Book Review: The Jewish Presence in Early British Records 1650-1850

The following book review was written by Bobbi King:

The Jewish Presence in Early British Records 1650-1850. By David Dobson. Published by Genealogical Publishing Co., Baltimore . 2014. 123 pages.

You may recognize Mr. Dobson’s name. He has published numerous books of lists of names culled from historic records for the benefit of our genealogical research.

His introduction to this book is better than mine:

There had been a Jewish presence in England since the days of William the Conqueror however in 1290 King Edward I of England banished them from his possessions. From that date until 1655 when Oliver Cromwell encouraged them to return there were officially no Jews in England. In Scotland there had been no similar legislation banning Jews though few, if any, settled there in the medieval period. During the seventeenth century the activities of the Spanish Inquisition encouraged Sephardic Jews to emigrate, some went north to the Netherlands while others moved to Brazil.

Oliver Cromwell, recognizing the skills of these Jews, persuaded some of them to move to London and later to English American colonies such as Barbados and Jamaica. In due course some of their descendants settled in the American colonies A colony of Marrano merchants was established in London which carried out substantial trade from there to the Netherlands, Iberia, Brazil, the East and West Indies. Later there was an influx of Jews from Germany, Poland and Russia which became significant in the late nineteenth century. These Ashkenazi Jews arrived and initially settled in east coast ports from Dundee south to London, later many moved to industrial cities such as Glasgow, Leeds, and Liverpool, and some moved abroad to North America, South Africa and Australasia.

This source book attempts to identify some of the Jews in British records from the mid seventeenth century to the mid nineteenth century. In some of the records of the seventeenth century there are specific references to people identified as being Jewish, later Hebrew forenames coupled with surnames sometimes in conjunction with occupation or place of birth were used to identify people of Jewish origin. Much care has been in selecting entries as this latter method has drawbacks in that many Gentiles use Biblical names.

Some entry examples:

ISRAEL, ELIAS, a militiaman in Barbados, 1679. [TNA.CO1.44.47]

KAUFMAN, SOPHIA, born 1842, wife of Morris….., died 23 February 1897. [Newington, MI, Edinburgh]

MEZA, MANUEL DA FONSECA, in London, 16… [TJS.i.69]

OPPENHEIM, ABRAHAM, born Whitechapel, London, 1773, an optician in Tower Hamlets, London, 1841, son Joseph Oppenheim, born in Belgium 1799, an optician and tobacconist, son Emanuel Oppenheim, born Belgium 1811, a jeweller, daughter Fanny Oppenheim, born Stepney 1825. [Census]

I’ve estimated there are between 1500 and 2000 entries. There is a table at the end of the book providing a reference guide for the abbreviations in the entries.

Mr. Dobson continues to publish these very useful informational pieces, for which we are very grateful.

The Jewish Presence in Early British Records 1650-1850 by David Dobson may be ordered directly from the publisher, Genealogical Publishing Co., at as well as from Amazon at

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