Alvaro Dinis, his wife Beatriz Henriques and her son Ruben Henriques

By  Joseph Ben Brith (translated and edited with commentary by Professor Dieter Heymann)


The history of our ancestors of the family which found its way to  Glueckstadt and Hamburg descends from  Alvaro Dinis.


Alvaro Dinis has received considerable attention in the professional literature because of his great economic significance for Hamburg and Glueckstadt during the first half of the 17th century.

Kellenbenz dedicated two special chapters to him: “The enterprises of Alvaro Dinis” (pages 214-230) and “In the service of Denmark” (pages 363-370). Kellenbenz describes his {Dinis’} relations with the Families de Milao and de Lima and mentions Dinis on 20 additional pages.

In his study of the history of the city, Gerhard Koeln, the former head of the city archives of Glueckstadt, identifies more than 70 times the founder of the Portuguese community, Alvaro Dinis [see Koeln (1974)]. He {Dinis} also appears in the writings of earlier historians such as Kayserling, Grunwald, Cassuto and Roth [consult Kaiserling “Sephardim” 1859, page 53; Max Grunwald “Die Portugiesengraeber auf deutscher ErdeBeitraege zur Kultur- und Kunstgeschichte, Hamburg 1902, pages 130-132; Alfons Cassuto “Die portugiesischen Juden in Glueckstadt”, Hamburg 1930, page 3 ff; Cecil Roth “A History of the Marranos, Philadelphia 1932, 2nd edition, New York, 1950, page 231]. Salomon mentions his {Dinis} person extensively as do Feingold and Boehm. [See H. P. Salomon “Portrait of a new Christian Fernao Alvares Melo (1569-1632), Paris 1982, pages 47-51; Ruben Feingold “Chipus achar Sehut Mischpato schel He’anus Haportugali Vicente Furtade 1605-1615, in: Pe’Amin No. 46-47 (1991), pages 242-246; G. Boehm “Die Sephardim in Hamburg” pages 22, 26, and 29 in: Arno Herzig (publisher) “Die Juden in Hamburg, 1590-1990”, Hamburg 1992, pages 21-40]. Dinis is mentioned in two Jewish encyclopedias and in several articles [see “The Jewish Encyclopedia” by Cyrus Adler, New York and London 1901-1905; “The Universal Jewish Encyclopedia” Vol 5 (1941) New York 1939-1943; Susan C. Sherman “Sephardic Migrations into Poland” in: Avotaynu Vol. VI, No. 2 (1990), pages (?); Sabine Kruse “Eine neue, oede Stadt ohne Einwohner, in welcher weder Glueck noch Segen vorhanden ist” in: Sabine Kruse/Bernt Engelman (publishers) “Mein Vater war ein portugiesischer Jude” Goettingen 1992, pages 45-50; Michael Studemont-HalevyVier Sephardische Schriftsteller (writers) zwischen Glueckstadt und Hamburg in: ibid pages (?)].

            All authors consider Alvaro Dinis, alias Semuel Jachja to have been the center and organizer of the new Jewish communities in Hamburg and Glueckstadt. These sources stress his economic-political as well as his leadership qualities.

            In the following I shall describe facts, which the European historians did not comprehend:

            (1) His {Dinis} ancestral family of the Don Jachia, that Grunwald and Cassuto mention but do not explain [see Grunwald (1902) pages 132 ff; Cassuto (1930) writes: “….Alberto Denis, oder wie er sich mit seinem juedischen Namen nannte Samuel Jachida-aus dem Geschlecht der Jachiden dessen Urahne Don Jachia Ibn Ja’isch vor beinahe 1000 Jahren Ratgeber des Spanischen Koenigs war…” {Alberto Dinis a.k.a. Samuel Jachida, the Jewish name he used-from the clan of the Jachids whose ‘founding father’: Jachia Ibn Ja’isch was adviser to the King of Spain about 1000 years ago}. Several Jewish sources have extensively described the family tree of scholar Don Ibn Jichja-Jachja, namely:

-Eljakim CarmoliSefer Dvrei Hajamim Libnei Jichje” (=the history book of the sons of the Yachia clan), Frankfort 5610 (=1850); the last of the mentioned members is Samuel Ibn Yachia, the Rabbi and Preacher in Amsterdam, who was also the author of the 30 Portuguese sermons printed in Hamburg in 1629.

-The Universal Jewish Encyclopedia Vol 5, page 531 refers to the issue of Carmoli and lists 20 scholars of the clan.

-The Jewish Encyclopedia (1905), Vol. 7, pages 581-584 lists 15 generations of the clan under the entry “Yahia” starting with Don Yahia Ibn Ya’isch about the year 1055; number 31 page 584 mentions Samuel Ibn Yahia: “Rabbi in Amsterdam in the 16th and 17th centuries; author of Trinta Discucos (1629) = thirty sermons in Spanish”; the same encyclopedia describes under the entry “Denis (Dionis) Albertus” his economical and religious activities in Hamburg and Glueckstadt.

-B. Z. Don Jachia “Die Familien Charlap und Don Jachia” in: Heft fuer juedische Geschichte 3 (1927), paper 11, pages 261-264.

-ibid “Von Koenig David zu Familien Charlap und Don Jachia” in: Heft fuer juedische Geschichte 8 (1932), Double issue 30/31, pages 457-462.

-Rapha’el Halperin “Atlas Etz Ha’im (=Sammelstammbaum aller juedischen Gelehrten {Family Tree of all Jewish scholars}) issue 14 Tel Aviv 1985 offers a comprehensive genealogy and information regarding scholars, advisors, treasurers and poets of the Yahia clan starting in 1085.

By using this literature I was able to understand the covert connections of Felipe Dinis with his ancestors. He probably lived in Braga, then from 1570 in Antwerp, next in Cologne, and perhaps after 1588 again in Antwerp. Following these trails I was able to find hitherto unknown information in Italy about the youth of Alvaro Dinis, who migrated later via Antwerp to Hamburg.

It might be necessary to complete a recently published paper of Michael Studemund-Halevy from Hamburg: “Arabic-sephardic family names of Portuguese families of Hamburg”, part 1: The family Marco-Dinis-Jahia in: HGJG, issue 42 1999/2001. According to this paper, Filipe Denis might be identical with the merchant Salomon Marco (alias Felipe de Nis alias Selomo Jahia ?) as written by Studemund-Halevy himself, however with a question mark in brackets added. I believe the following is very appropriate and believable {from Studemund-Halevy} “Salomon Marcos a son of David Marco alias Tome de Nis, member of a famous family of physicians and scholars from Porto, a port city in northern Portugal, is in the service of Dom Luiz d’Avis, brother of king Dom Joa III”.

His {I am not quite sure whom “his” refers to; probably Salomon Marcos} mother was Ana Manrich (Manrique) from Salamanca. Concerning the adventurous life of Felipe de Nis, alias Salomon Marco, Studemund-Halevy reports that he was born and baptized in Porto and was reported to have lived later many years in Lisbon, on the Azores, and on the island of Sao Tome. I point out that hundreds of thousands of forcibly baptized children of the former Jews of Portugal were kidnapped and shipped to Sao Tome to remove them from the influences of their parents that had been raised as Jews. These forced transports began already in the year 1497. {The German word used for “kidnapping” is “entreissen” which literally means “to tear away from”}.

Studemund-Halevy continues: “After the death of his parents Felipe de Nis settles around 1570 in Antwerp where he became transiently the Consul of the Portuguese Nation (i.e. those who considered themselves members of the Marrano community-JBB). He remained with his wife from seven to eight years in Antwerp where his children Alvaro and Ana were born. In Antwerp Felipe became a “Judaisierer” {secret Jew}. In 1578 he settles in Cologne. In about 1583, the family moves to Venice where they openly become Jews. In 1585 the Tribunal of the Inquisition of Venice accuses Felipe de Nis of practicing Jewish rites. His wife Abigail flees with the children to Saloniki {that city had a large Jewish community since 1492}, but returned to Venice later. Before the Inquisitional court, Felipe and Abigail de Nis abjure Judaism in 1586. They live as Christians in the section Santa Marina of Venice. The date of his {Felipe de Nis} death is unknown. One cannot exclude the possibility that he was identical with Selomo Jahia who died in 1599 in Hamburg and was buried in the Portuguese cemetery. In fact, in the cemetery which his son (?) Alvaro Dinis alias Semuel Jahia and Andre Faleiro alias Jacob Aboab bought in 1611 at the request of the Portuguese community of Hamburg”. Studemund-Halevy reports the date of death of Selomo Jahia in Hamburg as 11 Tischri 5360-30.09.1599.] {I am puzzled by this story and by the family tree in the book of JBB. The tree lists the following children of Felipe and Abigail: Benjamin Dionis alias Benjamin Musapha, Abigail Dinis, Beatriz Antunes, Guiomar Dinis, and Alvaro Dinis, but no Ana Dinis}.

            (2) The origin of his last name: what does the form Dyonis/-us imply? [Jewish sources derive “Dinis” from “Dina”, i.e. to Dina related (Sherman (1990) and Carmoli (1850)). “Dyonis” and “Dyonisus” are cover names, which gave the bearer a Latin glow. Because Dinis imported wine and grapes from Portugal, he related his name to the Greek god of wine. De-onis/ De Anis may also be derived from the Hebrew “Anussim” meaning “of Marranic origin”. Perhaps the name means both. {I am not ready to buy this. “de” in Portuguese, like “van” in Dutch and “von” in German usually denotes an origin. Notice that the original spelling was de Nis, not di Nis. Now, there is no town of Nis in Spain or Portugal; the only Nis known to me is in the former Yugoslavia. However, there is a Nisa in Portugal. Perhaps it was once Nis without an a; see also below}.

            (3) A precise list of his {Alvaro Dinis} parents and siblings. [My hypothesis about the descent of Samuel Jachia alias Alvaro is the following: it is fair to assume that his grandfather David Marco, alias Tome de Nis, a Marrano in Portugal, was the son of one of the brothers David or Selomo Jachia, who saved their lives at the end of 1493 after a difficult escape of four month to Pisa, together with their aged father Joseph Ibn David Jachia, a brother himself of the next to last chief Rabbi of Lissabon named Selomo Ibn David-Ende who had died in 1490. This graybeard Joseph (1425-1498), son of the scholar David, was the president of the Jewish community of Lisbon until 1493. He lived at the time of King Joao II who had granted religious freedom to the Jews because he needed their great knowledge of geography and astronomy to support his voyages of discovery. However, after he had given temporary asylum to about 100 000 Jewish émigrés from Spain at the end of 1492-of course only after they had paid huge sums per person to purchase the right to remain in Portugal for eight months-he already changed his mind in 1493. All of the Jews that had come from Spain were to be expelled and Portuguese Jews were to be forcibly converted. To set an example, the then 73-years old leader of the Jews of Lisbon was slated to be the first to become baptized in the hope that the remaining Jews would voluntarily follow his example. Now, Joseph fled with his three sons David born in 1463, Selomo born in 1470 and Meir (?) to Castile and from there by ship to Pisa.

Later, in northern Italy, David became the author of psalms about the expulsion of Jews from Spain and Portugal. His young, pregnant wife Dina followed her husband dressed as a man so that she would not be raped by sailors, a fate that befell many other young girls (see Graetz Tome 2, page 114; and about the kidnapping of Jewish grandchildren 1493-1495 as well as later during a sweep in April 1497, pages 113-124). Many daughters were later named Dina in honor of this greatly respected Dina (see Sherman (1990)). Her son Joseph Ibn Jahia born in Italy and Carmoli describe the escape to Italy. In addition to the name Dina, the girl’s name Abigail was also widely used in the Jahia clan. For example, in Jewish circles, Alvaro Dinis called his Marranic wife Beatriz Henriques de Milao by the name Abigail.

Sherman (1990) writes on page 17:”As Dinitz’ Jewish name was Samuel Ibn Jachia and succeeding generations of his family gave the name Dina to girls, it is possible that he was a descendant of Dina Ibn Jachia, wife of David, son of Joseph, who fled Spain to Italy. Mention of a Matriarch, the Mumma Dina who fled Spain, has been a long-standing tradition among members of the Bejm family. However, the name Dina does not persist in my {JBB} family. If the assumption {by Sherman} is correct, then Dina had to abandon her kidnapped little son in Portugal, a fate that, alas, befell thousands of children beginning in 1493. These kids were commonly and forcefully reared in convents as Christians.

This hypothesis {of the “abandoned son”} is possible if the son was born in Lisbon before about 1490, but there is no record anywhere of his birth. This should not be unusual because both the Jewish and the official Portuguese sources remained silent on the forcible abduction of children from their parents.

It is somewhat astonishing, however, that this baptized grandchild of David was given the Jewish name of his father. The middle name of Marco could have been the name of his godfather.

Judging from chronological considerations he cannot have been born later {than 1490} and not in Italy either because the son of David de Nis, Felipe de Nis, was born in 1530 or slightly later in Porto (northern Portugal). In my opinion, his father could therefore have been the brother of David-Selomo because he, in turn, named his son David. The “Jewish Encyclopedia” (1905), issue 5, page 582 mentions Selomo as follows: “Salomon Ibn Yahya Ben Joseph, a Portuguese exile who fled with his family to Pisa. He left his relatives and went to Rhodes where he died in 1530”.

It appears that he fled without his wife, who, if she existed, listened to her motherly instincts and converted so that she could raise her son. Jewish sources do not mention her or her son David Marco alias Tome de Nis, who was raised as a Christian, which was always done when a Jew renounced his religion.  As an adult he served Dom Luis d’Aviz. Aviz is a small town with a convent in the mountains, about 125 km northeast of Lisbon. According to Halevy, his {Felipe} brother Thomas Marco was the physician of Dom Antonio, prior of Crato in the even more remote northeasterly town of Crato, about 30 km from Aviz. In my opinion, this Thomas Marco is none other than Tome de Nis alias David Marco, the obviously personal physician of the two Catholic priests of the two neighboring abbeys. North of the town of Crato lies Nisa, which was the capital of the region. It seems to me that the name Nis is derived from Nisa and that the physician of both abbeys lived in that town.

However, a third possibility – and one that seems to be genealogically the most logical – could be that Tome de Nis alias David Marco was the son of a not yet mentioned Selomo Ibn David, who, in turn, was the son of the last chief Rabbi of Lisbon, David Ibn Selomo. {This is getting complicated!}.

The Rabbi David was born in 1455 in Lisbon. When he refused to be publicly baptized after the practicing of Judaic rites was forbidden in 1493, he was condemned to death. He tried to escape, was caught, but managed to escape again via Naples and Corfu to Arta where he died in poverty in 1528.

His son Selomo is most likely identical with Selomo Ibn Jahia who after 1540 fled with a group of elderly Portuguese Marranos to Ancona in Italy where Judaism was tolerated by the popes Paul III (1534-1549) and Julius III (1550-1555). However, when Paul IV (1555-1559) became pope he forbade the former Marranos their practice of Judaism. Sixty members of the group became Christians, but 24, among them an elderly woman Dona Majora, refused. They were condemned to death in the summer of 1556, hanged and burned. One of them, Selomo Jahia is mentioned in six different historical narratives and eulogies.

This Selomo was born around 1480. When he was abducted from his family he was about 13 years old. At the time of his death sentence by the inquisition in Portugal in 1540 and his subsequent escape to Ancona he must have been about 60 years. He was executed when he was about 75. He left behind a wife and baptized children in Portugal of whom one, probably the eldest, got the name of his father David and subsequently his name at baptism Thomas Marco, later also Tome de Nis during his activities as personal physician of the leaders and probably also all monks of the abbeys of Aviz and Crato.

David Marco married the Marrana Ana Manrique from Salamanca who had obviously been educated in the Carmelite nunnery of the city because that is where she was buried. The reason for this is not evident.

In any event, what is obvious is the relationship of Semuel Jachia alias Alvaro de Nies (the original spelling; later it became in Hamburg Dinis or Dyonis) with the clan of the Jachia. Until now it is vague who the parents were who handed their little son to the church during the years of forced conversions of all Portuguese Jews and why their son was subsequently named David Jachia then David Marco.

Here is my summary: I shall present an almost seamless list of generations of the so-called Jacides in Portugal, whose “Founder” was Jachia Ibn Ja.Isch from Andalusia.

1. Ya’isch-Andalusia, prior to 1100.

2. Jahia Negro Ibn Ya'isch, Cordoba-Santarem-Lisbon, about 1100-1185. Advisor to the first king of Portugal Alfonso I. the Conqueror (1139-1185) and the first chief-rabbi (Oberrabbiner) of Portugal.

3. Jose-Jehuda Ibn Jahia, Lisbon, about 1150-1227, Treasurer and principal administrator of king Sanchos I. (1185-1211) and chief-rabbi of Portugal.

4. Don Joseph, son of Jehuda Jahia, Lisbon, about 1200 - about 1280, Talmud scholar.

5. Don Selomo, son of Joseph Jahia, Lisbon, about 1250-1340, Parnassim and Portuguese army commander.

6. Don Gedalya, son of Selomo Jahia, Lisbon and Toledo, about 1295-1385. Until 1370 physician of king Ferdinand I. the Beautiful (1367-1383). Fled to Castile where he served King Henry I.

7. Don David Negro, son of Gedalya Jahia, Lisbon and Toledo, about 1330-1425. Diplomat of Juan I. of Castile in Portugal and "almorafixe" of King Ferdinand I.

8. Don Selomo, son of David Negro Jahia, Toledo and Lisbon, about 1360-1430, Parnassim and agent for King Edward (1433-1438).

9. Don David, son of Selomo Jahia, Lisbon, about 1400-1465. Scholar, rich agent at the court of King Alphonso V. the "African" (1438-1481).

10. Don Selomo, son of David Jahia, Lisbon, about 1425-1490, Chief rabbi, scholar, rich agent at the court of King Alphonso V. the "African".

11. Rabbi David, son of Selomo Jahia, Lisbon-Napels-Corfu-Arta, 1455-1528, last chief rabbi of Lisbon. Condemned to death because he refused to be baptized. Fled to Italy.

12.Selomo, son of unknown {probably rabbi David} Jahia, Lisbon, about 1480-1556, baptized when he was young, later a Marrano fugitive in Ancona (Italy) where he was condemned to death and executed for having practiced jewish rites.

13. David Marco, alias Tome de Nis, Lisbon (?)-Porto-Nisa, about 1505-1570, was baptized at birth. Royal physician at the monasteries of Aviz and Crato.

14. Salomon Marco, alias Felipe de Nis, Porto, about 1530-1599, St. Tome-Antwerp-Cologne-Venice-Hamburg, Marrano, Trader.

15. Alvaro de Nies alias Alberto Dyonis alias Semuel Jachia, 1665 until after 1650. Braga-Antwerp-Cologne-Venice-Saloniki-Hamburg-Glueckstadt-Amsterdam.

He, Semuel Jahia was the 14th generation of the Portuguese Jachide-scholar- and physician family whose head Jahia Ibn Ya’isch fled from Andalusia to Portugal in 1147 because of religious persecution by the Moslims. In Portugal he became famous.

The father Felipe {number 14} seems to have married twice. The name of his first wife was Gracia Felipa Abigail and she was a daughter of the couple Pero Palacios and Felipa Barbosa. Salomon (1982) does not list her name. His second wife might have been Beatriz de Solis, and aunt of the brothers Faleiro-Abuab from Antwerp. The children of Felipe Denis were:

-Alvaro Dinis, later husband of Beatriz-Abigail Henriques de Milao.

-Ana, later wife of Antonio Faleiro alias Abraham Abuab.

-Brites Antunes, later wife of Anrique de Lima alias Moses Abinun.

-Abigail Dinis, later wife of Gonsales de Lima. After his early death she became the second wife of Paolo de Milao alias Moses Abensur {she’s it !!!}.

-Guiomar Dinis, later wife of Louis Roiz Paiva.

-Benjamin Dyonis Mussaphia alias Cornelius Janssen in Glueckstadt who married Sara the daughter of Dr. Semuel de Silva in Hamburg (see Kruse (1992), pages 85-88).

-It is unclear whether Sara Marques, the first Jewess buried in Glueckstadt belongs to the family, but that is possible and logical.

In my opinion, the first three mentioned above were children of the first wife Gracia-Abigail and the next three, much younger ones, children of the second wife, probably Beatriz de Solis.

            (4) The date of his birth [Koehn believes that he died in 1644 when he was 68, which implies that he was born about 1576. Kruse (1993) is of the opinion that he was born in 1575 and died in 1644. Both assumptions are erroneous. Alvaro Dinis did not die in 1644 and he did not die in Glueckstadt. Because his son Ruben Henriques, who was not yet found by modern investigations {until this book} wrote a dedication {to his father} in 1650 in a poem that he had to submit for a school play, I can determine his year of birth as 1565. The author of that poem was unknown until now {this book}].

            (5) His further work and life in Amsterdam after he left Glueckstadt. [The modern research of the economical and legal records of Schleswig-Holstein failed to find any referrals to Alvaro Dinis after 1644. This fact fooled Grunwald, Cassuto, Kellenbenz and others. They probably based themselves on an entry in the records of the Jewish community in Glueckstadt: “…with regards to the house of the deceased Albertus Dyonisus at the market of Glueckstadt…. in Portuguese and German language. This is about a big fight over his house” (LAS Abt. R, 3-7, Teil III, 1966, pages 271/31 and 272/32). Kellenbenz writes: “…he died a broken man after the invasion of the Swedes in the years 1643-44 and after the treason by Diogo de Lima in Lisbon. (Diogo was his cousin-JBB). His trade connections with Portugal became dormant. Ships could no longer enter and leave the ports of northern Germany and Denmark. The businesses of Dyonis were now bankrupt. The widow of Dinis returned to Hamburg”. My new discoveries prove, however, that he had not died, but escaped to Amsterdam. His wife had been buried long before that in Hamburg in 1632, a fact that Kellenbenz did not register. In the Marriage Registry of the Jewish community of AmsterdamTrouwen in Mokum” (Mokum = a word meaning “the place” that was used in Amsterdam) {it is still used today!} I found an entry that Albertus Deonis had been a ‘Getuige’ {a Dutch word} i.e. witness in 1650 for the couple Abraham de Valo from Porto and Rachel d’Aguilar from Hamburg (see Jewish Marriage in Amsterdam 1598-1811, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, Den Haag, page 36). The civil servant has written his full name and his personal signature appears on the original report of the city registry. One can recognize the intertwined initials A-D and their ‘tail’ (see the source of the photocopy: Publication of the banns 29 December 1650-Production van: DTB 681/37 Gemeentelijke Archiefdienst Amsteldijk 67, 1074 HZ Amsterdam). This discovery proves that Dinis did not die in Glueckstadt after his bankruptcy, but had stealthily traveled to Amsterdam as an 80-year old greybeard. He was well known and respected there, not the least for his 30 Sabbat- and Festive Sermons for which he was able to become a teacher for elders of the community. Thus he was described by Carmoli (1850), page 43 as the last of the Jewish Scholars of the Jachia clan in Amsterdam.