Thursday, November 23, 2017

More Pieces... More of a Puzzle!

Recently, I was fortunate enough to meet my half-uncle (linked post!) who we discovered through 23andme. He and his family were visiting New York City and decided to stop by for the day to hang out with us. It was amazing getting to spend the day with new family and my uncle was able to meet two more of his siblings - meaning that he's meet 4 of his 8 siblings so far. One has passed so there are only 7 he can meet in total. With discovering our uncle and talks of the situation my grandmother was in, my family did some digging and came across a few letters she received back in the 1950s. I'm not sure how this person might be tied into our family and who this man may be, but hoping that this blog will bring me luck into finding out more about my grandmother's past!

Unearthing New Clues

Our family started digging around for old possessions of my grandmother and came across a few letters dating back to 1958. The reason these letters might be of importance to our new uncle's life is because these letters were written two years before his birth. These letters occur between my older uncle and my new uncle's birth, meaning it could potentially be one of their fathers. We're not sure of course without DNA evidence but for now it's only a theory.

Once I received the letters via text, I immediately realized something - this man was probably not Puerto Rican! And it wasn't the name that gave it away since I hadn't seen it at that point, but his spelling. I realized that his words in Spanish had mixtures of Portuguese and made common errors found amongst Portuguese speakers when translating into Spanish. So I was immediately intrigued as to who he was and what connection he had with my grandmother. I've transcribed the letters below and have placed them in chronological order for them to make the most sense. I haven't changed any spellings from the letters themselves. We also aren't sure how many are missing and where her written letters are as well, I imagine gone or in the possession on the other end! These letters will make 60 years next year!

Querida Carmen...

Letter #1: 

September 23, 1958 - New Bedford, Massachusetts 

Mi querida Carmen, 

Desejo de esta carta t'encuentre gozando salude junto a tu familia assim mismo como yo boy siempre bueno gracias a Dios. Bien Carmita estoy mucho alegre de recebir tu preciosa carta, que yo estoy loco tambien para encuentre contigo, talbies [tal vez] no seguinte semana boy tomar uno passeio para New York, quiere encontrar contigo para ablar contigo porque yo no puede explicar todas cosas por carta. Yo no boy olvidarte nunca porque yo amo te mucho Carmen. Bien recebi mi corazon cheio de amor e un beso com much recuerdo mi amorita. Ati encuentre querida. Tu Joao J. Graca

Letter #2:

September 30, 1958 - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 

Mi mas querida Carmen, 

Desejo esta carta te encuentre gozando salude siempre junto a tu familias, que yo boy simpre bin gracia a Dios. Bien yo recebi tu carta que yo fico mucho alegre. Amosita por hora estoy em Philadelphia para embarcar, que yo estoy mas pierto [cerca] New York e mas pierto de tu, bien por caso que yo no embacar até esta fim de semana yo boy para New York. Carmen mi amor yo no puede esperar até cuando puede encontrar contigo quiere te mucho Amosi[ta]... missing words

Letter #3: 

October 7, 1958 - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 

Querida Amosita Carmen, 

Com todo mi coraçon que estoy escrebite esta dos palabras [liemia?] para saber de ... Carmen que quire a Dios tencuentre de salude junto a tu nino e mas familias todas. Yo boy siempre bin graça a Dios. Yo recebi tu carta que yo fico siempre alegre porque yo no quiere que ti me olvidar. Bien mi Carmita ainda por tiempo estoy por ca esperando por trabajo por hora vive em un Hotel esperando para un barco, cuando yo boy para o [barco?]...   missing words

Letter 4: 

No date (probably 1958) - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Desejo que tu esta de mejor tu disse no carta passado que tu estaba enferma. Desejo que tu guta de America dice-me no outro carta se te guta de New York. Se yo ves Mario yo lo dise o que selodise. Bien Amosita te puede mi escribir para esta adress ma no estoy sierto se boy estar aqui, ate cuando boy em barco. Yo boy mandar te mi adress de certeza, bien esta adress 

Joao J. Graca
822 N. Broad St. 
N.M.V. Hall
Philadelphia, PA 

Bien recebi un abraso mucho pertado e um beso de tudo mi coraçon. Siempre para tu y siempre com amor. Joao J. Graca 

Hints and Theories

There are a few things that I can easily learn from these letters received by my grandmother:

  • By September 1958 my grandmother was somehow in New York. Not sure with who and under what conditions, but she apparently was here exchanging letters with Joao. From what I've heard she had an uncle who lived in New York around that time so she might have been with him! Joao was aware also of my grandmother's child who was born that same year, from stories I've heard I know my great grandmother did a lot to help out my grandmother with raising her first two children since she was young, so odds are he was in Puerto Rico with my great grandmother and not in New York with my grandmother. 
  • Joao and my grandmother seemed to have had a summer loving, quick fling kind and he was heads over heels for my grandmother... not sure if my grandmother felt the same way since these letters are only one side of the story. The question then becomes, how did they meet? In New York or Puerto Rico? There was also a lot to be discussed between the two since Joao mentions meeting in person and talking rather than over letters. Did they ever get to meet afterwards? 
  • Joao was probably stationed with the Marines in Philadelphia seeing as how he mentions "waiting for work on a boat". I'm not sure if New Bedford, Massachusetts is another stationed city or just a hometown? There's an actual address in Philadelphia to a "N.M.V. Hall" on 822 N. Broad Street. Doing some searches on Google and in some newspapers I couldn't find a mention of a N.M.V. but this little building seems to have hosted a music hall at one point. 

822 N. Broad a few years back [Google]

Circa 1910s, Philadelphia Conservatory of Music [Newspaper]

  • Joao was probably of Portuguese descendant. Based on the name and of the spellings of words in his Spanish such as coraçon > corazón, passado > pasado, graça > gracia, etc. His name Joao J. Graca should be spelled João J. Graça based off what I know of Portuguese. Based off of this information, I can think of three main places his family was from: Brazil, Portugal, or Cape Verde. I have heard of a big Lusophone population in Massachusetts, but now the question becomes, which is the right group? 
  • Who was Mario? My grandmother sent her greetings to someone named "Mario"? Was he a friend of Joao's? A brother or cousin? Where did my grandmother meet him? She must have known enough of him to send her regards in a letter. 
These new letters leave me probably with more questions than answers. Could Joao be alive today? Does he or his family remember Carmen and or have her letters as well from 1958? Could Joao be tied to my family via a son like my half-uncle? There is a lot to theorize and think about and so far the internet hasn't been too much of help. I've tried looking for "Joao J. Graca" both with the Portuguese and American spelling but I haven't come across much. Not knowing an age or place of origin means any and all Joaos can be an option. There are a few that seem promising, like one born in 1938 - just two years before my grandmother, but nothing is certain. 

Here's to hoping that someday more clues will begin to unravel to paint a clearer picture of my grandmother's life before I knew her as abuela

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