Jews of Sicily #general

Lowell Nigoff

At the time of the Inquisition in Spain and Italy were persecuted. Their last name was Nachman(spelling?). They changed their last names to Amato(father’s side) & Cunzolo(could be Cunzalo) on mother’s, fled to Sicily & converted to Catholicism.

When her mother’s father came to America, he changed the spelling to Consolo. The last names Amato & Cunzolo were traced back to Nachman.


Does anyone have any clues where to start the search? I am researching this for a friend.


Thank you, 

Lowell Nigoff

Lexington, KY


"I would rather live my life as if there is a God and die to find out there isn't, than live as if there isn't and to die to find out that there is."


Taken from Blaise Pascal's  (1623-1662) wager.                            


Adam Cherson


I recommend "Chapter 20: The Expulsion" from Simonsohn's book "Between Scylla and Charybdis" (ISBN: 978-90-04-19245-4). This 50 page chapter details events in Sicily at the time of the expulsion, and how the Jews of Sicily responded, and will also  give you a foundation upon which to proceed, including many citations to primary sources, which may prove useful to you.

Adam Cherson

Jill Whitehead

DNA testing may help, as there are several DNA signatures that link to Jews who fled Sicily and to Converso Jews generally (such as the Belmonte in Portugal). Some of the Sicilian Jews went north to Naples and then further north to central and eastern Europe.

My brother's YDNA haplogroup G2b (a subclade of this group) has been linked to Sicily - to a common ancestor who was alive in AD 1100. The present day descendants are all closely grouped in terms of their genes but there are few common surnames - they are disparate, as many became absorbed into Ashkenazi communities. 

In regard to Amato, one of the children of a German Kindertransport that my family took in during WW2, married an Italian American called d'Amato. I am not aware of any descendants. 

Jill Whitehead, Surrey, UK


Rabbi Barbara Aiello, from  Calabria, Italy is a great resource for finding Jewish roots especially in Southern Italy.


she has revitalized a Jewish community in Calabria and reaches out to a  group in Sicily. 
Barbara Gilmore Silver
Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA
Goldstein, Schultz, Brodetsky

David Mendoza

Not totally clear about your genealogy. IF you can trace back to Sicily you probably need someone familiar with local archives rather with specific Jewish knowledge.

It seems that most of the Jews from southern Italy, including Sicily, ended up in the Ottoman Empire. Some synagogues there were named for where people came from.

I would suggest that unevidenced claims of 'crypto-Judaism' in Sicily be treated with care. Obviously, a surname alone is no evidence of anything. The Sephardic Genealogical Society's proposed Code of Conduct addresses these issues.

Best wishes,

David Mendoza

Susan J. Gordon

When i last visited Sicily, I saw a large map in the town hall of Taormina, which depicts all the towns in which Jews lived before 1492.

"They were all over Sicily!" Rabbi Barbara Aiello told me, at a conference about Jewish Sicilians. I agree that she is a great resource.

On the tiny island of Ortygia, (almost) connected to Siracusa, a mikveh was uncovered when construction of a small hotel began. It's been determined that the mikveh was buried by Jews probably fleeing the area around 1492-3.

You might read my 2013 article about my Sicilian born father-in-law, who never forgot unusual customs observed by priests outside his church on Friday nights -
One Italian's Secret Jewish Heritage – The Forward
Susan J Gordon - New York
GULLOTTA - Castelmola Sicily


As David commented, I'm not sure where you are in your research. However, you first must start with your American research and hopefully find her mother's father's ship manifest when he came to America, along with naturalization papers, etc. if he naturalized. These should give you a better idea of the town he came from in Sicily. Once you have that town, civil records going back to 1820 are available online via the archives. See , along with some at FamilySearch
Debbie Trotsky Soren