I've been able to trace my ancestry several generations but seemed to have reached a wall. Here's the [long] story behind my question below:

Between records and family lore, I understand my 3rd great-grandfather emigrated to Brazil sometime before 1827. Records show that he was baptized in a Catholic church there as an adult that year, and married the following year (same church). His baptism record (in Portuguese) gives his name as Luiz Levino, born in "Ballenstads" (I'm assuming this is Ballenstedt, Anhalt). His father was Ludwig Levino (born in Hildesheim), his mother Bella Benedicto (born in Ballenstedt). Paternal grandparents were Adolfo Levino (likely Adolf Levin, from Hildesheim) and Sophia Lazar (also from Hildesheim). Maternal grandparents were Benedicto Herz (Benedikt?) and Ladda Jose (Josef?). These were born in "Höyme" (likely Hoym, which is near Ballenstedt).

From these names and what living ancestors have told me, Ludwig "fled persecution on Jews" in Germany, and upon arriving in Brazil changed names to make it harder to identify as Jewish, hence the Portuguese "Luiz Levino." We know from history that the Jewish weren't the most well-treated people in Germany around that time and that governments were starting to require them to register German-language surnames. To me it makes sense that "Levino" came from Levin, but some in the family insist the surname was Loew (or Löw). We also know that Brazil made a huge effort to bring Germans to the specific state where I was born starting in 1824. Since I don't have Luiz's German birth record/date, it is also possible they were part of those first trips (between 1824 and his baptism in 1827). However, I haven't been able to find emigration information on any of these names.

Any ideas, links, contact information on how I could confirm Jewish heritage in Germany around that time?


3 Answers 3


There was a Jewish community in Ballenstedt and it seems that it was shrinking over time. They had a synagoge build in 1791 and today there still is a Jewish cemetery there (but only 15 gravestones left). A quick overview over the history of the Jewish community in that town gives this page (German).

I'm not an expert on Jewish records. GenWiki (German) lists no Jewish records for the town. There is something on Familysearch but unfortunately only starting from 1828. At least you could verify if there are other people with a similar surname.

Again I'm no expert on Jewish families but most of the firstnames you list are not of Hebrew origin but German/Latin ones like Ludwig, Adolf, Benedikt. That strikes me as odd regarding Jewish people. One of the more famous Jews in Ballenstedt was apparently David ben Herz (see first link) whose descendants chose Sieskind as surname.

(All info from internet research.)


This is not a conclusive answer per se, but might aid as a lead to further investigate your German heritage.

There is a (commercial) German website called Archion.de, also available in English, see link. There you can search for places like #Ballenstedt (not the # in front!). However, there are at the moment (in 2020) about half of the German church books available, more to be added daily.

Nonetheless, you might have some luck, as it seem that church books are available for Ballenstedt until 1597. However, keep in mind that this church books are made by Christian churches. I could have been that your ancestors lived hidden as Jews, as this sometimes might have been the case. Maybe your ancestors have been recorded there, too!?

You may find someone in the German Genealogy forum (Ahnenforschung.de), someone who has already access to Archion and is willing to look for one of your ancestors, especially if you have a narrow range of (or exact) time of birth or marriage etc. Usually the language used in that forum in German, but you might have a chance to write your post in English. I have seen some people writing and getting responses in English.

Even though, historically Jews in Germany and across Europa have not been treated nicely (meaning before 1900), it does not mean that this was the primary reason for your ancestors to emigrate in 1828. You may try to find information about the Jewish history in Ballenstedt. It seem to have been a small Jewish community throughout time, which gives hope that there are contemporary books or scientific, historic writings about it (in German). For example, here are three person from that place, just type Ballenstedt in the search field.

Another possibility is to check local German archives, for example the Landesarchiv Sachsen-Anhalt.de.

Hope this helps a bit.

As for the question of the surname:

Around the time of the immigration of your ancestor, Jews enjoyed a more and more accepting society in Germany (due to ideas from the French Revolution and the age of Enlightenment, at least to some extent, so that they were not as segregated and could emerge in the non-jew societies the lived in. For example, this could have been the time when relatives to your emigrating ancestor, chose to have the surname "Löw", here the German explanation to it: "Der Name „Löw“ stammt aus dem süddeutschen Raum und leitet sich vom König der Tiere ab. Gleichzeitig war er aber auch ein beliebter jüdischer Name. Denn der Löwe steht als Synonym für den israelitischen Stamm Juda" (via) and its translation by Deepl: "The name "Löw" comes from the southern German area and is derived from the king of the animals. At the same time it was also a popular Jewish name. For the lion is a synonym for the Israelite tribe of Judah."

"Jewish sounding names" would be "Levin", as it originates from Levi, the founding father of the tribe of the Levite, one of the twelve tribes of Israel. It could well be that the grandfather and father of your emigrating ancestors used to have the surname Levin, however that could have changed (legally encouraged) at the time of your ancestor and relatives of the same generation.


Too long to fit in a comment, making an answer out of it :-)

Nebulon42 answer is helpful and looks mostly correct - except for the end - while it is true that the first names are not Jewish names - this offers no indication whatsoever when searching for Jewish genealogy tracks. First, secular first names are most of the time non-Jewish to start with - very often they are picked simply as an attempt to adopt a name in the local language that will feel "natural" to local habitants - and often the "algorithm" for such choice was simply picking a name with the same starting letter/sound as the Hebrew one. Examples: Benedict - Baruch (in this case, the meaning is close as well), Sergio - Shalom, etc. On the other hand, the last names mentioned in the question do raise suspicions of them being Jewish or not. Herz has good chances of being Jewish (Hersh). Levino may be rooted in Levi as the OP suspects (family lore belief in it coming from Loew may be true, so this name specifically does not help us in guessing).

In the brazilian documents, there are no other relatives from the same family listed ? Were there relatives already living in Brazil ?

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