Do you know if your family has Sephardic ancestry?

The possibility of obtaining Portuguese citizenship through the so-called “Sephardic Law” has been of great interest to Latin Americans, who see in this regulation the option of having a European passport, with all the advantages that entails.

Let’s remember that, in 2015, Portugal approved Law 30-A/2015, which allows granting citizenship to descendants of Sephardic Jews expelled during the Inquisition. The main requirement is to demonstrate the line of descent; additionally, one must prove a connection with the country and have no criminal record.

Due to the interest in learning more about the topic, various lists of surnames with possible Sephardic origins were published in the press, not always citing reliable sources.

But even when the publications had expert opinions, many people remained skeptical. How could seemingly English surnames like Edwards or Mackenna, or of Basque origin like Undurraga or Echeñique, have a Sephardic Jewish ancestor?

To resolve this, we turn again to the expert and chief genealogist of AIM Global, Francisco de Segovia, who immediately addresses the issue: “Indeed, the cited surnames are, as the case may be, of Basque origin (Echenique, Undurraga, Urzúa, Hurtado, etc.), Galician (Puga, Novoa, Rivadeneira, to name a few), Castilian (Carvajal, De la Cerda, Riveros, Fuentes), or Irish (for example, Mackenna, O’Shee); what happens is that the founders of those surnames in Chile early on joined families of Iberian -Spanish or Portuguese- origin who, through one of their lines, had a remote Sephardic ancestor.”

For the purposes of this naturalization law, De Segovia explains, “it is essential to prove the connection with some ancestor of this origin, and that is why a genealogical report (historical documents) is requested to verify that relationship.”

“The surnames mentioned have been widely studied, and it is relatively less complex to prove their genealogies,” the expert clarifies. “Now, this connection does not make these families Jewish; it simply confirms that among the numerous ancestors of a person (Basques, Galicians, Germans, Mapuche, among others), there may be some ancestor in the Iberian Peninsula associated with the Sephardim, allowing them to apply for this visa.”

It is said that there is a high percentage of the Chilean population – almost 80 percent – that could apply for Portuguese citizenship under the terms of the “Sephardic Law.” Why is this?

Regarding this, the genealogist affirms that “given that in Chile, a large percentage of the population comes from Spaniards from the 16th century onwards, such as Valenzuela, Moraga, Jufré, among others, there is a high probability that a Chilean has this ancestry.”

“Currently, the cases that have been successfully validated, for example, are the descendants of the conquerors Diego García de Cáceres and Juan Jufré y Montesa, who came respectively from New Christians (or converts), on the paternal side, the former, and on the maternal side, the latter,” he adds.

Finally, we asked De Segovia about the importance of knowing or learning about our ancestors, whether there is actually Sephardic origin or not.

“People, regardless of our origin or life experience, have always sought answers in the past to understand our existence and the historical evolution of humanity,” says the expert, “so it seems natural to discover in our own family history the necessary memory to identify the experience, occupations, interests, or motivations of our ancestors.”

“The possibility of knowing their names and stories today, in a globalized world, will always open opportunities beyond bureaucracy and what nations and their laws determine. Today, it is the descendants of Sephardim, tomorrow it may be other groups around the globe, which will allow us to delve into our roots, observing our culture through time,” he concludes.

If you are interested in delving into the requirements to benefit from the Sephardic Law, or if you have already decided to start the process, schedule a meeting with us. You can start the exploratory research from Chile; our team will accompany you throughout the process.

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