02 June 2009

SephardicGen: Sephardic Jewish aliases, Amsterdam

Jeff Malka of SephardicGen.com has just informed Tracing the Tribe of a new database containing 1,888 alias names used in Amsterdam by Sephardic Jews.

The list was prepared from the index by Abraham de Mordechai Vaz Dias which is preserved at the Amsterdam Stadsarchief (State Archive).

When the Conversos fled Portugal to settle in Amsterdam they returned openly to Judaism. Because they often still had relatives in Portugal, they tried to protect them by using aliases in their transactions. However, it wasn't only the Portuguese who wound up in Amsterdam. Even a century after 1492, conversos were finding their way from Spain to Amsterdam. It is a convoluted history as many Spanish Jews fled to Portugal in 1492, as they thought they would be safe. They were - but only for a few years. In 1497, they again had to make a choice of convert or flee.

In those days, Portuguese was a synonym for Sephardic Jewish, and encompassed the Spanish Jews as well. Listing a person as a Portuguese merchant generally meant he was Jewish. Their family contacts worldwide, along with their language skills, were great commercial assets in their farflung business ventures. And in their contacts with family back home, they had to be discreet as to not bring suspicion on relatives left behind.

One man was known by 12 aliases. Here are the names and years of these aliases. Will the real Antonio Hidalgo o Velho please stand up?
1657 - Antonio Hidalgo o Velho
1659, 1665 - Antonio Hidalgo
1657 - Antonio Cortissos
1665 - Jacob Semah Cortissos
1657 - Jacob Cortissos
1659 - Antonio Hidalgo
Antonio/Jacob's Jewish name was Isac (Isaac), and he also used these Jewish surnames (and corresponding aliases):
1647 - Semas (Antonio da Costa Cortissos)
1647 - Semach Cortissos (Antonio da Costa (Cortissos)
1648 - Semach (Antonio da Costa Cortissos)
Antonio da Costa (Cortissos) was also known as Teunis van den Coster (1657).

Vaz Dias, in the first half of the 20th century, went through the archives' notarial records and identified the aliases, preparing a separate card index (identified as archive no. 5059, inventory nos. 267 and 268) providing an individual's Jewish name and its aliase as well as the notarial record identifying that alias.

Vibeke Sealtiƫl Olsen transcribed the card index collection into a database made available to SephardicGen. Many surnames are composite surnames (Da Costa, D'Aguire, etc.) which creates problems in searching for a specific name. Due to this problem, use the "contains" search parameter.

As I am always looking for clues to TALALAY, I entered "tal" and searched for "contains."

Although there were none, the results were interesting in terms of variations in family and first names:
Italiaander, Abraham -> Levi Victoria, Abraham - 1697
Italian, Jan Pietersz -> Leon, Isak Jehuda - 1645
de Luna Montalto, Abraham -> Hogenberch, Abraham - 1676
Montalto, Isac -> de Luna Montalto, Lopo - 1618
Luna Montalto, Michael -> Montalto, Mozes - 1618
Montalto, Mozes -> de Luna Montalto, Michael - 1618
Correa de Vega, Gil -> Mocatta, Jacob - 1645
Roemer, Gerrit -> Martens, Gerrit - 1710
Roemer, Gerrit -> Henrigues Faro, David - 1710
When you consider the famous Abravenel family, here spelled Abarbanel, we see the following:

Abarbanel, Isaque -> Lopes Gomes, Francisco - 1638
Abarbanel, Isaque -> d"Aguilar, Alonco - 1696
Abarbanel, Joseph -> Homen, Pedro Manuel Thomas - ?
Abarbanel, Joseph -> Da Serra, Joseph - 1674
Abarbanel, Mozes Baruch -> Van Der Graft, Albertus -1671
Abarbanel, Pinechas -> Thomas, Manuel - 1615
Abarbanel, Samuel -> De Souza, Samuel - 1649
Abarbanel, Samuel -> Rodrigues de Sousa, Jeronimo - 1616
Abarbanel, Sara Meyer -> Da Silveira, Philippa - 1669
Abrabanel, Efraim -> Fernandez, Tomas - 1615
There were Cohens whose aliases were Luis, da Costa, d'Azevedo, Henriques, Carlos, Levi, de Rocha Pinto, da Silva Ramos, Dias and Ergas.

Remember to read the FAQ for tips on searching. Search this database here.


  1. Wow, this is incredible! I have a friend with Dutch Sephardic ancestry... just for kicks, I did a search on his last name and though it didn't show up on the alias database you mention, it's all over the websites other databases. I'm going to send him the link to Sephardicgen. Thanks for the post!

  2. Melanie Brown11:43 PM

    I have dutch shepardic ancestry, but cant seem to trace any further than Aaron (de David) Alvarez in the Alvarez family, registered at Bevis Marks synagogue, London, death 1893.He married Hannah jessurun and they were from amsterdam but originally from Spain /portugal. They travelled Suriname and back to London but I dont know how to trace where they came from in Portugal or Spain? I believe names associated are jessurun, Rodrigues, Hartog,..
    Is there a root name or alias or variations on the family name ie Alvarez de Perieras. I know my great grandfather was Solomon ( john) Alvarez who migrated to Australia
    Any suggestions?

    Thanks for the discussion