The congregation in the early days like the “mother” S&P community in Amsterdam, was led by a small committee called the “Mahamad” consisting of two Wardens (Parnassim) and a Treasurer (Gabay), chosen annually from among the Elders. In the mid-19th century this body became an elected Executive. The Mahamad compiled the first Laws of the Congregation (Ascamot) – owing much to Amsterdam and Venice – which were designed to maintain a pious, united and well-ordered community. With the expressed support of the Elders and, for some purposes, of the members as well, the Mahamad levied taxes (finta) on members, chose and paid the Haham (Chief Rabbi) and other officials, received offerings, legacies etc. authorized the solemnization of marriages and distributed charity both in money and in kind – matzot for Passover, coal and blankets in winter. (My paternal grandmother Sophia Ottolangui always known as Mrs. Langley, as I remember, had blankets embroidered with the letters SPJC for “Spanish and Portuguese Jews Community”) Many charitable activities, such as education, looking after the sick poor, burials, charity to the Holy Land, the redemption of captives, were separately organized as in Amsterdam. Their affairs were regulated in a similar fashion with a Parnas or the Treasurer at the head, and subscribers where appropriate. Later, some of these institutions were combined and came to be administered by the Congregation’s Secretariat. Much of the early organization of the Congregation survives, with modifications up to the present day.
The leaders of the Congregation were methodical men, mostly merchants, and they preserved their records very carefully. Important documents were kept in an ‘Iron Chest’, a safe which still existed until fairly recently. In the 19th century, as was the custom in local churches, each year’s records were deposited in a lidded wooden box with the date written on the outside. These boxes were stored in the attic roof space at Bevis Marks Synagogue. In the 1970s they were removed to the Congregation’s offices in Maida Vale.
For many years a small number of volunteers devoted much time to bringing the mass of records into order. The importance of the genealogical records was recognized and it became the Congregation’s policy to publish them, ensuring their availability to the wider community. All the records of births, circumcisions, marriages and burials up to the end of the 19th century are now in print. They are fully indexed and contain informative introductory essays.
Until 1819 the congregation’s records were written in Portuguese. This caused no great difficulty in transcription, though sometimes the handwriting did, but the indexes were another matter. Before 1850 they were compiled in a curious way, by first names in the order in which Patriarchs, Prophets and Kings of Israel appear in the Bible. Non-Biblical names follow. This nightmarish arrangement was perhaps based on a Portuguese system relating to the names of Saints which was of use in the 17th Century. Fortunately, surnames were always recorded in full.
Two marriage registers have been published covering the period 1686 – 1837 and 1837 – 1901. Marriage contracts in Hebrew (Ketubot) for all weddings performed by the Congregation’s Rabbis were always copied into special books, as they still are. There is one book missing, for 1794 -1811. The gap has been partly filled using the Mahamad’s records of Licenses given to the Haham to perform the ceremony.
The first register (Bevis Marks Records Part II) contains the transliterated names of the parties to the marriages extracted from the Hebrew Ketubot, some 1840 in all. The names are given in the form groom’s first name ‘de’ (= son of) and father’s full name, then the bride’s name similarly, followed by the Jewish calendar date. A number of Ashkenazi women married into the Congregation from about the end of the 18th century and these entries do not usually have the father’s surname. Further research in the Minute Books has however revealed some names which will be incorporated at a later date.
In the period 1702 – 1735 there was a notable influx of immigrants from Portugal and a number of entries at this time include the words “Vindos de Portugal”, meaning they came from Portugal, evidently indicating the couple was already married. Arrangements were made for them to fulfil religious requirements for marriage and then receive the Ketubah.
For the second register (Bevis Marks Records III) the entries from the Ketubot have been combined with data from the official government registration, which began in mid-1837, and are presented in tabular form. They give much more information – ages of the parties, their addresses, professions and those of their fathers, witnesses and other points of interest. Some later entries record only a religious marriage, i.e. evidence that a previous civil marriage had taken place, as was the case with my great-grandparents Aaron Ottolangui and Leah de Souza. Before the 1860’s marriages were usually celebrated in private houses and not in synagogue, as is the common practice nowadays.
Records of children’s births were not at first maintained by the Congregation but the names of male children were kept in registers by individual circumcisers (Mohalim). The earliest book is that of Isaac Carriao de Paiba and his son Abraham which covers the period 1715 – 1775. and contains nearly 1500 entries, including a few Ashkenazim. It was exceedingly difficult to transcribe and edit and was completed (as Bevis Marks Records Part IV) only after painstaking effort by Dr Richard Barnett, a previous Honorary Archivist. He also wrote an historical Introduction including the fascinating story of the immigrants from Portugal in the early 18th century. Some further research which resulted in a partial reconstruction of a list of circumcisions in 1679 – 1699, and a few marriages in 1679 – 89. with some female births, supplement this work.
In 1767 the Congregation decided to set up a full record of male and female births. The register covers the period up to 1881, though it is rather incomplete in the later years, once official registration became compulsory. Four lists of circumcisions have been incorporated into this publication, Bevis Marks Records Part V containing some 6,000 entries, 300 of them Ashkenazim. Mothers’ first names appear in this book as well as full names of godparents, mainly for Sephardi circumcisions.
Burial records date from the founding of the Congregation. The first cemetery the Velho (= Old) Beth Haim (House of Life) in Mile End Road, East London was in use from 1657 until 1735. The register, containing some 1100 entries, two-thirds of them children, was published in 1962 by the Jewish Historical Society of England (Miscellanies VI). It is hoped that in the future a revision of this work will be published and included in it some 100 epitaphs transcribed from the gravestones.
The Novo (= New) Beth Haim Cemetery, further east along Mile End Road, adjacent to the present Queen Mary College, was in use from 1733 until 1918, some years after a third cemetery was opened at Hoop Lane in Golders Green in north west London. The Novo cemetery was partly cleared in 1973 in accordance with Rabbinic requirements, when a compulsory purchase order was issued. All the graves on the west side of those buried prior to 1873 about 7,000 were exhumed without any photographic record. Reinternments were carried out in a mass grave at a specially purchased site Brentwood, Essex.
The Novo cemetery burial register (Bevis Marks records Part VI) contains about 10,000 entries (about 40% of them children) between 1733 and 1918. Much additional material has been incorporated – a few hundred epitaphs in Portuguese, English and Hebrew, details of addresses, age. All the information is linked by a common serial number to help the user.
The Velho (old) Cemetery of the congregation is shown as ‘The Jews Old Burying Ground’ on Joel Gascoyne’s 1703 map and on John Rocque’s map as the Novo as “The Jew’s New Burying Ground.”
The first record in the burial register is in 1657, which was the burial of Mrs Isaac de Brito, for which the churchwardens of (St Katharine) Cree Church lent a pall for a fee of 2/4d and tolled the church bell. Don Antonio Carvajal was the second person to be buried here in 1659, his tomb was restored in 1925. He was a merchant who had come to London in 1633 becoming with Robles, a leader of the congregation. Carvajal was the lessee of the building in Cree Church Lane which had housed the community’s first synagogue – hence the connections with the wardens of St. Katherine Cree. The land for the burial ground was leased by Carvajal, being 2 of 3 plots which had been part of the gardens and orchard of the Soldiers’ Tenement public house. It was extended when the third strip of land was leased in 1670 and again in 1684 when the rest of the orchard was purchased by Alvares de Fonseca, who later gifted it to the congregation in his will. The cemetery was enclosed by high brick walls on all sides, and a stone tablet on the north wall is inscribed in Portuguese, reading in translation ‘The first stone of this wall was laid on 21 Tammuz or 7 June 1684′. The freehold was finally granted to the synagogue in 1737, by which time the cemetery was to all intents and purposes full, although burials still took place there in 1742. In total, some 1,706 burials had taken place with the tombstones laid horizontally in the Sephardic tradition. The oldest graves are in the north-west corner. In the south-west corner are a number of raised graves of distinguished rabbis, including that of Haham Raphael Meldola (died 1828), who was buried at his own request at the feet of his mentor and predecessor Haham David Nieto. A number of the gravestones are elaborate, with fine carving and interesting motifs, one such found on a number of tombs being that of an axe striking a tree (Etz HaHaim?). A new site had already been purchased further east up Mile End Old Town, which opened in 1733 as the Novo (New) Cemetery.
Among those buried at the Velho are Simon de Caceres (died 1704), who was Cromwell’s adviser on the defence of Jamaica; Don Isaac Lindo (died 1712), an ancestor of Benjamin Disraeli; and Don Fernando Mendes (died 1724) who was physician to King John IV of Portugal and King Charles II. The cemetery also contains graves of 15 victims of the Plague of 1665 and there are graves of over 630 children.
In 1748 the Beth Holim or Hospital and Old People’s Home of Spanish and Portuguese Jews was founded and at first was located in Leman Street, before moving to the site of the Novo in 1790. According to Mrs Basil Holmes, writing in 1896, the old cemetery ‘or at any rate a part of it’ was ‘actually turned into a sort of garden for the patients in the hospital, with trees in it, paths and seats’. Albert Stern House was built in 1912.
In 1977 the Beth Holim moved again, this time to Edinburgh House in Forty Avenue in Wembley where there is an S&P synagogue. Novo is now a garden in the campus of Queen Mary University of London and Albert Stern House is now a student hostel.
The Novo Beth HaHaim Cemetery
Note that in accordance with the western Sephardi tradition, gravestones are laid horizontally, with no headstones.
Ottolangui Burials – (All registered as “Ottolengui” as that would be the correct Portuguese spelling of Ottolenghi – the “…gui” in Portuguse gives the “hard g” sound the same as the “…ghi” in Italian
From Bevis Marks Burial Records Part 6. 1733 to 1918 All buried at the Novo (New) Cemetery
Otolengui Ribca 2 Feb 1737 / 383
Ottolengui Abigail wife of Israel 7 Jan 1855 / 6846
Ottolengui Abraham 10 May 1866 / 7425
Ottolengui Amelia de Aron 2 Nov 1841 / 5953
Ottolengui Bella de Menahem 29 Oct 1868 / 7577
Ottolenghi Bilah de David 12 Feb 1800 / 4232
Ottolengui Bilah of Israel 7 Sep 1857 / 7028
Ottolengui David 14 April 1814 / 4942
Ottolengui David de Israel 11 April 1809 / 4661
Ottolengui Deborah widow of Abraham 11 May 1876 / 8027
Ottolengui Elisha 9 July 1860 / 7121
Ottolengui Elizabeth widow of Elisha 27 Oct 1887 / 8697
Ottolengui Elisheba/ Betsy wife of Samuel 5 Feb 1890.
Died 3 Feb 1890, aged 83. / 8835E
Ottolengui Haim de Aron 11 April 1854 / 6494
Ottolengui Israel 14 Sep 1828 / 5495
Ottolengui m. of Israel 4 Jan 1855 / 6857 (m. = stillborn or a baby
up to 5 weeks old.)
Ottolengui m. of Israel 20 Oct 1858 / 6929
Ottolengui Israel 30 April 1869 / 7597
Ottolengui Israel de Israel 5 March 1860 / 6962
Ottolengui Jacob de Aron 6 April 1840 / 5938
Ottolengui* Leah widow of Israel 13 March 1890 / 8844
Ottolengui Menahem 14 June 1786 / 3384
Ottolengui Menahem 8 Oct 1873 / 7899
Ottolengui Miriam de Israel 14 Nov 1842 / 6085
Ottolengui Mordecai of Aaron 6 Dec 1918. Hackney Infirmary, died
4 Dec 1918, aged 72. / 9637
Ottolengui Aaron buried 25 Aug 1874. Died 23 Aug 1874, aged 64.
Ottolengui Reynah 28 Oct 1874. Loved wife of Aaron, died 26 Oct
1874, aged 61. / 7932E
Ottolengui Samuel 19 Sep 1897. Died 16 Sep 1897, aged 97. Beth
Holim. / 9290E
Ottolengui Sarah wife of Abraham 9 Oct 1842. Sarah Langley, aged
42, died 8 Oct 1842. / 6081
Ottolengui Sarah de Moses 30 Jan 1854 / 6485
Ottolengui Sarah Reyna daughter of Moses 30 Dec 1840.
Spitalfields, Mddx. died 29 Dec 1840. / 5947
*The grave of Ottolengui Leah nee de Souza (#8844) together with some 80 others was destroyed by German bombing in the Second World War. She was reburied in a common crypt and her name is commemorated on the stone plinth that stands at the centre of a memorial garden laid out in the form of a six-pointed star (Magen David) in memory of those whose graves were destroyed
Other Ottolangui events appearing in the congregation records:
Bevis Marks Birth Register 1767 to 1881 Part 5.
Reyna Otalingua and Selomoh Barehas were godparents to Jonah Dorsa 15.2.1783:
Births to Israel & Miriam Ottolengui
David born 25 Jan 1793 (Ottolingui David de Israel buried 11 April 1809)
Menahem born 11 Feb 1798
Samuel born 27 Dec 1805 circumcised 10 Jan 1806. Godfather was David Ottolenghi Godmother Bella wife of Haham Raphael Mendola.
Moses born 22 Jan 1808 and circ. 29 Jan 1808. Godfather was Israel Ottolenghi and godmother Masaltob Romano.
Aaron born 6 June 1810 circ. 13 June 1810. Godparents David & Rebekah Romana.
David born 27 Oct 1812, circ. 3 Nov 1812. Godparents Isaac & Sarah Nathan.
Israel born 16 May 1814, circ. 23 May 1814. Godfather Israel Ottolengui, godmother Bella Ottolengui.
Births to Moses & Emma Ottolengui
Jacob 19 Nov 1834
Rachel 7 Feb 1837
Israel 19 June 1841
Serina 7 Nov 1843
David 13 March 1846
Joshua 22 July 1848
Hannah 8 April 1856
Birth to Moses & Jemima (Emma) Ottolengui
Sarah born 8 Jan 1852.
Births to Aaron de Israel & Reyna Ottolengui
Rachel 3 June 1833
Israel 28 Feb 1835
Jacob 24 April 1837 (A Jacob de Aron Ottolengui was buried 6 April 1840)
Miriam 20 June 1839
Jacob 29 March 1841
Abraham 3 Feb 1843
Mordecai 30 Dec 1845
Miriam 2 Aug 1847
Eliza 6 Sep 1849
Zebi 29 Aug 1852
Guershon 28 April 1854
Sarah 22 Feb 1857
Emma 23 July 1859
Birth to Israel & Leah Ottolengui
David 12 May 1861. This is actually Aaron Ottolangui
Birth to Israel & Rachel Ottolengui
Bella 15 July 1800.
Birth to Israel & Sarah Ottolengui
Israel 3 Nov 1859
Birth to Israel & Simha Ottolenghi
Abraham 15 Aug 1795
By Record Number
1248 Jacob Vitta de Shabetai Murgi and Judith de David Ottolingui 12 Heshvan 5546 24.10.1787
1306 Israel de David Ottolengue and Miryam de Abraham Alevy 15 Heshvan 5553 -31.10.1792
1338 Jeudah Abenatar and Sara de David Ottolengi
14 Nisan 5555 – 3.4.1795
1430 Mordacai de Masliah Baruch and Sarah de Judah Abenater de David Ottolengue 5 Adar 5566 – 23.2.1806
1629 Menaham de Israel Ottolengui and Bilha de Judah Leb 15 Ab 5583 – 23.7.1823 **
1659 Abraham de Israel Ottolengui and Sarah de Moses Toledano 14 Tishri 5586 – 26.9.1825
1741 Samuel de Israel Ottolengui and Brina de Jacob Levy 7 Shebat 5591 – 21.1.1831**
1743 Moses de Israel Ottolengui and Emma de Jacob Bensabat 14 Adar 5591 – 27.2.1831**
1768 Elisha de Israel Ottenlengui and Bilha de Leb de Beer 5 Elul 5592 – 31.8.1832
1775 Aaron de Israel Ottolengui and Reyna de Jacob Bensabat 14 Nisan 5593 – 3.4.1833 **
By Marriage date.
22.9.1839 Israel Ottolengue to Abigail Martines – Butler Street, Spitalfields
28.5.1847 Abraham Ottolengui to Debora Cohen – 24 Tenter Street
17.12.1856 Israel Ottolengui (widower) to Leah De Souza – 20 Shepherd Street Spitalfields
19.8.1857 Jacob Ottolangui to Fanny Frumet Simmons – 29 Shepherd Street Spitalfields and Bride – 29 Field Lane, Holborn.
26.2.1868 Amelia Ottolangui to David Romano – 25 Shepherd Street, groom – 11 Carlton Street, wedding at 38 Mansell St Goodman’s Fields
27.1.1884 Aaron Ottolengi to Miriam Sharp ( Mary) – no addressses given.