Sephardic Jews – check records

Jews were re-admitted to England by Oliver Cromwell in 1656 following an expulsion period of about 365 years. Initially Sephardic Jews, mainly merchants, returned and formed a small community in London. However, they were soon followed by Ashkenazic immigrants who had slightly different customs and religious practices, and hence established their own synagogues, burial grounds and religious registers. So it is important to establish, as soon as possible, if a Jewish ancestor was Ashkenazic or Sephardic so that the correct sets of records can be searched.

If it is known or suspected that an ancestor was a Sephardic Jew who lived in London, it is probably worthwhile searching the records of the Bevis Marks Synagogue, as this was the main Synagogue of the Sephardic community in London. Fortunately they have published a set of books known as Bevis Marks Records, which contains names and key details from most of the births, marriages and burials of the community in the period c1690-c1905.

There were other, smaller, Sephardic Jewish communities that established in other UK cities, notably Manchester, so the records of local communities are worth searching if you know the relevant city. The Jewish Communities and Records UK (JCR-UK) website www.jewishgen.org/JCR-UK can assist researchers to identify surviving records of different communities. If you have not researched Jewish ancestors before, then www.jewishgen.org is a good place to start for background information and a wide variety of databases. Also check the website of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain www.jgsgb.org.uk.

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