How to prove Sephardic ancestry?

portada como certificar asendencia judia

Before being able to apply for Portuguese nationality by Sephardic origin, it is necessary to have a certificate issued by a Jewish community indicating that you are indeed a descendant of a Sephardic Jew, although in order to prove this, several studies and tests are required to determine your genealogical relationship.

On the internet there are many lists of names and surnames that are of Sephardic origin, and give the notion that possessing these names and surnames automatically makes you a Sephardic descendant. The reality is that these data are not sufficient proof for you to be certified, so it is necessary to have other elements with much more probative weight when requesting the certificate of Sephardic origin.

In this opportunity, we want to talk a little bit about how you can prove your Sephardic ancestry and what documents or proofs you can present to the Jewish communities to obtain the certificate of Sephardic origin.

Jewish Community of Lisbon and Jewish Community of Oporto

As mentioned above, in order to obtain Portuguese nationality by Sephardic origin, you must have a certificate attesting to your Sephardic origin from a recognized Jewish community in Portugal and the only communities that can certify your Sephardic origin for Portuguese nationality are the Jewish Community of Lisbon and the Jewish Community of Porto.

The Jewish Community of Porto only issues certificates of Sephardic origin to Jews whose parents and grandparents are Orthodox; the Jewish Community of Lisbon, on the other hand, can issue this certificate of Sephardic origin to Sephardic Jews who are practicing Jews, as well as to those who are not Jews, but, through a series of documents, can prove their Sephardic ancestry.

In this blog, we will discuss the process and documentation to obtain the certificate of Sephardic origin with the Jewish Community of Lisbon, as this represents an advantage for both Jews and non-Jews who can prove their ancestry.


Application for certificate with the Lisbon Jewish community

All this process can be done digitally, the documents must be delivered in PDF format and in separate and properly marked files, in order to be able to perform a correct analysis.

The application must be made to the Comunidade Israelita de Lisboa, taking into account that the procedure is currently carried out virtually, through the official website of the entity (
); additionally, it is indispensable to prove to be a descendant of an ancestor belonging to a community of Sephardic origin in Spain or Portugal and to attach the corresponding documentation; which will be listed below:

When the person belongs to a Jewish community:

    • Certification Request Form
    • Birth or Marriage Certificate or Birth or Marriage Register
    • Death certificate or burial in Jewish cemetery
    • Documents to accredit immigration of ancestors, in which the place of origin is accredited, issued by the host country.
    • Testimony of the Sephardic community leader or experts who know the applicant and can explain the applicant’s Jewish affiliation.

When one does not belong directly to a Jewish community:

  • Certification Request Form
  • Copy of valid passport, containing personal information and signature
  • Birth Certificate or Birth Certificate
  • Proof of residence (Example; utility bill)
  • Family Tree of maximum two pages
  • In case there is a family member who carried out the process, he/she must attach a letter of authorization to review the file.

Along with this information you must send documents and evidence with which you can prove your Sephardic origin, at this point, the documentation you send may vary. The following are some of the documents and proofs that the Jewish Community of Lisbon admits for this process:

Of a personal nature

Here they may include: Surname study, family records showing Jewish celebrations, such as birthdays, weddings or burials; record of membership in Jewish communities, birth and death certificates of relatives, property deeds, bibliographic records among others.

Genealogical studies

These genealogical studies must be carried out by experts and must include the dates and places of birth, marriage and death of the ancestors. In order to present this genealogical study, it is required that the person can provide these certificates to reconstruct the family tree of the family, which must fit in at least 2 pages, must be visible and understandable, and can be presented graphically or in written form.



These testimonials can be from experts, the Rabbi of the Jewish community to which you belong, or people who know you and can attest to your Jewish affiliation.

Emotional memory

It is a letter where the person can express his or her reasons for acquiring Portuguese nationality through Sephardic origin. This letter may demonstrate proficiency in the Ladino language, or general cultural knowledge of Judaism, but it is not a mandatory requirement.


When the application is not submitted directly by the interested party, a power of attorney must be added, in order to validate the performance of the person in charge of carrying out the procedure.

Likewise, most of the documents must have an authenticity stamp and a Portuguese translation.

Finally, it is important to highlight that the legislation of Portugal informs the most common surnames of the population of Sephardic origin; however, the list found within the Decree-Law 30A of 2015, is not sufficient proof to accredit and request the certification; since this is not Taxative and therefore, there may be other surnames that have not been taken into account; in this sense, it is necessary to carry out the genealogy study to determine a direct connection with a Sephardic ancestor.

Some of the most common surnames are:

  • Almeida
  • Avelar
  • Bravo
  • Carvajal
  • Crespo
  • Duarte
  • Ferreira
  • Franco
  • Cat
  • Gonçalves
  • Guerreiro
  • Leão
  • Lopes
  • Leiria
  • Wolf
  • Lousada
  • Machorro
  • Martins
  • Montesino
  • Moreno
  • Mota
  • Macias
  • Miranda
  • Oliveira
  • Osorio
  • Pardo
  • Pina
  • Pinto
  • Pimentel
  • Pizarro
  • Dear
  • Rei
  • Ribeiro
  • Salvador
  • Towers
  • Abrantes
  • Aguilar
  • Andrade
  • Brandão
  • Brito
  • Good
  • Cardoso
  • Carvalho
  • Castro
  • Costa
  • Coutinho
  • Dourado
  • Fonseca
  • Furtado
  • Gomes
  • Gouveia
  • Granjo
  • Henriques
  • Lara
  • Marques
  • Melo and Prado
  • Mesquita
  • Mendes
  • Net
  • Nunes
  • Pereira
  • Pinheiro
  • Rodrigues
  • Rosa
  • Sarmento
  • Silva
  • Soares
  • Teixeira
  • Amorim
  • Azevedo
  • Álvares
  • Barros
  • Basto
  • Belmonte
  • Cáceres
  • Caetano
  • Fields
  • Carneiro
  • Cross
  • Dias
  • Duarte
  • Elias
  • Estrela
  • Gaiola
  • Joshua
  • Lemos
  • Lombroso
  • Lopes
  • Machado
  • Mascarenhas
  • Mattos
  • Meira
  • Mello and Canto
  • Mendes da Costa
  • Miranda
  • Morão
  • Morões
  • Mota
  • Moucada
  • Black
  • Oliveira
  • Osório (or Ozório)
  • Paiva
  • Pilão
  • Pinto
  • Pessoa
  • Preto
  • Souza
  • Vaz
  • Vargas


The Jewish Community of Lisbon mentions that, with the exception of the family tree, it is not necessary to present all this documentation, only the one you can obtain, moreover, these documents can be presented in Portuguese, Spanish, French or English.

Once the documentation has been sent, the corresponding payment must be made to make the application effective. This application may take approximately 6 months, since there are currently many applications and all documentation must be reviewed before the certificate can be issued.

As you can see, obtaining the certificate of Sephardic origin is an important step in obtaining your Portuguese nationality, this process may seem complicated, but an expert lawyer can help you during this stage and at servicio legal we have a team of experts who can help you collect all the necessary documentation for you to submit your application.