16 June 2009

Spain: Cervera's Notarial Archive project

In 2008, the International Institute of Jewish Genealogy (Jerusalem) awarded a research grant to Maria Jose Camps Surribas of Barcelona.

A former attorney, a consummate researcher and genealogist, my very good friend Maria Jose knows the archives of Spain very well. Her languages include Catalan, Spanish, English, Latin and French.

On my trips to Barcelona, we have visited numerous archives together, including Lleida where she located a Talalay document from 1353, and other mentions in indexes and documents in the Crown of Aragon Archives in Barcelona. Maria Jose has also provided excellent research for other US-based Sephardic researchers. On my last trip, we even visited Cervera together.

Maria Jose's project is titled "The Notarial Archive of Cervera, Catalonia: a source for the study of Jewish genealogy, migrations and life in the Middle Ages."

Cervera is a Spanish Catalan town with a rich cultural and Jewish past. From the beginning of the 14th century there was an established Jewish community, which survived the Black death (1348-49) and various restrictions imposed on it by the nobility and the Church, but not the Expulsion in 1492. Well-known historians have done interesting work on specific subjects covering short periods of time of the life of the Jews in Cervera but until now there has been no extensive study of this important medieval Jewish community, utilizing primary sources.
The project will examine the town's Jewish community of the 14th-16th centuries from records in the Notarial Archive of Cervera.

She is looking, in depth, at the town's Jewish community from the perspectives of historical genealogy, onomastics and migration studies.

All Jewish families referred to in the archive will be traced, from the earliest 14th century documents onwards, and the names of Jews and Conversos in those documents will be studied.

Cervera was an important crossroads on routes leading from France, Barcelona and Girona to Lleida, Zaragoza and other parts of Spain. Many Jews coming from France and other areas of Spain settled in the town, and, of course, Cervera's Jews moved elsewhere.

It is an exciting project on which Maria Jose is hard at work, and which will provide much information for those whose ancestors are Sephardim from Catalunya and elsewhere.

Sephardic researchers are looking forward to the results of her research.


When Maria Jose read this post, she emailed me with some in-the-trenches comments:

At the moment, I'm working on more than 2.000 documents I have already accumulated concerning the Jews of Cervera.
And so far she has seen only 60% of the books she has chosen to view. There is so much in that archive that will provide major data for those interested in Sephardic Jews and their history.

The Cervera archive seems to be a veritable goldmine for Jewish research, and I know that she will dig out every name and every fact.

Maria Jose has followed Tracing the Tribe since it began back in 2006.

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