D O R O T - The Douglas E. Goldman Jewish Genealogy Center BETH HATEFUTSOTH - The Nahum Goldman Museum of the Jewish Diaspora:
July 7, 1988 (IN REPLY TO MY QUERY TO THEM)
The most popular theory of the origin of this name is that it is a garbled version of “De Castro”. A widespread sepharadi name found in many countries of Europe and America. The name is quite common amongst non-Jews of Spain and South America and is probably derived from a number of localities called Castro. The Jewish name is derived from the town of Castro near Cordova, in Spain.
Spanish family names beautifully illustrate the history of the Jews in the Iberian peninsula. The first Jews, arriving in Spain during the times of the Roman empire, bore Greek, Latin and Hebrew names. In the early eighth century, when Spain was conquered by the Arabs and came under Islamic rule, she became the shelter for many more Jews where they enjoyed religious freedom and were greatly involved in the government and administration. During this period, many Jews adopted Arabic names, as well as retained their Hebrew names, leaving a legacy of fascinating combinations of Arabic and Hebrew.
Even after the tenth century, when Spain was reconquered by the Christians, these same Arabic and Hebrew names were still being used by the Spanish Jews. It was not until the sixteenth century inquisition that Jews changed their names, when many were forcibly converted and baptised and took Spanish-Christian names, becoming the “new Christians” or “Marranos” of Spain. Yet the same conservatism and love of tradition can be seen amongst the Marranos, who retained their Spanish-Christian names when much later they were able to “re-convert” to Judaism, just as those who fled the country tended to keep their Spanish names wherever they moved to.
This trend amongst sepharadi Jews to retain their family names intact has enabled us today to trace closely their histories, especially interesting is the fact that a large proportion of Spanish names are derived from place names, many of them in their original forms from ancient times and no longer existing today.
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