…

My husband’s grandfather was Macanese but had a Portuguese passport. His name was Guilherme A. da Silva and he was born in 1904 in Japan. He was the son of Timoteo Emanuel da Silva and Querina Filomena Farias. Timoteo was born in Macau in 1871. Querina was born in Hong Kong in 1874. They were married in Hong Kong in 1897.

Timóteo was an Assistant (later a Clerk) at Wieler & Co (Traders), 30 Queen’s Road East, Hong Kong, from at least 1891 (age 21) through 1893, and probably up to 1900. We presumed that he continued to work at Wieler & Co until moving to Yokohama, Japan sometime after his marriage in January 1897, but before the birth of first child, Joao Henrique da Silva, in October 1900. He died in Yokohama in 1948.

The family lived on the bluff in Yokohama, working in various international shipping and manufacturing companies. They identified themselves as Portuguese and carried Portuguese passports despite the fact that none of them had ever been to Portugal.

The family was extremely close to one another. cousins, second cousins, third cousins and beyond were considered immediate family and they interacted both socially and in the business world.  Most of the family did not leave Japan during World War II.  Two of Timoteo and Querina’s other children, Juan and Julia, both single at the time were told they could have passage to Brazil out of Shanghai (or Hong Kong) before the war began. They fled Japan and arrived in Shanghai just as the Japanese invaded and closed down Shanghai. They spent the remainder of the war in Shanghai.

It is believed that a da Silva second cousin was organizing the evacuation of European passport holders from Shanghai. Guilherme, and other family members, Jose, Emily, Ernesto & Timoteo and their immediate families all spent the war in Japan.  There were many other families living in Yokohama who also spent the war in Japan as prisoners of war. Guillerme was of special interest to the Japanese as they believed he was a spy as he worked for an American technology company IBM. They held him for several months of interrogation at a race track near Kobe. When he returned to his family he was under house arrest. After a short time the Japanese offered two options to the family.

They were to go to a POW camp near Kobe or they were to be under community arrest in a remote town Gora, Kanagawa, Japan. The Jesuit priest from St. Joseph’s college in Yokohama had elected to spend the war in Gora. So as not to disrupt their children’s education Guiherme’s family elected to go to Gora, while the rest of the da Silva’s chose the other option. All of the da Silva’s survived the war in Japan.

After the war one by one the da Silva’s immigrated to the United States and settled in and around the San Francisco bay area. Emilie died in 1951 of breast cancer. Her only child was adopted by her sister Julia. Today the majority of the Da Silva’s are in international business, trade, electrical engineering, clergy or other mainly high-tech professions. Our extended family still spends one week together each year meeting in some central location in California.

Our children have been raised knowing their second and third cousins as first cousins and our cousins as their aunties and uncles.  There are two grandchildren of Timoteo’s still living in your area: Ernesto da Silva’s eldest son Hugo and Guiherme’s eldest child Maria Genevieve. Both are elderly and one is very ill. At last count Guiherme has 5 children, 11 grandchildren and 17 great grandchildren…. We expect more to come.  All live in California.


  1. Gernot Becker says:

    The comment of Angela Rainsberger is very interesting for us.Our company Sander, Wieler & Co. is an amalgamate of the HongKong companies Sander & Co. and Wieler & Co. in 1898.In both companies one of the Becker brothers had been partner at that time.
    Angela Rainsberger noted that Timoteo Emanuel da Silva worked for Wieler & Co. in HongKong from 1891 to 1893 and possibly 1900 in Japan. We have an old photo from about 1892/1893 with several persons of Wieler & Co /Hongkong, describing several persons on the picture..One ist Mr. Bunge, another ist named “Portugees”. That must be Mr.da Silva: because Mr. Bunge worked only for both firms Wieler & Co. and Sander & Co in 1892/1893 in HongKong. He came from Yokohama, where a third Becker – brother run the Company Becker & Co.
    I think it could be that Mr. Bunge who became a partner in Yokohama in 1893 asked Mr. da Silva to come to Yokohama to enlarge the China-business from Japan to China and Mr. da Silva worked for some years at Becker & Co. in Yokohama. Please ask Mrs. Angela Rainsberger if the family has some more details. Of course we can mail the old photo if of any interest.We have no more details.
    I would be very glad to hear from you.
    Best regards
    Gernot Becker

  2. Manuel Guterres says:

    Amazing! A friend just introduced me to this site and I found this article. Ernesto da Silva was my uncle (uncle-in-law I guess). He was married to my aunt, Anna, who died in 1956 in Yokohama, I believe.

    Hugo da Silva is my first cousin and I see him every few years. I am in fairly constant contact with his daughter, Ivone da Silva (now Shaffer).

    My father was Manuel Guterres, who was born in Kobe in 1909. His father, Jose Maria dos Anjos Guterres , was Macanese and married a Japanese woman,Chie (?).

    Small world!

    • Director says:

      Manuel, thanks for commenting on the article. If you have any additional information on your family’s time in Japan, I would love to read more.

      Best regards,

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