Sephardim - Conversos - Marranos
A JewishGen InfoFile
Author: Bernard I. Kouchel
Definitions (Terms are in plural form)
- (Hebrew) 'the coerced'. Jews who were converted to another religion by force. It was also applied to their descendants. Many of them continued to practice Judaism in secret.
- 'The converted'.
- Hidden; secret; of obscure origin.
- 'Swine' (pejorative). Term applied in Spain and Portugal by Christians to descendants of the coerced, baptized Jews suspected of adhering to Judaism.
- Willing converts from Judaism.
Divisions of Jewry in the Diaspora(Ashkenazim and Sephardim are the two main divisions)
- 'People of the north'. Originally German Jewry, later came to designate Jews of northern France, Poland, Russia and Scandinavia. Yiddish was widely spoken by Ashkenazim.
- People of the Levant. Jews of the eastern Mediterranean area that is now occupied by Lebanon and Syria and Israel.
- 'Eastern'. Jews of North African and Middle Eastern ancestry.
- Jews of South and East Asian ancestry.
- Jews of the Eastern Roman Empire, spread throughout much of Asia Minor (mostly under Roman control) before and after the destruction of the Temple. Latin speaking.
- Descendants of Jews whose ancestors lived on the Iberian
Peninsula (Spain and Portugal). In Mediterranean countries the Sephardim spoke Judeo-Spanish (Ladino).
- Ethiopian Jews, Anusim, Karaites, Samaritans, and Lost Tribes.
Sephardim, Jews of the Iberian Peninsula, spoke a Judeo-Spanish dialect,
written in Hebrew script, called Ladino. Many were forced to convert to
Christianity between 1391 and 1497. After the expulsion of Jews from
Spain in 1492 the Sephardim settled in north Africa, Italy, Egypt,
Palestine, Syria, the Balkans, and the Turkish Empire. Subsequently
these communities were reinforced by refugees from Portugal.
Large groups later settled in the Netherlands, the West Indies, and
North America. They and their descendants founded the Jewish
communities of Hamburg, Amsterdam, London, and New Amsterdam (New York
City). As they moved to more tolerant lands, many conversos openly
returned to Judaism.
The term 'Sephardim' today has a broader definition. It includes all Sephardic communities, including Jews whose country
of origin is Greece, Iran, Iraq, Morocco, Syria, Turkey and Yemen.
A new and fascinating picture has emerged of descendants of those secret
Jews living today as Catholics or Protestants but keeping alive family
traditions which are unmistakably clear indications of Jewish origins.
Some families to this day light candles on Friday night, circumcise
newborn sons, eat thin flat bread on Passover, use biblical names, and
have family traditions of not eating pork. For the most part they
consider such activities family traditions and did not ascribe them to
Jewish identity until, in recent years, such facts have been made clear
to them. Some have expressed interest in learning more about modern
Judaism with a view toward re-entering the Jewish mainstream. Others are
comfortable in their present religious affiliation but are intrigued by
Robert Singerman completed a 720 page camera-ready manuscipt, SPANISH
AND PORTUGUESE JEWRY: A BIBLIOGRAPHY (Greenwood Press 1993). Its over
5000 entries supplement the 5000 plus entries presented in a similar
text by Singerman published in 1975. Address:
Robert Singerman, Jewish Studies Bibliographer, Price Library of Judaica,
406 Smathers Library, University of Florida, Gainesville Florida 32611, USA.
Phone (904) 392-0308]
FIRST AMERICAN JEWISH FAMILIES: 600 GENEALOGIES, 1654-1977, written by
(the late) Rabbi Malcolm H. Stern, (KTAV Publ. House 1978, reprinted
1991.) This book should be viewed by anyone researching Sephardic
lines. It contains genealogies of many Jewish families who settled in
America prior to 1840, traced, where possible, to present. A quick
look at the index shows many surnames which appear to be Spanish.
BIBLIOGRAPHY of BOOKS AND ARTICLES in LATIN AMERICAN JEWISH STUDIES
1991-96. Compiled by Judith Laikin Elkin
SUGGESTED READINGS by Nan Rubin. These books are on closely related subjects.
- Eliyahu Ashtor, _The Jews of Muslim Spain_, 3 vols; Jewish
Publication Society, Philadelphia, 1974-1985
- Yizhak Baer, _A History of the Jews in Christian Spain_, 2 vols;
Jewish Publication Society of America, Philadelphia, 1971
- Fra. Angelico Chavez, _Origins of New Mexico Families in the Spanish
Colonial Period 1598-1820_, Historical Society of New Mexico, Santa
- Martin Cohen, _The Martyr: The Story of a Secret Jew and the Mexican
Inquisition_, Jewish Publication Society, Philadelphia, 1973
- Jane Gerber, _The Jews of Spain: A History of the Sephardic
Experience_, The Free Press, MacMillan, New York, 1992
- Richard Greenleaf, _The Mexican Inquisition of the Sixteenth
Century_, U. of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque
- Ramon Gutierrez, _When Jesus Came, the Corn Mothers Went Away:
Marriage, Sexuality and Power in New Mexico, 1500-1846_, Stanford
University Press, Stanford, 1991
- Alexandre Herculano, _History of the Origin and Establishment of the
Inquisition in Portugal_, KTAV Publishing, New York 1972
- Stanley Hordes, _The Crypto-Jewish Community of New Spain, 1620-1649:
A Collective Biography_, PhD Dissertation, Tulane University, New
- John Kessel, _Kiva, Cross and Crown: The Pecos Indians and New
- Seymour Liebman, _The Jews in New Spain: Faith, Flame, and the
Inquisition_, U. of Miami Press, Coral Gables
- David Nidel, _Modern Descendants of Conversos in New Mexico_, Western
States Jewish Historical Quarterly, Vol. XVI No. 3, pp. 194-292.
- Harriet and Fred Rochlin, _Pioneer Jews: A New Life in the Far West_,
Houghton Mifflin Co, New York, 1984.
- Cecil Roth, _A History of the Marranos_, Sepher-Hermon Press 1932,
reprinted Schocken Books, New York, 1974.
- Cecil Roth, _Dona Gracia of the House of Nasi_, Jewish Publication
Society, Philadelphia, 1978.
- Frances Scholes, _Troublous Times in New Mexico, 1659-1670_, AMS
Press, New York 1977.
- Mark Simmons, _New Mexico, A Bicentennial History_, Norton, New York,
- Robert Singerman, _The Jews in Spain and Portugal_, Garland
Publishing, New York, 1975.
- Henry J. Tobias, _A History of the Jews of New Mexico_ U. of New
Mexico Press, Albuquerque, 1990.
- David J. Weber, _The Spanish Frontier in North America_, Yale
University Press, New Haven, 1992.
MEXICAN SEPHARDIC SOURCES.
Keep in mind that Monterrey, and the state of Nuevo Leon, was settled by
695 Jewish families escaping the Inquisition in Mexico City. Texas was
formerly part of Nuevo Leon. Also, Alonso de Leon, son of the governor
of N.L. who lived in Monclova, was from a family who lost several
members in the Inquisition. He led 11 expeditions into Texas to find La
Salle's Fort St. Louis on Garcitas Creek, the last in 1691. Mexican
BOOKS ABOUT THE JEWISH COMMUNITY OF AMSTERDAM
- Anything by Israel Cavazos Garza
- Richard G. Santos, "Sephardic Jews and the Mexican Americans of
Texas," (copy at UT Austin).
- Rodolfo Gonzalez de la Garza, "La Inquisicion en Monclova a
Medianos del Siglo XVIII," Estudios de Historia del Noreste
(Monterrey, N.L., 1972).
- Ricardo Elizondo Elizondo, "Los sefarditas en nuevo leon:
reminiscencias en el folklore" (Monterrey, N.L., Cuadernos del
Archivo: March 1987).
- Julio Caro Baroja, Inquisicion, Brujeria y Criptojudaismo,
Tercera Edicion (Mexico, Ariel: 1974).
- Eugenio del Hoyo, Historia del Nuevo Reino de Leon 1574-1723,
Colleccion Serie de historia, Instituto Tecnologico y de
Estudios Superiores de Monterrey (1972).
- Vito Alessio Robles, La Juderia de Monterrey (Mexico, Bosquejos
- The American Jewish Historical Society holds trial records of the
Mexican Inquisition. The manuscript collection [I-3], consists of 23
'procesos' (transcripts of trials) which took place 1572-1772, from
the Mexican National Archives. Contact:
American Jewish Historical Society,
15 West 16th Street,
New York, NY 10011,
Phone: (212) 294-6160; fax: (212) 294-6161,
from back issues of
AVOTAYNU: The International Review of Jewish Genealogy
Extracted from Index to the First Ten Years, 1985-1994. (Vol/No/Pg)
- History of the Ancient Synagogue of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews,
by Dr. Moses Gaster
- Geschiedems Der Portueesche Juden Te Amsterdam 1593-1925, by Silva
- Handleiding Bij De Index Op Ketuboth Van De Portugeese Israelietische
Gemeente Te Amsterdam 1650-1911, by D. Verdooner
- The Economic Activities of The Jews of Amsterdam in the Seventeenth
and Eighteenth Centuries , Bloom
- A Life of Menasseh Ben Israel, by Roth
- Sephardic Jewry; recommended readings VI/4/52
- Sources for researching my Sephardic ancestors VII/1/18
- Spanish Inquisition in Americas VII/1/19
- Biography of Sephardic Jews and the Holocaust VII/2/17
- The Ottoman Empire and Jewish genealogy VIII/1/17
- Ottoman Empire resources VIII/1/18
- The Marrano Diaspora VIII/1/09
- Additional resources for Sephardic genealogy VIII/2/59
- Resources for Sephardic genealogy VIII/3/48
- Book Review: The Sephardic Journey: 1492-1992 VIII/3/63
- Book Review: Sephardim in America IX/4/65
- Sephardic electronic archive developed X/1/64
- Sephardic genealogical research in Morocco X/3/40
by Yitzchak Kerem.
For 20th century Sephard Jewry the key sources are the Central Archives
for the Jewish People and the Alliance Israelite Universelle files and
bulletins. Mina Rosen's lists of Turkish cemeteries are not yet
published. For Greece look at publications by Molho, Recanati, and
Emmanuel. For North Africa, look at Michael Laskier's books and Attals
For Latin America's Sephardim, Mordechai Arbel is preparing a
bibliography. Latin American Sephard Jewry is divided into four parts;
Balkan Sephardim; Damascas origin; Aleppo Sephardim; Moroccan origin.
For each of those groups throughout Latin America, you can find archival
material and secondary material in most of the Latin American countries.
If one doesn't have such a perspective, one will never find most of the
Balkan Sephardim after they dispersed in the beginning of the 20th
century. [Yitzchak Kerem , historian on
Greek Jewry in the Holocaust. 30Mar94]
- JEWISHGEN SPECIAL INTEREST GROUP (SIG)
- For Sephardic genealogy resources, sources and links to related topics, see
Sephardic SIG: Sephardic Genealogy at JewishGen.
Then join Sefard Forum:
E-mail Discussion List for Researchers of Sephardic Genealogies.
Here you can exchange information about relatives, books, language, history,
migrations, local customs, research techniques and the realities of
researching public records and genealogical data archives.
- BLOOM SOUTHWEST JEWISH ARCHIVES
- When the Inquisitors came from Spain and Portugal to the New World, the
Marranos began to move northward, into areas we now know as the southern
and southwestern United States. The Bloom Southwest Jewish Archives at
the University of Arizona is a research center working on the history of
the pioneer Jews of Arizona, New Mexico and West Texas and the emerging
story of Hispanics who are seeking their Jewish roots from the Iberian
The archives has developed a research section for interviews conducted
with Hispanics who may be descendants of converso families from Spain or
Portugal. In addition, the Archives is developing a bilingual library on
the Inquisition and publishes a newsletter.
Open to faculty, students, the media, and the general public. Address:
Bloom Southwest Jewish Archives,
University of Arizona, 1052 N. Highland Avenue, Tuscon, Arizona 85721 USA.
- Published quarterly by the Society For Crypto Judaic Studies. The SCJS
fosters research and networking of information into the history and
contemporary development of Crypto Jews of Iberian origins. Membership
is $20 per year and includes Halapid. Address:
The Society For Crypto Judaic Studies,
333 Washington Blvd. #336,
Marina Del Rey, Ca 90292
- KULANU (All Of Us)
- An American organization that studies and maintains contact with
Jewish descendants from Portugal and Spain. For information, or their
newsletter write to:
1211 Ballard Street,
Silver Spring, MD 20910,
- The Hebraic Society for the Study of Marranismo which goes by the
Portuguese acronym SHEMA -- provides study materials for converso
descendants interested in studying their heritage.
Helio Daniel Cordeiro,
Congregacao Israelita Paulista,
Rua Antonio Carlos 653,
Sao Paulo, Brazil.
[Information edited from published sources.]
Last modified: 15 April 2004 BIK