Thursday, December 18, 2014

Was Great Grandma A Marranos of Portugal

1807 engraving showing people being tortured during the Spanish Inquisition
Last year a distant cousin posted a story titled "Marranos return to Judaism after 500 years" (source on the page for my 10th great grandmother Susana DaCruz.  

I read the article and have been thinking about it ever since.  I've always had a strong affinity for Jewish people, so wouldn't it be amazing if I actually have a small percentage of Jewish blood flowing through my veins.


Marranos were originally Jews living in the Iberian Peninsula who converted or were forced to convert to Christianity.  Many of whom may have continued to practice Judaism in secret for more than five centuries.

Spanish Inquisition

Following the Spanish Inquisition in 1492, the Jews of Spain were expelled, and many fled to Portugal.  Then in 1497, the Jews of Portugal were forced to convert Christianity.  However, many of the converted Jews -- called marranos "pigs" by Christians -- continued to practice Judaism in secret.

It has been suggested that many of the converts, after being forced to abandon their Jewish names, chose surnames with a Catholic connotation to offer apparent proof of their loyalty to their new faith. 

A surname often chosen was Cruz -- which means cross.  In fact, the name Cruz is so widespread in Covilha, Portugal that a Portuguese author facetiously remarked that in that town there are more "Crosses" than in the cemetery.

Susana DaCruz

We may never know the truth about Susana DaCruz who was born 1628 in Sao Joao, Lisbon, Portugal, and died 28 Oct 1671, in St Jean, Lisbon, Portugal.  Given her name and the location of her birth there is a good chance she was part of a Marranos family.

Susana married João Rodrigues before 1650, in Lisbon, Portugal.  Their son João Rodrigue was born 1650 in St Jean, Lisbon, Portugal and emigrated to Quebec, New France (Canada) before 1671.  Records in New France identify João Rodrigue's mother as Susana LaCroix.

Update 2016

The results for my DNA tests suggest that I have from 0 to 2% European Jewish ancestry.  Statistically the result is zero, and states, "These are regions included in our evaluation, but where there is very little evidence that the region is part of your genetic ethnicity. Both the estimated amount and the range of the estimate are very small or zero."

However, in most other ethnicity regions such as Native American, West Africa, Pacific Islanders, and Asia my range is 0 to 0%, suggesting that there is, in fact, some small percentage of European Jewish ancestry.

In as much as Susana DaCruz is my 10th great grandmother the DNA I share with her is bound to be very small indeed, so I'm inclined to believe my 0 to 2% European Jewish ancestry comes from her.


  1. I stumbled upon my/our great grandmother Anne LeRoy. I have the same 2% link as you. Thank you for posting this information.

    All the best-
    Lorraine McG.

    1. My many times ago grandmother was Esther LeRoy. She married Gabriel Bernon. They were from La Rochelle.

  2. It would be interesting if someone with a direct female line to Susanna could do a mitochondrial DNA test.

  3. Just came across this page as I've just discovered she is my 9th great grandmother according to Ancestry and for European Jewish my estimate is 9%. Thank you for sharing this information!

  4. It's so hard to tell sometimes where a small percentage orinates. Have you uploaded to gedmatch? I've also read Rodrigues could originally be Jewish as well. I had uploaded my raw data from ancestry to 23and me when they offered a free upload last year for new years only. I had Ashkenazi show up as a very small percentage when they had an update but then it dissapeard after another update. It's possible both had Jewish origins! Ill have to research more

  5. Meant to say originates not orinates lol

  6. I has a similar experience with an ancestry (dot) com update. It was something like .02% European Jewish and now is gone.

  7. Interesting article. Susana is my 10th great grandmother also. Here is some interesting info for you that I found in the Potuguese inquisition trials database >>>

    1. In those results you will find a Joao Rodrigues with a trial date of 1625-27. This would definitely be a potential match for Suzana's husband.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. One of the criteria for Portuguese citizenship is sephardic Jewish portuguese descent.

  9. Wow! That is really interesting to me. Thanks for sharing.