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Amalia Elizabeth (Amy) Sheppard
wife of 

Edward Oswald Mendes

 

14 May, 1887 - 4 April, 1975

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Oswald and Amy in 1942

Birth and early childhood

 

Amalia Elizabeth Sheppard, known as Amy, was the daughter of Alfred Sheppard and Virginia de Freitas, and the third of their five children.  She was my grandfather Charles Sheppard's only sister. 

 

Her father, Alfred Sheppard, was an Englishman from Sussex, a Sergeant of Police in St. Joseph at the time of her birth.  He recorded his daughter's birth in the family Bible: "Amalia Elizabeth Sheppard, born 8 a.m. Saturday 14th May 1887, Trinidad."  Her middle name was that of her English grandmother, Elizabeth. Her mother Virginia was of Portuguese parentage.  Amy and Charlie, born two years apart, shared the same childhood experiences, growing up in St. Joseph, South Trinidad and Port of Spain - wherever their father was posted while serving with the Trinidad Police Force.  They would become Alfred and Virginia's only two surviving children.   In spite of this,  the fruitful marriages of both Alfred and Virginia produced a long line of descendants with several intertwined connections. 

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The Sheppard siblings Amalia (Amy) and Charles (Charlie) photographed by George Adhar 10a Prince of Wales Street, San Fernando Trinidad

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Amalia Sheppard

a girl of eight years old

Amalia (seated) with her English cousin

Ivy Sheppard on a family visit to England.

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Pictured while on a visit to England 

l/r standing: Amy's father Alfred Sheppard, her mother Virginia, and her grand father Sebastien de Freitas

l/r seated:  Audrey Gomez and Amalia (Amy) Sheppard

Marriage Register for 1913 showing details of the marriage of

Edward Oswald Mendes  and Amalia Sheppard

Photo taken in the Archives of the Registrar General’s Department,

Ministry of Legal Affairs, Port-of-Spain.

Marriages and several close family ties

 

How exciting it must have been for seventeen year old Amy to be a bridesmaid  at the wedding of her brother Charlie to Elsie Gomez!  She is pictured holding a large bouquet next to her mother Virginia on the groom's side in that iconic family wedding photo of 1909.  The bridesmaids looked so elegant in their dresses of cream voiles with hats to match!  We know from my grandmother's entries in her Bible that the venue for their wedding reception was the home of Albert and Mary Mendes in Victoria Square, Port of Spain.  She also wrote that Albert was her godfather.  Records show that his wife was Mary Antoinette Pereira, her mother's sister.  Her aunt Mary and husband Albert are also in that wedding picture.    

But the family relationship with Albert Mendes appears to have had an even deeper conection, even before his marriage to Mary Pereira.  A document has been found showing that Albert had been previously married to Charlotte de Freitas, the younger daughter of Sebastien - Charlie Sheppard's aunt.  Records are still being sought to determine what became of Charlotte, but we do know that they had two children, one of whom was given the middle name Charlotte.  The quest to confirm the dates of Charlotte (de Freitas) Mendes' assumed death, and the date Albert married my grandmother Elsie's  aunt Mary is ongoing. Significant to me is the fact that in 1915 Albert appointed Charlotte's nephew, my grandfather Charles Sheppard, to be one of the Executors of his Will and left an inheritance of 500 pounds sterling to my grandmother, Elsie.  Of course, by then Albert's wife was her sister!  It's a tangled tale that can only be unraveled with certainty by documented proof.

In any case, the Portuguese community in Trinidad seemed to have been a close-knit one, and for sure the Sheppard, Gomez and Mendes families knew each other well and were all celebrating at my grandparents' wedding at Albert and Mary's home in 1909.  My grandmother Elsie wrote in her Bible:  "A very happy wedding held at the home of my Godfather, Mr. Albert Mendes, Victoria Square.  Many young people and children attended."   

Cousins by the dozens!

On 18 Jan 1913, another family wedding took place, and no doubt many of the same guests were there.  Alfred Sheppard entered his daughter's marriage in the family Bible:

"Amalia Elizabeth Sheppard and Edward Oswald Mendes were united in Marriage in the United P. Church on the 18th January 1913."

 

Amy Sheppard was twenty-six years old, living at her parents' home in 117 Edward Street, Port of Spain, when she married Edward Oswald Mendes, known as Oswald. In the marriage register his address is shown as 49 Jerningham Avenue, Port of Spain -  the home of his father Antonio Mendes, described in "The Autobiography of Alfred H. Mendes" as a "large colonial house".  The witnesses are Oswald's brother Hugh Martin Mendes and Edith Edmee Gomez.  Edith had also been a bridesmaid with Amy at my grandparents' wedding, as she was my grandmother Elsie's sister.  Moreover, Amy's sweetheart and now groom, Oswald Mendes, was first cousin to Albert Mendes, who hosted my grandparents' wedding reception.  Their fathers were two brothers from Madeira.

Oswald Mendes, of Portuguese descent

Amy's husband Oswald was born in Trinidad on 27th August 1887 to Antonio Mendes  and his second wife, Matilda Gregorio.  His siblings were Alexander Louis (Alec), Hugh Martin, Maria Amelia and Agnes May.   Antonio's father Joaquim Mendes, along with Joaquim's brothers Manoel and Francisco Mendes, were among the earliest Portuguese Presbyterian refugees who arrived in Trinidad in 1846.  Oswald's cousin Albert Mendes was the son of Francisco and his wife Rose d'Andrade, who was also from Madeira.  The famous writer Alfred H. Mendes was the grandfather of Academy Award winner Sir Sam Mendes.  His 2020 movie "1917" was inspired by his grandfather's autobiography.  Alfred Hubert was Albert's nephew, son of his brother Alfred Snr.  I would imagine that they would all have been guests at these family weddings.  Many of these inter-connected people have been reported in the newspapers of the day attending family funerals.

Amelia (Amy) Sheppard's grandfather Sebastien (Sebastiano) de Freitas and his father Antonio de Freitas, were also among that early group of Portuguese Presbyterians who fled to Trinidad from Madeira to escape violent religious persecution in 1846.  They were among those first refugees, members of the St. Ann's Church of Scotland, whose own hard labour helped build the first Presbyterian Church of St. Anns in Trinidad's capital, Port of Spain. Their names are listed in church records as contributors to a Patriotic Fund.  It is no wonder, then, that both the Sheppard and Mendes families of those generations were  staunch members of what was then called the United Presbyterian Church of St. Anns and otherwise referred to as the First Portuguese Church.  Oswald Mendes and as well as his cousins Alfred and Francis became Elders of the Church. 
 

On 20 February 1914, Amy gave birth to their first child.  They named him Oswald  Antonio after his father and grandfather.  A year later, on 30 March 1915, their second child Malcolm Arthur was born, followed three years later by a sister for the boys, Olga, born on 9 October 1918.  Imagine their delight when Amy's next pregnancy resulted in the birth of twin boys - Freddie and Bertie,  on 20 September 1920!

But tragedy befell their young family.  A sad accident took place at home  resulting in the death of 18 month old Bertie.  The grief and sadness at losing their little son must have been unbearable for Amy and Oswald.  A newspaper report about a court enquiry surrounding the accident appeared in the Port of Spain Gaette of May 9, 1922.  The verdict was that "the infant died from shock due to burns, owing to hot water falling on it, and that no one was guilty of felony". 

 

The year after the accident Amy gave birth to another son, Charles Gilbert on 14 June 1923, followed by yet another son Leonard Alfred born on 14 April 1926.  Their family became complete when little Jessie Amalia arrived on 14 October 1927.   

Amy and Oswald lived to see all of their children married and to enjoy their grandchildren. Together with their large family, they celebrated their 60th Wedding Anniversary on 18 January 1973.

 

Amy passed away on 4 April 1975 and Oswald on 17 November 1975.  Amy was laid to rest in a plot alongside the burial place first purchased by her father Alfred Sheppard in 1910 for Amy and Charlie's brother Alfred who died at age 25.   It is also the resting place of my grandparents Charles and Elsie Sheppard and their infant son Arthur .

These are the ties that bind.

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Connecting the dots through family stories and documented facts

In 2012, my husband Meindert and I visited Amy and Oswald Mendes' daughter Jessie in Trinidad.   She graciously showed us the Sheppard Family Bible which helped tremendously in researching our intertwined families.  She gave us information about her own family unit and shared with us the following story about her paternal grandfather, Antonio Mendes, written by a member of their family.

 


"In 1846. Antonio, then only a boy, came to Trinidad from Maderia with his father, Joaquim, and brothers. Joao. Manoel and Francisco. Untortunately, no information is available about his mother. The family was of modest means having abandoned their possessions to flee religious persecution and make a new life for themselves in these islands.

Antonio's education was limited and his grasp of English even more so. At the age of 14 he worked diligently as a gardener in the grounds of Government House, and the story goes that one day he was digging a hole and there he discovered a lot of money.  Whether true or not, he did manage to amass a large fortune during his life.

Eventually he was a merchant by trade selling all sorts of provisions and, in fact, was one of the most successful merchants of his time. He also acquired several large properties in and
 around Port of Spain, and had substantial land-holding in far flung parts of Trinidad.
  Such was his wealth. that he was able to leave his eight children enough money and
s o that they never had to work a day in their lives. And many of them didn’t!


 

Antonio married twice - first to Virginia Ferreira with whom he had five children
 - Emily, Caroline, Frederick Antonio, Matilda and Francis.
His second wife Matilda
Gregorio, produced three children: Alexander Louis, Edward Oswald (Grampa) and
 Hugh Martin.



Edward Oswald was Antonio and Matilda's second son. He married Amalia Elizabeth Sheppard (Amy) and they had eight children: Oswald Antonio, Malcolm, Olga, Herbert Frederick and Albert (twins). Charles, Leonard, and Jessie. 
Albert died when he was about 18 months old. The servant was heating water for Albert’s bath (in those days there wasno running hot water), and Albert pulled down the pan of hot water on himself.  He died a few days later in the hospital.

Oswald (as Edward Oswald was called). was a charming gentleman. In fact, he was immensely proud of the term "gentleman" and it was what he claimed as his occupation in his passport, and every other official document, until his dying day! And this really is key to our Grampa.

He was a man about town! Always impeccably attired in his hallmark hat and cream coloured suit, shoes shone to perfection and without a spec of dust, he was one of Antonio's descendants who never really worked. In addition to his own substantial inheritance from Antonio, he also inherited half of his brother's (Hugh Martin) estate.

Martin had lived most of his adult life in Venezuela and never married. On his death in 1947,  his inheritance was divided equally between his two brothers Alexander and Oswald."

Antonio Mendes and Matilde Gregorio

Antonio Mendes (24 April 1840 Madeira - 1911 Port of Spain, Trinidad)

and his wife Matilda Gregorio (1860-1915)

Their wedding took place in Port of Spain, 188.

Below, Antonio and Matilda with their first-born,

Alexander Louis , 1885

(photos courtesy of Harry Simmons)

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The Mendes Family - 1942
Back:  l/r Freddie, Malcolm, Oswald (Osy), Leonard, Charlie
Front: l/r:  Olga (Mackenzie) Oswald, Amalia (nee Sheppard), Jessie (Rooks)

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Amy and Oswald's daughter Jessie (Mendes) Rooks at her home in June 2012

The beautiful Sheppard Family Bible which had been restored in Holland

by the Mendes family can be seen on the table behind her.

 

Heartfelt thanks to my cousin Jessie Tamas for her ongoing genealogical research and generous sharing of records and to Jessie (Mendes) Rooks for her invaluable contributions to our family history.

Valerie Sheppard

3 May 2024

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