The 18th World Congress of Jewish Studies

How to Identify Sephardic Jews Using Bibliographical Sources: Tracing the Genealogical Roots of the Anusim

During the last 5 years, the initiative of Spanish and Portuguese Governments to grant the nationality to the descendants of the Jews expelled from the Iberian Peninsula. These two laws were the trigger to an unprecedent genealogical effort worldwide to determine what is a Sephardic Jew according to the Spanish and Portuguese Laws.

The law itself gave very little information about what where the legal requirements relating to the documents that will identify a person as a Sephardic Jew or a descendant of one of them. The Jewish Federations of Spain and Portugal were given the legal power to decide who were a Sephardic Jew and who was not. The decision in made by a group of experts based on a genealogical report written by an “expert”.

A lot of uncertainty was put into what will be accepted and what will be rejected by them. No clear line was drawn, no protocol on what to consider and what to reject. In 2016 I started writing Report of Genealogical Sephardic Origin (Informes motivados). No official communication channel was open on us, we only have a “yes-no” answer from the FCJE or the FCJL. In some cases, they asked for more documents to prove the Sephardic connections.

A list of official family name accepted as Sephardic generated an even more complicated situation and confused a broad spectrum of the public. After seven years working as a genealogical expert and writing reports for people that need them, we have come to a very sophisticated method on what can genealogical resources do for us in helping identify the descendants of the Jews expelled from Spain in 1492.

Our method identifies a spectrum of primary sources that allow you to understand if you can prove your descendance from a Sephardic Jew. The process starts building a family tree that goes back between five to twenty generations of unbroken documented family line. I consider that the methodology is a start that could help in the future to deal with the identity of the descendants of the Inquisition persecuted Jews.