Black Friday Sale: Save on Family Finder, Y-DNA, mtDNA , & Bundles Through Nov 30th


  • 57 members

About us

I have had several persons ask or comment about Sephardic origins of the Cordeses of extreme Northern Germany, i.e. Northern Lower Saxony (Niedersachsen).  My answer to the question always begins with: 'Not all Cordeses are related.  In fact, judging from the results from the few YDNA samples we have so far, most seem not to be related; not even remotely, since we have three different haplogroups represented.'. Of course, if we had many more paricipants we might find that there are only four or five main Cordes groups; but we can't know that without many more YDNA samples.

Still, in answer to many of those who have asked about the possibility of Sephardic origins for SOME persons with the Cordes surname, here is a reply:

Jume 21, 2015

Hello  xxxxx,

First, if you look at the YDNA results on the Cordes site you will see that there is no one Cordes YDNA family.  Of those whose surname is Cordes and have submitted their YDNA to the site most do not match; they are not even remotely related to one another since three different haplogroups are represented.  German genealogists, at least those (all amateur) I have corresponded with, will almost unanimously argue that the name is of German origin, coming from the given name Cord (Kurt) with the meaning of Cord's son.  All of the Germans I have corresponded with deny any other origins for the name, including French Huguenot, which was the story my grandfather told. I generally do not bring up the subject of Sephardic origins. of the project member's family pedigree is given in a history of the Hamburg 'Oberaltern' ( something like aldermen) and it is clearly written that they came from Spain a 
little before 1500.  Two other members of the project have family stories connecting them to Southern France or Spain.  I do not mean here that they claim Sephardic origins.

The Cordes family from Salon-de-Provence, France, emigrated from Catalonia in February, 1493, six months after the Alhambra Decree expelled non-converting Jews and Muslims from Spanish territory. They were catholics and were accompanied by the future Archbishop of Arles, France.  Their name was originally de Cordova.  They were, according to certain historical documents recounting the history of Provence, cousins of the Jewish Paul, or St Paul family who had converted to catholicism but who later in the 1500's became Lutherans.  Antoine Cordes of the Cordes family of Mazamet, France, emigrated to Charleston South Carolina in about 1680 and there and in England used the same family crest as the de Cordova/de Cordouë/ de Cordes/Cordes family of Salon.  He had several brothers who were protestant pastors, all of whom, except for one, emigrated to the Netherlands where they were given protestant parishes, also in the late 1600's.  The one exception, as far as I can determine, went to Frankfurt and has not been accounted for.  These Cordes men were the sons of Paul Cordes, also a protestant pastor.  As far as I know there is no proof of relationship between the Cordes families of Mazamet and Salon-de-Provence other than the fact (on record with the Huguenot Society of South Carolina) that Antoine Cordes of Mazamet (ca. 1680) was identifying himself with the same family crest as the Cordes family of Salon-de-Provence and in fact this crest can be found on his tombstone (also on record with the Huguenot Society of South Carolina).  I have not found a male descendant of the South Carolina Antoine, but there are presumably many male Cordes descendants of his Mazamet brothers amongst the Netherlands Cordeses.

This is the only more or less tenuous evidence I have found so far that might link Cordes families with Sephardic Jews; moreover, the source that states that the Cordes and Paul families were cousins does not specify if this was on the paternal or maternal side.  

In my own case, much to my surprise, my first two YDNA matches were Mexicans even though my Cordes ancestry is recorded in baptismal records in the Ottersberg/Otterstedt area of Lower Saxony in extreme Northern Germany as early  as the late 1600's with a Hinrich Cordes being the earliest known ancestor, born ca. 1640. Of the two matches, the first asked me if I was Sephardic since his family (López), though catholic, had a family tradition of circumcision; the second said that his family emigrated to Mexico from Catalonia.  In research I have found that certain Lopez, Ruiz and Cordes families were often associated in one way or another in places such as Antwerp, Amsterdam, Hamburg and even the Philippines.  In addition, there are marriage and baptismal records for Cordes men and women in Mexico from the late 1500's to about 1700, mostly in Oaxaca, Cuernavaca and Puebla.  There is record of an Alexon Cordes in the 'Marquesado del valle de Oaxaca' in the 1500's but I have so far not seen the book, and as far as I can tell it is written in one of the indigenous languages of Oaxaca, probably Zapotec; I don't know if it is translated. The baptismal and marriage records are on file with Mormon Family Search and the names are consistently spelled Cordes, never Cortes or Cortez.  Historians write that there were many conversos ( marranos as you write) among those who came to Mexico in the 16th century to escape the Inquisition.

I have corresonded with a woman doctor from Melbourne, Australia who claims that the Cordeses around Altona, Germany are of Sephardic origin, and that mine are as well.  She also maintains that the Sackmans, Hartmans and Meyers, at least mine, are also of Sephardic origin, having fled from Spain to Italy, then up into Frankfurt, Germany and from there into the Harz Mountains where they took their German names before eventually settling along the trade route between Amsterdam and Lübeck and Hamburg where they were engaged in the grain trade. I would welcome documentation of these claims, but so far none has come forth.

You will also see in the table of YDNA  results that my own haplogroup is not common in Germany, especially Northern Germany.  E1b1b1a1b, or V-13 as it is also called, is most common in the Eastern Mediterranean, but is also found in lower percentages in Sicily, Provence and Catalonia. It is, of course, found all over Europe, as well, but to a very low degree in Lower Saxony.

So, to answer your question in one sentence: many Cordeses are not even remotely related; several people, like yourself have asked about Sephardic origins; this has led me to investigate the question and it appears that in my case, at least, Sephardic origins are likely.  

Who is most surprised by this argument? Me. The closest I can come to a Sephardic family tradition is a glass of Mogen David wine my aunt would give me on Thanksgiving when I was a teenager.  

June 22, 2015

There was a thriving Jewish community in Tudela, Kingdom of Navarre, now Spain. They were allowed residence within the castle walls.  They traded in grain, wool, cloth, and even slaves.  and were tanners, scholars and physicians, even to the kings, from whom they received baronial rights including vineyards.  They were taxed increasingly.  and toward the 15th century declined from some 500 familes to about 200 due not only to the burden of taxation but also due to the plague.  Jews were not expelled from Navarre until 1498, six years after the Alhambra Decree, because Navarre was not a part of the Kingdom of Ferdinand and Isabella. Those who were not baptised by 1498 and those who were baptised but were suspected of continuing in Judaism were expelled and fled mostly to France.  See Wikipedia articles on Tudela and History of the Jews in Tudela.  I have some sources that mention Jews in Languedoc but they were saved on a hard drive that failed.  I think I have most sources saved in e-mails.