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Book Notes: Genealogia Hebraica Portugal e Gibraltar: Sécs XVII a XX, José M. Abecassis

M. Benady

<plain_text><page sequence="1">Genealogia Hebraica Portugal e Gibraltar: Sees. XVII a XX, Jose M. Abecas sis (Livraria Ferin Lda, Rua Nova do Almada 72, 1200 Lisbon) 4 volumes, 750pp. Escudos 42,000. There is much interest in genealogy in Portugal today. Jose Abecassis originally became involved in recording the genealogy of the Jewish community of Lisbon 376</page><page sequence="2">Book Notes when he helped his father produce a family tree. This inevitably led them to Gibraltar, as many of the Jews in Portugal today are descended from Gibraltarian families. The result of seventeen years devoted to research is this massive work which records the genealogy of all Jewish families in Portugal and Gibraltar and, in some cases, also includes their ramifications in England, Brazil and Morocco. The illustrations include ninety-six ketuboth in colour and almost three hundred photo? graphs of oil portraits, many of them of 19th-century Portuguese Jews, and there are other photographs and a considerable number of family trees. The most fascinating part of this work is undoubtedly the listing of the old established families of Portugal, accompanied by much incidental information. This is virtually a social history of the Jews of Lisbon, the Azores and Faro during the 19th and the first half of the 20th centuries. The author obtained information from some seventy members of these families, enabling him to build up a detailed picture of their lives over several generations. The first Jews to settle in Portugal in modern times were merchants from Gibraltar who arrived in 1797, the first recorded burial taking place in the English cemetery in A Estrela in 1801. Although the Inquisition was dissolved only in 1821, and the decree of religious toleration not promulgated until five years later, an official synagogue was inaugurated in 1813, and Jews soon became integrated into the mainstream of Portuguese society. An example of such acceptance was the diplomat, David Cohen de Castro e Lara, son of Abraham Cohen of Gibraltar, who was created Baron de Sendal in 1888. An instance of continuity is provided by Aaron Cardozo, who spent a certain amount of time in Portugal after 1820. His father, Jacob (Diogo?), had been born in Portugal in 1709, shordy before the family fled to Gibraltar from the Inquisi? tion. Aaron had no children, but his nephew and heir, Isaac, settled permanendy in Lisbon in 1848. The author records the tradition that Aaron's wife was a Carvalho and a relative of Sebasti?o Jose de Carvalho, Marquess of Pombal. This must mean that her father, Isaac Cohen Lara (born in London in 1715) must have married a sister of David Diaz Carvalho, who was leader of the Gibraltar com? munity from 1782 until he was succeeded by Cardozo in 1791. Nevertheless, there is no evidence that Pombal had Jewish blood. His advocacy of fair treatment for Jews was based on sound commercial reasoning. The Gibraltar section is a more difficult undertaking, covering many more people and spanning almost three centuries. The sources used by Abecassis are the 1779 and 1791 population censuses (with the list of Jewish families of 1784), the abstract of Jewish names in the 1834 census compiled by Professor Larry Sawchuk of the University of Toronto, and the Community's registers which date from 1807 for births (although girls were only included from 1829), marriages from 1823 and deaths from 1828. Nevertheless, the problem caused by similar names recurring in different branches of the same family sometimes produces errors, though the author valiandy suggests conclusions which could be valuable to 377</page><page sequence="3">Book Notes the researcher and which are introduced with the Portuguese words talvez and provavelmente - 'perhaps' and 'probably'. The author has also made good use of the strict rules applied by the megorashim (exiles from Spain) of Morocco, which establish a sequence for naming infants after older members of the family, in order to build up his lists of families and suggest missing names. There are of course exceptions (with their own specific rules) which can catch anybody out; and there is also the problem of members of a family being born, dying or having children abroad and the event not being recorded in the Gibraltar records. Nevertheless this mine of information can be invaluable to the researcher. The author's magpie habit of collecting all information of the slightest relevance produces a wealth of incidental information which is also very valuable. Although I, for one, consider the setting out in detail of the genealogy of the kings of Judah (volume IV, Document N33, taken from the pages of Ha-Lapid) rather a waste, most of the other sixty-eight documents listed are fascinating. I should, however, point out that Chief Rabbi Joseph Elmaleh died in 1823 and not 1810 as stated in Document N39. Unfortunately, many will be put off because the book is written in Portuguese, but the vocabulary in volume I, pages 19-20, will assist the reading of the genea? logical lists, although it should have been longer. There is a comprehensive index of names, but the listing of contents is not well organized, making it difficult to find one's way round these substantial volumes. Nevertheless, the material is so rich that the labour involved in becoming conversant with them is very rewarding. Indeed, for one man to have produced this comprehensive and valuable work is a considerable achievement. M. Benady</page></plain_text>

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