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Introduction 

How could language constitute as a challenge when reading records created in Portugal, Brazil, and other Portuguese native-speaking countries? Most researchers might assume that fluency in speaking or reading Portuguese would be enough to interpret records of genealogical value. However, as people start reading older records, they quickly find out that the records are not written in a pure standard form of Portuguese, but in a variety of Portuguese influenced by local dialects and other languages, particularly by Latin, which was the main literary language used by Catholic priests.

Because rules regulating the spelling and grammar of Portuguese did not become more available and widespread until approximately the 19th century and because most people write the way they speak, spelling will prove a real challenge when reading old Portuguese documents. Adding to this challenge are factors such as the influence of Latin on the spelling of Portuguese words, and the several variations of Portuguese and the differences among them, such as differences in pronunciation resulting in different spellings. For example, the interchangeable use of "i" and "y," and "s" and "z":​


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Portuguese Around the World

Portuguese is the official language of at least seven different countries worldwide. It is the national language of Brazil, Portugal, Mozambique, Cape Verde, São Tomé and Príncipe, Angola, and Guinea-Bissau, while sharing a co-official title in many other countries. Because of the distance between each region, variations of the language occurred and still occur today.

Portuguese Language Countries.svg  

The Effect of Language Diversity on Records 

This language diversity affected the spelling and grammar of records all throughout the Portuguese world in various degrees. Below is an example of an 1875 Brazilian marriage record (top) compared with an 1874 Cape Verdian marriage record (bottom). Although many differences exist within the Portuguese language, we can see from reading both records that understanding the written word of different regions is still manageable.  
 

Brazil 1875

1 Brazil document.PNG

Transcription

Line

Translation

Ventura e Sabina Aos seis de

1.

Ventura and Sabina, On the sixth of

Novembro de mil oitocentos setenta e cinco, na

2.

November of 1875, in the

Cathedral ante mim, as cinco horas e meia da

3.

Cathedral before me, at five-thirty of the

tarde se receberam em matrimonio por pala-

4.

afternoon they were received in marriage by wo-

-vras de presente Ventura Ferreira dos Santos, e

5.

-rds of the present Ventura Ferreira dos Santos, and

Sabina Maria da Roza, elle viuvo por falleci-

6.

Sabina Maria da Roza, he (being) widowed by the dea-

-mento de Antonia Maria da Conceição; e ella

7.

-th of Antonia Maria da Conceição; and she

filha natural de Josepha Maria da Concei-

8.

(being) a natural daughter of Josepha Maria da Concei-

ção E logo receberam as bençaos nupciaes na

9.

-ção. And they immediately received wedding blessings in the

forma do Ritual Romano, sendo de tudo testemu-

10.

form of the Roman Ritual, being witness-

-nhas Raymundo Ferreira Chaves, e Manoel Ri-

11.

-es Raymundo Ferreira Chaves, and Manuel Ri-

-beiro da Roza. Onubente é natural d’este Cura-

12.

-beiro da Roza. The betrothed [man] is native to this parso-

-to, e a nubente de Russas, d’onde veio de terna

13.

-nage, and the betrothed [woman] (is) from Russas, where she came of tender

idade para este, onde são moradores. Para cons-

14.

age to this, where they are inhabitants. To con-

tar se fez este assento, em que eu assino

15.

-sult they did this matter, in which I sign

Lomrenço da Costa Igniar

16.

Lomrenço da Costa Igniar

 
 
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Cabo Verde 1874

Cape Verde document.PNG
 
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Transcription

Line

Translation

 Aos dezsoito de Abril de mil oito cento settenta

1.

On the eighteenth of eighteen seventy-

 equatro na Capella da Misericordia que

2.

-four in the Church of Mercy that

 ao presente esta servindo de Egreja Parochial

3.

to the present is serving the Parochial Church

 perante mim comparecendo Donato josé

4.

appeared before me Donato José

 de Pina e Marcellina da Veija amaceba-

5.

de Pina and Marcellina da Veija [who are] lo-

 dos, e por ordem de sua Excellencia Reverendissi-

6.

-vers, and by order of his Excellency Most Reve- 

 ma o Senhor Bispo desta diocese sem

7.

-rend Lord Bishop of this diocese without

 mais formalidades, depois de os ouvir de con-

8.

more formalities, after hearing them in confes-

 fição receberem a sagrada comunhão, as recibi

9.

-sion they received the sacred communion, I received them

 em matrimonio em facie ecclesiae, conforme

10.

in marriage in front of the Church, according [to the manner]

 determina o sagrado Concilio de Trento, Elle

11.

determined the sacred Council of Trent, He [being a]

 filho legitimo de Manoel Soccorro e Maria

12.

legitimate son of Manoel Soccorro and Maria

 de Pina naturaes desta ilha, ella filha

13.

de Pina natives of this island, she [being a] daughter

 natural de Maria da Boa Vista, natural

14.

natural of Maria da Boa Vista, native

 da ilha da Boa Vista, Epara constar

15.

of the island of Boa Vista, & to be official

 mandei faser este termo que assjno com

16.

I ordered to be done this end which I sign with

 as testemunhas presentes Higgino josé Barbados

17.

the witnesses present Higino José Barbados

 e José Joaquim Vieira Nas concellos

18.

and José Joaquim Vieira Nas Concellos