My very good friend Maria Jose has done research in Catalan and other archives for many Sephardic researchers, including Jeff Malka, Judy Simon, Dan Laby, myself and others. She knows her way around the archives and her multi-lingual talents are put to good use translating documents in old Catalan, Latin and more.
We first met years ago when I spoke at Congregation Atid in Barcelona, and conducted a hand's-on workshop on Jewish genealogy - Maria Jose was one of the students and we've been good friends ever since.
A former attorney, her research skills are impeccable. Genealogy became her focus as she helped her maternal uncle, a well-known author and physician, prepare a work on medieval medical doctors (many of whom were Jewish) and conducted extensive archival research. Her maternal family comes from around Lerida (also known as Lleida), about 140 km northwest of Barcelona, and she discovered our TALALAY family's first two documents in Spain.
Most recently, she has been preparing a report on her investigations into the Cervera, Spain, archives, a rich primary resource for the history of medieval Sephardic Jews, for the International Institute of Jewish Genealogy.
Maria Jose will be speaking in Ravenna, Italy at July's EAJS (European Association of Jewish Studies) Congress, where she will present “Connecting with the Lives and Lineages of Medieval Catalan Jews.” Other speakers focusing on Jewish genealogy at that conference will be:
-- Valts Apinis, University of Riga: “Jews in Latvia in 1918-1940: a Genealogical Perspective.”According to director Neville Lamdan, in the International Institute of Jewish Genealogy's semi-annual report:
-- Federica Francesconi, University of Bologna and UCLA: “An Alternative Path toward Emancipation: Jewish; Merchants and their Cross-Cultural Networks in 18th Century Italian Ghettos."
-- Neville Lamdan, Hebrew University, Jerusalem:“Village Jews in the 19th Century Minsk Gubernya through a Genealogical Lens.”
Perhaps the most exciting research results to be reported recently were received from Mrs. Maria Jose Surribas-Camps in Barcelona regarding her study into the “Lives and Lineages of Medieval Jews” in the provincial town of Cervera, in pre-Expulsion Spain.
Maria Jose has uncovered some 3,000 original documents in Latin and old Catalan, dated 1328-1499. The documents have revealed new discoveries on medieval Jews, as well as several important Cervera families, including rabbinical scholar “Rashba,” (1235-1310).
She has proved that unexplored small town Spanish archives are goldmines for the history and genealogy of Sephardi families living today around the world, who trace their families to pre-Expulsion Spain.
From a May 2009 progress report, Maria Jose provides the following two documents (1362, 1365) as examples of what can be found [TTT has added color to emphasize what details are in the documents]:
“Quod ego magister Abraam Astruch Zatorra judeus nunc Cervarie, tutor et curator Moise Abraam Zatorra, filii meum … Testes … Vital Gracia” – from which we learn that, on October 8, 1362 (document date), the aforesaid Jews were in Cervera, that Abraam Astruch Zatorra, Jew, did not originate from Cervera, and that he was the tutor and guardian of his son Moise (uses the same hereditary surname). The brief quote provides useful information on how middle and surnames were used during that period. It is also helpful to come across the same names more than once to avoid erroneous conclusions.
In another Notary book, dated June 30, 1365, we read “… ad hoc ego Abram Astruh Zatorre, fisicus, locumtenenti Vital Fferrari, judeus secretarii aliame iudeorum Cervarie …” from which we learn that Abram was a medical doctor.
Maria Jose is now working on the final version of her report (which will appear on the IIJG website). Additionally, and in conjunction with our good friend Dr. Jeffrey S. Malka ("Sephardic Genealogy"), she will prepare a book on the archival material.
Sephardic researchers worldwide are waiting for the results of what she has discovered. Read more of the IIJG 2010 mid-year report here. Read about the Cervera archives here. Read the May 2009 report here.