It wasn’t until I was researching Jewish genealogy for my father-in-law that I began to see a pattern in my matriarchal line. Never had I suspected that my Banta/Bonte ancestors were Jewish, there was never any reason to. We weren’t Jewish. It was never brought up. I should have suspected something. Growing up with only a Southern and Mid-Western identity, should have been a red flag. But when you’re sixteen, who cares? Except for the occasional What are we Mommy? so that I could chime in when my friends recited their ethnic backgrounds, it didn’t matter.
Once I was on the trail to uncover the truth about my ancient ancestry, I was pleased to see the surname Bonte on the list of Jews asked to leave Spain. Great lead. These same ancestors changed their surname to Jacobse and were known to use Jacobs. Jacobse, Jacobs and Jacobi are all Hebrew names. Even Epke, which my very ancient ancestor went by, I believe means Jacob. And the surname Leeuw was used as well. Leeuw and all its variations are Dutch for “Lion,” which is what medieval Jews were required to use when they signed documents. I was so astonished by these findings, I became obsessed with uncovering the truth behind many an American surname.
Suellen Ocean is the author of Secret Genealogy – A How-to for Tracing Ancient Jewish Ancestry, Secret Genealogy II – Uncovering the Jewish Roots of Our Christian Ancestors, Secret Genealogy III – From Jewish Anglo-Saxon Tribes to New France Acadians, Available here:
Secret Genealogy: http://www.amazon.com/dp/0965114082
Secret Genealogy II: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1484053222
Secret Genealogy III: http://www.amazon.com/dp/148407579X
As genealogists our task is to reach into the past. We find the father then we want the father’s father but eventually we reach silence. Who were these people? One way to decipher who your ancestors were is by analyzing their names. The surnames (and first names) of ancestors will not unequivocally tell us what religion they were but those who have ancestors with names resembling “Jacob” or “Lion” might want to change their line of thinking. Don’t assume your ancestors have always been Christian. Try looking at it from a different standpoint. Maybe they were Jewish and they abandoned an odd name along the way but kept resemblances of it. In the Torah (Bible), “Jacob” is referred to as “Israel.” One of his sons was Judah from whence came the name “Jew.” Judah is synonymous with “lion.” In the ancient past, a Jewish man could sign documents as either “Judah” or “Lion.” Eventually Lion became a surname.
Suellen Ocean is the author of Secret Genealogy – A How-to for Tracing Ancient Jewish Ancestry, Secret Genealogy II – Uncovering the Jewish Roots of Our Christian Ancestors and Secret Genealogy III – From Jewish Anglo-Saxon Tribes to New France Acadians. Available here:
Secret Genealogy: http://www.amazon.com/Secret-Genealogy-Volume-Suellen-Ocean/dp/0965114082
Secret Genealogy II: http://www.amazon.com/Secret-Genealogy-II-Christian-Ancestors/dp/1484053222
Secret Genealogy III: http://www.amazon.com/Secret-Genealogy-III-Jewish-Anglo-Saxon-Acadians/dp/148407579X
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