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The reinterment of members of the Mendes da Costa family, 1713

Miriam Rodrigues-Pereira

<plain_text><page sequence="1">The reinterment of members of the Mendes da Costa family, 1713 MIRIAM RODRIGUES-PEREIRA In 1684 Abraham Zagache compiled a census of the Portuguese Jewish community in which he listed several families as 'Portuguese who are not circumcised'.1 Among these were Antonio Mendes, his son Dr Fernando Mendes and his son-in-law Alvaro da Costa. In December 1712 their three eldest sons presented the following petition in Portuguese to the Gentlemen of the Mahamad. The text, in Minute Book MS 103, reads as follows in literal translation from the Portuguese: Sres Parnasim and Sr Gabay [Treasurer] of this Holy Congregation, which God increase. We the undersigned represent to you that having laid several of our deceased relatives in a place [territorio] far from the common Bethahaim of Milend and desiring to transfer them, as was always our intention, to the burial place of our relatives and brethren in the said Milend decently, in London the 10 Dec[ember] 1712. We request that you may be pleased to give us licence to transfer them to the said burial place and to order [hordenar] the Sr. Haham to assist us in this function so that the Rites of our Holy Law shall be fully observed. For which we shall be grateful. Signed Joseph Mendez da Costa, Moseh da Costa, Isaque Mendes. Joseph (or John) Mendes da Costa was Antonio Mendes da Costa's eldest son, Moseh (or Antonio) da Costa was Alvaro da Costa's eldest son and Isaac (or Antonio) Mendes was Dr Fernando Mendes's eldest son. The Mahamad Minute Book (MS 103) records that on 22 Kislev 5473 (10 December 1712 Old Style) on ballot, the petitioners' request was granted and they formally offered ?100 to synagogue funds (Sedaca). The Gentlemen of the Mahamad at that time were unrelated to the Mendes da Costa family and consisted of Joseph Mendez de Castro, Jacob da Veiga and Abraham de Moseh Franco (who was the treasurer), assisted by Isaque de Avila, Dr Rohiel Abudiente, Pinhas Gomes Serra and Isaque Fernandes Nunes. Their vote was unanimous. A few weeks later, on 20 Tebet (7 January 1713 Old Style), the Mahamad 1 L. D. Barnett (ed.) Bevis Marks Records Part I (Oxford 1940) 19-20. 4i</page><page sequence="2">Miriam Rodrigues-Pereira gave instructions to Haham David Nieto in person to assist the da Costas 'in whatever was necessary for the Burial of their deceased relatives in the Bethahaim of Milend' and to order other synagogue officials to assist as appropriate. The remains of three members of the Mendes da Costa family were removed from their temporary resting place, almost certainly in the grounds of Alvaro da Costa's country house in Highgate, to the old Spanish and Portuguese Jews' Cemetery (the Velho) at Mile End, Stepney. The reburial was carried out, and on 24 Tebet (11 January) Moseh da Costa handed to the treasurer the promised ?100 'in a Bank Note' which was credited to the Burial Ground Account (Finta Bethahaim). These three reburials were located in a block of seven graves, the remain? ing four being soon after reserved for other members of the family. In March 1713 Jacob da Costa, through his son Moseh, reserved a grave for himself and two more besides, and in June Dr Moses Mendes, through Haham Nieto, reserved one for himself next to his wife. The usual ?5 reser? vation fee was paid for each grave. Burials therein took place between 1715 and 1727. The complete tally of the block of graves is as follows: 4212 Js Mendes da Costa 12 Ab 5430 (1670) [Fernando Mendes da Costa, the father and business partner of Alvaro da Costa]. There is no other record of his death, except that his bank account with Edward Backwell was closed at this time. He was a widower. Alvaro's mother had died in Portugal and Fernando's third wife, Branca Rodrigues, was burnt at the stake in Lisbon in 1666.3 422 Ja da Costa 24 Tebeth 5476 (1715) [Alvaro da Costa] 423 Rahel da Costa 14 Yiar 5487 (1727) [Mrs Leonor da Costa, daughter of Antonio Mendes da Costa and wife of Alvaro da Costa] 424 Ja. Mendes da Costa 29 Yiar 5476 (1716) [Antonio Mendes da Costa, brother of Fernando Mendes da Costa and father of Leonor and Dr Fernando Mendes] 425 Sarah Mendes da Costa 6 Tishri 5450 (1689) [Joanna, wife of Antonio Mendes da Costa] 426 Dr Mos. Mendes 10 Kislev 5485 (1724) [Dr Fernando Mendes, son of Antonio and Joanna] 427 Rahel Mendes Markes 27 Yiar 5451 (1691) [Isabella Marques, wife of Dr Fernando Mendes and daughter of Diego Rodrigues Marques] Details of marriages in 16984 show that by then two had taken Hebrew names, however, indicating their return to the Jewish faith: Moses alias 2 R. D. Barnett, 'The Burial Register of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews, London 1657 1735' Misc. JHSE VI (1962) 14, Row 11 grave numbers. 3 Identifications established by Edgar Samuel, together with the evidence below. 4 L. D. Barnett (ed.) Bevis Marks Records Part II (Oxford 1949) 65, nos 60, 63. 42</page><page sequence="3">The reinterment of members of the Mendes da Costa family, 1713 Fernando and Jacob alias Alvaro. Jacob/Alvaro's wife Rachel alias Leonor was also present at the making of notarized contracts relating to these mar? riages on 6 June and 1 August 1699.5 Dr Mendes and Alvaro da Costa were listed as forasteiros (strangers, non members) in the Treasurer's Account Book6 recording their offerings at that time. They did not become members (yehidim) ? it is not clear why - but their sons did. While their fathers were still alive, in the period 1707-23, Alvaro's son Moses paid the highest rate of Finta (annual sub? scription ), about ?14, and Dr Mendes's sons Jacob and Isaac about ?9 or ?10 each.7 5 Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue Archives, MS 133. 6 Ibid. MS 372. 7 Ibid. MS 103. 43</page></plain_text>