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  De Castro Story - Origins


  1. Where did we come from ?
  2. Spain and Portugal
  3. So what are we ?
  4. Early de Castros
  5. Back to England
  6. Some reading

  De Castro Story - Origins - So what are we ?

So what are we?

From ?? to ?? The Romans after the conquest and clearance of the Arab lands in the east also conquered the Iberian peninsular. It is most probable that they came with Jewish slaves and that the dispossessed also made there way to the Iberian peninsular. After the fall of the Roman Empire and the various conquests of the Iberian by the Northern kingdoms the population no doubt continued under new rulers to live in the land. So in the dim dark ages we were part of the Roman Empire and its subsequent successors.

Up to 1492 we were probably Spanish possibly from Castile, we were probably expelled to Portugal as we were Jewish if we had not departed earlier.

For the period 1492 - 1610 or so as the family spoke and communicated in Portuguese when it arrived in London we probably survived the 1497 Portuguese expulsion by becoming for a time "New Christians".

From the time we left Portugal we could have gone any where however fable suggests we settled in Amsterdam although we could have settled any where. One possibility is Bayonne in France as that is where Solomon de Castro's wife came from and it is one of the places where especially noted as being a place of settlement of expelled Jews. Where ever we were we probably reverted to being Jewish that is what the family was when it arrived in England.

For the next 150 years or so we were English and were initially Jewish but later became Anglican

Since 1852 we became New Zealanders and became what ever we wanted.

  De Castro Story - Origins - Early de Castros

Early de Castros

The earliest reference to a de Castro that I have found other than the founding father is in fact in the English P.R.O Office where there are records dating back to Edward the Confessors day regarding the lease of land. There is in fact a church there called St Mary de Castro, which is hundreds of years old. Presumably these people came to England from Spain and if Jewish would have been expelled by Edward.

One of the earliest reference I have found to a de Castro of the Jewish faith is one Abraham de Castro who became the administrator of coinage under Sultan Selim in about 1520. I make no claim to the fact that this person is in any way related to this family, but he was a Portuguese/Spanish Jew who had been expelled from his home country.

It is written in Werner Keller's book DIASPORA:

"That in about 1594 one Rodrigues de Castro for example moved from Lisbon to Hamburg and as a Doctor enjoyed great popularity. Indeed when the Plague struck the city, he saved many citizens, for he had much experience in combating the Oriental epidemic. Dr de Castro was schooled in Judaeo-Arabic medicine, which was far in advance of its time. He argued in a book he published called TRACTATUS DE PESTE that plagues were communicated by extremely small organisms. He also won fame as a gynaecologist, practising Caesarean section with success rare indeed in those times. Among his patients were such personages as King Christian 5th of Denmark, the Landgrave of Hesse, the Archbishop of Bremen and many others of the high nobility"

In the book NOBLE FAMILIES AMONG THE SEPHARDIC JEWS by Isaac Da Costa, Bertram Brewster and Cecil Roth we can read that

"two sons of Rodrigues or Rodrigo de Castro rose to eminence in the same profession Dr Bento (Baruch) de Castro was physician to the Court of Queen Christina of Sweden and Dr Andre (Daniel) de Castro was the same to the King of Denmark

In addition we can read of Dr Orobio de Castro and Dr Semah Aboad de Castro who lived in The Hague. Dr Orodio de Castro was in fact

"Dr Isaac Orobio de Castro who was formally Don Batthason de Castro. He was the son of Jewish parents who lived under the denomination of New Christians at Braganza, in Portugal, afterwards at Malaga. He was born about 1616 and having studied at Alcala de Henarez, he taught medicine and metaphysics at Seville, not without falling under the suspicions of the Inquisition. Through the tale-bearing of a Moorish slave, who reported that a distinction of meats, and other tokens of Judaism, were to be met with in his house, Orodio fell into the hands of that fearful tribunal. After he had endured three years of imprisonment, and the infliction of unheard-of tortures, the inquisition was still unable to convict him. Obliged, in consequence, to declare him only suspected, but not convicted, of Judaism, it was content with compelling him to leave the country. When released, he settled at Toulouse, where he was appointed Professor of Medicine and Councillor to Louis XIV. At last, wishing to enjoy the free exercise of his religion, he left France, and at the age of forty settled at Amsterdam. He continued to practise as a physician in that city till the year of his death in 1686. His descendants (at the time of writing 1937) continued in Amsterda .
(We must not forget that Mr Hitler reduced the Jewish population of Holland during 1939-1945.)

There is reference to the marriage of Filippa de Castro daughter of the noble Antonio de Castro being married to Francisco da Silva first Marquis of Mountfort in December 5th 1667 in Antwerp. There is reference to Rabbi Jacob (Henriques) de Castro Sacramento born in Braganza in 1691 who settled in London in 1721, who was elected a member of the Royal Society and presented with the degree of Doctor by the University of Aberdeen.

  De Castro Story - Origins - Back to England

Back to England

By 1660 some 35 heads of families belonging to the Jewish community could be counted. Within 3 years a further 57 fresh names were added to the Roll. The original Bevis Marks Synagogue accommodated 83 men and 25 women; it was enlarged in 1674 to provide room for 172 men and 84 women. A nominal roll of the community made in 1680-4 counted 414 souls. It is reported that these families arrived from the Peninsular and Canary Islands, or were enterprising merchants from Amsterdam, Hamburg, Leghorn and the South of France. For this detail to have been recorded there must be records about that named these people which would be interesting to find? On a trip to England in 1999 I tried to locate such a register or record of it in the British Library and at the Jewish Museum. There was no record of this document or register but there are other avenues not yet explored. To find such a record would possibly provide information as to when the first de Castro's arrived.

In 1667 the law was changed so Jews could give evidence in a court of law (by changing the Oath). However there were other laws that made life for the community difficult. For instance you could not inherit property unless you could prove who you were, and as there were no convenient public Birth, Marriage and Death registers in those days the only way to do this was to show your birth or marriage entry in your local parish register.

As births were not recorded but christening were, then it was very difficult for a Jew to follow this line.

The Synagogue was permitted to exist but had no legal standing as had the Anglican churches, this recorded marriages but as there was no equivalent to the Christian baptism in the Jewish Synagogue, births were not generally recorded. There were many tolerant ministers at the time that for a fee would record the birth of Jewish children in the parish registers, and many of these have been documented. One church has on file a large number of records stating that such a person died and was removed to the Jews burial ground at Mile End.

Thus while they were welcome in England there were some interesting problems the community had to get round. It is pointed out that many of the laws were aimed at the Catholic, and other Christian sects often referred to dissenting Christians, or Papists, as the Jews were not Christian they could plea they were excluded?

Thus from the de Castro family point of view, the family at this time is first recorded in the Bevis Marks Synagogue in 1710 when Solomon married Rachel Bravo. From the above we could say with reasonable certainty that the family came into England during the period 1657 - 1710. When we do not know but the reading on the matter has pointed out a number of sources that have to be explored, such as the Bevis Marks roll, and these could step the family back another generation.

As the London Community was at this time the only Jewish community in England we do not have to worry about the family being recorded in other centres. This is not the case later when synagogues were opened in most English cities and the family spread out of London.

The fact that the family was Spanish/Portuguese is not questioned; they were part of this community. If they were originally Spanish then we know that the events of 1492 drove them from Spain to Portugal and if they remained in Portugal after 1497 they had been forcibly converted to become (New) Christians or they had left for Africa. If they stayed in Portugal then they possibly took the opportunity to get out round 1600.

  De Castro Story - Origins - Some reading

Some reading

NOTE: the principal sources for the above information has come from the following books:

HISTORY OF PORTUGAL, H.V. Livermore, Cambridge Press (1947)
THE HISTORIANS HISTORY OF THE WORLD (volumes dealing with England, Spain and Portugal) , Encyclopaedia Britannica (1907)
NOBLE FAMILIES AMONG THE SEPHARDIC JEWS, da Costa, Brewster & Roth, Oxford (1936)
DIASPORA the Post-Biblical History of the Jews, Werner Keller, Pitman (1966)
THE KINGDOM OF LEON-CASTILLA UNDER QUEEN URRACA 1109-1126, Bernard F Reilly, Princeton University Press (1982)
A HISTORY OF MEDIEVAL SPAIN, Joseph F O'Callaghan, Cornell University Press (1975)

From the references in these books to other records there is the obvious need to have a full and proper search done of the early records held by the Bevis Marks Synagogue in London. If from what is said when referring to these records, all the early families are recorded and most of the marriage settlements and wills of these people are held in the archives or at the Jewish museum. A search is being organised but first a person who can translate the documents has to be found.

Finally a plea. If you have in your possession some evidence about the early family that can dispute or support the above then let it be known. Do not dismiss this just because your mother or father told you something else. Most of us have been told the family fables and we have believed them. They could have been handed down for generations, they may be true. No one however has any proof to support them....Yet!

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