on February 17, 2021

3 tips to begin your search for a Sephardic ancestor

on February 17, 2021

3 dicas para começar a busca por um ancestral sefardita

Although it is possible to seek professional help from specialized companies, such as Martins Castro, to gain Portuguese citizenship by the Sephardim, some documents are essential to start the search for ancestors. To help those who are still struggling to know where to find these documents or information, we have prepared this text with three tips on where to start.

1. The most accessible documents

The first step on this search path is also the most accessible for most people. It's about verifying your birth certificate. In it, in addition to the parents' names, there is also the name of the grandparents, both maternal and paternal. Only with this document is it possible to obtain data on three family generations (you, your parents and grandparents)

Another document that is easy to access is the your parents' marriage certificate. She can bring your great-grandparents' names. If this information is on the certificate, your search is facilitated. If not available, the ideal is to resort to birth certificates. It will contain the full names of your 8 great-grandparents (4 on each certificate).

2. The grandparents

Your certificate and that of your parents have already given you information about four generations. However, when we talk about Sephardic ancestry, we need to go back a few more generations in time until we find the link. Thus, information from grandparents is very important. In case your grandparents are alive, ask them to their marriage and birth certificates. These documents will give you information about your great-grandparents and great-grandparents.

But if your grandparents are already dead, there's no reason to give up. Check with relatives if anyone kept these documents. It is common for a family member to be the custodian of these records. If you still cannot access the documents, it is possible to try a duplicate. And this is where the work of research and information mining begins.

Start with your grandparents' birth and death dates and identify the city where they were born and buried. With this information you can start a search for the registry where these documents may have been registered. It is important to explain that you do not necessarily need both certificates. The one from birth is always better, as it brings information from three generations. It turns out that many times, to get to the birth information, the information contained in the death information helps, such as the place of birth.

3. I got this far. And now?

With all the information gathered from the certificates you have obtained, you are expected to have at least the full name of four generations beyond your own. At this point there are two possibilities. What will require more time and dedication from you is to continue your search for a Sephardic ancestor on your own. This will mean looking for documents from your great-great-grandparents and great-grandparents, as well as historical documents that can prove the genealogical link between each generation. It must be said that in some cases it is necessary to go back to the 18th generation, that is, at least 15 generations prior to your grandparents, until you find the Sephardic ascendant.

A tool that can help in this research process is the use of platforms dedicated to the construction of family trees, such as the Family Search. On these sites you can start building your genealogy and you are notified if your tree connects with that of another site user who eventually has a familiar trunk in common with you. 

The second path, the simplest, is that of seek professional help to do genealogy research. This possibility usually saves time and makes the process of obtaining citizenship more agile, since it is difficult for interested parties to deal with these searches full-time. In addition, professionals working in the genealogical field have extensive documentation and bibliography, and it is possible that they have already done other studies that include branches of your family that you do not know about. In cases this happens, it is often enough to link you to that branch of the family that is already demonstrably descended from a Sephardic Jew.

Finally, it is important to keep in mind that, regardless of going it alone or seeking help from a professional, it is necessary to keep the documents organized and well preserved, as to start the process they had to be attached to the citizenship application. The recommendation is that you keep all documentation grouped in a physical folder, organizing certificates and other records by generations. Also, as part of the path to the citizenship application itself takes place via the internet, it's also good to have everything digitized and organized in a computer folder. When naming the files, it helps to keep a standard that contains the type of certificate and the name of its owner.

Find out if you are a Sephardic Jew descent

You can find out if you have Sephardic ancestry. To do this, you just have to correctly answer all the fields on our pre-analysis form. There are no costs associated with completing the form.