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December 11, 2015
The Madeira Portuguese in St Vincent (update)

Editor: A while ago, I did a series on the Madeira Portuguese in St Vincent. There were a lot of unanswered questions among them; were the Portuguese really Jews who were fleeing persecution? Did my Portuguese ancestors mix with the Caribs in SVG?

What does the word “Portuguese” mean? Portuguese refer to a language spoken in Portugal, Brazil, Madeira, the Azores and other former colonies of Portugal. Portuguese also refers to the people who live in Portugal and in the diaspora.{{more}} Portuguese may also refer to a culture that pertains to the Portuguese people, such as eating garlic pork at Christmas. Portuguese does not define a pure race. The Portuguese people are a mixed race society that developed on the Iberian Peninsula, made up largely of Lusitanians, with various admixtures such as Visigoths, Vandals, Goths, Phoenicians, Carthaginians and later with the Roman conquest came Mediterranean races. When the Moors occupied the Iberian Peninsula, there was a Moorish admixture to the Portuguese. So, before the Madeiran Portuguese arrived in SVG, they were already a “blended” race.

I have a great uncle who swore that on my McKie line we have Carib relatives. I know that on my McKie line there is an African heritage and I am still trying to find all those familial connections. It appears that although the early white folks in SVG would marry or have children with blacks, they were not really keen on associating with black folk, so apart from being told that certain folk were “family,” nothing more was said and any questions as to the “family” connections were quickly brushed aside. I am yet to verify or find any Carib connection, but one wonders.

There is also the question as to whether the Madeira Portuguese were really Jews who were fleeing persecution. I reasoned in my earlier articles that it could not be so because the Sephardim Jews were expelled in the early 1700’s long before the Madeira migration to SVG. Although the Sephardim presence can be ascertained in Jamaica, Nevis, Barbados and Curacao, they have no history in SVG, so I reasoned that if the Madeira Portuguese had any Jewish connection it was perhaps because some Sephardim Jews may have converted to Catholicism and were mixed into the Madeiran Portuguese population.

There has always been some debate in my family as to the origin of the McKie line. Some say they were from Ireland, while other say they were from Scotland. The McKie name is no doubt Scottish, but as we do know, people do move about, so anything may be possible.

In an attempt to find out more about my ancestry, I did a DNA test to determine my genetic make-up and now that the results are in, there are a few unexpected surprises.

My uncle is so wrong, I do not have one iota of Carib in me. My lineage spans two continents, Africa and Europe. I am 93 per cent European and 7 per cent African.

My European break down is as follows: 34 per cent Iberian Peninsula (Portuguese); 29 per cent Italian/Greek; 11 per cent Western Europe (this could be anything from France, Belgium, Luxembourg, The Netherland, Germany, Austria, Lichtenstein, Switzerland, the Czech Republic); 7 per cent Great Britain (Scottish, the McKie); 5 per cent Irish; 5 per cent European Jew (Sephardim); and 2 per cent Scandinavian. My African make up break down as follows: 2 per cent Mali; 1 per cent Nigeria; 1 per cent Benin/Togo; 1 per cent Cameroun/Congo; 1 per cent Central Africa Hunter Gatherers (most likely Angola, being a former Portuguese colony); and 1 per cent North Africa (Moors).

I am surprised because I expected that there could be more of a Moorish influence and knowing many McKie relatives I thought that the African component would be higher than 7 per cent. I thought I was more Portuguese than I really am, just 34 per cent. Where did all that Italian and Greek come from? I know that my father and his mother are dark skinned Portuguese but I thought that must have been from the Moors or that some of the early Madeiran mixed with blacks very early in SVG. Now I can see that the dark olive skin of my Portuguese ancestors is really from the Italian and Greek. The Italian/Greek mixture is fairly common in southern Italy and in Sicily. I am surprised that I am 5 per cent Irish, but I attribute that to the McKie who must have originated in Scotland, moved to Ireland and acquired the Scandinavian as well. I am not surprised about the 5 per cent Sephardim Jew, it merely confirms my theory that the Madeira Portuguese were not Jews, but could have been mixed with Jews.

So, that is my lineage. A word of warning to any Portuguese who reads this, remember that this is not your lineage. As I said before the Madeira Portuguese were variantly mixed before they arrived in SVG where there was further mixing and so we each must do our individual testing to verify our individual lineage and by comparison, we would gradually learn about our Portuguese ancestors.

My dilemma now is that as hard as it is to trace my Madeira lineage, I now have to trace my African, Jewish, Scandinavian, Italian, Greek, and Irish lineages. I could be related to Aristotle, Plato, Homer, Odysseus, Mussolini, the Ferraris, Eric the Red. What a can of worms!! Am I related to the Mafia? At least I now know what bush is in my callaloo and I suddenly have an urge to find a party and break some dishes, Opa!!

Oswald Fereira