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29 September 2011

The Gomez Family, Sephardic influence from the Caribbean in New York

In 1792, under a buttonwood tree at 68 Wall Street, in New York City, 24 brokers gathered and signed the Buttonwood Agreement, that would eventually lead to the creation of the New York Stock Exchange. That event would have such an incredible impact on the world as the New York Stock Exchange is now the center of the financial world. It is one of those men whose own history is also a great example of the effect the Sephardic Jews of the Caribbean have had on early America. Those who study the history of the exchange will note that Isaac M. Gomez (1768-1831) was a broker who resided at 32 Maiden Lane in New York, but that is far from the whole story. Who was this man and where did he come from?
Isaac Moses Gomez was born on 28 July 1768 in New York City into a sephardic Jewish family. His father, Moses Gomez (1728-1789) lived his whole live in New York. His mother, Esther Gomez, daughter of Isaac and Deborah De Leon Gomez was born in Barbados in 1739. Isaac married into a Jewish family from Newport, Rhode Island, when on 26 May 1790 he married Abigail Lopez (1771-1851), daughter of Aaron and Sarah Rodriguez Riveira Lopez. He and Abigail became the parents of 10 children.
In looking into the family tree of Isaac, the influences from the Islands of the Caribbean become very apparent. In the family record that has been preserved in the papers of Malcolm Stern (FHL Film #1013428) Isaac gives details on some of his own ancestry. Included within those are;
  • Mordecai Gomez married a Miss Esther Compas of Jamaica by whom he had three sons, Moses, Isaac, and Jacob. Moses married in Jamaica, and Isaac married Esther Jesurum in Curacao.
  • Daniel Gomez (his grandfather) married Rebecca De Torres, daughter of Joseph and Simha De Torres, of Jamaica. They had 2 sons before she died. He then married Esther Levy of Curacao.
  • Isaac Gomez married Deborah De Leon of Barbados.
  • Benjamin Gomez married Esther Nunes of Barbados.
The influence of these Caribbean Jews, like so many other families was then taken to places such as New York, Philadelphia and Newport, all places the family settled in. The Gomez descendants then married into prominent families. These families had familiar surnames such as Seixas, Levy and Hendricks.
This proves once again how research into early United States families must begin with a search of the records of the Caribbean Islands.
The records of the Gomez family have been added to the Knowles Collection- Jews of South America and the Caribbean and will be available after the next update.

28 September 2011

The Guggenheimer Family, from Bavaria to Virgina

The latest addition to the Knowles Collection is a family history of the Guggenheimer family. Abraham Guggenheimer (1779-1864) was born in Bavaria where he married Dolze Bacharach (1785-1855). Abraham and Dolze became the parents of 11 children, born in Hurben, Bavaria. It was many of these children who became the first of the Guggenheimer's to migrate to the United States, most settling in Virginia.
Like many early American Jewish families, the early Guggenheimer's have left an incredible legacy for their descendants. Some, like Nathaniel Guggenheimer, have distinguished themselves in service to their new country. On the 15th of September of 1863, the Governor of Virginia, John Letcher, signed a commission making Nathaniel Guggenheimer a Captain in the First Regiment of Cavalry of the 12th Brigade and the first Division of the Virginia Military. Others, such as Joseph N. Ulman, married into the family, he married Ella, daughter of Isaac, he being the grandson of Abraham and Dolze. Joseph N. Ulman, served his country as a judge on the Supreme Court of Baltimore.
The Guggenheimer's were in America in the early 1840's, and were established in Virginia cities such as Richmond, Lynchburg and Warm Springs. This did not stop the family from extending their influence to others areas as well. Clara, a granddaughter of Isaac and Clara Guggenheimer married into the Binswanger family of Philadelphia, themselves an early respected Jewish family.
The Guggenheimer are another example of an early Jewish family that quickly identified themselves with their new home and became very influential in those communities. The records of the Guggenheimer family have now been added to the Knowles Collection- Jews of North America database and will be available after the next update.

26 September 2011

The Jews of Mali

The Jewish history of Mali may go back as far as biblical times when the Egyptian Jews settled in in the northern part of the country. We know, however that in the eight century a group of traders who travelled the world, known as the Rhadamites, settled in Timbuktu and the area that surrounds it.
History tells us that the next large wave of immigrants came in the late 1300's when Jews fleeing persecution in Spain found their way to the area of Timbuktu. These Jews settled three settlements that still exist today, Kirshamba, Haybomo and Kongougara.
Even later, in the 1492, King Askia Muhammed came to power in Timbuktu. He ordered that all Jews convert to Islam or face execution. Because of this the Jews became scattered, some fled, some converted and some chose to stay in Mali. Those who stayed faced generation after generation of persecution. As the persecution continued, the community went away leaving no Jews by the 1900's.
The lack of a community existed until the most modern time, in the 1990's when the past Jewish heritage became more well known. That heritage was documented by historian Ismail Diadie Haidara, who has now formed a group known as Zakhor. Zakhor hopes are to reestablish the Jewish community, through such things as learning Hebrew, collecting the histories and preserving the cemeteries of their ancestors.
To learn more about our heritage is a worthy goal for all and best of success to them.

15 September 2011

Growth Brings Change

Thanks to the incredible support from people throughout the world, The Knowles Collection has grown too large for it's current format. Last updated in May of this year to include the records of about 240,000 Jewish people, the collection will be updated sometime in the next month. The new update will bring the collection to almost 320,000 names, or a 33% growth in 4 months.
The growth, has come from many sources, most notably cemetery records and donations of family records. While these have been from all parts of the world, the database most effected is the Jews of the Americas, which has grown very quickly. The growth of the Jews of The Americas database will continue to experience a lot of growth, as we have received a large number of records from places such as Brazil.
In order to handle all this growth, some of the Knowles Collection databases are being changed. With this update, we are splitting the Jews of the Americas database. The databases will now be;




  1. Jews of North America



  2. Jews of South America and the Caribbean



  3. Jews of Europe



  4. Jews of British Isles



  5. Jews of Africa and the Orient
It is only because of the help of so many that this is possible. I am very grateful to all for this support.

14 September 2011

From Spain to America, the family of Isaac Harby

Much has been written in this blog about the migration of Jews from Spain and Portugal, to Europe and eventually the Caribbean and then to the southern United States. Another wonderful example of this is the biography of Isaac Harby, which is contained in the collection. The biography, which was contained in the family bible was written in Isaac Harby's own handwriting. In his writings he first discusses his families beginnings, where he writes,

"My ancestors fled to Spain and then Portugal, where they remained until the pestilence of the inquisition drove them to Africa"




He further adds;




"I find my grandfather, Isaac Harbie, about the middle of the 18th century, employed in the business of a lapidary at Fez in Morocco and in his barbarian majesty's good confidence."





He then talks about the birth of his own father, Solomon, when he writes;




"Of this issue six children were born, the youngest of whom was Solomon, my father, born in London, 1762."






Then writing of their arrival in the United States he states;




"Solomon Harby emigrated to America and remained three years at Jamaica from 1778 to 1781. He married Rebecca Moses at Charleston, South Carolina, in 1787. She was the daughter of Myer Moses, a rich and patriotic Israelite who assisted his country during the Revolutionary struggle."




Like so many others, the Harby family travelled from Spain to Portugal, then to Africa and London before their journey to America by way of Jamaica. Further proof how important it is for all those researching early American Jewish families to carefully study the records of the Caribbean. The records of Isaac Harby and his family have now been added to the Knowles Collection- Jews of North North America database and will be available after the next update.

08 September 2011

Argentina National Census 1895 at www.FamilySearch.org

One of the newest databases available free of charge at http://www.familysearch.org/ will be a great tool for those with Jewish ancestry in Argentina.
That database is the Argentina National Census 1895.
Taken on 10 May 1895, the collection is a name search able census with 3.8 million images. It can be found in the Historical Record Collections section of the website.

Argentina was a great melting pot for people from many countries, a fact that becomes obvious as the census is searched. To search the collection simply find the following link:


Once in the collection simply search by name. Using the surname Cohen, I found 161 hits for people with that surname. Included in those was the record below, which shows James Levy and his wife Bella Cohen de Levy. They were listed as having the religion of Israelita. The information shows they were both born in England and had been married 27 years with 3 children. Those three children, Samuel, Daniel and Anita are all living in the same home in Buenos Aires. Many thanks to FamilySearch and best of luck as you look for your own families.

07 September 2011

The Jews of French Guiana

As I have been going through the birth and marriage records of Suriname, the names of places from French Guiana have been appearing. If one studies the history of the area this is not at all surprising. French Guiana was first settled in 1604 by the French, and captured a few years later by the Dutch.
The original Jews in French Guiana arrived just as many others in the Caribbean did, with the help of the Dutch West India Company. This was a very beneficial relationship for all, as it gave the Dutch the settlers they needed and gave the Jews a new home.
The next group of settlers arrived on 12 September 1659, when a group of Portuguese Jews from Brazil, led by David Nassy arrived. Nassy came from the island of Cayenne, where he was a leader of that Jewish community. In the 1660's, 150 Jews arrived in Cayenne from Leghorn, Italy.
During this time life was good for the Jews, they were allowed to worship as they pleased. They were also developing their own sugarcane plantations and become successful in their work. This all changed in 1664, when a fleet of five ships arrived from France. They brought with them 1200 settlers who took control of the country. The Jews who were there surrendered on the condition they could continue to practice their religion. Even with these conditions, most of the Jews began to leave, making their way to Suriname. In 1667, British Forces captured what was left of the community and moved them to either Suriname or Barbados to work on their sugarcane plantations.
A search of the records of Suriname finds many of the families who started out in French Guiana, most notable the surname Nassy. These records from Suriname have been added to the Knowles Collection- Jews of the Caribbean database .
Today, the Jewish community in French Guiana is small, most likely less than 100, however they have been established for over 350 years in the Caribbean and because of the records they left, their footprints can still be seen.