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Tracing The Origin of The Purjesz Family

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The goal of this project is to try and find the roots of the Purjesz Family.

A personal note; Ilana Burgess

The Purjesz family is a classic example of the forced "wandering Jew". They most probably originated somewhere in ancient Israel, exiled 2000+ years ago and had to move from one country to the other in search of a safe haven.

At some stage they made their home in Spain and during the inquisition moved into Central Europe. My branch of the family settled in Hungary in the 18th century. Most of the family was murdered during the Holocaust. My mother survived and made her home in Israel where I was born. Back to the original starting point - a full circle.

According to the family legend, they lived in Burgos Spain and were forced to leave in 1492. Some managed to escape before or during the inquisition and settled in Italy. Other members of the family converted to Christianity and managed to leave after 1492. In Italy the anusim were able to be converted back to Judaism. Some members of the family moved from Italy to Turkey, Bulgaria, Temeszvar Romania and then finally settled in Hungary. The first record I have of a Purjesz in Hungary is Adam Purjesz. I've found out recently that Adam Purjesz name was Adam Burjes and was changed to Purjesz in the late 1700's or early 1800's. Adam Purjesz

According to the story, Adam Purjesz was still in possession of the Spanish family crest. The family name was very important to them and so was their Spanish heritage. My mother told me that her mother and grandmother followed many Sephardic traditions while living in an Ashkenazi community.

Over the two decades in Hungary the family became prominent and included many physicians, lawyers, bankers, business people, politician and officers in the Austro Hungarian army.

Hope you found the following information interesting. Ilana

Who is Sephardi?

Sepharad is the medieval Hebrew term for the Iberian peninsula. The culture of Sephardic Jewry, whose "Golden Age" during the Muslim era produced such luminaries as Maimonides and Ibn Ezra, did not cease to exist with the expulsion of Jews from Spain, under the Christian Inquisition, in 1492. Sephardic culture and traditions, intellectual, liturgical, and linguistic, have been maintained by descendants of exiles from Spain and Portugal in many parts of the globe to this very day.

Who are the anusim?

The religious legal term anusim were applied to those Jews who were forced to abandon Judaism against their will but who did whatever was in their power to continue practicing Judaism under the forced condition. The terminology derives from the Talmudic phrase "aberá be ones", meaning "a forced transgression." The Hebrew term "ones" originally referred to any case where a Jew has been forced into any act against his or her will. The term anús is used in contradistinction to meshumad (מְשֻׁמָּד), which means a person who has voluntarily abandoned the practice of Jewish Law in whole or part. Following the mass forced conversion of Sephardi Jews in the 14th and 15th centuries, the term "anusim" became widely used by Spanish rabbis and their successors for the following 600 years, henceforth becoming associated with Sephardic history. (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

The history of Spanish/Portuguese Jewry settling in Italy

Italy was an obvious destination for conversos wishing to leave Spain and Portugal. Due to the similarity of the Italian language to Spanish, their Christian cultural background and high level of European-style education, the new emigrants were able to assimilate with ease.

It was advantageous to allow the conversos to settle and mix with the existing Jewish communities in towns such as Venice, Ferrera, Ancona and Naples. The rulers turned a blind eye to the conversos religious status. The children of the conversos could be brought up as fully Jewish with no legal problem, as they had never been baptized.

Many of the refugees settling in Italy were merchants and they maintained a presence in both Italy and countries in the Ottoman Empire. Some of the families who settled permanently in the Ottoman Empire retained their Italian nationality.

I found this firsthand account written by an Italian Jew in 1495 very moving. He describes in detail the suffering of the Jews fleeing Spain in search for a new life in Portugal, Italy, North Africa and Turkey.

FirstHand Account

An early history of Jews and Spanish Jewry settling in Hungary

The first historical document relating to the Jews of Hungary is the letter written about 960 to King Joseph of the Khazars by Hasdai ibn Shaprut, the Jewish statesman of Córdoba, in which he says that the Slavic ambassadors promised to deliver the message to the King of Slavonia, who would hand the same to Jews living in "the country of Hungarin", who, in turn, would transmit it farther. About the same time Ibrahim ibn Jacob says that Jews went from Hungary to Prague for business purposes........................... In 1541, on the anniversary of the battle of Mohács, Sultan Suleiman I again took Buda by a ruse. This event marks the beginning of Turkish rule in many parts of Hungary, which lasted down to the end of the 17th century. The Jews living in these parts were treated far better than those living under the Habsburgs. During this period, beginning with the second half of the sixteenth century, the community of Ofen (Buda) flourished more than at any time before or after. While the Turks held sway in Hungary, the Jews of Transylvania (at that time an independent principality) also fared well. At the instance of Abraham Sassa, a Jewish physician of Constantinople, Prince Gabriel Bethlen of Transylvania granted a letter of privileges (June 18, 1623) to the Spanish Jews from Turkey. (wikipedia)

Hasdai ibn Shaprut

Origin of the surname

Surnames were uncommon prior to the 13th century, most European surnames were originally occupational or locational. They were used to distinguish one person from another if they happened to live near one another.

Among the Arabic-speaking Jews the local Arabic names were adopted or Hebrew names were translated into the corresponding Arabic. The use of surnames thus became common among the Arabic-speaking Jews, who naturally carried the custom into Spain.

Among the Sephardim this practise of adopting surnames was common. After their exile from Spain the surnames were used in their new homes. Among the Ashkenazim, the use of surnames became common only in the eighteenth century.

Some suggestions for the possible origin of the Purjesz name;

If the family insisted on keeping their surname, the spelling of the name had to be changed in order to keep it's phonetic sound. Every language has a different way of spelling, for example the S (english) sound is spelled as SZ in Hungarian. The four main sounds in Purjesz are P, R, Y (English or J Hungarian) and S. So obviously the name Purjesz is spelled differently in different countries; Purjes, Porjes, Poryes, Puries, Porias etc. Also the P could have been changed to B and names like Burgos, Borgos, Borges, Borgshe etc were created.

*Burgos, Spain

For more information go to

Purjesz Family on Porjes.net

Beider's explanation for PORGES

Known Jews from Burgos, Spain

Miguel-Michael-de-Spinoza

Solomon ha-Levi/Paul of Burgos

Born in Burgos about 1351and died 29 August 1435 was a Spanish Jew who converted to Christianity, and became an archbishop and lord chancellor. He is known also as Pablo de Santa Maria, Paul de Santa Maria, and Pauli episcopi Burgensis. His original name was Solomon ha-Levi. He was baptized in1390 or 1391at Burgos, taking the name Paul de Santa Maria. At the same time his brothers Pedro Suarez and Alvar Garcia, and his children, were baptized. His wife, Joanna remained faithful to Judaism, dying in that faith in 1420. Some historians have written that following his conversion, Paul, like fellow convert Joshua ha-Lorki (Gerónimo de Santa Fe) took an active role in persecuting Spanish Jews.

R. Todros ben Joseph Halevi Abulafia

Meir ben Todros HaLevi Abulafia (c. 1170 – 1244, Burgos, Spain), also known as the Ramah (Hebrew: הרמ"ה) , was a major Sephardic Talmudist and Halachic authority in medieval Spain.

I would like to put forward some other theories.


* Purias (Lorca, Murcia) Spain

The family might originate from a place called Purias, Spain. It's a small town in the province of Murcia. It is located in the southeast of the country, between Andalusia and Valencia on the Mediterranean Coast.

I could not find any information about anusim converting from Christianity back to Judaism in Italy. But as you can see below, there is a record of conversion back to Judaism in Murcia. So maybe the conversos members of the family done so before leaving Spain on the way to Italy.

"Details on the departure of the Jews from Murcia at the time of the expulsion are unknown but it may be assumed that they left from the port of Cartagena. After the expulsion, debts owed by Christians to the Jews were transferred to Fernando Nuñez Coronel (formerly Abraham *Seneor) and Luis de Alcaláfor collection. Murcia also had Conversos, some of whom remained faithful to Judaism. Conversos even used to come there in order to return to Judaism; one such case is mentioned in the La Guardia trial (1490). At an early date, an Inquisition tribunal was established at Murcia." (jewish virtual library)"

Known Jews from Murcia, Spain

Joshua ben Joseph, Ibn Vives AL-Lorqui (of Lorca) - Geronimo de Santa Fe

Spanish physician, although not a rabbi he was well versed in Talmud. As a jew his name was Joshua ha-Lorki (from his birthplace Lorca) and later was baptized and took on the name Geronimo de Santa Fe. In order to show his devotion to his new faith, he tried to prove from the Talmud that the Messiah had already come in the person Jesus. For that reason he was known as the 'megaddef', the slanderer. Some members of the Santa Fe family were burned as Maranos in 1497 and 1499.

Solomon b. Maimon Zalmati printed Hebrew books in Murcia in 1490

Although Hebrew presses operated in Spain and Portugal during the 15th century, due to persecutions and expulsions many books printed there did not survive in more than one copy or in complete copies; of those that did, fragments are extremely rare or unique (and it is assumed that some Iberian Hebrew incunables have been lost altogether). Printing was introduced to the Ottoman Empire and North Africa by Jewish refugees from Spain and Portugal, and in the subsequent centuries books in Hebrew and other languages were printed throughout the "Sephardic diaspora," in Turkey, Greece, North Africa, the Orient, Western Europe (Italy, Holland, Germany), and elsewhere. The geographic range of the Sephardic world is manifest in that a third of the surviving books in any exhibited collection of early Jewish printing are Sephardic works by Sephardic Jewish authors. One such book, the bible - Hamishah humshei Torah, that was printed by Solomon b. Maimon Zalmati in Murcia (19 July - 17 August 1490 ), did survived.