STORIES OF OUR FAMILIES
To forget one's ancestors is to be a brook without a source, a tree without a root.
Baruch (Bento) Osorio
c. 1560 Lisbon - 1644 Amsterdam
A Serendiptious Discovery - the Lobo connection
One evening in 2017, my husband Meindert and I were at home in Holland enjoying the television show “Verborgen Verleden” (hidden past) - the Dutch version of "Who Do You Think You Are". The episode featured well-known Dutch journalist, TV and radio personality Hanneke Groenteman. As I followed the story of Hanneke’s roots, I was astounded to recognise names of Lobo ancestors that were also in my own maternal family line from Barbados. It became clear that Hanneke's earliest Portuguese Jewish ancestor was also my own ancestor - Baruch (Bento) Osorio. The following days were spent delving into the marriage records in the Amsterdam Archives where we confirmed the facts and established the family links. Baruch Bento Osorio was my 10th great-grandfather.
Bento married Esther (alias Maria) Teixeira in Lisbon in 1588. Some sources in Amsterdam claim they came to the Dutch Republic in 1597, where Bento then started to openly practice his Jewish faith as one of the first 16 Jews to do so, and became a founding member of the Beth Jacob Synagogue. But there seems to be no record of Bento in Amsterdam until 1610; and when his daughter Anna Osorio wanted to wed in Amsterdam in the year 1631 it was stated that the 24 year-old was born in Lisbon. He and his family must therefore have left Lisbon around 1610, when the Twelve Years Truce had been in effect for a year, and trade between the Iberian Peninsula and the Low Countries was thriving. Bento was a founder of the Beth Israel Congregation - the Portuguese Synagogue, also known as the Esnoga, completed in 1675.
Not only did Bento wish to openly practice his Jewish faith, he was a merchant driven by sound economic motivations for leaving Portugal for Amsterdam. The following clip edited from the television show tells about the circumstances in Lisbon leading up to Bento's departure and reveals documented evidence that he was spied upon by the Catholic Inquisition even after he had escaped to Amsterdam.
We know that Bento and his family lived diagonally opposite of Rembrandt, in the Breestraat, now known as the Jodenbreestraat in Amsterdam.
The house named ‘t Romijns Keizers Hooft (the Roman Emperors Head) was near the lock-house (now Cafe de Sluyswacht). This 1818 drawing of Jodenbreestraat (almost certainly) shows Osorio’s house called 't Romijns Keizers Hooft. It is the house on the corner (of the side street on the right hand side). After Bento’s death his son David lived in the house.
From ‘Rembrandt’s Jews’ by Steven Nadler: "At the end of the block was yet another merchant, Bento (or Baruch) Osorio. With over fifty thousand guilders to his account at the Bank of Amsterdam, he was one of Vlooienburg’s richest residents."
Bento Osorio was a patron of Rembrandt and had a liking for landscape paintings. He was also a creditor to Baruch Spinoza, the famous philosopher.
Fascinated with the story of my ancestor, I have often explored the streets of this historic Jewish area in Amsterdam, as well as the Rembrandt Huis where the artist lived and worked between 1639 and 1656. I also wanted to find Bento's burial place, as did Hanneke in the television show. In the summer of 2020, Meindert and I visited the Beth Haim Cemetery - the oldest Sephardic cemetery in the Netherlands. There we discovered his grave as well as the graves of his family. Though Bento was a rich man, his grave is an insignificant looking, unadorned horizontal leger stone in the Sephardic tradition, in accordance with the Second Commandment. The locations of Baruch Bento Osorio and his wife Ester's graves can be viewed here.
We explored the cemetery with a guide who pointed out other family grave sites from the sixteenth century which are long sunken below the marshy ground alongside the Amstel River where bodies were received for burial.
It was an emotional and fulfilling experience.
Ironically, the church bells of neighbouring Catholic Church
Sint Urbanuskerk were ringing when Meindert and I discovered Bento's grave.
"Here lies Baruch Osorio
A respected citizen of Amsterdam"
Amsterdam - Burials of the Portuguese Israelite Congregation
Burial date: 1644/09/23
Archive card number: 18887
1st Family name: OSORIO
First name: BARUCH
Location: A-30 -20
Osorio Family Graves at the Beth Haim Cemetery, Amsterdam
Amsterdam City Archives
(Click on the first image and scroll through)