14 July 2020

The Portuguese de Castro
families who escaped the
Inquisition and lived in Dublin

In the cloisters of the Sé Catedral in Lisbon … Isaac de Castro was burned to death by the Inquisition in Lisbon on 15 December 1647 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

Patrick Comerford

The de Castro surname is found among Sephardic families of Portuguese, Spanish and Italian descent. Soon after the establishment of the Portuguese Inquisition, members of the family emigrated to Bordeaux, Bayonne, Hamburg, and various cities in the Netherlands.

Their descendants were later found in every continent, and I was interested to come across a de Castro family that prospered in Dublin in the 18th century, and that – like every other de Castro family – has descendants in every part of the world.

Although the name does not indicate Jewish origins, it was adopted by some Portuguese and Spanish Jewish families after the forced conversions introduced by the Inquisition in the late 15th and early 16th centuries.

Abraham de Castro was master of the mint and farmer of the coinage for Sultan Sulaiman, in Cairo in the 16th century. He secured a firman guaranteeing the liberties of the Jews in Ottoman-ruled Egypt, and is credited with saving them from oppression.

Balthazar (Isaac) Orobio de Castro, a philosopher, physician and apologist, was born in Braganza ca 1620, but was jailed and tortured by the Inquisition in Portugal when he was exposed as a secret Jew. He fled to Amsterdam and died there in 1687.

Earlier, in 1647, the Portuguese Inquisition in Brazil compelled Isaac de Castro to choose between his Judaism and being burned alive. Isaac, who had moved from Amsterdam to Recife at the age of 16 in 1641. He was sent to Lisbon, and at a second trial there he chose his faith and martyrdom on 15 December 1647.

So, I was interested to find a Sephardic de Castro family who had strong business and cultural connections with Ireland over three generations in the 18th century.

The Irish branch of the de Castro family can be traced to his contemporary, Dr David Rodrico Namias, who was born in Lisbon in 1550, managed to flee to Hamburg, and died there in 1627. His grandson, David Namias or de Castro (1651-1702), married Sara Levie-Ximenes (1653-1722) in Amsterdam in 1670. Their eldest son, Salomon David de Castro (1671-1740), who was born in Hamburg in 1671, was the first member of the family to move to Dublin.

In 1710, Salomon or Solomon de Castro married Rachel Bravo, daughter of the poet Abraham Bravo of Bayonne, France, who was also from a Spanish or Portuguese family. The marriage is registered in the Bevis Marks Synagogue, and he settled the sum of £20,000 on his wife when they married.

Solomon and Rachel soon moved to Dublin, and lived in Capel Street, then a fashionable street. They were the parents of at least 11 children, including four who died at birth or in infancy, and seven surviving sons, many of whom were born in Dublin, including Samuel, who was born in 1725 and Daniel, who was born in 1733.

1, David ben Salomon de Castro (1714-1761), born 1714, London, died 4 October 1761, London, aged 41.
2, Jacob ben Salomon de Castro (ca 1717-1779), moved to Amsterdam.
3, Abraham ben Salomon de Castro (1720-1779), born and died in London.
4, Samuel Salomon de Castro (1725-1779), born 17 June 1725, in Capel Street, Saint Mary’s Parish, Dublin, died 18 May 1779, London, aged 53.
5, Isaac ben Salomon de Castro (ca 1726-1779), born Dublin ca 1726, lived in Livorno, Italy, and died in London in 1779.
6, Moses ben de Castro (ca 1729-1761), born ca 1729, Dublin, died 26 March 1761, Curacao, Netherland Antilles, aged about 46.
7, Daniel Salomon de Castro (1733-1790), born 1733 Dublin, died 1 November 1790, London, aged 57 years.

Although Solomon de Castro had moved to London by 1732, his wife may have waited in Dublin to follow him until their youngest son Daniel was born in in 1733 in Dublin.

Solomon de Castro was the secretary of the Portuguese and Spanish or Sephardic Community in London from 1732 until he died in 1740. He was buried in the Jewish Cemetery at Mile End in Stepney.

In his will, written in Portuguese, he asked to be buried near his wife. He left to his son David his Sefer Torah in the Synagogue to his son David, and he appointed this son David and Benjamin Mendes da Costa as guardians of his son youngest living Daniel.

Bevis Marks Synagogue, London … Solomon de Castro and his son Abraham de Castro were secretaries of the Spanish and Portuguese Jewish community for almost half a century, from 1732 to 1779 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

These seven surviving de Castro brothers worked closely together in business across the world.

The eldest son, David de Castro, worked from Bury Street in Saint Mary Axe parish, London, shipped coral to his brother Samuel in India. He married his cousin Judith, daughter of David Bravo, and died in London, and their only daughter, Sarah Judith (1752-1824), an artist, married her uncle Daniel de Castro.

The second son Jacob de Castro, lived in Amsterdam, where he was involved in cutting, polishing and selling diamonds imported from India.

The third son, Abraham de Castro, also worked from Bury Street in London, and succeeded his father as the secretary of the Spanish and Portuguese community at Bevis Marks Synagogue from 1740 to 1779. He was also the first secretary of the Deputados, later the Board of Deputies of British Jews. As secretary of the Spanish and Portuguese community, Abraham de Castro was involved in negotiating the purchase of the first Dublin Jewish cemetery at Ballybough in 1746-1748.

The fourth son, Samuel de Castro, was a merchant based in Fort St George in Madras (now Chennai), India, sending uncut diamonds to his brother Jacob in Amsterdam. He was also involved with the East India Company. He died in Islington High Street in 1779. He was the father of two sons, Samuel de Castro (1763-1822) and Daniel de Castro (1775-1840). The younger son, Daniel, married his first cousin, Rebecca Lara Lopez, daughter of Joshua Lara Lopez and Sarah Ximenes. They have descendants in England and New Zealand.

The fifth son, Isaac, moved in 1744 to Livorno (Leghorn) in Italy, a centre of the coral trade, to buy coral and send it to his brother David in London. He was the father of two sons, Solomon and Abraham, and two daughters.

The sixth son, Moses de Castro, worked first in Curacao in the Dutch West Indies, then moved to India, to take over from his brother Daniel. He built a new house for the firm of Daniel and Moses de Castro in Fort St George in 1768.

The seventh and youngest son, Daniel de Castro, moved in 1757 to Fort St George, to learn the family business from his brother Samuel. Daniel returned to London and in 1766 married Sarah Judith de Castro, the 14-year-old daughter of his late brother David.

Samuel returned to London in 1769, and in 1771 he married Sara Lara, whose sister-in-law was an aunt of the future Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli.

These Castro brothers were first cousins of Jacob de Castro (1758-1824), whose father was the headmaster of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews’ School in London. Jacob was supposed to join his cousin Moses de Castro at Fort St George, but instead decided to go on the stage in London, and became a comedian and an opera singer who also appeared on the stage in Dublin in various roles between 1793 and 1804.

Another Castro family living in Dublin in the early 19th century may have been of ‘Marrano’ or converso descent. Francis Castro was a grocer in Saint Andrew Street, and Henry Castro was a shoemaker in Aungier Street in 1804. Francis Castro’s daughter married Redmond Harte of Thomastown, Co Kilkenny, that year.

A contemporary of many of these de Castros was Felix de Castro, a Spanish physician who lived in Agramunt in the early 18th century. On 30 November 1725, he was jailed for life by the Inquisition for being a secret Jew. Similar sentences were passed on many other members of de Castro family who were doctors, including: Alvarez de Castro (25) of Pontevedra, 21 September 1722, at Santiago; Joseph de Castro (49) of Madrid and Simon de Castro (25) of Badajoz, 30 November 1722, at Llerena.

The Jewish cemetery at Ballybough, Dublin … Abraham de Castro was involved in negotiating its purchase (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)


Andy Castro said...

Hi Patrick, I am extremely interested in this post because I have been researching my family history and got back to Peter Castro, who was born in Dublin in the 1770s. Peter Castro is my direct ancestor. I have discovered a few other Castros living in Dublin in the late 1700s, some of whom you mention in this post (Francis and Henry Castro, who were brothers). I haven't found any direct links between them and Peter Castro, but given the names Peter chose for his sons, I imagine they are closely related. I'd be really interested to know about your connection with the Castros, and why you think the Castros might have been of crypto-Jewish or Marrano descent. Also, I wonder if you could give me any pointers to help me get a bit further. Many thanks and best regards, Andy

Robert de Castro said...

Hi Patrick

I'm also very pleased to find your post as I'm trying to fill in my family history.

As I understand one of my direct ancestors is Samuel de Castro (b. 17 June 1725 in Dublin). The line then follows through Daniel de Castro (b. 21 April 1775 in London), Daniel Joshua de Castro (b. 13 May 1806 in Berkshire), Percival de Castro (b. 4 October 1839 in London), Bernard Pierre Ximenes Lopes de Castro (my late grandfather, b. 19 February 1896 in Thanet), George Richard de Castro (my late father, b. 10 October 1931 in Newbury) and finally me - Robert Richard Stephen de Castro (b. 3 September 1968 in Bromley). My great uncle, Herman de Castro, was a keen genealogist and many of the details in your article seem to tie up with his notes. I'm trying to substantiate what he indicated on the family tree with actual birth, date and marriage records but this is proving challenging going back beyond Daniel Joshua de Castro.

If you are able to share any additional details or pointers that you have uncovered that would assist me in this task I would very much appreciate your help. In any case, thank you very much for writing such an informative article.

Kind Regards


Sue Crofton said...

Hello Patrick, Andy and Robert, I too have been researching the Castros. I have always been intrigued by the name Castro - indeed growing up my grandfather led me to believe that Fidel Castro was my uncle! My grandfather, Sidney Castro born in 1897 seems to be a descendant of Peter Castro (1750-1793) of Dublin. His wife seems to be Margaret Mary Grely. I haven't been able to go further back than this and would love to find out more. Like you have discovered, Andy, the names Peter, Henry and Francis crop up regularly. Any other information you have would be extremely appreciated.
Kind regards,
Sue Crofton

Lesley said...

Hi Patrick and other commenters. I am a descendant of Charles Daniel de Castro who emigrated to New Zealand around 1850 (and did quite well for himself here). I am interested in the info you have on the original Irish members David R Namias and his grandson David.
I have never seen information on them before - where did you source this?
Any idea of who is the missing link?

Very happy to provide info on the New Zealand branch of the family if it is of any interest.
Lesley Clouston

judith Rodrigues said...

Hello , I have just come across this posting with interest ! My name is Judith Rodrigues and I am researching my ggrandfather Abraham Rodrigues, Sephardic Jewish ancestry - I am trying to find out more about why my 4xggrandfather David's brother was called or nick named Abraham [the Magnate] Rodrigues as I can find absolutely no record of anything indicating what he was supposed to be a magnate of ,so its a bit of a mystery.
David Rodrigues [my 4xgrandfather] was born in 1771 and his brother Abraham [The Magnate] was born in 1772 - but I have just discovered that his Godfather [at his circumcision, Bevis Marks records ] was 'Daniel de Castro' - and so I am wondering if the addition to his name of 'The magnate'in the family tree ! could be in relation to [or a nick name] because of his Godfather being 'Daniel de Castro' who it would seem was a magnate ?
Abraham married Leah Nunes Martines , that is all I know really about him -- but reading this posting has made me think that this might be the reason he was called Abraham [the magnate] Rodrigues !?

Maurits said...

Dear Patrick,

Many thanks for this interesting post. I am currently doing a little research about Jacob de Castro, who had a daughter called Rachel de Castro who was born in 1742 or 1743 in London but who, at least in 1762, lived in Amsterdam. Because the Jacob ben Salomon de Castro you are describing and the Jacob de Castro I am looking for have the same name, lived during the same time in Amsterdam and have a connection to London, I was wondering how you found out about the Amsterdam-connection of Jacob de Castro.

Best regards,


Unknown said...

Olá Patrick. É um artigo muito interessante. Apenas um reparo: Samuel de Salomon de Castro retornou a Londres em 1759 e não em 1769. Casou com Sara Nunes de Lara em 1761. Escrevo a partir da Covilhã, Portugal, cidade de muita da família de Sara, que estava ligada às manufacturas de lanifícios. Vou apresentar um livro sobre o nascimento dessas manufacturas. A Covilhã foi a primeira cidade da Europa a ver uma comunidade de judeus, ou antes criptojudeus, lançar essa indústria em força e de forma organizada. Obrigado

Richard G.Henriquez said...

Re your note that the father of Rachel Bravo who married Solomon de David de Castro was the Poet Abraham Bravo of Bayonne. This is incorrect in that the poet Abraham Bravo in London (who was a friend of Daniel Israel Lopes Laguna) was a 1st Cousin, not the father of Rachel. The father of Rachel as you rightly wrote was from Bayonne. His wife was Lea de Joao Mendes daCosta and Maria Soares of Trancoso and Celerico respectively(b. 1658). Rachel's father Abraham Haim Israel Bravo (who is my 5th great-grandfather.) was born in Hamburg and died in Bayonne on November 25 1693.

Richard G. Henriquez, architect, Vancouver Nov 1 2023.

Anonymous said...

I'm the 8th great grandson of Dr isaac oribio de castro. Escaped inquisition living in Netherlands. My 7th great grandmother is Sarah orobio de castro his daughter.

EJ said...

Good morning... I am a direct descendant of Isahc de Castro Mattos, born 1712, who married Anna Alvares de Paz from Malaga in Amsterdam in 1733, according to their Bann. Would you have any information about who their children were? I am lloking to document their affiliation to Moses de Castro Mattos in Jamaica, married to Maria Crouch in 1840 and died in 1869. Thank you!

EJ said...

Ver intetresting post, thank you. I wonder if the De Castros are related to the De Castro Mattos? I am a direct descendant of Ishac de Castro Mattos, both 1712, who married Anna Alvares de Paz from Malaga, born 1708, in Amsterdam in 1733. I believe the is the grandfather of Moses de Castro Mattos, born 1793, died 1869 in Jamaica, married to Maria Crouch in 1840 in Jamaica. Yould you happen to have any information documenting their affiliation?
Thank you and regards

Unknown said...

Thank you. I will try identify something more abouyou question. Best regards. Jorge Patrão