One of my paternal great grand-fathers came from Madeira, Portugal. His name was Rochard; Samuel Rochard. He was Shephardic Jew and he left Maderia late in the 19th century and went to live in Trinidad.
There he met and married my great-grandmother, Gidique: a six foot, jet black woman who had been born into slavery, but ‘emancipated’ as a child.
It is said that my great grandfather had a good job working for a Jewish businessman, until one day someone made fun of his dark skinned wife, and he said, “That’s my wife… don’t disrespect her.” He was fired for it, and had to take another job working in a shop to keep his family going. He was ostracised by the Jewish community for his choice of wife, but they remained married until death.
My grand-father, Eddie Matthew Rochard, disowned my father when he was born. Never claimed my father, but as the story goes when my grandmother, Marcelina Lord went to his family home and begged for assistance for my father, my grand-father was shouting and saying it wasn’t his child, and Samuel, my great-grandfather came outside and TOOK my father from my grandmother, looked him in the face and said, “This is my grandson.”
Although my grandfather, NEVER did anything for my father, Samuel did. Samuel would come and take my father out for walks, bring him home to meet the rest of the family, help my grandmother financially when he could and all the other members of the Rochard family always, always accepted my father as family after that. They accept me too of course. In fact, my father’s brother Boysie is to date my favourite Uncle.
Part of wanting to go to Madeira for me, is that I really want to go there and trace my great-grandfather’s lineage. Although I don’t inherit his Judaism, because that only comes down the matrilineal line, I know he must be recorded somewhere as being a Jew, and his family, and who they were, where they lived; that is terribly interesting to me.
For me, I want to know where this good man that was my great-grandfather came from. I want to walk there, and see if I can find where he was born, and if any of his people are still living there.