Q&A: Doris Naumu, President, Portuguese Genealogical & Historical Society

Jun 30, 2010 | PC Community


Doris Naumu of Pacific Palisades in Pearl City is truly blessed. She has a gift that comes from the heart and has touched the hearts of many island families for many years as a volunteer at the Portuguese Genealogical & Historical Society in Kalihi.

                                                            Photo by Barry Villamil | [email protected]

As President of the Portuguese Genealogical & Historical Society, Doris is in charge of collecting, caring and sharing the records housed in her Palama Settlement office/library with the community. Those that wish to find their Portuguese lineage and follow the paths of their ancestors have called upon Doris and her staff to lead the way.

For over thirty years she has done just that. Her experience includes visits to Portugal that were life changing as she journeyed through the nine Azores islands meeting and learning from Portuguese genealogists.

Back home in Hawaii she travels throughout the islands with her staff of volunteers to conduct workshops that are well attended by the Portuguese community.

It was a pleasure meeting Doris to conduct the interview. Doris and her husband Sol welcomed me into their home where they have lived for over forty years. After an hour and a half I felt like I had known them forever. They are a two very special people. By the way, Sol Naumu is a former Iolani High School and USC standout athlete. He will definitely be the subject for a Q&A in the very near future.

Also, thank you to daughter Lei Naumu who helped arrange the interview and introduced me to her parents.

I hope you enjoy the following Q&A with Doris Naumu.

                                                            Photo by Barry Villamil | [email protected]

Doris and Sol Naumu at home in Pacific Palisades.

Q: At what age did you become interested in exploring your Portuguese Genealogy?

A: “I was quite young then, I was about fifteen and I used to ask questions. You know, little by little I got interested and started to put notes together. In fact, I still have a book that I write all those little notes in.”

Q: What did you first discover about your family? Where did they come from?

A: “I really wanted to know who I was because during those days they didn’t talk too much. My grandmother would come and visit. I knew her name, Christina da Silva and my grandfather was Manuel Correa Picanco. I wondered about them. Where did they come from? I got to know who I was, that my family came from the Azores. There are nine islands in the Azores. I was really blessed to go and to visit because I had the genealogists taking me around. They would greet me by sending a message ahead of time on the islands.”

Q: You have been working with the community here in Hawaii for many years and must have accumulated a lot of information and historical records?

A: “I’ve been working with the community for thirty years, I started this here. It was on the Big Island for awhile. It didn’t do very well because they had the records under the beds. It was five boxes and one big book. Today we have a library office in the Palama Settlement and we’re bursting at the seams. We need a bigger place. We’re looking for expansion.”

Q: Do you know how many people you have helped in the past thirty years?

A: “We’ve helped thousands of people. We have a database of 243,000 Portuguese with Hawaiian ties. We’re really happy. We help people and if they can’t afford it, it’s no big thing. If they can, they usually do and that’s how we maintain the office. We do have the Dolores Furtado Martin Foundation that allows us to have some monies during the course of the year so we can pay our rent and other things.”

Q: Does your office receive other donations and grants?

A: “We’re under the umbrella of the Hawaii Council. We’re one of the organizations. There were twelve at one time, now there are only seven.”

Q: How many staff members work with at your Palama Settlement office?

A: “I have six and they are all volunteers. No one is paid. The Hawaii Council has one paid person, a secretary.”

Q: Do you work with the other organizations in the Hawaii Council?

A: "Every organization has they’re own specialty. We’re the genealogical and we go to other islands to hold workshops.”

Q: How often do you hold workshops?

A: “Because of the grant, we do it maybe twice a year. We just went to Maui. We took the boys there with their computers. Usually the Catholic Church invites them for the workshops. We’re doing very well. It makes us happy when we can help others and they in turn feel happy too.”

                                                            Photo by Barry Villamil | [email protected]

Portuguese women dressed in traditional attire pictured at the recent Portuguese Festival held at the Waipahu Viilage Plantation in June. The Portuguese Genealogical & Historical Society also participated in the Festival.

Q: Is there a fair amount of correspondence from the mainland requesting help from your office to find family?

A: “The bulk of our mail is from the mainland. The reason is the families left here to go to the mainland. At one time there were about 500 that left the plantations and went there to the mainland and got stranded. Some came back. Today, this generation is looking for their families. We have a book called the Portuguese Hawaiian Memories. This book is wonderful because it has the ancestors, it tells where they come from, how many children, and it has pictures."

Q: How far back does it go?

A: “The inception is from 1878 until just before the 1900’s. After that we don’t have any more. Mr. Joaquin Freitas is the one who put the book together. He was a very good man. He was from the island of Madeira. It’s a beautiful place. It’s named Madeira because it’s mostly woodlands. I love it there. As I mentioned, the Azores have nine islands. They call it the Azores because it’s the name of a bird. San Miguel is the biggest island in the Azores. You visit and you wonder why did our ancestors leave?"

Q: Why did they leave?

A: “They did have a lack of water and they had the disease called blithe which kind of ate all the grape vines because wine was the industry."

Q: How well were you accepted while visiting Portugal from Hawaii?

A: “When I went there I had this Hawaiian name because my husband is part Hawaiian, Naumu. It was so funny because I tried to tell them. They know that I look like I’m Portuguese all though I’m half only. They didn’t understand that Hawaiian name. In fact, it’s sad because in Portugal they come and they visit with us and we meet with them, all the dignitaries. They didn’t realize there were so many Portuguese here on this island. You know we’re all kind of blending in so now there are very few pure Portuguese. Nobody is pure Portuguese. I have learned that because we have been studying. You either have German in you, Irish in you or Moorish blood which is a little darker blood."

Q: Have you ever connected people attending your workshops who had no idea they were related?

A: “We’ve had workshops where people are sitting maybe in back of them, and they’re related. When they find out they’re just in tears because they didn’t know. They live in the same old place on Oahu not knowing who they are and here they are sitting next to each other."

Q: I understand you also have a newsletter to help keep the Portuguese community connected. Is it a monthly publication?

A: “It’s a quarterly. Ten dollars a year and we have a two-hundred and forty paid membership. We keep it low. Most people raise it to fifteen or twenty for families. We try to keep it low. The reason is we’re getting little monies from the Martin Foundation. If we can keep it low more people are interested. You have to think of people because we wear the shoes, we know. If you walk in their shoes you know how others feel. That’s how I am.”

Q: What motivates you to continue your work helping those find their lineage at the Portuguese Genealogical & Historical Society?

A: “Shortly I’ll be eighty. I keep busy. I don’t even think about sore here, sore there. Just keep busy. If you’re happy doing what you’re doing it makes a difference.”