London Archives

Bevis Marks Archives

The London archives are often known as the Bevis Marks Records, named after the congregation’s oldest synagogue.

 

Vital Records

The vital records contain some gaps in the early period. These have been transcribed and published by the Society of Heshaim (http://www.heshaim.org/historical_records/) which is the synagogue committee responsible for publications.

These are often available in large reference or genealogical libraries. The transcripts are as follows:

SPANISH AND PORTUGUESE JEWS CONGREGATION. “Abstracts of the Ketubot or marriage- contracts of the Congregation from earliest times until 1837”, with index, edited by Lionel D. Barnett. The Board of Elders of the Congregation, 1949. Bevis Marks Records part II.

SPANISH AND PORTUGUESE JEWS CONGREGATION and JEWISH HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF ENGLAND. “Abstracts of the Ketubot or marriage – contracts and of the civil marriage registers of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews’ Congregation for the period 1837-1901”, with an introduction and an index by G.H. Whitehill. The Congregation and the Jewish Historical Society of England, 1973. Bevis Marks Records part III.

SPANISH AND PORTUGUESE JEWS CONGREGATION and JEWISH HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF ENGLAND. “The circumcision register of Isaac and Abraham de Paiba 1715-1775 … transcribed, translated and edited … by the late R.D. Barnett … together with a supplement including a record of circumcisions 1679-1699, marriages 1679-1689 and some female births 1679-1699, compiled by Miriam Rodrigues Pereira”. The Congregation and the Jewish Historical Society of England,1991. Bevis Marks Records part IV.

SPANISH AND PORTUGUESE JEWS CONGREGATION. “The birth register (1767-1881) of the Spanish & Portuguese Jews’ Congregation, London, together with the circumcision registers of Elias Lindo (1767-1785), David Abarbanel Lindo (1803-1820), Solomon Almosnino (1815-1827), David Buenode Mesquita (1855-1869) … and including the Jewish births (1701-1763) in the 18th century register books of the College of Arms transcribed and edited … by Miriam Rodrigues Pereira and Chloe Loewe”. The Congregation, 1993. Bevis Marks Records part V.

SPANISH AND PORTUGUESE JEWS CONGREGATION. “The burial register (1733-1918) of the Novo (New) Cemetery of the Spanish & Portuguese Jews’ Congregation London (with some later entries) transcribed and edited … by Miriam Rodrigues-Pereira, Chloe Loewe with assistance from Raphael Loewe and David Nunes Vaz”. The Congregation, 1997. Bevis Marks Records part VI.

 

London Metropolitan Archives

A few years ago the congregation’s archives were placed in the care of the London Metropolitan Archives. The official title and reference of the archive is:
Spanish and Portuguese Jews’ Synagogue, Bevis Marks (LMA/4521). At the time of writing, this archive can only be accessed with written permission from the congregation’s archivist (see http://www.sephardi.org.uk/about/genealogy/). Obtaining written permission is not always fast.

I have been fortunate to research in the archive. I found the Libros de Contas – the Account Books – to be a valuable supplement to the published records. As well as containing lists of fintas (more or less, membership fees) which vary according to the yahid’s (member’s) wealth, you can see who were the synagogue officials (and what they were paid) and the details of who received charity. Often these last lists will mention family relationships, such as including the name of someone’s father or late husband. It has to be said, the handwriting is far superior to what you find in Iberian documents. The text is written in Portuguese, but nobody should have any problem reading the names.

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National Archives

The National Archives contain much useful information, including Wills, court cases and people endenizened.

 

Guildhall Library

Much of the collection of the Guildhall Library has now been moved to the London Metropolitan Archives, but some of it remains in situ.

 

Old Bailey Online

The Old Bailey is England’s principal criminal court. They have digitised records back to 1674.

 

The British Library

The British Library is the world’s second largest library, and an incredible resource. To get access to the Reading Rooms you will need to obtain a Readers Card, which requires evidence of identity and address. Most books arrive at your desk within an hour, but some are stored off-site and need to be ordered a day or two in advance.

The British Library newspaper collection is worth checking. If you are just starting research, once you obtain a Reader’s Card, you can find the Dictionary of Sephardic Surnames by Guilherme Faiguenboim – and other books of interest to the Sephardic family historian – on the open shelves in the Indian and Asian reading room on the third floor.

 

Other Useful Resources for Sephardic Jewish Genealogy

Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain. The JGSGB library is not massively useful to the Sephardi genealogist, although you may be lucky and find someone has already researched your family and deposited their findings there. The society’s Dutch and Sephardi Special Interest Group meets several times a year, and welcomes with specialist speakers. Outside of conferences, it is the only get-together of Sephardic family historians of which I am aware. The JGSGB publication, Shemot, often has articles of Sephardi interest. The JGSGB is on Facebook.
The Jewish Historical Society of England. The venerable JHSE‘s archives and papers are a treasure trove for historians. These are often available at major libraries, and can be accessed online. The JHSE also holds events of interest to the Sephardic genealogist.
The S&P Sephardi Community. This is a religious community. The archives have been discussed above. The synagogue newsletter, The Sephardi Bulletin, sometimes contains articles of interest. Everyone should visit Bevis Marks synagogue, a living part of our Sephardi heritage. The rabbi at Bevis Marks, Shalom Morris, blogs on the Sephardim. It is in the City, by the Gherkin, and not too far from Spitalfields and up the hill from the Tower of London.

The Society of Genealogists. The Society’s library has a number of collections of interested to the Sephardic family historian.

With respect to Jewish life in the City and east London, you might also want to consult the Bishopsgate Institute, Bancroft Street Library and Hackney Archives Department. These collections tend to focus on the 19th and 20th Centuries.

The Sephardic Diaspora. The Sephardic Diaspora Facebook group is the forum for serious discussion on Sephardic genealogy.