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Sephardic Surnames of Northern European Communities

After the northern provinces of Netherlands proclaimed their independence in 1575, New Christians from Spain and Portugal began to settle in Amsterdam, attracted by a low interest about their religious beliefs. Portuguese Jewish merchants began to settle in Amsterdam about 1590 but yet didn’t unveil their Jewish origins.

In the first decade of the 17th century Samuel Palache, Moroccan ambassador in the Netherlands, did much to assist Jews to settle in Amsterdam. For a long time the civil status of these Portuguese Jews remained unclear although they enjoyed a religious freedom as well as of protection. Those who openly returned to Judaism soon became a extremely important factor of the country economy.

Jews organized their community life and already in 1675 had a magnificent synagogue. Marriages of the so called Spanish-Portuguese community of Amsterdam began to be recorded in 1598.

Like in Amsterdam, the first Jews who settled in Hamburg at the end of the 16th century were wealthy New Christians from Spain and Portugal. They observed in secret Judaic law and slowly their Jewish belief became official. As they were important merchants linked to international trade, the local authorities accepted their presence in town despite some disagreements from many local citizens. In 1611 there were already three synagogues. In 1652 the three congregations combined under the name of Beit Israel.
The first Jews living in London are recorded from the beginning of the 11th century but in 1290 all the Jews were expelled from England.

After the expulsion from Spain and Portugal, New Christians settled in London. where they practiced in secret the Jewish religion. In 1655 Menasse ben Israel from Amsterdam presented a petition to Cromwell in which free practice of Judaism was asked. He was positively answered. In 1701 the Bevis Marks Spanish and Portuguese synagogue was inaugurated.

The surnames of the Spanish-Portuguese New Christians who came back to Judaism sometime after two centuries, are often composed of two names according to the Iberian custom. In these cases a "see also" note has added pointing out the second name.

  • 1144 surnames for Amsterdam, the larger community
  • 1255 surnames for London
  • 322 surnames for Hamburg

Sources:

  • Bevis Marks Records, ed. By Lionel D. Barnett: Marriages Parts I,II,III. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1940.
  • Bevis Marks Records, Part IV; Burial register (1733-1918) of the Novo Cemetery of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews' Congregation, London.
  • Stundemund-Halevy, Michael. Biographisches Lexikon der Hamburger Sefarden. Hamburg, Christians Verlag, 2000.
  • Verdooner, Dave & Harmen Snel.. Jewish Marriage in Amsterdam 1598-1811. 2v.

Acknowledgements

We acknowledge the tremendous contributions and lifelong dedication of Mathilde Tagger, z"l who made this index available. For many years, and right until her untimely death, Mathilde Tagger was a very close friend and collaborator with Jeff Malka. Together they worked to promote Sephardic genealogy research and educate the public about its enormous potential.

In addition, we express our grateful appreciation to Dr. Jeff Malka for his monumental ongoing effort to collect and make accessible Sephardic genealogical information, and for his generosity in contributing his extraordinarily valuable collection to JewishGen.


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