Ever since I learned that my Great Grandmother’s Malissa’s maiden name was Israel, I was curious about it’s origin. Only recently did I try to find out more. The first thing I learned was: “There are really only three surnames that are specifically Jewish in nature: variations on Cohen, Levy and Israel. These names are derived from tribal ancestry recorded by the Jewish people and recognized in synagogue with various distinctions.” (www.jewfaq.org/jnames.htm Judaism 101)
Well that was a start. Family information, lots of online digging, and the results of research done by a genealogist, and now more digging on my part—have all contributed to what I assume is the first attempt at a family tree for Grandma Malissa. (See “My Israel Family Tree“)
Jewish ancestry in itself doesn’t say anything about when the religion of Judaism was last practiced in the family (see introduction above). In my case, I would like to know, but it’s going to be difficult to pin it down to a particular generation. Of course, the practice of “crypto-Judaism” (“secret Judaism”) necessitated by the Spanish Inquisition makes such research much more difficult.
This history of the Jewish people and their religion and culture is, of course, a fascinating and complicated one. If my research is largely correct so far, my ancestors on this side of the family originally came from Spain and Portugal, and possibly before that, from Italy (the “de Pisa” part of the name was commonly dropped in the New World). Known as “Sephardic” Jews (or the Sephardi), these people were the educated, prosperous class in the Iberian Peninsula and on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, until the Catholic church brought the “Inquisition” to Spain as a means of stealing the wealth and establishing unquestionable authority over every aspect of peoples’ public and private lives. It was the dark days of Christianity.
So our group of Israels probably left Spain and sailed west to Barbados and Jamaica. They lived there for a while (the Barbados phone book still lists many Israels) until once again, the Catholic Church and Spanish crown caught up with them—forcing them further west to the New World. Here it gets a little muddy. They may have settle first in New York, but it could have been Virginia. At any rate, the family wound up in New York City, but soon decided to head south (once again?) to North Carolina and, finally, Kentucky.
If you want to read a fascinating and well-documented book that covers that period of forced Jewish migration from Spain to the Americas, read the book entitled “The Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean” (Amazon and other sources).
Below is a brief, written summary of what I think is her family’s history as it now stands. Again, it isn’t yet documented beyond about 3 generations back. I’ve also included two image files of what I currently have on my Ancestry.com account. You can click to view and save either file format. If you have any conflicting information about this branch of the Israels that you are willing to share, please contact me. Meanwhile, I will continue to update this page as I find more information. Thanks–BB.
- When Ellen Malissa Israel was born on March 6, 1876, in or near Barbourville, Kentucky, her father, Frank, was 33 and her mother, Rebecca, was 33. Malissa eventually had 8 siblings and 6 half-siblings, the result of her father marrying three times. She married John Harvey Baker and had 6 sons and 2 daughters. She died on February 20, 1962, in Corbin, Kentucky, at the age of 85.
- Frank Israel was born on March 1, 1843, in Kentucky, the only child of Isom and Elizabeth. He was married three times: Laura Trosper, Amanda B. Simpson, and Rebecca Campbell. He had three sons and four daughters with Rebecca Campbell between 1865 and 1879. He died on March 21, 1921, in Gray, Kentucky, at the age of 78.
- Isom Israel was born in 1812 in Buncombe, North Carolina, the only child of Nancy Alloway Strange. He had one son with Elizabeth Higgins on March 1, 1843. He died in Knox, Kentucky.
- Solomon Israel was born in 1773 in Albemarle, Virginia, the only child of Michael and Sarah. He had one son with Nancy Alloway Strange in 1812. He died in 1810 at the age of 37.
- Michael Israel was born in 1738 in Hempstead, New York, the only child of Solomon and Mary. He had one son with Sarah Graves in 1773. He died in 1819 in North Carolina, having lived a long life of 81 years.
- Solomon Israel was born in 1715 in Virginia, the only child of Solomon and Catherine. He had one son with Mary Johnston in 1738. He died in 1790 in North Carolina, having lived a long life of 75 years.
- Solomon Israel (de Pisa) was born in 1660 in Port Royal, Jamaica, the only child of David and Sarah. He had one son with Catherine Shakerley in 1715. He died in 1734 in New York, at the age of 74.
- David Israel (de Pisa) was born in 1620 in Farroeira, Portugal, the only child of Abraham. He had one son with Sarah in 1660. He died in May 1689 in Barbados, at the age of 69.
- Abraham Israel (de Pisa) was born in 1600 in Portugal, the only child of his father. He had one son in 1620. He died in New York.
- Mr. Israel (de Pisa) was born in 1575 in Toledo, Castilla-La Mancha, Spain. He had one son (Abraham) in 1600. He died in Spain. (First name and date of death unknown.)