Saturday, December 15, 2018

The Clan System in the Goan Village

Gaunkari - The Village System In Goa
John Nazareth, Mississauga 14 Dec 2018

From ancient times (anywhere from 1500 to 2500 years ago) much of Goa – especially the talukas of Salcette, Bardez and Tiswadi were organized around the village. Indeed the name Salcette is a corruption of Saxsti (meaning 66 villages), Bardez – a corruption of Baradesh (meaning 12 villages), and the name Tiswadi means 30 villages. Each village was run like a little corporation.

Some of the land was private land on which one built one’s house, and the larger part was communally owned by the male descendants of the original settlers of the village through an organization called the “Gaunkari”. When the Portuguese took over Goa, they largely retained the Gaunkari, but changed the name to “communidade”. This communal land was leased out by bid and the moneys collected was shared out as a dividend (called “zonn” or “jonno” in Konkani) to the registered male descendants of the original settlers. These registered descendants (or those entitled to be so registered) were known as “gaunkars” (members) of the communidade.

For example, the village of Moira in Bardez was settled on by 5 families some 1500 to 2500 years ago. Their descendants by lineage are the 5 clans (“vangod”/“vangor” in Konkani) of Moira. These vangods were also gaunkars. (People other than vangods may have been assigned partially zonn for special services to the village, but we shall leave this aside for simplicity.) To receive his zonn a gaunkar has to register with the communidade office. After one’s linkage to the village and to one’s ancestors is confirmed, the registration is logged onto a ledger book known as the “matricula”. On the matricula they log the following information: • Log date • Names & Surname of the gaunkar (and sometimes his father’s name) • Current place of residence (It could be said village, another village, or another country) • Age • Clan/Vangor Number • name of the inscription and book sheets where you find it done • virtue by which he was enrolled Note that the registrar fills in your clan number!

The vast majority of people are unaware of this feature and hence have no clue of their clan. In my case I found my first cousin on my father’s side registered on the Moira Matricula as being from Clan 1. This was how I discovered my clan. How Christian Goans Got Their Surnames The vast majority of the conversions from Hinduism to Catholicism in Goa did not occur as individual conversions, but as mass conversions of the whole clan.

 For Moira, this occurred around 1617 according to Dr. Teotonio De Souza. When a clan converted, because of their large numbers they may have been assigned several godfathers. Each group would take the surname of their godfather. So, for instance, in Moira Vangor 3 whose Hindu surname was Kamat took the surnames Azavedo, Lobo, Nazareth, Siqueira, Sousa and Velozo. See Tables 1 and 2 for a correspondence of Clan numbers and surnames for Moira and Saligao. 

Some Notes on Surnames

• The names in one village are totally independent from the surnames of another village. So, for example, a Velozo from Moira is not related to a Velozo from another Goan village.
• A surname may not be unique within a village. For example in Moira there are Nazareths in Clan 1 and in Clan 3; the two groups are not related – a least from their father’s side.
• By good fortune a name may belong to only a single clan. For example Gama, Velozo, Azavedo, Mendes in Moira each belong to a single clan (see Table 1). Thus all Gamas from Moira are related to each other etc.
• Spellings morph over time. To illustrate, Velozo, Vellozo, Veloso, Velos, Veloz all started out being spelt as Velozo; Souza, started out as Sousa; Sequeira was originally Siqueira, Mello were once Melo, Nazareth started off as Nazaré etc.
• De, D’, da, dos…. These prefixes are not strictly speaking part of one’s surname in Portuguese. All Goan church records written in Portuguese used the term de, da, or dos in their records. My own family records say “de Nazareth”. It just means “of”. Some families chose to include it as part of their surnames and others not. Sometimes one branch of the family uses D’Mello, and another will use “De Mello”, for example.
• Strictly speaking, Hindus prior to conversion did not have surnames. The second names they took on joining the village pertained to their function. For example, Kamat means “cultivator”, and Shenoy means “clerk”. However, as their Hindu designations did not change from one generation to the next, they in essence became like surnames.

Families Associated with a Village other than Gaunkars

This article is a simplified version. There are other people besides “gaunkars” that are associated with a village. A family may have provided invaluable service to a village is therefore provided fractional zonn in gratitude. Their descendants may be forever linked to that village. Some people had special functions in the village like “escrivao” (scribe). Some families worked for a gaunkar’s family for several generations. They too became associated with the village. Others settled in the village due to plagues or other problems in their own village. They may have done this 200 years ago, and so are forever linked to the village even though they are not vangors. The zonn system has largely fallen apart in Goa today and as a result younger Goans are less inclined to know the village of their origin.


1) Goa Vol II - Gaunkari Translated by Rui Gomes Pereira. A. Gomes Pereira 1981. Gomes Pereira Rd, Panaji, Goa A book on the old village associations: the structure, the purpose etc...
2) Goa Vol I - Hindu Temples & Deities, Rui Gomes Pereira Translated from the original in Portuguese by Antonio Victor Couto. Published by Pereira 1978. Printwell Press. A book of the temples and deities of each village of Goa in the pre-Portuguese era. It also specifies the number of clans in each village and sometimes some of the original Hindu surnames of those living in each village.
3) Village Goa: A Study of Goan Social Structure and Change Written by Prof. Olivinho Gomes Chand


Vangod/Clan 1: Gama, Nazare, Pinto, Siqueira, Sousa 

Vangod/Clan2: Cunha, Lobo, Melo, Sousa Vangod/Clan

3: Azavedo, Camotim, Lobo, Nazare, Siqueira, Sousa, Velozo Vangod/Clan

4: Correia, Cunha, Noronha, Pereira, Pinto, Sa Vangod/Clan

5: Andrade, Lobo, Maciel, Mascarenhas, Melo, Mendes, Mendonca, Silva, Sousa Source: Research done by Prof. Leroy Veloso Professor of Social Work in Don Bosco College, Panjim


Vangod/Clan 1 Cruz, Furtado

Vangod/Clan 2 Costa, Delaney, Gama, Lobo, Melo, Sequeira, Souza,

Vangod/Clan 3 Souza, 

Vangod/Clan 4 Cordeiro, Dantas, Melo, Remedios, Souza, 

Vangod/Clan 5 Dantas, Melo, Saldanha, Souza,

Vangod/Clan 6 Cordeiro, Figueiredo, Machado, Melo, Nunes, Pais, Ramos, Saldanha, Souza, 

Vangod/Clan 7 Saldanha, Sequeira, 

Vangod/Clan 8 Abreu, Almeida, Mendonca, Noronha, Souza,

Vangod/Clan 9 Cordeiro, Coutinho, Dias, Gama-Pinto, Gomes, Lobo, Mascarenhas, Mathias, Menezes, Monis, Moniz-Lobo, Monteiro, Moxal (Maciel?), Pinto, Serrao, Souza,

Vangod/Clan 10 Azavedo, Campos, Carneiro, Carvalho, Coelho, Costa, Fernandes, Gama, Gomes, Marques, Monis, Moxal (Maciel?), Saldanha, Souza, Vaz

Vangod/Clan 11 Carneiro, Cunha, Mascarenhas, Melo, Souza, Vaz 

Vangod/Clan 12 Azavedo, Carneiro, Fernandes, Sequeira, Vaz Source: Book “Land of the Sal Tree” by Fr. Nascimento J. Mascarenhas

1 comment:

  1. Hi John, around 5 yaers ago, i managed to link to Richard de souza who informed me that my father was linked to Vangod 3 - do you have any ancestry data for that clan please.
    Thank you



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