Jewish Genealogy in Italy

Genova (Genoa)

Record Repositories
Resources of the 18th and the 19th century
Genova censuses of 17th century 
Surnames of the Jews of Genova 

Jews are attested in Genova  since Roman times. Two letters written in the years 507 and 511 by Theodoric, the Ostrogothian king, speak about "jura veterum"  (old rights) of the Jews and the right to "rebuild" the roof of the synagogue given to the Jews of Genova.
Jews were involved in in the trade between the Liguran port  and Spain and Provence and they contributed to the growth of the indipendent Commune of Genova. Benjamin de  Tudela writes in the 12th century that in Genova "live two Jews, R. Semuel b. Salim and his brother, originally of the town of Ceuta". This confirm the strict relations between the town and the ports of North Africa since old times.  In these centuries the community  existence is attested by documents which speak about "judei qui sunt. . . judei qui fuerint . . judei habitatores. . .".
 In the 14th century a civil war broke up in town, but Jews were not directly involved. The commercial attitude of the people, the indifference towards pontificial laws, the tolerance and  pragmatism of the Genoese made the town and its dominions  good places where to trade and maybe to live.
In Genova there was not a special legislation for Jews and neither anti-Jews controversy:  for many centuries foreigners could easily became citizens. Even the economic crisis of the fifteenth  century facilitated the integration of the Jews.
When the Kings of Castilla begun the reconquista of Spain, Genova became a good commercial partner and a militar allied of the crown. These relations involved also Jews and became crucial when Jews begun to be persecuted in Spain and latter  when they were definitely expelled.
The first ship of refugees from Spain arrived in Genova in 1478, but the most arrived after the expulsion, in  autumn and winter months of 1492-1493. How many? We don't know,  "thousands" say the witnesses.
Some saw Genova as an international port from which they could move to other destinations, others wanted to settle in town to tie new relations or strengthen old relations, but many  arrived with no possibilities. Furthermore in the spring 1493 the plague struck Genoa.
For the just arrived Jews begun a tragedy with unbelievable sufferings: "multi fame absumti sunt et in primis lactantes et infantes. . . qui non habebant unde naulum solverent, filios vendebant".
Fourty years after the arrival from Spain Jews begun to live in Genova in a relative peace. But with the Counter-Reformation some fanatic friars begun to ask their expulsion. The Government answered giving temporary permissions to reside in town on condition that Jews wore the jellow badge, and this mesures lasted about a century.

Number of the Jews in Genova:

Year Jews in Genova
1500  ?
1660 200
1700 100
1834 280
1935 2.500
1970 600

Most immigrants were Marranos and Levantines, thus Spanish became the official language of the Jewish community of Genova. A network of commercial relations throughout all the Mediterranean area was established because Jews who came in town  kept contacts with the places of origin and because of  the presence of Jews in the far colonies of Genova.
In 1656 the plague hit Genoa and a deep social and economic crisis started. The Government  tryed to improve the commerce declaring Genova a free port and admitting Jews in town with some strict conditions.
The free port failed to restore business because of the economic competition of the port of Livorno which had on it's hand a real free town.
In 1660 a first ghetto was built, but soon became insufficient to contain all the Jews. In 1674 a second larger ghetto was built. But also this second ghetto had a short life. When the Government begun to issue new  restrictions (forced sermons, obligation to wear yellow badges, special taxation) the Jews begun to push to reside out of it or left the town for the countryside. So in 1679 this second ghetto was abolished and never rebuild.
In aim to build these ghettos and to control the Jewish population, several census were taken in the 17th century: 1662, 1663, 1669, 1674 etc.(see an example).
During this period only personal permits of residency where grant. But the internal and international political crisis lead to a more liberal legislation: in 1710 a new Charter was issued that granted the Jewish community official tollerance. In 1752 the badge, by that time no more used, was officialy abolished. After the Declaration of Human Rights and the invasion of the French Army the ideas of equality reached Italy.
With the new freedom the Jewish population of Genova begun to increase: in 1870 about 500 Jews lived in Genova.
In 1935 the community reached 2500, but another period of persecutions was near to come.

Record Repositories:
- Jewish Community of Genova
Address: Via Bertora 6, cap.161122  - Genova.
Tel. 0108391513
Fax 010/8461006

State Archive of Genova
Address: via 40 - 5712, fax: 086896782 
State Archive of Genova

- Genova Town Archive
Address: Palazzo Ducale, Piazza Matteotti, 8 - 16123 Genova 
Tel. 0105574808; fax 0105574823 

Resources from the 17th to the 19th  century:
List of records that can be found for the Jews of Genova:

Births Matrimonies Dearths Other
Permissions to Jewish physicians and merchant 1417-1805
Census 1662 (see an example)
Lists of Heads of family 1669 (see an example)
Census 1674
List of tax payers 1675
Census 1705
List of of Heads of family 1725
1796-1805 1796-1805 1796-1805
1806-1813 1806-1813 1806-1813 Census 1823, 1834
1818-1865 1839-1865 1818-1865 Census 1856, 1871
1865-2000 1882-2000 1865-2000

- Annie Sacerdoti, Guida al'Italia Ebraica, Marietti, Genova: 1986, English transl.  by Richard F. De Lossa, Guide to Jewish Italy, Israelowitz Publishing, Brooklyn NY: 1989. 
- Guido Nathan Zazzu, Juifs dans le territoire genois au bas moyen age, Jerusalem 1975. 
- Guido Nathan Zazzu, Sepharad addio. 1942: i profughi ebrei dalla Spagna al "ghetto" di Genova, Marietti, Genova 1991.
- Gian GiacomoMusso, Per la storia degli ebrei nella Repubblica di Genova tra il Quattrocento e il Cinquecento, Feltrinelli editore, Milano 1971.
- Archivio di Stato di Genova, Comunitā Israelitica di Genova, Ebrei a Genova. Esposizione fotografica di documenti archivistici dal XII al XVIII secolo, 10-15 giugno 1984.

Surnames of the Jews of Genova :
Most frequent surnames found in documents of the 17th-19th centuries:
Aluarenga, Baez, Balenzin, Baruch, Barux, Blanco, Blandy, Brandes Osuna, Calvo, Cassuto, Cassutto, Cazeres, Coen,
Coronel, Cubi, Da Costa Leon, David, De Acosta, De Campos, De Cases, De Chaves, De Costa, De Luna, De Olibera,
De Paz, De Silva, De Sora, De Villareal, Del Mar, Dela Tomba, Dias, Enriques, Enriquez, Enriquez Perez, Escanaa,
Fano, Ferrera, Finze, Gabay, Gabib, Galindo, Gomes, Gomez, Graceni, Gutierrez, Habiglio, Harbib, Laiz, Laserta, Leon, Levi, Lusena, Machado, Mari, Mari, Menbreque, Mendes Osuna, Mendes Pegna, Mendes Salazar, Mendez, Messa, Nahum, Napolitano, Osorio, Paez, Pancier, Panzier, Pegna, Peņa, Pensiero, Pereyra, Perez, Pinhas, Rodrighes, Rodrighes Lopes, Rodrigues, Rossi, Salazar, Salsead, Sampaio, Sasportas, Semaxia, Serra, Silva, Sobrino, Suner, Tamis Fonseca, Taselo, Tayque, Teubel, Tison, Treves, Tudesco, Vaes, Vaez, Vaez Peņa, Vaez Penya, Valensin, Valensino, Valenzi, Valenzin, Vas Nunes, Villareal, Ysirun, Zaportas, Zarfatti, Zoportas.