João Gonçalves Zarco

João Gonçalves Zarco (abt. 1390 - abt. 1471)

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João "1st Captain-Major of Funchal" Gonçalves Zarco aka da Câmara
Born about in Portugalmap
Son of [father unknown] and [mother unknown]
[sibling(s) unknown]
Husband of — married about 1412 in Porto, Portugalmap
Descendants descendants
Died about in Funchal, Madeira, Portugalmap
Profile last modified 16 Jun 2019 | Created 5 Oct 2017
This page has been accessed 483 times.


João Gonçalves Zarco (Zargo on some sources) (c. 1390 – 21 November 1471) was a Portuguese explorer who established settlements and recognition of the Madeira Islands, and was appointed first captain-major of Funchal by the King of Portugal.

About this family, it's cited in the book "Genealogia Paulistana", a book about family origins from people that imigrated to Brazil, Vol II - pages 179 to 229 (see sources bellow) this:

"... the first captain of Funchal João Gonçalves Zargo and Constança Rodrigues de Almeida (Daughter of Rodrigo Annes de Sá), who with their small childs in 1420 went to settle on the Island of Madeira, the which was the discoverer and captain the said Zargo, who gained property in the half of it by concession of the king.

The coat of arms of the Camaras is as follows: "a black shield and at the foot a green mountain and on this a silver tower between two golden lobes".[1]

In this article about the surname Camara we find João Gonçalves "Zarco" biography: "The surname Câmara is now 527 years old. The first person entitled to use this family name was JOÃO GONÇALVES ZARCO, a Portuguese sailor who used to fight the moors alongside Africa's coast on service to His Majesty, the King of Portugal.

In one of those battles, his ship went astray, arriving by chance in a group of islands located about 400 miles away from Morocco's coast.

The largest island was covered by a luxuriant vegetation so Zarco named it Ilha da Madeira (Wood Island). On the shore of that island, he and his crew saw a number of sea lions (in ancient Portuguese "sea wolves") hidden in a cave and they called that place "Câmara de Lobos" (Cave of Wolves).

On his return to Portugal, Zarco reported his discovery to His Majesty. The King then authorized Zarco and his fellows, Tristão Vaz and Bartholomeu Perestrello, to start colonization of these islands.

Each of them was in charge of a "Capitania": Zarco in Funchal, Tristão in Machico, and Perestrello in Porto Santo.

Due to the efficiency of those men, in a few decades s riches could be transferred to the Kingdom of Portugal.

King Dom Afonso rewarded those men with noble titles.

On the fourth of July of 1460, His Majesty Dom Afonso of Portugal issued a Royal Decree granting João Gonçalves Zarco the title of Knight and a Coat of Arms and changed his name to JOÃO GONÇALVES DA CÂMARA DE LOBOS.

In spite of the Royal Decree, the family name "Gonçalves da Câmara de Lobos" did not last as such. Zarco's sons and daughters used either "Gonçalves da Câmara" or "Rodrigues da Câmara", being "Rodrigues" Zarco's wife's family name. In the generations that followed, the surname "Câmara" has been combined with many other family names, inaugurating new families, such as "Bittencourt da Câmara", "Cabral da Câmara", "Leme da Câmara", "Monis da Câmara", etc. The original surname "Gonçalves da Câmara" can still be found among descendants of the first Captain of Madeira Island." [2]

Relationships and descendency

He married Constança Rodrigues, daughter of Rodrigo Lopes de Sequeiros (?) and wife, and had:

  1. João Gonçalves da Câmara (d. Funchal, Madeira, 26 March 1501), married to Dona Mécia de Noronha, daughter of Dom João Henriques de Noronha (bastard son of Alfonso, Count of Gijón and Noroña) and wife Beatriz, Lady de Mirabel and sister of Dom Garcia Henriques.
  2. Rui Gonçalves da Câmara, 3rd Donatary Captain of São Miguel Island, married to Maria de Bettencourt, natural daughter of Maciot de Bettencourt by Teguise, without issue, he had a bastard son by one Maria Rodrigues and three more children by an unknown mother
  3. Garcia Rodrigues da Câmara, married to Violante de Freitas, and had issue
  4. Beatriz Gonçalves da Câmara, married to Diogo Cabral, and had issue
  5. Isabel Gonçalves da Câmara, married to Diogo Afonso de Aguiar, o Velho (the Old), and had issue
  6. Helena Gonçalves da Câmara, married to Martim Mendes de Vasconcelos, and had issue
  7. Catarina Gonçalves da Câmara, married to Garcia Homem de Sousa.

He passed away about 1501.


Especifically in vol. VIII-page 231 (Camaras) João Gonçalves Zarco

  • Wikipedia article about him [3]
  • Source: About the surname and coat of arms of his family (granted by the king of Portugal to his father). [5]

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