23 April 2010

Boston: Daniel Laby's Sephardic roots, April 25

Dr. Daniel Laby will share his family's Sephardic journey from 13th-century Zaragoza, Spain to the New World with members of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Boston, on Sunday, April 25.

Read Tracing the Tribe's post about the meeting, which also features Brandeis Professor Jonathan Decter, here.

The Canton Citizen's story about Laby and his family is here.

The pediatric opthamalogist, also a professor at Harvard Medical School, also has family connections to Lerida, where Tracing the Tribe found the first document for our family.

His family's journey has covered Spain, Hebron, Salonika, North Africa, Eastern Europe and elsewhere.

Dan began researching his family in high school when the earliest date he knew was his paternal grandfather's 1904 arrival in the US.

Since then, he's reached back into the 13th century. Family members worked as financiers, diplomats and doctors for the Kings of Aragon.

A few years ago, three generations of his family visited their ancestral family home in Zaragoza and other cities in Spain. He put together an excellent multimedia presentation on the family trip which he shared with JFRA Israel members.

Research on his grandfather's family, from Hebron, was furthered by a book on the history of that community. It included detailed land deeds which helped him trace back several hundred years.
“I think to really understand what your future is going to be … you have to understand where you came from and what your past history is,” Laby said.

“I think anyone could do it,” Laby said of tracing ancestry. “You just have to have curiosity and patience and determination.”
It was interesting to see Dan's quote, that he was “fortunate to have an obscure name.” This is in line with my own views. Dan says if he was looking for Cohen or Levy, it would be more difficult to find the documents for his ancestors.

Tracing the Tribe feels much the same; hunting for Talalay and Dardashti makes it much easier!

While we can trace with probability our kosher winemaker ancestor in Lerida mentioned in a document dated 1358, Dan has gone back to 1202 for his prominent family, which helped arrange the marriage of Ferdinand and Isabella, as well as funding for Columbus's trip to the Americas.

Dan and I have joked that our ancestor made the wine his ancestors drank way back when.

Using ancient property ownership maps in Zaragoza, he was able to visit the site of the ancestor's home during his trip to Spain.

His family, along with other Spanish Jews, was expelled in 1492. Family members went to North Africa, Italy, Greece and Israel. Through his research, he's met relatives and, in Israel, met the Alazar descendants, whom their ancestors had known in Spain.
“When you do this kind of family history you learn those small details, which makes it real and makes it personal, which is what is fun about it,” he said.
His documents include arrival records, passenger logs, land deeds, maps, and a 1435 ketubah (a Jewish marriage contract).

The Internet has helped, of course, and he aso worked through reams of microfilm at the National Archives, Washington DC. He also uses DNA to help,

How far back does he want to go? "To Abraham," he jokes.

1 comment:

  1. We missed this because we were out of New England that weekend. We are watching your blog for the next thing you post within driving distance. Thank you for all your help with starting to research my husband's roots. We'll be in Spain in the fall, but I don't know if we'll have time to do any genealogy research then. We'll keep you posted.