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Bittancourt Family - Commentary

Bittancourt Family - Commentary

Usha Rautenbach

Is there any information on Estalon Bittancourt's wife and names of his daughters?
They don't get a mention in any of my books as far as I can see. He must have met
his wife after moving to Salt Spring, right?
I hope you can shed some light on this. thank you very much.


Estalon José Bittancourt pre-empted land on Salt Spring in 1863.

The 1901 census records that E.J. Bittancourt was born 9th September 1839.
The BC Archives has an obituary for him dated 1917, May 8th.

(The Place Names section of the SSIA website gives his dates as 1845-1917; it also states that he arrived on the island in 1860. Bitancourt Road is named after his nephew Reid bittancopurt, builder of many Salt Spring Island homes, the most remarkable being Mr Bullock's house. See <>

Quarry DriveNamed for Estalon Bittancourt’s stone quarry north of Booth Bay, which opened in 1886. Sandstone from here reputedly went into the Esquimalt graving dock, the seawall of Victoria’s Inner Harbour, and the San Francisco mint.
1875 Polling List August 1st

D'Estalon Bitancurt of Vesuvius Bay, and his brother Manuel Antoine Bitancurt listed as 'householders'.
(Note that the Bittancourt families of the world all share a problem of multiple variations in the spelling of their name)
(Bittancourt is the spelling he used to sign his name on documents by the 1900's - I may be wrong, it may have been his brother or nephew)
1881 Census (spellings of their names as they appear in the census - these spellings change over time)

Estalon, aged 42, born in the Azores, Roman Catholic, Portuguese, storekeeper (Vesuvius Bay Store)
married to:
Mary C aged 20, born in Ontario, Roman Catholic, from one of the Black first settler families.

children: (all listed as born in BC - probably on Salt Spring Island)
Lorenzo aged 9
Carlos aged 8
Francis aged 7  (Lorenzo, Carlos, and Francis are all attending school in 1881 - at Central)
Frederick aged 5
George aged 3  (their father would have thought of them as Francisco, Frederico, and Jorgio, pronounced Horhio)
Mary aged 2
Melissa aged 1
1891 census

Estalone aged 51, now listed as a Merchant and Farmer (same Vesuvius Bay store), and listed as not literate (not in English, anyway)
married to:
Mary aged 39, listed as born in Canada (out east - Ontario, as 1881 census specified)
Her father is listed as born in the US and her mother listed as born in 'Canada' (like her)

children: (note the anglicisation of their names)
Laurence 1869 aged 19  (listed as a literate logger living in the same house as Mr. Sheperd, listed as a millright)
Charles  aged 17 - listed as "farmer" - running the place with or for his father
Frank aged 16
Fred aged 15
George aged 14
Mary aged 12
Melicia aged 11
Rossa F aged 9
Elizabeth aged 7
Agnes aged 4
Lauretta aged 8 months

(mercifully, for Mary, living in the same house is a Chinese "shanty cook" named Kee Sing, listed as "pagan" rather than either Buddhist or Shinto)


1901 Census - all the family is now listed as White, including the mother.

Estalon José Bittancourt  aged 61, born 9 Sept 1839, is listed as having come to Canada in 1863, Roman Catholic, and illiterate.
He is listed as a Merchant, and his yearly income is listed as $500 (high for Salt Spring)

His wife "Mary C " is now  recorded as Catherine aged 49 (or is someone else who is White instead of Black, and either the same age - 49 as listed - or 10 years older, Catherine's age being recorded as 49 but her date of birth being listed 18 Oct 1941 - my notes say "must be 1851". More confusions to come, but I will first list the children as their names are spelled in the 1901 census)

Their children living in the house with them:

Lorenzo-Laurence now spelled Lawrence, is aged 28, born 26 Nov 1872and employed as a Merchant (for or with his father in the Bittancourt Store at Vesuvius Bay) - his yearly income is $240, a good income for Salt Spring

(Carlos, now Charles, aged 27, born 27 Sept 1873, is living next door, listed as a Farmer, doing rather well at $300 a year. He is married to Teresa aged 26, born 26 Dec 1874 and born in BC)

Francis, aged 26, born 9 Jan 1875, is listed as an employee Farmer (working for or with his father) - his yearly income listed as $240, a good income for Salt Spring.

Frederick, aged 23, born 31 July 1877, is listed as a Merchant Employee (working for or with his father) with a high yearly income of $500

George, aged 23, born 19 Jan 1878, is listed as a Sealer (on the coastal boats hunting seals) - doing well at $300 annual income - it's a seasonal occupation.

(Mary is living next door, known as Mary Mason aged 21, listed as Head of Household (no Mr Mason at home on the day of the census - he may be absent, or dead) Her date of birth is given as 12 April 1879. She has two little boys, the second born in America in 1900, who "arrived in Canada 1901" - the census itself is dated 8th April 1901. Gerald aged 2, born 21 July 1898, and born in BC, is listed as "English" in origin - which might seem a bit odd if she were Mary Bittancourt, father Portuguese and mother African American in origin; however, the entire Bittancourt family is listed as "White" - Gerald's father Mr Mason was probably English. The second child, 6 months old, born 15 Sept 1900 in "America", came to Canada 1901.)

(I know that this Mary is Mary Bittancourt because Gerald has a Birth Certificate in the BC Archives - Gerald Francis, born July 22, 1898 (one day later than is recorded in the census), born at Vesuvius Bay. Father Job Mason, a stone mason, mother "Mary Delphine Bitancourt" aged 19; Mrs. CM Hutchinson is listed as the midwife. The birth certificate may give more information about the father than I can get online)

Melicia/Melissa I have not (yet?) been able to find, in the 1901 census.

The remaining children, all girls, are all listed as living at home:

Rossa, now listed as Rosalia, aged 19, born 3 Jan 1882
Elizabeth, aged 18, born 19 Mar 1883
Agnes E, aged 13, born 10 Aug 1887, is listed as in school for 6 months of the year
Lauretta, aged 9, born 17 Aug 1891, is listed as in school for 6 months of the year

In the 1901 census all the Bittancourt offspring have "English" listed as their mother tongue.

This is a Roman Catholic family, all the children listed as literate, with an "illiterate" father listed as speaking English fluently. (He may be completely literate in Portuguese, but not able to read and write English as fluently as he speaks it)

As for the wife "Catherine" in 1901, my personal notes (written in about 1996) record that "Catherine is presumably 'Mary C(atherine)'? - born in Ontario, tribal origin 'American' crossed out, replaced by 'English', and colour listed as 'W'(hite) as are all the Bittancourt family."

However, I have an uncertain memory that "poor Mrs Bittancourt" is recorded in Rev Wilson's Parish & Home at one point as having drowned (possibly suicide) - my sincere apologies if I am confused and wrong about this. I am currently rather tired from typing all this out! I also don't have time at this precise moment to check that I have typed all those dates and spellings correctly, so please remind me to check it all through at a later time.



Estalon had 2 wives Mary who bore all 11 children and Catherine Madden who he married ~ 1901 she died 19 07? ( I don’t have my notes in front of me.) I have a picture of her grave and head stone but I haven’t traced it which grave yard it is in yet. The archive censuses are very confusing. I have found 3 records of Estalon’s birth date. Mary did commit suicide.
Interesting note the 11 children the first 5 were boys and the last 6 where girls. Also Portuguese are usually called by their middle name and the first name is the “Saint” so it is Jose’ Estalon. and his brother was Antoine Manuel ( Antoine is the French spelling) but Bittencourt is also French spelling for Bittancourt. Just to add some more confusing Estalon father was born in St Jose Spain. So who knows what their real routes were.
I will get out my notes and pass on the data shortly



Descendants of Bittancourts (Family Tree)

Cathrine Madden's grave: cemetary/gangescemetery/pages/DSCN2003.htm


Silvey Wedding - could be the bride is a Silvey?

It's a wonderful photo, particularly interesting to me because of the variety of expressions on the faces; but also because I recognise many of the faces which are not Bittancourts (weddings bring outsiders to a family photo).
I can see resemblances to Norton family members - could the Best Man be a Norton? Not unlikely, bearing in mind that the father, John Norton, was Portuguese like the the Bittancourt father.
I can see resemblances to other faces from the Bullock Collection also.

Re Mary Catherine Robinson, I have just spent an hour rooting around in research and currently Give Up (it being Boxing Day and life still lively)

A birth certificate in the BC Archives apparently proves my previous 'knowledge' utterly erroneous! Ah well, that is what Research is all about: re-searching.
How come I made such a mistake? The error lies in Unrefreshed Memory.
When researching with and for Margo Brown (descendant of the Henry William Robinson family) we were hunting for a daughter Catherine Robinson (it may even have been a Mary Catherine Robinson), sister to Annie Robinson, whose story I happened to have become quite attached to, and was going through all the unidentified photographs to identify. I was at the time also hunting many a female through the census records (1881, 1891, 1901) to try to establish who the students of each of the early schools may have been; so I was tracking their ages, to find the link between married women who may have been the 'missing' girls. I came across Mary C/Mary/Catherine the wife of Estalon Bittancourt, and Reverend Wilson's comment that Catherine Bittancourt was found drowned, and assumed to have taken her own life:
Reverend Wilson’s Diary 1912

Jan 12 From Evelyn - Poor old Mrs Bittancourt who had been missing for several weeks was found drowned in the bay at Vesuvius, the family were not good to her, & it is thought she committed suicide.
"Could this be the person Margo was descended from?" we thought. Margo and I went hunting for her dates of birth, marriage, death etc. (This was all long before online info, let alone computer Searches: Margo went to Salt Lake City, and I went to the BC Archives building in Victoria) My memory held onto this stage of the search, and dis-located the fact eventually unearthed by Margo that eliminated Mrs Robinson as the likely candidate. It was a Mary Catherine Paul who gave birth to Estalon Bittancourt's first daughter. (And a Catherine Maddon who he married in 1901, who was presumably the Mrs. Bittancourt who died by drowning; and who, despite the gravestone,

Never mind - for now, best to delete the lot gleaned from my memory.

Here's info from my careful A-Z research, followed by an added paragraph I've written and checked.

D'Estalon Jose and Manuel Antoine Bittancourt were Portuguese brothers, born in the Azores, who were among the first Salt Spring Island pioneers. Records show that Estalon pre-empted his land in 1863.

Bittancourt home 1881 census:
Estalon 42 years old
Mary C 27

Lorenzo 9
Carlos 8
Francis 7
Frederick 5
George 3
Mary 2
Melissa 1

Bittancourt home 1891 census:
Estalone 51
Mary 39

Laurence 19
Charles 17
Frank 17
Fred 15
George 14
Mary 12
Melicia 11
Rossa F 9
Elizabeth 7
Agnes 4
Lauretta 4/12 (4 months old)

The 1901 census shows no further children born to Estalon Bittancourt after Lauretta, born 17 Aug 1891; and Islanders who knew the family spoke of the '11 children', 5 sons followed by 6 daughters.)

Little Mary's birth is recorded: a birth certificate in the B.C. Archives shows her mother (Mary C) was 'Mary Catherine Paul'. The 1901 census records 'Catherine' (Mrs Bittancourt) as born in 'Ontario', tribal origin 'American' crossed out, replaced with 'English', and 'colour' listed as W (white - as are all the Bittancourts).
Mary Delphine Bittancourt later became Mrs. Mason, a stonemason, and by the 1901 census had two sons, Gerald 2 and Theodore 6 months; Mr Mason is not present, and Mary is recorded as the Head of the household. A birth certificate in the B.C. Archives records that Gerald Francis was born July 22, 1898 at Vesuvius Bay, when Mary was 19 years old; the father was recorded as Job Mason, stone mason. The 1901 census records that Theodore was born in 'America', 15 Sept 1900, and 'came to Canada' in 1901 (the census was taken April 8, 1901).
The 1901 census records that E.J. Bittancourt is a Merchant with an annual income of $500 (he ran the Bittancourt Store in Vesuvius, with his sons); his eldest son Lawrence/Laurence/Lorenzo is a Merchant with an income of $240; the second son Charles/Carlos/Charlie is now married (wife Teresa), living next door in a Bittancourt home, and listed as a farmer (annual income $300); the third son Francis/Frank/'Father Joe' is running the family farm, with the same income of $240. The fourth son, Frederick/Fred, is a Merchant Employee (annual income $500) and the fifth son, George, is a sealer making an annual income of $300.

The third son, Francis Joseph Bittancourt, stopped farming to train for the priesthood, and became known affectionately to many as 'Father Joe'.
The priest standing third from the left in the back row may simply have officiated at the wedding; but this may perhaps be 'Brother Joe'?

There are 13 men and one boy (or 2?) in the photo, 14 men in the wedding group D4138  : can we identify which are the five sons and the father?
It would be a great help if we had a date for this wedding (and whose wedding it was).

I've been hunting for my copy of Jean Barman's book about the Silvey family on Reid Island. It refuses to be found.
Maybe someone else can check for Silvey wedding info.

Bittancourt Family History

Commentary by Usha Rautenbach