Thursday, August 27, 2015


Lists of Chamorro whalers show up in many documents of that period, from around 1820 till 1900.

How do we know they are Chamorro?

If we're lucky, the document says the men are from Guam, or the Ladrones. The English-speaking world was still calling our islands the Ladrones in the 1800s.

At other times, the last name of the whaler is almost certainly Chamorro, like Taitano or Babauta, which are neither Spanish nor Filipino.  Even Manibusan or Pangelinan, though originally Filipino, became Chamorro surnames as well when Filipinos with those names moved to Guam and married Chamorro women. If you find a Pangelinan on a whaling list, there is also the possibility that he might be Filipino, as the whalers also recruited from various port cities in the Philippines.

When the list does not state specifically that a whaler is from Guam, or the Marianas, we face the following hurdles coming to a conclusion that the whaler is Chamorro :


Many Chamorros carry Spanish surnames. These Spanish surnames join the Chamorro man with countless others from all over the world who also carry Spanish surnames. Jose de la Cruz could be from the Philippines, Mexico, Peru, Chile and many other places.

A few Portuguese recruits had their names spelled more like the Spanish version.


American and British clerks spelled a Chamorro recruit's name the way it sounded to them. This means that in many cases the name was spelled in very bewildering ways.

Some are not so far off that it is relatively easy to figure out that Denorio is Tenorio and Mendiolo is Mendiola. Perrado is Peredo and Pangalino is Pangelinan.

Sometimes a whaler's name might sound very similar to an Anglo name, and he'd be stuck with that. So a man named Fausto became Foster, and a Roberto would become Roberts, which was the original version of Roberto anyway! All the Chamorro Robertos are descendants of a British seaman named John Roberts, who became Juan Roberto when he settled on Guam.

Someone named de la Rosa could have been renamed Rose.

Some names look unfamiliar because the names died out on Guam. One whaler was a Nego, which used to be a family on Guam but they died out.

A bit harder to recognize at first, but gazing at it a bit longer will help you see that the whaler named Longrero is actually Leon Guerrero. Manilsea was more than likely Manalisay.

But some clerks went wild with names like Guamatasas, Hanotanto and Gamatuatan, which I suspect was Gumataotao.

Mantotanta was possibly Mantanoña.

Let's keep in mind that these names were hand written, not type written. Different clerks had different penmanship, and what looks like an N to you and me could have been that clerk's R or U.


Finally, a whaler's name may look nothing like a Chamorro name because captains often gave a recruit a brand new name! Yet, he is Chamorro.

What new name? It was all up to the whim or logic of the captain.

I have seen lists where the guy was named Joe Guam, after the island where he was recruited.

Or Joaquin Kanaka. Kanaka was a common word in the Pacific meaning "islander" or "native" of an island.

Other times, the reason for the new name remains a mystery, known only to the captain and possibly the recruit, now dead.

For example, would you believe that John Allen, Domingo Carter, Jo Davis and Louis Thurston (all Anglo surnames) were listed as having been born on Guam.  American captains were not hesitant at all to give English surnames to both Chamorro and Hawaiian recruits.

For more about Chamorro whaler lists :

For more about the custom of giving whalers nicknames :

1 comment:

  1. Did you know one of those old time whaling ships is still around? The Charles W. Morgan visited Guam six times and on at least one of those trips four men joined the ship.

    The Morgan is at Mystic Seaport in Connecticut. She was built in 1841 and made 37 voyages, many to the Pacific. They recently rebuilt her and she sailed on her 38th voyage from Mystic up to Boston and back.

    I often think of how hard it must have been for those men to join a whaling ship and leave their families knowing they were unlikely to ever be able to come home. I like to think the men who left on those ships settled somewhere and started Chamorro communities in the home countries of the ships they joined.