Foreword by Mathilde Tagger:
Some months ago, my friend and co-author Doğan Akman3 shared with me his surprise at finding his Sephardic surname Aseo, which he long believed to be a Spanish word and name, included in Abraham Laredo’s treatise4 on the names of Moroccan Jews.
Surprised by the association of his surname with those of Moroccan Jews, he was also intrigued by the fact that his surname is cross-referenced to the Arabic name Anqawa,5 together with its French phonetic transcription Encaoua and its other different spellings.
He asked me whether Laredo’s inclusion of Aseo in the list of the surnames of Moroccan Jews and the cross-reference to Anqawa have a basis in historical facts.
More specifically, he wanted to know whether:
- Aseo could possibly be an Arabic name or of Arabic origin;
- The Aseo of Spain originated from Morocco;
- The Aseo of Spain could have been named Anqawa before their arrival in the Iberian Peninsula in the wake of the invasion of Spain by the Moorish armies during the beginning years of the eighth century A.D;
- The Jews in Spain named Anqawa could have changed their names to Aseo, as the Spaniards successfully pursued their Reconquista (military campaign to liberate Spain from Muslim rule)and completed itin 1492 by taking Granada, in order to better re-integrate or integrate themselves into the emergent nationalist Spanish society; and
- Whether Aseo was one of the surnames conferred upon or adopted by Jewishfamilies upon their conversion to Catholicism.
I agreed to answer my friend’s questions. Later on, I invited him to participate in the analysis of the sources we examined and the drafting of our findings and conclusions.
This paper is the outcome of our collaboration.
The paper focuses primarily on the following two paramount questions:
- First, whether there are substantive historical and geographical connections between the surnames Aseo and Anqawa; and
- Second, if so, what are the sources, the nature and scope of the inter-play among these connections?
The paper is based on the review and analysis of onomastic works and selected historical sources germane to the task at hand, supplemented by knowledge of onomastics and of languages material to this task acquired over one long career of genealogical research and publications.
Onomastic sources are organized under the names of the authors whose works we review below in chronological order by their respective date of publication.
Historical sources comprise scholarly historiography and archival research publications, censuses and regional genealogical databases.
Archival publications focus on Spanish archival documents concerning court proceedings, fiscal matters and those handled by notaries, as well as royal decrees, judgments, orders and royal instructions to local officials. Most of these publications provide references to or lists of Jewish surnames, including Aseo and Anqawa, the names of the places where the surnames were recorded, and the date of each recording.
These sources contain materials written in Catalan, Spanish, French or Hebrew.
A synoptic historical and geographical trajectory of the surnames Aseo and Anqawa in the pre- and post-1492 Iberian Peninsula
We located the largest number of recordings of the name Aseo in the Valencia region of Spain. The recordings we located date as far back as 1325 and continue all the way to the eve of the expulsion of the Sephardim from Spain in 1492.
The name surfaces again, in approximate historical sequence, in the Republic of Ragusa, then a protectorate of the Ottoman Sultan (now Dubrovnik, Republic of Croatia), the Ottoman cities of Salonika (now Thessaloniki) and Volos (both now in Greece), Sofia and Dupnitsa (now Bulgaria), Skopje (now Macedonia), in Edirne (formerly Adrianopolis), Constantinople (now Istanbul),Turkey.
Commencing sometime during the nineteenth century, we encounter the name in Jerusalem and Safed (Eretz Israel), Vienna (Austria), in Paris and in some other localities of France where most, if not all, of the Aseo originated from the Ottoman Balkans and Istanbul; in the Philippines and in the United States of America.
Subject to further research, it would appear that, the name Aseo originally reached the United States through some Latin American and Caribbean countries, formerly Spanish, Portuguese, and, for a time, Dutch colonies where an indeterminate number of exiled Sephardim as well as conversos [converts], sought refuge and settled.
Anqawa is the name of a famous rabbinical dynasty living in the medieval city and district of Toledo, Spain. Many members of this dynasty held high positions in the local Jewish community. As a result, as disclosed in the numerous medieval documents concerning them, they attracted both official and unwelcome unofficial attention, the latter kind resulting in the murder of two members of the dynasty.
Based on what we know at present, some of the Anqawa fled Toledo during or in the wake of the 1391 massacres and campaigns to secure conversions, while the rest of them were expelled from Spain in 1492. Both groups returned to and settled in Morocco and later in other places in North Africa. A few of them, at some later point in time, ventured eastward and settled in Ottoman Constantinople.
The answers to the five questions
Based on our research and analysis, we are able to answer the five questions raised above as follows:
- There exists no known substantive, historical or geographical connection between the Spanish/Catalan surname Aseo recorded in the Kingdom of Valencia under the Crown of Aragon and elsewhere in Spain and Portugal, with the Arabic-Jewish surname Anqawa and its variants Alnequa or Elnekawe which are recorded in Toledo, in Morocco and later in Algeria.
- The two words merely share one common meaning, which is the primary meaning of Aseo and secondary meaning of Anqawa.
- Laredo’s cross-referencing of the appellative Anqawa (Encaoua) with Aseo (p. 342) must be viewed as merely the twinning of names with close but not the same primary meanings.
- The surname Aseo is not an Arabic word or an Arabic surname. Various compilations of Sephardic names posted in genealogical websites claim that the word Aseo is derived from an Arabic word meaning ‘troublemaker’. Yet, to date, despite our sustained efforts, we have not managed to find any, let alone cogent, proof of this claim.
- There is no known historical evidence that Sephardic Jews named Aseo were originally named Anqawa.
- While there is sufficient evidence to sustain the reasonable inference that the Anqawa originated from Morocco and the distinct possibility that they may have originated from some other places in North Africa; there is no historical evidence that the Aseo originated from North Africa.
- Neither is there any known historical evidence to suggest that individuals and families named Anqawa changed their names to Aseo upon their arrival in Spain or thereafter, during or as a result of the Reconquista.
- Nehama’s assertion concerning the name Asséo as a surname specifically conferred upon conversos by high Spanish dignitariesremains unsubstantiated. This assertion is also inconsistent with the available evidence on the history of the name in Spain, as well as the religious temper of Catholic Spain.
The review and analysis of our sources and the findings and conclusions on which these answers are based are set out next.
A. ONOMASTIC SOURCES
Eisenbeth’s7 work pioneered North African Jewish onomastics. The author did not list the name Aseo. On the other hand, Encaoua is listed as a variant of ‘Kaoua’ which is a word of Berber origin whose meaning remains unknown. (p.140)
The book is arranged alphabetically according to the Hebrew spellings of names, with some additional alternative spellings.
The author translated the word Aseo as care, cleanliness9. He further identified the old, presumably medieval, spelling of the word as Asseyo.
In this regard, in the micro-biographies of nine individuals identified by Laredo, the spelling of the surname of eight of these is Asseo while that of the ninth is Asseyo. Two of these names (Aseo and Asseyo) were recorded in Spain while the seven others were recorded in the Ottoman Empire, including Eretz Israel, during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Laredo translated Anqawa as ‘purity’, ‘cleanliness’ and listed the first set of the eight variants of the surname as Anaqaua, Anqawa, Anqaoua, Ancaua, Ankaua, Ankaoua, Encaoua, Enkaua, Encaua, and Encawa.
Some of the surnames of the various families comprising the Anqawa dynasty of Toledo were spelled differently as, for example, Encaue, Encava, El Nacava, Anacava, Anacaba. (cf. Leon Tello, footnote 10, p.5 infra.)
Laredo further provided five additional Hebrew spellings for Anqawa, which he transcribed as Alnaqawa, Alnequa, Alnucawi, Ankoa, Ancava, and Nacava (p. 242). The two Hebrew spellings אלנקוה transcribed by Laredo as Alnequa and נקוה transcribed as Nacava may also be read as Elnekave and Nekave, respectively.
The thirty-five micro-biographies of individuals which accompany the onomastic treatment of Anqawa (p. 242-246), show that after the 1492 expulsion from Spain, many Anqawa families, settled in Salé, close to Rabat, Morocco, while a few with the name Elnecave eventually settled in Istanbul.10
The word Aseo meaning ‘cleanliness’ may also have been used in Spain to describe or to refer to a Jew who observed strictly the ritual laws of washing in the Mikve [ritual bath]bytotally immersing his body in living water,11and netilat yadayim [rinsing of the hands] on various occasions. (Lev. 15: 11)
Finally, further documented variations in the spelling of Anqawa are found both in Laredo’s thirty-five micro-biographies and in Leon Tello’s book on the Jews of Toledo.12
The number of different ways in which the name Anqawa was spelled, while considerable, was by no means a rarity.13 Certainly, the number of spelling variations of Sephardic (and most likely other) names in Spain, between the thirteenth and the sixteenth centuries, appears to have been almost open-ended. This state of affairs appears to be mainly the result of the following three sets of factors:
First, in a land as ethnically and linguistically diverse as the Iberian Peninsula, Spanish scribes (probably like their contemporaries in other countries where a similar diversity prevailed) did not seem to have cared enough or paid sufficient attention to the task of spelling correctly foreign names and, more particularly, the difficult sounding ones, even juridical or other types of formal documents. They read, wrote down or transcribed these names as they perceived them, heard them pronounced or as they thought they heard them through the phonetic filters of their own language and dialect.
Second, by the end of the fifteenth century, the Spanish language (as was the case for other European languages) had not reached the stage where words acquired fixed spellings. The use of fixed spellings evolved slowly after the publication of authoritative language dictionaries, with different rates of progress in different countries. In some countries, it did not materialize until well into the 20th century.
Third, on the other hand, to date, we found no evidence to suggest that the Sephardic community as a whole or those of its members whose names were spelled differently on different occasions, objected to, or even particularly cared about, the way officials spelled their names. Thus, officialdom experienced no pressure to focus better, improve their spelling skills, modify their habits or repress their idiosyncrasies.
The author does not mention Aseo despite the fact that the name is found in the records of the congregation Shalom in mid-sixteenth century Salonika,15 possibly the major Sephardic community in Europe at that time. This group of Aseo families arrived in the city through the Republic of Ragusa.
The author does not mention the name Anqawa either.
Joseph Toledano 16
The entry for the name Asseo (as he spells it) consists of four lines. Toledano asserts that the surname was found in Morocco in the sixteenth century. He claims that in the twentieth century, it was an extremely rare surname found only in the cities of Mogador and Casablanca, Morocco.
The author adopts Laredo’s French phonetic spelling of Anqawa i.e. Encaoua and translates it as ‘cleanliness’ (p. 424). He also refers to the name’s variant Elnekawe17 and its Hebrew meaning: in God we have hope18, without any comment.
He correctly identifies the city of Toledo as the city where Encaoua families lived, and confirms that: some of these families fled to the Maghreb (the Arabic name of Morocco), in the wake of the 1391 massacres that began in Seville and quickly spread throughout Castile; and that the Encaoua who remained behind, upon being expelled in 1492, followed on the footsteps of the ones who had earlier fled to the Maghreb. (p.424)
Toledano’s placement of Asseo in sixteenth century Morocco is neither dated nor documented. Rather, it appears to be based on his namesake Yaakov Toledano’s similarly undocumented claim in Sefer Ner Hamaarav.19
The alleged connection of the name Asseo to twentieth century Casablanca20 is equally questionable, because the list of names of the Jews buried at the Casablanca cemetery21 does not include the name Asseo.
Nor is the name Asseo found in the following databases about the Jews of Mogador and of Morocco:
- “Mogador Cemeteries”22 which documents burials dating back to the mid-nineteenth (19th ) century;
- “The Morocco Ketubot”23: the collection of Moroccan marriage contracts covering the period 1789-2003; and
- Yosef Benaim’s “Malkhei Rabanan”(1932).24
Sidney Corcos,25 a genealogist who researches the Mogador Jewish community, possesses the richest collection of original documents on that community, dating from the end of the eighteenth century to the first decades of the twentieth century. The documents in this collection also make no mention of the name Asseo.26
The name Anqawa is found in Malkhei Rabanan27.
Taïeb’s brief reference to Asseo reads: Celui qui aime la propreté en Espagnol. Souche très rare.29 (p.33)
He correctly identifies Anqawa as a derivative of the Arabic word en-naqawa i.e. en [the] and naqawa [purity]. (p.87) Taïeb also confirms that Jewish families bearing that name have been documented in medieval Toledo, Spain.
The author’s brief reference to Asseo is not sourced.
With respect to his treatment of Anqawa, it must be noted that the Arabic article al/el becomes en before the letter N because of a difficulty of Arabic speakers to pronounce an N (as in naqawa) after an L (such as the article al/el).
It is possible that this kind of diphthong is at the origin of the grammatically erroneous spelling אלנקוה of Elnaqua/Elnekave, by the Sephardim in Istanbul.30
The word Anqawa binds together the article and the noun. Such a bundling is also found in the Jewish holy writings which refer to the physical aspect of purity, of the family (Lev. 15:19-24), of the dead (Mishna, Shabat 23:5) and to its moral aspect i.e. the purity of the heart (Prov.22:11).
Guilhermo Faiguenboim et al.31
Faiguenboim et al. (“Faiguenboim,” the “authors”) geographically locate the name Aseo and its variant Asseo, in Bulgaria, Turkey, France (Nice), Switzerland (Vevey), Greece (Salonika), Morocco (Mogador and Casablanca) and in Argentina (Buenos Aires) (p. 182)
In section 8 of the chapter entitled “Sephardic Onomastics,” the authors present their typology of surnames which comprises the following categories: toponymic, patronymic, occupational, personal characteristics, artificial, Biblical references, compound, names with rabbinical origins; and then define the contents of each category of surname. (pp. 122-133)
Of these categories and their respective definitions, the ones of particular relevance here are the category “artificial name” and the definition of this category as “…those that have no connection with the origin or characteristics of the people who use them. These are: names of colors, names of animals, names of plants, names with Catholic inspiration32 and others” (p.128).
The authors translate Encaoua and three of its variants33 as ‘strength’. They cross-reference it to Elnecave and classify it as an ‘artificial’ surname. They locate the name in Venezuela (Caracas), Algeria (Oran), Morocco (Rabat), and in Brazil (Belém).34 (p.249)
They translate Elnecave/Elnekave as ‘noble’ (p.249) and classify it as a surname based on a “personal characteristic.” They locate this name in Spain (Toledo), Morocco, Turkey (Kűzgűncűk, located on the Asian side of the Bosphorus, Istanbul, and Izmir [formerly Smyrna]), Algeria (Tlemcen), Argentina (Buenos Aires), Brazil (Porto Alegre) and in Panama.
Faiguenboim et al. do not address the etymology of Aseo or Asseo.
The authors’ ex-cathedra translation of Encaoua as ‘strength’ is both novel and at odds with the weight of authority on this subject. In the circumstances, their failure not to explain, reconcile or justify their idiosyncratic translation or even to make an attempt to do so is puzzling.
At all events, the authors’ definition of ‘artificial’ names and their characterization of Encaoua as an artificial name are untenable. This is readily demonstrated by the following three sets of examples of artificial names based on colors, animals and plants:
- Names based on colors capture, for example, the bearer’s physical features such as the color of his hair or skin: Amarillo, Moreno or Albo.35
- Names based on animals, seek to capture the traits and attributes of the bearer, be it an individual or a collectivity (such as the tribes of Judah), by analogy to the traits and attributes commonly attributed to certain animals such as: the lion (Arieh, Leon), the deer (Naphtali-Tsvi, Sevi, Shebi), to the wolf (Zeev36) or the dove, as in, Yona the prophet.
- The names of plants generate, for example, Portuguese surnames such as Oliveira (olive tree) and Pereira (pear tree).37
Yet, based on Faiguenboim’s definition of ‘artificial’ names, none of the foregoing names would be classified as ‘artificial’.
In this connection, it is also noteworthy that the authors omitted the ‘aspirational’ names from their typology, either as an independent category or as a sub-category.
‘Aspirational’ names or nicknames are those in the nature of moral concepts, personal qualities and attributes intended to be descriptive of a person’s future moral and behavioral traits such as: modesty (Anavi), blessing (Beracha), joy (Sasson), compassion (Rahamim), righteous (Sadik) and good (Bueno).38 According to the authors none of these are ‘artificial’ names. Self-evidently, their definition of ‘artificial names’ is a flawed one.
Based on our reading of onomastic works it is very likely that originally, ‘artificial’ and ‘aspirational’ names, such as the foregoing ones, were personal names or nicknames, and eventually, when individuals are required or wish to acquire a surname or a different surname they tend to chose their personal names or the nicknames with which they are comfortable. We know of no sensible reason to think that the name Anqawa did not undergo a similar process at some point or another. Likewise, Aseo may well have been one such early medieval aspirational Catalan-Spanish name or nickname that became a surname whose meaning translated into Turkish, at least seven centuries later, resulted in its acquisition as a new Turkish surname (cf. para.no.11, infra.).
Finally, the authors’ translation of Elnecave as ‘noble’ is also an ex-cathedra one. As a matter of fact, this translation is based on a misreading of Anqawa or the variant Alnaqua.39
To sum up, with respect to the surnames considered, Faiguenboim et al. failed
- to substantiate the translations of Encaoua and Elnecave;
- to identify the sources for the names they cite; and
- with respect to the geographical distributions of these names, to distinguish the locations of historical significance from those whose significance is relatively or exclusively of contemporary nature.
Pinto identified Aseo with its variants Aseyo, Asseo and Asiyo, as a Spanish word meaning cleanliness, neatness, tidiness and curiosity (p. 62),41 although he did not provide his source for the variant spellings Aseyo and Asiyo.
Aseyo has been substantiated as the variant of Aseo, in the town of Almeida in Portugal42 as well as in Murviedro, Spain. (cf. p.11, footnote 44(d), infra.)
Based on a personal communication from one Maurice Asseo (originally from Istanbul and presently of Washington D.C.), Pinto reported the existence of a village named Asseo near Almería, Spain. While a place named Almería is located in the Autonomous Community of Andalusia, our research to date and our queries with two experienced researchers in Spain have produced no evidence of the existence a medieval town or village bearing the name Asseo.
Anqawa, save for variant spelling Elnekave, is absent in Pinto’s work. He identified Elnekave as a word of Hebrew origin meaning God of those who hope (p. 119) and introduced the surname Ennekave as a new variant of Elnekave.
The surname Anqawa as a North African and Iberian Jewish name did not reach the Ottoman Empire. However, the name’s variant spellings Elnekave and Elnecave have been recorded in Istanbul.43
Clearly, Pinto erred in identifying Elnekave as a word of Hebrew origin and translating it as “God of those who hope” because:
- had the word been of Hebrew origin, its meaning would have to be the correct one given to Elnekawe by Toledano, namely “In God we have hope”44; and
- Pinto’s translation implies the existence of more than one God, a gross heresy.
Finally, the author’s twinning of the words Elnekave and Ennekave, in the absence of a justification, which he failed to provide, as to the basis on which the first syllable ‘El’ could be transformed into ‘Enne’, is problematic.
B. OTHER SOURCES
Scholarly works on the juderías
Scholarly research into the juderías during the period stretching from the twelfth century to the conclusion of the fifteenth have been published in books, monographs and various scholarly journals but mainly in the bi-annual review Sefarad45 and in La Revue des Ėtudes Juives.
In medieval Spanish and Portuguese, the letter “H” was pronounced as “Y” (and this remains the case in Portuguese). In the result, the variants of the name Aseo, such as Asseyo or Assayo were, also written down as, for example, Assehu or Asseyhu, and in turn, these words could or would be read as Asseyu or Asseyo. The use of the double “s” in the variationsof Aseo that found its way into French as Asseo or Asséo is phonetically of Catalan origin.
The authors’ review of this scholarly literature confirms that in Spain, the surname Aseo was also recorded as Aseo, Assayo, Assehu, Asseyhu, Aseyo, Asseyo, Aseya and Asseihu mostly in the Kingdom of Valencia, one in the province of Cuenca and two in Catalonia.46 Further spelling variations of Aseo occurred after 1492, as for example in France (Asséo), in Bulgaria (Asseov) and in Croatia (Tomaseo) (cf. footnote 44 infra.).
We continue the search for additional spelling variations in the centuries prior to the Spanish expulsion and those following it by tracing the name through and to all the places to which the Sephardim dispersed.
Nehama was a historian, rather than a genealogist with onomastic research experience. Nevertheless, in his magisterial seven-volume work entitled L’Histoire des Israélites de Salonique, he did venture into the area of the names of Iberian Jews. In the process, he managed to introduce a strange new twist into the history of the name Asséo (as he spelled it) in Spain.
In his treatment of the origins and typology of Iberian Jewish surnames, Nehama identified a number of them, including Asséo, as names that reminded him of the magnificent Portuguese and Spanish coats of arms.
He claimed that the Jewish families, upon their conversion to Catholicism, received most (our emphasis) of these surnames, from important personages of the realm who sponsored their conversion. He further claimed that, over time, a number of these converts became part of the Spanish aristocracy as a result of joint endeavors based on common or mutual interests and enterprises as well as through marriage. In the process, a number of converso families had titles of nobility conferred upon them and were granted the right to have a coat of arms which they displayed proudly.
According to Nehama, when such a converso family returned to Judaism, naturally, (our emphasis) it kept the new surname and, often enough, the coat of arms.48
The alleged choice of the surname Asséo for a converso family is painfully ironic. The author, through a clever, although almost certainly wholly unintended, jeux de mots, managed to link, rather neatly, the conferral on converts of a name meaning cleanliness (limpieza), to the all-important medieval Spanish ecclesiastical doctrine of limpieza de sangre (purity of the blood cum purity of the faith).
This doctrine, together with other factors such as, for example, Spanish nationalism and an insatiable sense of larceny and greed, drove the relentless campaigns to cleanse the kingdom of its Jews, deemed impure and unclean, and of its Jewish conversos who wereinvariably, and not without some reason, suspected of backsliding into Judaism and often enough accused of being heretics as conversos of convenience (crypto-Jews).
Regrettably, the author’s perplexing qualifier that most of the surnames he identified were conferred upon the Jewish converts begs the question as to which of these surnames were,as a matter of fact, conferred upon them.
For the surname Asséo, Nehama failed to provide any evidence to substantiate his principal claim and thus left his Asséo readers, among others, wondering about the basis on which the author decided to include this surname in his list of convert names, in the first instance.
At all events, this inclusion is untenable having regard to the incontrovertible evidence that the name Aseo was recorded as a Jewish surname well before and well after the 1391-1392 riots, massacres and the forcible or voluntary conversions.
Furthermore, we do not believe that the Church would have looked favorably upon new converts who while ostensibly abandoning their religion would trade in their former Jewish surnames for new Jewish surnames.
At all events, to date we managed to document Aseo as a Christian name only in the nineteenth century Philippines while, subject to further research, we are inclined to believe that there are Christian Aseo families in the United States as well.
At all events, try as we did, to date, we have not managed to unearth a single historical Spanish family of Jewish origin or descent with a title of nobility bearing the surname Aseo, with or without a coat of arms.
The Five Montefiore Censuses of Eretz Israel
These censuses of the Jewish population in the Holy Land were conducted during the nineteenth century in 1839, 1849, 1855, 1866 and 1875 respectively. They are written in Hebrew. The first four of these are now searchable online.49
The first four censuses identify four families and eight widows bearing the surname Aseo in Jerusalem. The places of birth of the four family heads are shown as Salonika or Istanbul. The places of birth of the widows are not mentioned, although their given names such as Dudu, Kalo, Simhula, to mention just three of them, having been very popular with Ottoman Jewry, identify these widows’ Ottoman origin almost better than any other source.
The four censuses do not record the surname Anqawa.50
C. FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS
- The medieval meanings of the surnames Anqawa and Aseo, the first an Arabic name and the second a Catalan-Spanish one, bear different emphasis. In Spanish, the word aseo was and is generally translated as and understood to mean primarily cleanliness; for “someone who likes cleanliness” as suggested by Toledano.
- Although Laredo and Pinto mention purity as well, they do not place any particular emphasis on thismeaning.
- The word aseo may also have been used in the Judeo-Spanish of the period, to refer to the Jewish ritual bath and to the washing of the hands before meals and on other occasions.
- Although, Laredo did translate Anqawa as both cleanliness and purity, Taieb’s correct analysis of the two components of the word confirms that the primary meaning of the word is purity.
- With the article bound to the noun, Anqawa refers both to the physical and moral dimensions of purity, such as the purity of the family and of the dead, and purity of the heart.
- Based on our research to date, most of the Aseo families appear to have lived in north-eastern Spain and more particularly in the Kingdom of Valencia, under the Crown of Aragon, some in Catalonia,51 in the province of Cuenca (Huete),52 and, at some point between 1391 and 1492, in Almeida, Portugal, where they sought refuge from the 1391 massacres or from the Spanish Inquisition. The Anqawa families lived mostly in the city and region of Toledo.
- The different circumstances that prevailed on the Iberian Peninsula during the three centuries commencing with the fourteenth century resulted in the dispersion of the Sephardim and of the Sephardic conversos on different geographical trajectories.
- Based on the evidence available to date, until the middle of the sixteenth century the large majority of Sephardim, including the Aseo, travelled east and settled in various regions of the Ottoman Empire identified in the synoptic introduction. They reached their respective destinations by ship directly, or more likely with some stopovers of various durations, in Sicily and in southern Italy (the Kingdom of Naples) and Ragusa or via Corfu (now Kérkyra) and the port of Durrës in Albania. The more adventurous ones crossed oceans and seas to settle in the Philippines and in Latin America, almost all Spanish, Portuguese or Dutch colonies, and some of them ultimately migrated to the United States.
- The vast majority of the Anwaqa chose to go south and settled, or re-settled, in Morocco first and then later in Algeria, while a few of them ventured east to the Ottoman Empire, directly or after first settling in North Africa.
- In Istanbul, the name Alnequa was erroneously read as a Hebrew name, and consequently became Elnecave and Elnekave. These names are not in keeping with the nomenclature of the Arabic language. In the process, these two names acquired a meaning quite different from the original one. As such, Elnecave/Elnekave fit perfectly Faiguenboim’s definition of “artificial” names.
- The twinning of words and surnames bearing the same or similar meanings in two different languages provides a tantalizingly easy, but not necessarily successful, way to reconcile names across languages in the hope of illuminating related genealogical issues rather expeditiously.
names with similar meanings in two different languages, one in Arabic and the other in Spanish found, among others, in Laredo’s work: Ben Tizo ‘for the one who deals with coal’ (Spanish) and Fhima ‘coal’ (Arabic); Trigo/Aben Trigo ‘wheat’ (Spanish) and Alzra' ‘wheat’ (Arabic); Albo and Almelal ‘white’ in Spanish, Arabic and even Melul in Berber Elmaleh; Bono/Bueno in Arabic and Spanish.53
To add one of our own twinning, germane to the subject at hand: Aseo for ‘cleanliness’(Spanish); Ak for ‘pure’, ‘white’, ‘clean’ ,’unsullied’, ‘unblemished’ and Akman for ‘clean’, ‘decent’ (Turkish).
1. Mathilde A. Tagger holds an MA degree in Library and Information Sciences from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. She has been deeply involved in Jewish genealogy both in Israel and abroad for the last twenty years, especially in the field of Sephardic genealogy. She has published numerous articles in various Jewish genealogical journals, including Sharsheret HaDorot (Israel); Revue du Cercle de Genealogie Juive (France); Etsi - Sephardi Genealogical and Historical Review (France); and AVOTAYNU (United States) and was co-author of Guidebook for Sephardic and Oriental Genealogical Sources in Israel, Avotaynu, 2006. She has built and published many databases, all available on www.sephardiccouncil.org/Research.hml. Very active for many years in the Israel Genealogical Society, she serves as their Sephardic SIG Coordinator. She was the Project Coordinator and member of the Jerusalem 2004 Jewish International Conference Board.
2. He completed his studies at the Lycéé Saint Michel (Istanbul|, Université de Montréal (B.Sc. sociology) University of Pennsylvania (M.A. criminology ) , and McGill University (LL.B./J.D.).He taught sociology and social policy at both the undergraduate and the graduate levels at the Ottawa, Carleton and Memorial universities; served as Stipendiary Magistrate Provincial Court Judge for the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, and acted as Crown Counsel for the Federal Government of Canada in criminal and civil matters and litigated historical aboriginal claims. He is the author and co-author of a monograph and a number of papers in academic journals. Upon his retirement in 2009, he commenced his genealogical quest in search of his ancestors from the Valencia region of Spain and the Apulia region of Italy. This is his first article on a genealogical subject.
3. A.k.a. Nissim Yossef Aseo. The surname Aseo has been spelled and continues to be spelled in number of ways. We adopt this spelling, save where the authors of the sources we review use a different spelling. The sources also disclose a variety of additional spellings of the name. Cf. footnote 44, infra. For sake of brevity, unless the context indicates otherwise, henceforth, all our references to the surname Aseo will include these spelling variations.
4. Laredo, A. Les noms des Juifs du Maroc: essai d’onomastique Judéo-marocaine , (Madrid : Instituto Arias Montano,1978), pp. 353-54, no 230 and 342-46, no.218.
5. We adopt the spelling Anqawa, save where the authors of the sources we review use a different spelling, such as Encaoua. Further, we use the name Anqawa interchangeably with the authors’ French phonetic translations of all the other Arabic variants of Anqawa, save where the context requires otherwise. The first set of such variations in the spelling of Anqawa provided by Laredo is found at p.4 infra. As is the case with the name Aseo, the sources also disclose a variety of additional spellings of the name Anqawa identified below. Again, unless the context indicates otherwise, henceforth, all the references to the surname Anqawa include these spelling variations.
6. Maurice Eisenbeth, Les Juifs d’Afrique du Nord : démographie et onomastique, Alger, 1936.
7. Eisenbeth held the position of Chief Rabbi of Algeria and was a scholar.
8.Laredo, op. cit.
9. Modern Spanish, in addition to keeping the word's original meaning, also added that of ‘tidiness’. .Asseo, with or without an accent on the letter e, is the French phonetic spelling that corresponds to the Spanish/Catalan pronunciation of Aseo. The spelling with double “s” was ultimately adopted by the majority of the Asseo families of Turkey after the arrival of French education through the schools of the Alliance Israélite Universelle beginning in 1865 and the resulting substantial positive impact of the French language and culture on the Jewish community.
10. Baruch Pinto introduced the variant spelling Elnekave. (cf. p.10, infra.)
11. The immersion is called tevila.
12. Leon Tello, Pilar, Los Judíos de Toledo, Madrid: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Instituto B. Arias Montano. 1979(2 vols.): Abuomar El Nacua (1280, p.60), Abraham Al Naqawa (1355, p.139)), Abraham Anacahua (1343, p.118), Samuel Al Naqawa (1349, p.100), Simuel Anacagua (1492, p.581), and Yucef Anacaua (1316, p.100).
13. For example, some forty (40) different spellings of the surname Abulafia are found in the research published on the Spanish juderias (Jewish quarters in the pre-1492 Spanish cities and towns) .Some of these varied spellings are: Abenafia (Tarrega, 1342), Abenafi (Xativa, 1476).(noted quarters in urban centres).These are: Abenafia (Tarrega, 1342), Abenafi (Xativa, 1476), Aben Afia (Alagon, 1287), Abenafion (Calatayud, 1291), Abenhafia (Valencia, 1244), Abinaffia (Barcelona, 1290), Abolafia (Castilla, 1424), Abulafia (Toledo, 1348), Abulafyo (Toledo, 1480), Avinjafia (Zaragoza, 1303) and Bolafia (Castellon de la Plana, 1371).
14. Asher Moissis, Les noms des Juifs de Grèce, Jean et Elie Carasso (éds.), Gordes (France), 1990.
15. Michael Molho, “Les synagogues de Salonique” in Les Juifs de Salonique, Elie Carasso (éd.), Tarascon, (France), 2000, pp. 17- 64.
16. Joseph Toledano, Histoire des Familles: les noms de familles Juifs d’Afrique du Nord, Jerusalem, 1998.
17. In Hebrew, there are no vowels and the letter vav is used both as a “V” and as a “U” Thus, the word’s Hebrew spelling can be read Alnaqua or Elnaqua or Alnakave or Elnekave. Elnekawe is the spelling used by Toledano.
18. Translated from French: En Dieu nous avons espoir.
19. Yaakov Toledano, Sefer ner hamaarav, [Candle of the West], Jerusalem: 1911. The word “West” refers to the Maghreb.
20. The largest city in Morocco.
25. Sidney is the son of the late David Corcos. A renowned historian at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, David left an abundant documentation on Mogador Jewry. Subsequently, Sidney added a large number of records to it.
26. Personal communication to M.A.T.
27. Yosef Benaim, Malkhei Rabanan, [Biographical Dictionary of Morocco Rabbis], Jerusalem, 1932.
28. Jacques Taïeb, Juifs du Maghreb : Noms de famille et société. Paris : Cercle de Généalogie Juive, 2004.
29. In English: The one who likes cleanliness, in Spanish. Extremely rare surname.
30. Baruh Pinto, cf. Comments and footnote 39, p.9, infra.
31. Faiguenboim, Guilherme et al., Dictionary of Sephardic Surnames, Sao Paolo : Fraiha, 2003.
32. For example: Cruz, Santos, Santangel, De Los Reyes.
33. Enkaoua, Enkawa, Encaua.
34. After Brazil obtained its independence from Portugal in 1822, a group of Moroccan Jews, distressed by the dire economic situation of the country, immigrated to Belém where they established a community and built a synagogue in 1829. More Moroccan Jews arrived after the “rubber boom” of the 1880s. only to see it go bust early in the twentieth century.
35. In Spanish, amarillo translates as yellow, moreno as dark (as in dark-haired men or dark skin), and albo as white.
36. Zeev is mainly used by Ashkenazi Jews.
37. The plant might also be construed as referring to the owner of a parcel of agricultural land.
38. These and other such names are also used as surnames..
39. Cf. Laredo’s thirty-five micro-biographies related to Anqawa .These include additional spelling variations of the name in the documents cited by the author.
40. The Sephardic Onomasticon, Istanbul: Gozlem, 2004.
41. ‘Curiosity’ is an incomplete translation of the Spanish word curiosidad .While the Spanish word does mean ‘curiosity’. it also means ‘cleanliness’ and ‘care’.
42. Personal communication to D.D.A. from Mr. Edwin (Eddy) Beja, whose maternal ancestry includes the surname Aseyo de Almeida.
43. The Istanbul Jewish Genealogy Project at: http://www.dankazez.com/istanbul/ identified 250 persons named Elnekave or Elnecave; while Abraham Galante, in, Histoire des Juifs de Turquie, Istanbul: Isis, 1941, (9 vols.), identifies 14 persons named Elnecave , all from Istanbul. cf. http://www.sephardicgen.com/databases/turkeygalanteSrchFrm.html.
44. Elnekave is a compound of el (God) and nekave which translates to the phrase we will hope; a future form often used for present
45. Sefarad, published in Madrid since 1941; Revue des Ėtudes Juives, published in France since 1880.
46. (a) Aseo (Valencia, 1371), Assayo (Sagunto/Murviedro, 1325), Assehu (Murviedro, 1326), Asseyhu (Murviedro, 1327), Asseo (Castellón de la Plana, 1455) Asseyo (Onda, 1336; in Laredo dated as 1339) and Asseihu and Asseyhu (Barcelona , 1327) in Maria Cinta Mañé and Gemma Escribá (eds.) and Raquel Ibáñez-Sperber, (stylistic ed.), The Jews in the Crown of Aragon: Regesta of the Cartas Reales in the Archivo de la Corona de Aragón, Jerusalem: Hispania Judaica; Ginzei Am Olam, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 1993-1995 (2 vols). Sources for the History of Jews of Spain, vols. 4-5, pp. 345, 381, 442, 812, respectively; (b) Aseo (Huete, 1488) in Laredo, op. cit., p. 353; (c) Aseo (Castellon de la Plana,1492) in Sebastia, J. Doñate and Nom de Deu, R.R. Magdalena, Three Jewish Communities in Medieval Valencia, Jerusalem: Magnes Press, The Hebrew University,1990; (d) Aseo (Orrihuela,1391), Aseo (Elche,1391), Aseyo (Murviedro,1424) in José Hinojosa Montalvo, The Jews of the Kingdom of Valencia; from Prosecution to Expulsion 1391-1492, Jerusalem, Magnes Press, The Hebrew University, 1993, and Aseya (Segunto, 1348) , personal communication. from Prof. Montalvo to D.D.A; (e) Asseov, the name of a Bulgarian Jewish soldier killed in the battlefield during the First World War, recorded in the Combined Name Index at the SephardicGen website http://www.sephardicgen.com/databases/BulgariaCasualtiesSrchFrm.html ; and (f) a suggested variant spelling, Tomaseo, found in the records of the Jasenovac Research Institute concerning the deportation of Jews during the Second World War .This information may also be located in the Central Database of Shoah Victims’ Names at: http://www.yadvashem.org/wps/portal/IY_HON_Welcome .
47. Histoire des Israélites de Salonique, Thessaloniki: 1935-1978.
48. V. 3, Chapter II, p 33. This is an abridged free translation of the author’s text.
50. The text being in Hebrew, the issue of variant spelling written in Latin characters does not arise.
51.Cf. note 46, supra.
53. Laredo, op cit. Ben Tizo (no. 566, p.623 ), Fhima (no. 973, p.991 ), Trigo (no. 568, p.624 ), Alzra’ (no.111, p.273), Albo (no.92, p.265), Amelal (no. 207, p.), Melul (no.765, p.826 ), Elmaleh, no. 140, p.289 ), Bueno (no.292, p.399)
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