History of Our Cordeiro Genealogy

Last Edited: 07 Sep 2020

After much research, we can now provide further information on the history of the Cordeiros with Açoriano heritage. The family, which include surnames like Camelo, Rego, Teive and Cordeiro were important in playing a role in the initial settlement of the Açores islands. These family names originate from the central and northern regions of continental Portugal and descend from noble families or high ranking individuals.

In brief, the chain of migration commences in continental Portugal (or northern Spain) in the early to mid-13th century to the settlement of the island of São Miguel in the Açores in the 15th century followed by the migration from there to the island of Terceira, Açores around the early 16th century. The family name remains on the island for over two centuries until the late 18th century, then arrives in the Portuguese colony of Mação before dispersing to the English colonies of Hong Kong and Singapore as well as Thailand in the 19th century. Related family branches of the Cordeiros from both São Miguel and Terceira also spread to Brasil and the USA in the 19th century.

To give an understanding of the involvement of the various related family names in the history of Portugal, we will break down our account into the following:

1. The History and Colonisation of the Açores islands, and 
2. Our Ancestors and Their Role in its Settlement.

1. A Brief History of the Açores and its Colonisation Relevant to Our Ancestry

The Açores is a group of nine islands in the Atlantic Ocean about a third of the distance between continental Europe and the eastern seaboard of the North American continent. An automomous region of Portugal, it is divided into three island groups: the Eastern Group (São Miguel & Santa Maria islands) that sits closest to continental Europe, the Western Group (Flores & Corvo islands) and the Central Group (Terceira, Graciosa, São Jorge, Pico & Faial islands) between the first two. We will concentrate mainly on the islands of São Miguel and Terceira where we find our ancestors. Little documentation was left by the explorers themselves and much of the history and discovery of the islands have been pieced together by historians. Hence, while some details are unavailable or conjecture, the overall history is.

1.1 The Island of São Miguel

It is believed that sometime between 1427 and 1431, the island of São Miguel was discovered by the Portuguese navigators. It was the second island to be discovered after the island of Santa Maria to its east. Initial settlement of São Miguel was slow as most Portuguese had little interest in settling on an isolated archipelago away from civilisation. However, Gonçalo Velho, a Portuguese monk and Commander in the Order of Christ, and under the order of the Infante D. Henrique, slowly gathered settlers and resources for the island. From around the mid to late-1440s, the number of settlers began to increase, with many coming from the regions of Estremadura, the Algarve, Ribatejo, Alentejo and Minho regions of continental Portugal.

Many of the early settlers included officials, often from noble families, sent by the Portuguese rulers to establish government of the islands, as well as Portuguese Sephardic Jews who were banished to the islands by the inquisition on mainland Portugal. The latter had well known Sephardic surnames such as: Pereira, Oliveira, Cardoso, Pimentel, Pinto, Rodrigues, Mendes or Nunes. Settlement commenced in the area of the island that is now the town of Povoação and moved west along the coast to where the village of Vila Franca do Campo became the capital until it was almost destroyed in the earthquake of 1522. Thereafter, Ponta Delgada began to play a more important role before becoming the current capital in 1546.

The fertility of the soil and the island’s geographic position meant that agriculture based on the production of wheat, sugar cane, dye-yielding plants ("woad" and "archil"), wine and dairy products became an important part of the development of the island. Goods produced were exported to the Portuguese garrisons of the North African strongholds as well as between the islands, particularly  Terceira, largely due to its proximity. Hence, since the early days, there was a considerable movement of people between these two islands.

1.2 The Island of Terceira

The island of Jesus Christ, that became more commonly known as Terceira (meaning Third – as in, “Third island to be discovered after São Miguel and Santa Maria”) was probably recognised in the late 1420s to early 1430s. The colonisation of the island began by decree of the Infante D. Henrique (dated 21 March 1450) who ordered Jácome de Bruges, a Flemish, to settle the island.
The first settlement was established by Bruges in Quatro Ribeiras, in the locality of Portalegre on the north of the island, where a small chapel was built for the devotion of Santa Ana (St. Anne, the mother of Mary, grandmother of Jesus Christ). Bruges made return trips to Flanders for new settlers to his colony. On one of his trips, he conscripted Diogo de Teive and assigned him as his lieutenant and overseer for the island of Terceira, where he made his base from 1 January 1451.

A few years later and due to the rather unfavourable conditions in Quatro Ribeiras, Bruges moved his residence to Praia and began construction on the Matriz Church (Mother Church) in 1456. He administered the Captaincy of the island from this location until his mysterious disappearance in 1474 on one of his trips between the islands and the mainland. Following his disappearance, the Infanta D. Beatriz, in the name of her son the Infante D. Diogo (who inherited the islands of Terceira and Graciosa following the death of D. Fernando, the adopted son of the Infante D. Henrique) divided the island of Terceira into two captaincies: Angra primarily in the southern half (which was given to João Vaz Corte-Real) and Praia in the north north-east (which was given to Álvaro Martins Homem).

The port at Praia was a good landing place for boats and for safe anchorage for ships. Due to the prosperous results of agriculture, suitable climate, governmental measures and profits from trade, people from different parts began to settle and the area around the port became the most populated of the existing parishes. The knights and nobility chose this parish to settle and we find names such as Teves, Noronhas, Câmaras, Pains, Homens, Coresmas, Costas, Ferreiras, Betancores, Melos, Pampalonas, Dornelas, Fagundos, Vasconcelos, Mendes, Vieiras, Godinhos, Barcelos, Borges, Mendonças, Furtados, Freitas, Cantos, Cunhas, Barradas, Valadões, Barcelos (sic), Cordelos (sic) [Cordeiros], Aguiares and Borbas, all of whom are linked with each other and have their arms …

- Gaspar Frutuoso

The city of Angra founded in 1478 was historically the most important city in the Açores, becoming the political, economic and religious centre of the islands. The city began to play an important part in the history of navigation during the 15th and 16th centuries as a port of call for the galleons bringing the wealth of the Americas and the ships engaged in trade with India. During this period Terceira was an emporium for the gold, silver, diamonds and spices brought from other continents, which attracted the interest of French, English and Flemish corsairs who constantly attacked Terceira’s coast for several centuries. In 1580 during the period when the Spanish King, Filipe II conquered the Portuguese throne, the local population in Terceira supported the aspirations of D. António, Prior of Crato, the Portuguese candidate. Spain attempted to contain the rebellion, but the first landing of the Spanish troops in 1581 in the Bay of Salga ended in its heavy defeat at the famous "Battle of Salga" in which one of the Portuguese reinforcement ships was captained by a Gaspar Camelo do Rego, a close relation of the Cordeiros.

2. Our ancestors and their relatives

2.1 The Teive family

Keeping in mind that surnames are not necessarily inherited from the paternal side of the family as is the norm today, we will commence our introduction to our ancestors with the noble Teive family from continental Europe.

The earliest record that genealogists have been able to uncover for this family are of a Vasco Pires de Teive, born around the first half of the 13th century. Vasco was a nobleman and master of the Quinta de Teive (Teive farm) located in Terra da Maia (Maia district) on the eastern edge of Porto in continental Portugal. Vasco and his wife, Alda Lopes Valboa are from Spanish families from the region of Solar de Temes and Galicia respectively, in north-western Spain that is to the north of Portugal (Gaio, 1750-1831) [3].

Descendants of this family were masters and mistresses of the Quinta de Teive. Around the early 1400s, we find a Gonçalo de Teive (b. ~ 1412, 3 times great-grandson of Vasco and Alda). He had two sons, a Gonçalo de Teive (the younger) and Pedro Cordeiro. The name of Gonçalo the elder's wife is unknow, but it is quite possible that her surname might have been Cordeira as this was the surname used by Pedro.

Gonçalo de Teive (the younger) was appointed by the King and Infante to be the first warden of São Miguel and the first of the de Teive family to settle on the island (Frutuoso, 1873) [1]. Pedro Cordeiro was appointed the first clerk at the warehouse on the same island where on 27 Jul 1487 he received instructions from the Duke of Viseu, grantee of the islands, on how to proceed with the allocation of Sesmaria lands to the settlers of São Miguel. In 1488 he still exercised this office and it is known that he was also a notary in the town of Vila Franca do Campo where he lived with his family. According to the writings of Padre António Cordeiro in his book Historia Insulana (Cordeiro, 1717) [2], the first occurrence of the “apellido” or nickname Cordeiro on the islands of the Açores is seen on São Miguel.

Pedro Cordeiro had four “beautiful and virtuous daughters” (Frutuoso, 1873) [1]: Maria Cordeira, Beatriz (also known as Leonor) Cordeira, Margarida Pires and Catarina Cordeira. All of whom married men of status and wealth, indicating that the Cordeiro daughters themselves were from a well connected family. No records for Pedro's wife exists, but given the use of the surname Pires by one of his daughters, it is possible that was the surname of his wife.

  • Maria Cordeira was first married to João Rodrigues de Sousa who was a recipient of the King and an overseer or supervisor (Frutuoso, 1873) [1]. He was considered to be very fortunate being a servant of the King. After his death, Maria married Jorge da Mota who was a Knight of the Order of Aviz, was born in Porto in continental Portugal and one of the first families on the island of São Miguel.

She had a son and three daughters with João. Through the process of elimination, we believe that we are most likely descended from offspring of her first marriage. Her children from this marriage chose to use the Cordeiro/Cordeira surname: Francisca Rodrigues Cordeira, Violante Rodrigues Cordeira, Catarina Cordeira and Pedro Rodrigues Cordeiro. The Cordeiro surname does not pass down her son beyond his grand-daughter; nor do they pass down the generations (that we know of) with Francisca and Violante. Catarina married an António Gonçalves around 1530 and we believe it is highly likely that we descend from the union of these two individuals.

Maria had a further four children from her marriage to Jorge da Mota. Their son Cristovão da Mota became a padre of Vila Franca do Campo and their daughter Petronilha da Mota joined the nunnery. The descendants of their other two children, Simão da Mota and Antόnio da Mota continue to use the more prestigious da Mota surname or the Teive surname of their great-grandfather (as a result of cousin marriages).

  • Margarida Pires married Gonçalo Vaz Botelho (or Andrinho or Sampaio), son of Gonçalo Vaz Botelho the Great, whose statue can be found in Vila Franca do Campo on the island of São Miguel. One of their daughters, Leonor, used the surname Cordeira but we have not found a continuation of the surname in her descendants.
  • Catarina Cordeira married a nobleman by the name of Vicente de Abreu and had a son, Pedro de Abreu. Pedro was banished to the mainland for a marriage against his father's wishes. He never returns to the Açores and we do not believe that the Cordeiro name is passed down in this family, at least not on the islands.
  • Dona Beatriz Cordeira married Fernão Camelo Pereira. He was one of the first to arrive on the island of São Miguel during the time of Rui Gonçalves da Câmara (Donatary-Captain of São Miguel). Fernão was a nobleman from the Camelo family of Castelo Branco in central Portugal and was described as being of great stature, had horses and slaves (Frutuoso, 1873) [1].

Some of the earliest records we have found of the presence of Beatriz’s descendants on the island of Terceira are that for her great-grandson, Gaspar Camelo do Rego. He was first recorded in Genealogias de Ilha Terceira (Maldonado, 1644-1711) [4] and later also mentioned in the book, Historia Insulana (Cordeiro, 1717) [2] as being a native of the island of São Miguel from where he went to the village of Praia da Vitόria on the island of Terceira and where he married Catarina de Sousa in 1560.

A note on page 351 in the margin of the book, Historia Insulana (Cordeiro, 1717) [2] reads

“The Cordeiros of São Miguel that passed to the island of Terceira”.

This note was made in reference to text describing the marriage of Gaspar's great-grandparents, Leonor (Beatriz) Cordeiro to Fernão Camelo Pereira who was one of the first settlers of Villa Franca on São Miguel.

Gaspar Camelo do Rego was one of the commanders from Praia that were involved in the defence of the island of Terceira in the Battle of Salga that occurred on 25 July 1581. The do Rego surname of Gaspar's father descends from a family from Porto, Portugal that comprises knights and noblemen during the reign of D. João I.

Note that Gaspar Camelo do Rego is not a direct ancestor of the Cordeiros recorded on this site but a relative sharing the same ancestor, Pedro Cordeiro. More central to our genealogical search is that Gaspar’s name appears as a witness in the marriage record of a João Redondo to a Beatriz Gonçalves Cordeira (m. 1587) in Santa Cruz, Terceira giving an indication of the connection of the family members. Santa Cruz is a parish of the captaincy of Praia and where many of the noble families settled. As to the descendants of Beatriz Cordeira continuing to use the Cordeira/Cordeiro surname, this does not occur. They had mostly taken on the Camelo surname of their father.

In the marriage record of João Redondo to Beatriz Gonçalves Cordeira where we find Gaspar’s name, the parents of the bride are indicated as Catarina Gonçalves Cordeira (whom we believe is a grand-daughter of Maria Cordeira) and Francisco Gonçalves. From Beatriz’s marriage year of 1587, we estimate that her birth year would have been in the early to mid-1560s. These dates fall closely with the estimated dates for the birth (~1560s) of Brianda Cordeira and her marriage (~ 1580s) to Baltasar Afonso, our known ancestors for whom we have firm records. The dates and names of all these individuals suggest the possibility that Brianda Cordeira was the sister of Beatriz Gonçalves Cordeira. The Gonçalves Cordeira/Cordeiro combination of surnames gives strong support in the inference that Beatriz is related to Brianda Cordeira (whom we believe also carried the Gonçalves name as this name is used by her descendants for at least another six generations). From our extensive research, we do not believe that there is any coincidence that two individuals would carry the Gonçalves Cordeiro pairing of surnames. This combination is a strong indicator that individuals (from the island of Terceira, Açores) with this name pairing come from or descend from a specific family line. If all our above inferences are correct, we believe the possible lineage of our Cordeiro ancestry prior to them settling on the island of Terceira would be:

Pedro Cordeiro x ? Maria Cordeira x João Rodrigues de Sousa Catarina Cordeira x Antόnio Gonçalves Catarina Gonçalves Cordeira x Francisco Gonçalves Brianda Cordeira x Baltasar Afonso Belchior Gonçalves Cordeiro x Maria Gaspar.

It is important to remember here that the three generations between Pedro Cordeiro and Brianda Cordeira are not supported by specific church records. However, regardless of this unknown, the writings of Padre António Cordeiro do indicate that all the Cordeiros on the Açores (at the time of his writing) descend from the one Pedro Cordeiro who was the first to carry the Cordeiro apellido on the islands. There is a missing baptismal record book for the parish of Santa Cruz, Terceira for the years between 1543 and 1558 as well as a missing marriage register for the years between 1563 and 1584. These books likely contain crucial information that would help us identify the relationship links between the individuals of interest.

2.2. Other family names and persons of interest

A related Cordeiro ancestor that arrived (either on his own or with his parents) on the island of Terceira from São Miguel and settles in the captaincy of Angra is a João Cordeiro who marries Leonor Dias. Their great-great grandson is Padre António Cordeiro (b.~1641), author of the seminal book, Historia Insulana that records the illustrious members of Açoriano society.

Amongst other notable members of the Teive family were a Diogo de Teive (as mentioned above), cousin of Pedro Cordeiro, who was a caravel captain and squire of the Casa do Infante D. Henrique. Diogo landed on the Island of Terceira on January 1, 1451 as an ombudsman for Infante D. Henrique. He also made two exploratory trips to the west of the Sea of Açores and is credited, together with his son João de Teive, with the discovery of the islands, Flores and Corvo. We also find a record of a Pêro de Teive, who in around 1450 on São Miguel, established a small fishing village that eventually grew into the urban agglomeration of Santa Clara that is today's Ponta Delgada, the capital of São Miguel. The marina in Ponta Delgada is named after Pêro .

Other ancestors that we have been able to trace back to the early 16th century on the island of Terceira but do not carry the Cordeiro surname include a Ruivo Fernandes b. ~1530 from Quatro Ribeiras; Fernão Luís b.~1565 from Biscoitos; and Sebastião Afonso & Magarida Rodrigues b.~1578 from Biscoitos; all of whom are ancestors of Theodora do Espírito Santo, wife of Manuel Gonçalves Cordeiro and mother of António Gonçalves Cordeiro who left the Açores for Mação. We have also identified a Jeronimo Luís b. ~1530 from Quatro Ribeiras, an ancestor of Maria Gaspar, wife of Belchior Gonçalves Cordeiro, the son of Brianda Cordeira and Baltasar Afonso.

The Afonso surname (as carried by Baltasar Afonso, husband of Brianda Cordeira) is common on both the islands of São Miguel and Terceira. However, at this stage, we have little information on how Baltasar Afonso connects with the many Afonsos we have found, though we do believe that it likely connects to individuals from the island of São Miguel.

2.3 Dispersal of descendants on the Island of Terceira

We have now identified every person from the marriage records (from the mid-1500s to the early 1900s) with the surname Cordeiro (or in some cases, simply Gonçalves) from the parishes of Altares, Biscoitos, Cinco Ribeiras, Lajes, Quatro Ribeiras and Vila Nova and have determined that every person carrying the Cordeiro surname in these parishes are related and are descendants of Baltasar Afonso and Brianda Cordeira. While there are persons carrying the surname Cordeiro in other parishes on the island, the connection to these persons are through other branches of the Cordeiro genealogy tree that preceed the branch of Brianda Cordeira.

From Brianda and Baltasar, there were two children. Violante who married and moved to Lajes and left descendants there. The Cordeiro surname eventually died out amongst her descendants although her descendants are still found on the island of Terceira. Belchior on the other hand left many descendants that continue to carry the Cordeiro surname and increase in numbers. The Gonçalves Cordeiro surnames pairing has also branched to become Soares Cordeiro, Lourenço Cordeiro and Inácio Cordeiro. The Soares and Gonçalves lines are the largest branches of the tree we have established. In the birth, marriage and death records, the Cordeiro name may at times be absent from an individual in one record but present in other records. We are able to confirm that the individual in the record without the Cordeiro surname is indeed a Cordeiro based on dates and other family members mentioned.

After the initial settlement of the Cordeiros on Terceira, we are able to find the births, marriages and deaths of the Cordeiro descendants in the record books from the late 1500s onward. However, there is little information available on their lives as nothing is mentioned in these church records other than the most pertinent information relating to the event. At this point in our research, while we have not found any other writings that give us further information about how our ancestors from Terceira lived and what they did, the surnames of the partners that both the Cordeiro men and women married, together with the names of guests at their weddings, give us a clue about the social circles that they associated with during the 15th to 17th centuries. Names such as Afonso, Borges, Barcelos, Betancor (Betancures), do Couto, Dias, Ferraz, Gato, Machado and Pacheco all derive from noble families on mainland Portugal (Gaio, 1750-1831) [3].

In more recent marriage records from the 1800s onward, the occupations of the couple were mentioned. The majority of the Cordeiro men were indicated as being Maritimo, Pescador or Trabalhador – ie, Sailor, Fisherman or Worker. A worker might be someone who worked in the fields in agricultural pursuits and may or may not have owned the land that they farmed. Women were nearly always indicated as being “serviços de domésticos” – in domestic service, looking after the home. It would not be wrong to assume that women back then, as they are in many villages today, would have assisted with farming activities if that was what their family livelihood depended on. However, our direct ancestor António Gonçalves Cordeiro was born prior to this period and had left the Açores for Mação by the late 1700s.

To continue following the trail of our ancestors from the island of Terceira to their dispersion into Asia and beyond, see our article on  Cordeiro Migration.


[1] Gaspar Frutuoso (1873). Saudades da Terra (Vol.1-6): Instituto Cultural de Ponta Delgada, Ponta Delgada.

[2] António Cordeiro (1717). História Insulana das Ilhas a Portugal Sujeytas no Oceano Occidental. Lisbon, Portugal: Imprensa de António Pedroso Galvão, Lisboa Ocidental.

[3] Felgueiras Gaio, Manuel José da Costa (1750-1831). Nobiliário de Famílias de Portugal. Fac-símile de Impressão diplomática do original manuscrito existente na Santa Casa de Misericórdia de Barcelos, Portugal, Agostinho de Azevedo Meirelles e Domingos de Araujo Affonso, 17 volumes, Braga 1938-1942.

[4] Padre Manuel Luís Maldonado. Fénix Angrense, Parte Genealogica. Manuscrito Genealógico Cobertura temporal 1644-1711

Rodrigo Rodrigues (1991). Notícia Biográfica do Dr. Gaspar Frutuoso (notas de João Bernardo de Oliveira Rodrigues). [S.l.]: Instituto Cultural de Ponta Delgada, Ponta Delgada. pp. 109, 3 Diagrams