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Friday, August 1, 2014

IAJGS Conference: Sephardic Genealogy: Many Resources

This was a presentation by my friend Schelly Talalay Dardashti. This was the second presentation by Schelly that I attended, primarily because of my background in Latin American and Spanish language research. Here is Schelly's bio from the conference website:
Journalist, genealogist, international speaker and instructor, Dardashti has tracked her families across Spain, Iran, Belarus, Lithuania, Russia and elsewhere for 25+ years. A geneablogger pioneer with the award-winning Tracing the Tribe (since 2006), now on hiatus, she manages Tracing the Tribe On Facebook page (with 4,000+ active participants), three DNA projects at, including the IberianAshkenaz Project. The former Jerusalem Post genealogy columnist, her articles have been widely published in major media outlets. She is the US Genealogy Advisor for; board member, Society of Crypto-Judaic Studies; and Sandoval County (NM) Genealogical Society.
The presentation was introduced as follows:
Sephardic genealogical research has increased exponentially over the past few years. Just a few short years ago, resources could be counted on one hand. Today, there are a huge number of resources including books, blogs, organizations, societies, online databases, museums and much more. This presentation will offer a broad overview of resources used by researchers looking for their Sephardic ancestors. An updated, detailed handout will be provided.
The Jews in Spain were ordered to leave the country in 1492 by Ferdinand and Isabella, the rulers in Castile acting in accordance with the Spanish Inquisition. Ferdinand and Isabella had just concluded a war against the Moslems in the South of Spain. Coincidently, this was the same year Columbus set sail to India and ended up in America. Subsequently, these Jews have been referred to as the Sephardim. For more information about the expulsion, see Modern Jewish History: The Spanish Expulsion (1492).

Many of the Jews throughout the world and many people who do not even suspect Jewish ancestry are related directly to these expulsed Jews. This is a very important, and often neglected, area of research. Because of consistent and long standing persecution, many of the Jews from Spain and elsewhere, hid their ancestry and culture in a veil of secrecy sometimes for hundreds of years. This group of Jews are referred to as Crypto-Jews. I wrote about Crypto-Judaic studies in a previous post.

From my perspective, Crypto-Judaic studies and research bear a resemblance to many other persecuted minorities such as the African American and Native American populations of the United States. I feel a kinship with these minorities because my own ancestors were persecuted, mobbed and driven out of their homes. As a side note, I am concerned that my own descendants will forget or never learn of their heritage as they become mainstream and well-respected rather than persecuted.

Schelly has graciously allowed me to reproduce her list of references and resources here in this blog post for which I am very much indebted. Please acknowledge and thank Schelly for this very useful tool for research:

Tracing the Tribe – Jewish Genealogy on Facebook


Dicionario Sefaradi de Sobrenomes [Dictionary of Sephardic Surnames]
Guilherme Faiguenboim, Paulo Valadares and Anna Rosa Campagnan (Sao Paolo, Fraiha) (English/Portuguese)

The Forgetting River: A Modern Tale of Survival, Identity, and the Inquisition, Doreen Carvajal (Riverhead Books)

Guidebook for Sephardic and Mizrahi Genealogical Resources in Israel, Mathilde Tagger and Yitzchak Kerem (Avotaynu)

The Jewish Nation of the Caribbean: The Spanish-Portuguese Jewish Settlements in the Caribbean and the Guianas, Mordechai Arbell (Gefen)

Juggling Identities: Identity and Authenticity Among the Crypto-Jews, Seth D. Kunin (Columbia University Press)

Sangre Judia (vols. 1 and 2) Pere Bonnin (Flor del Viento) (Spanish)

Sephardic Genealogy: Discovering Your Sephardic Ancestors and Their World, 2nd edition, Jeffrey Malka (Avotaynu)

To the End of the Earth: A History of the Crypto-Jews of New Mexico, Stanley Hordes (Columbia University Press)

Les commerçants du roi: Tujjar al-sultan, [The Merchants of the Sultan] Paris: Maisonneuve et Larose, 1998. (French) Michel Abitbol

Malkhei Rabanan, [Biographical Dictionary of the Rabbis of Morocco] Jerusalem: 1932. (Hebrew) Yosef Benaim

Les Juifs d’Afrique du Nord : démographie et onomastique, [The Jews of North Africa : Demography and Onomastics] Algeria : 1936. (French) Maurice Eisenbeth

Les noms des Juifs du Maroc : essai d’onomastique Judéo-marocaine, [The Surnames of Moroccan Jews: Essay on Judeo-Moroccan Onomastics] Madrid : Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas; Instituto Arias B. Montano, 1978. (French) Abraham Laredo

Judíos de Toledo, [Jews of Toledo] Madrid: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas; Instituto B. Arias Montano, 1979. (2 vols.) (Spanish) Pilar Leon Tello

The Jews in the Crown of Aragon: Regesta of the Cartas Reales in the Archivo de la Corona de Aragon, Jerusalem: The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 1993-1995. (2 vols.), (Hispania Judaica; Ginzei Am Olam) (English and Spanish) María Cinta Mañé and Gemma Escribà (eds.)

Les noms des Juifs de Grèce [Names of the Jews of Greece] Jean and Elie Carasso (éds.), Gordes (France), 1990. Asher Moissis

Les Juifs de Salonique 1492-1943 [The Jews of Thessaloniki] Tarascon (France): 2000, pp.17-64. Elie Carosso (ed.)

The Jews of the Kingdom of Valencia; from Prosecution to Expulsion, 1391-1492, Jerusalem: Magnes Press, the Hebrew University, 1993 (English) Jose Hinojosa Montalvo

L’Histoire des Israélites de Salonique, [The History of the Jews of Thessaloniki] Thessaloniki: 1935-1978. (7 vols. in 6 books) (French) Joseph Nehama

Three Jewish Communities in Medieval Valencia, Jerusalem: Magnes Press, The Hebrew University, 1990. (English and Catalan) J. Doñate Sebastia and R.R. Magdalena Nom de Deu

The Sephardic Onomasticon, Istanbul: Gözlem, 2004. Baruh Pinto

Juifs du Maghreb : Noms de famille et société [Jews of the Maghreb; Surnames and Society] Paris : Cercle de Généalogie Juive, 2004. (French) Jacques Taieb

Histoire de familles ; les noms de famille juifs d’Afrique du Nord [History of Families; the Jewish Surnames of North Africa], Jerusalem: 1998. (French) Joseph Toledano

Sefer ner hamaarav [Book of the Candle of the West], Jerusalem: 1911. (Hebrew) Yaakov Toledano

Sefer shem hagdolim he-hadash, [The New Book: Names of the Renowned Ones], Warsaw: 1865. (Hebrew) Aaron Walden

Ottoman and Turkish Jewry, Indiana University (1992) Aron Rodrigue

Sephardi Jewry : A History of the Judeo-Spanish Community, 14th-20th Centuries, Berkeley : University of California Press 2000. Aron Rodrigue (with Esther Benbassa)

  • The Journal of Spanish, Portuguese and Italian Crypto Jews 
  • Sephardic Horizons Journal (online) 
  • Sefarad (Madrid, since 1941, bi-monthly, mostly Spanish)
  • Revue des Ėtudes Juives (Paris: Société des études Juives , since 1880)
  • Raices (Madrid : Sefarad Editores)

Be aware that websites frequently update existing resources and databases, or add new ones. Check back frequently to learn what has been added or updated.


Check each country for possibilities, using such search terms as Romania Sephardic or Italy Sephardic, or a family name of interest (insert name for X) and a country, such as X Italy or X Morocco.
Each book and website mentioned above contains extensive bibliographies and additional resource lists. Do check all of them for your surnames of interest.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, James! Any of your readers who wish more information can contact the Society for Crypto-Judaic Studies,, or via its Facebook page.