Letter to a cousin from an Irish lunatic, descended from Court Jews

By Richard May, a.k.a., May-Tzu — ferdlilac@yahoo.com

What do I have in common with the Jews? I don’t even have anything in common with myself. — Franz Kafka

King Wu to Bodhidharma: Who are you? Bodhidharma to King Wu: I don’t know!

Deep genealogy

DNA is comprised of 22 autosomal chromosomes, and 1 pair of sex chromosomes, a total of 23 pairs. I’ve learned little of genealogical significance from the autosomal-DNA tests, which theoretically allow a person to discover new cousins not in the direct paternal Y-DNA lineage or the direct maternal mitochondrial-DNA lineage. It appears that the algorithms now in use need considerable tweaking for those of Ashkenazi ancestry or with admixtures of substantial Ashkenazi ancestry. The historic practice of Jewish endogamy or cousin marriages and the founder effect complicates estimating the degree of closeness of autosomal-DNA cousins for this population. I did learn that our German Jewish ancestors were earlier in Poland and the Ukraine, the former Galicia and also that we have an apparent 4th. cousin with Lithuanian roots.

The only test I’ve made a significant discovery with was the Y-DNA 67-marker test of my E-M35( formerly called Eb1b1b1) paternal Haplogroup. Eb1b1b1, using the previous designation, is a subgroup of Eb1b1, found most commonly in northern Africa and southern Europe. Eb1b1 originated about 25,000 years ago in eastern Africa, propagating into the Mediterranean region following the Ice Age. Incidentally, our most frequent (as a percentage of the population tested) E-M35 Y-DNA cousins were of Romanian origin. Yet our familial historic connection to Romania is completely unknown. The most interesting discovery was that our Ashkenazi exclusively male line of ascent was very probably originally Sephardic. This is summarized below.

Y-DNA evidence, according to our distant genetic cousins, Dr. Friedman and a Mr. P. Hollander, indicates that a cluster of individuals with a certain specific signature on E-M35 Y-DNA, on my father’s father’s … agnate MAY(ER) line of ascent, were originally Sephardic Jews in Spain with the surname ALBAGESI or AL-BAGEZI. Sephardic Jews had surnames hundreds of years before Ashkenazi Jews typically did. It now appears highly probable on the basis of comparing known family histories of close Y-DNA genetic cousins, some of whom have surviving family oral traditions predating written records of having originally come from Spain, that our German-Jewish ‘Ashkenazi’ MAY(ER) family was originally descended from a Sephardic family with the surname ALBAGESI or AL-BAGEZI.

The surname ALBAGESI may actually have originated as a toponym in the area around the present day village of d’Albages, in Catalonia( northeast Spain) about 120 km west of Barcelona. There is a royal Aragonese medieval reference to a Jew with the surname ALBAGESI from the year 1285 in Valencia, according to Dr. Friedman. So it is known that the surname ALBAGESI was, in fact, a Sephardic Jewish surname in medieval Spain. According to another E-M35 Y-DNA cousin, the town of d’Albages was originally founded as an Arab fortification and, hence, the surname ALBAGESI may be even  older.

Some ALBAGESIs resided in Toledo, and after the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492, emigrated to Amsterdam, Netherlands, perhaps after a sojourn in Portugal. Yet later our ALBAGESI ancestral line emigrated again, this time adopting the toponymic surname HOLLANDER, meaning one who has come from Holland, and taking it into eastern Europe, particularly Galicia( now partly in Poland and partly in the Ukraine).

Immigrant Jews with the surname HOLLANDER were especially concentrated in Krakow. I found this significant, because a researcher in German-Jewish genealogy located in Frankfurt, has learned that before the Hessen, in the 17th. century the MAYER family was in Krakow, Galicia, according to German records.

In the late 17th. century our family emigrated from Krakow to the Hessen, specifically to Frankenthal, Frankfurt, Giessen, Hamburg, Heddernheim, Mannheim, Nierstein, and Ober-Ingelheim. In the transition from Krakow, Galicia to the Hessen the following additional surnames were used at various times and places: KRZEPCZYK, the transliterated Polish spelling of the German GROEBZIG, GREBSIG or GREPZIG, KREBSINGER, MAYER( all spellings), MAYERHOFER, MAYERHOEFER and MAYER-KREBSINGER, adding to the onomastic confusion!

There are two URLs below which may be of interest.

Tracing the Tribe: The Jewish Genealogy Blog: Family Tree DNA: 4 …
Oct 6, 2007 … Surnames currently represented include Abroz, Albagesi, Al-Bagezi, … Gold, Goza, Gozhanskij, Henoch, Herzlich, Hollander, Hurroz, Iberian, …
tracingthetribe.blogspot.com/…/family-tree-dna-4-sephardic-dna-groups.html – Cached

“Family Tree DNA – Iberian Ashkenaz” is a group for individuals whose Ashkenazi ancestors were originally Sephardic.
Family Tree DNA – Iberian Ashkenaz/ EEIJH
Abarbanel, Abravanel, Abroz, Albagesi, Al-Bagezi, Albom, Alfonso, Alvarez, … Herzlich, Hofmeister, Hollander, Hosse, Hubbard, Hurroz, Iberian, Iofe, Jacobi, … Wikipedia is also a reliable source for information on genetic genealogy …
http://www.familytreedna.com/public/IberianSurnamesofAshkenaz/ – Cached – Similar

More recently in genealogical time Charles May and Son Company was a wholesale jewelry business founded by Charles, born Siegfried Carl Mayer, my great grandfather, in the late 19th century. He was listed in a Boston, Mass. business directory by 1866 (one year after his immigration to the U.S.A.) as a watchmaker. According to the 1861 London census, Charles had learned to practice the trade of watchmaking by age sixteen.

Charles May and Son Company, which was located at 373 Washington St., Boston, Mass., at the corner of Bromfield St., was incorporated in Massachusetts in 1912. The corporation was not legally dissolved until 1943. Indeed, Charles worked there until he was in his late eighties, according to his obituary.

His son, William May, my grandfather, was president of the corporation. According to my father, William had little formal education but was an professorial-sounding autodidact who read a book per day, had a very large vocabulary, and corrected people’s grammar. His oldest son attended Dartmouth College. His oldest daughter graduated Smith College, the other graduated Wheelock College. William was said to have played the violin.

Perhaps not without interest William May was the defendant in a 1917 $25,000 breach of promise lawsuit brought by a ‘NY actress’, no less! The headline in the 1917-06-06 issue of the Boston Journal was: “Bankruptcy May Delay Love Suit — New York Actress Seeks $25,000 from Boston Jeweler.” Unfortunately I have not been able to discover how this was eventually resolved.

According to a cousin met online, William May suffered from what was then called “cyclic psychosis,” i.e., bipolar disorder. If so, he apparently managed it well, even in this time before the availability of lithium as a treatment. My guess is that it was bipolar II, i.e., hypomania, rather than florid psychosis. He successfully maintained his marriage to a woman nineteen years his younger and was gainfully employed until at least his early sixties.

To my surprise the family business was apparently listed on the stock exchange. I knew nothing of this and was only told that my grandfather had “a business.” Our Jewish ancestry was never mentioned. ( Similarly on our mother’s side of the family our Irish ancestry was never revealed.) Charles’ will of 1924 and the codicil of 1926 referred to shares of common and preferred stock in Charles May and Son Company.

Charles May, his wife, their two daughters and a son-in-law are buried in a common plot in a non-sectarian cemetery in Boston, Mass. with no religious symbols (such as crosses, stars of David or Hebrew writing) on their graves. As the Deists compared God with a watchmaker, maybe in this case the Jewish watchmaker became a Deist.

Charles’ father, my great great grandfather, was Ferdinand Mayer, born 1812 in Nierstein, the Hessen and died in 1890 in London, UK. Ferdinand Mayer’s professions as listed on the birth records of his seven children who were born in Giessen were as follows: wine dealer, restaurant owner, businessman/trader, liquor manufacturer (which, incidentally, was considered a respectable profession and not prohibited by Jewish law), and businessman/merchant.

Ferdinand Meyer( Mayer) is listed on a register of citizens from Giessen (which spanned the years 1770 – 1898) as follows:

Ferdinand Meyer
Born: 25 March 1812 in Nierstein
Religion: Jewish
Profession: wine dealer
Received as a citizen 15 May 1838 as per order of the district council.

Nierstein is well known for its wines, hence Ferdinand’s profession. Receiving citizenship was a step taken in preparation for his imminent marriage.

In March of 1853 Ferdinand Mayer, accompanied by his wife, Kaetchen or Kettchen nee Landauer, and their seven children, arrived in London, England, having departed from Giessen in the State of the Hessen. The family surname Mayer was anglicized to “May.”

On his London death record, English naturalization papers, census records and in London commercial directories in the 1860s he was said to be a hotel proprietor (“private hotel keeper”). The United Synagogue burial records for Ferdinand May list his status as “stranger“! There was no death notice in the Jewish Chronicle for Ferdinand May. He was apostate and his grandchildren all “married out” and assimilated. Among them were Percy May, Sc.D., chemist and text book author and the eminent Dr. Otto May, a London physician, whose obituary appeared in the New York Times.

Commercial directories also listed “Ferdinand May: watchmaker” and “Ferdinand May, 13 Wilson St.: commission agent”. “Commission agent” in Victorian London meant either someone who earns a commission on sales or a bookmaker of the gambling variety. Occasionally in later life he was refered to as a “gentleman” in the UK census, a term for someone who was independently wealthy. But in 1865, nine years after Ferdinand May became a naturalized British subject, he filed for bankruptcy. This was the year his twenty-year-old son, Charles, emigrated alone to Boston.

The father of Ferdinand May(er) was Isaak Wilhelm Mayer, born in ca. 1773. Originally Isaak Wilhelm and his brothers formed a troupe of Jewish musicians in the Hessen, which toured in the summer, playing a special form of music. He later became a merchant or trader and married into the famous Del Banco banking family, descended from Jewish moneylender Anselmo Del Banco, a.k.a., Asher Meshullam, d. 1532, the founder of the Jewish community of Venice.

The Del Banco family later became the ’eminent’ Warburg family, after moving to Warburg, Germany. If our Mayer ancestors were, indeed, the Mannheim Mayers of the Hessen, then our ancestral line is the Mayers of the well-known Mayer-Laudenburg banking family. Perhaps this is why I have a deep-seated aversion to banks and the entire banking system.

Isaak Wilhelm Mayer’s father, Abraham Mayer, a.k.a., Abraham Krebsinger and Abraham Mayerhofer, was born in 1720s and probably died in Frankenthal. Mayer was his surname, adopted when Jews were forced by local civil authorities to take surnames, because they wanted to more effectively tax them and to draft them into the military. But he was born before most Ashkenazi Jews in the Hessen or elsewhere had surnames. Abraham Mayer was born with the patronymic name Abraham son of Mayer in translated German or Avraham ben M’eir in transliterated Hebrew.

The apparently very wealthy and also notorious Abraham Mayer had been arrested and jailed several times and was accused by the Frankfurt Jewish authorities of being a criminal, who used many aliases, e.g., Mayerhofer, and Krebsinger, because his reputation was so bad. It was feared that the marriage of his son, Isaak Wilhelm Mayer, our third great grandfather, to Jentle Del Banco, a.k.a., Juliette Hamburg, a member of the Del Banco banking family, would bring the Jewish community of Frankfurt into disrepute.

However, Abraham Mayer denied being a criminal, said that one of his arrests had been a case of mistaken identity, he had been confused with a different Mayer, and that he had always been released from jail each time he had been arrested, which proved his innocence. He further asserted as a defense of his son’s right to marry Juliette Hamburg, her modern ‘non-Jewish-sounding’ name, that even if he were a criminal, his son, a musician, had done nothing wrong. Why should the sins of the father be passed on to the child?

Abraham Mayer (Meyer) lived in (Frankfurt-) Hedderdheim at least as early as 1765, according to a Muster List. The Mayers moved to Mannheim sometime after 1778. In 1779 Abraham Mayer is listed as being freed from making payments as a “protected Jew” in Heddernheim. A Schutzjude or protected Jew was a Jew who had paid, if he could afford it, a special tax on Jews to the local gentile baron, which allowed him to travel legally within the state from village to village to practice a trade or business. No longer being required to make the payments implied that he had become poor by this time. His daughter’s death record states that he was a merchant in Mannheim, while still alive. Hence, it is likely that Abraham Mayer died in Mannheim, Hessen.

The patronymic name of the father of Abraham son of Mayer was probably Mayer son of Isaak in translated German or M’eir ben Yitzchak in transliterated Hebrew, born ca. 1700. Earlier than this we have discovered no individual patronymic names within the entropic mists of time. But in the beginning we only knew that Grandfather’s name was William and we were ‘German’.

Also of possible genealogical interest: McGINNIS genealogy, Crown Point, N.Y.: Hiram Porter McGinnis