The reinterment of members of the Mendes da Costa family, 1713

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In 1684 Abraham Zagache compiled a census of the Portuguese Jewish community in which he listed several families as 'Portuguese who are not circumcised'.1 Among these were Antonio Mendes, his son Dr Fernando Mendes and his son-in-law Alvaro da Costa. In December 1712 their three eldest sons presented the following petition in Portuguese to the Gentlemen of the Mahamad. The text, in Minute Book MS 103, reads as follows in literal translation from the Portuguese:

Sres Parnasim and Sr Gabay [Treasurer] of this Holy Congregation, which God increase. We the undersigned represent to you that having laid several of our deceased relatives in a place [territorio] far from the common Bethahaim of Milend and desiring to transfer them, as was always our intention, to the burial place of our relatives and brethren in the said Milend decently, in London the 10 Dec[ember] 1712. We request that you may be pleased to give us licence to transfer them to the said burial place and to order [hordenar] the Sr. Haham to assist us in this function so that the Rites of our Holy Law shall be fully observed. For which we shall be grateful. Signed Joseph Mendez da Costa, Moseh da Costa, Isaque Mendes.

Joseph (or John) Mendes da Costa was Antonio Mendes da Costa's eldest son, Moseh (or Antonio) da Costa was Alvaro da Costa's eldest son and Isaac (or Antonio) Mendes was Dr Fernando Mendes's eldest son. The Mahamad Minute Book (MS 103) records that on 22 Kislev 5473 (10 December 1712 Old Style) on ballot, the petitioners' request was granted and they formally offered ?100 to synagogue funds (Sedaca).

The Gentlemen of the Mahamad at that time were unrelated to the Mendes da Costa family and consisted of Joseph Mendez de Castro, Jacob da Veiga and Abraham de Moseh Franco (who was the treasurer), assisted by Isaque de Avila, Dr Rohiel Abudiente, Pinhas Gomes Serra and Isaque Fernandes Nunes. Their vote was unanimous.

A few weeks later, on 20 Tebet (7 January 1713 Old Style), the Mahamad

1 L. D. Barnett (ed.) Bevis Marks Records Part I (Oxford 1940) 19-20.

gave instructions to Haham David Nieto in person to assist the da Costas 'in whatever was necessary for the Burial of their deceased relatives in the Bethahaim of Milend' and to order other synagogue officials to assist as appropriate. The remains of three members of the Mendes da Costa family were removed from their temporary resting place, almost certainly in the grounds of Alvaro da Costa's country house in Highgate, to the old Spanish and Portuguese Jews' Cemetery (the Velho) at Mile End, Stepney.

The reburial was carried out, and on 24 Tebet (11 January) Moseh da Costa handed to the treasurer the promised ?100 'in a Bank Note' which was credited to the Burial Ground Account (Finta Bethahaim).

These three reburials were located in a block of seven graves, the remain? ing four being soon after reserved for other members of the family. In March 1713 Jacob da Costa, through his son Moseh, reserved a

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