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Jews in Colonial America

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  • Frederick Weaver (1750 - 1839)
    A Patriot of the American Revolution for NORTH CAROLINA with the rank of PRIVATE. DAR Ancestor # A123277 Confirmed Jewish ancestry on December 24th 2022 through professional genetic testing and anal...
  • Mordecai of Bonn (deceased)
  • Elias Legarde (c.1593 - c.1670)
    Elias Legarde (a/k/a Legardo) b. abt 1593 in Languedoc, France, d. abt 1670 in Elizabeth City, Virginia, was a Sephardic Jew who arrived at James City, Virginia, on the HMS Abigail in 1621.[1] Legarde ...
  • Simon Nathan (1746 - 1822)
    Simon was the first of the family in America. He sided with the Revolutionists and was one of a number of Jews who left New York during the British occupation. In Philadelphia he helped raise funds for...
  • Philip (Uri) Minis (1734 - 1789)
    Was the first white child conceived and born in Georgia.

The purpose of this project is to document the Jewish families who lived in North America in the Colonial period (before 1789).

Scope of Project

The first Jew to set foot on American soil was Solomon Franco, a merchant who arrived in Boston in 1649; subsequently he was given a stipend from the Puritans there, on condition he leave on the next passage back to Holland. In September of 1654, shortly before the Jewish New Year, twenty-three Jews of Dutch ancestry from Recife, Brazil, arrived in New Amsterdam (New York City). Governor Peter Stuyvesant tried to enhance his Dutch Reformed Church by discriminating against other religions, but religious pluralism was already a tradition in the Netherlands and his superiors at the Dutch West India Company in Amsterdam overruled him.

There were few Jewish communities in Southern Colonial America. There is only rare mention of Jewish religious activity until the mid-1700's. Were they practicing their faith in secret, or only in the home? Were the earliest Jews in Colonial America faced with discrimination? Were there too few in any given area to support a temple or synagogue?

Because religious identity in the American colonies was often unfriendly to dissenters and nonconformists, it might be difficult in many cases to completely document Jewish immigrants. Therefore, this project is open to ancestors for whom there is a family tradition of Jewish origin, for whom contemporary evidence suggests a Jewish origin, as well as those whose Jewish identity is well-documented.

When adding your ancestor to the project, please remember these guidelines:

  • The United States did not exist until 1787, with the ratification of the Constitution. Please do not add it to locations in this project.
  • Make sure the name fields of the Master Profiles include first name, middle name, last name, maiden name if known, otherwise blank, suffix for Sr., Jr., etc.
  • Add prefixes such as Gov., Dr., Rev., etc, only in the display name. Please add titles and ranks (Count, Sheriff, etc.) to the display name only.

General Notes

A Note on Melungeons

Melungeons, a tri-racial group in Colonial Virginia, and later in Tennessee, may be added to this project. The Melungeons are claimed in some sources to have been crypto-Jews, or at least had a strain of Jewish ancestry, perhaps from Portuguese Jews settled in the region before the English. The claim is controversial, but in some cases seems to be supported by genetic testing. For more information, see the Melungeon Project.