Here, gathered in our beloved South Dakota, are a few members of our Williamson / Mattson Clan. Charles and Luella are to be blamed (be kind, they didn't know what they were doing). We're generally a happy bunch and somewhat intelligent (notwithstanding our tenuous grasp on reality). I'm also proud to say that most of us still have our teeth.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Possible Spanish Jewish Blood in our Williamson Line.

Roosa Family Crest, Holland

From the Fortress of Solitude
Pleasant Grove

Hello All,
The bell rang on Friday ending the 2010-2011 school year. It was a race to see who could get out of the building the fastest, the students or the teachers. Who is left when the dust settles? You're correct, me. The end of the school year means the start of the summer camp season and we have a full slate of space camps and private programs in our simulators and planetariums. I'm pleased that all our camps filled and each has a waiting list. Full camps mean a good operating budget for the next school year.

Well, gather around and find a spot in the shade. It's time for another digital family gathering. Today we will discuss the Williamson family history through my Great Grandmother, Effie Helen Victor, wife of William Jonathan Williamson. Her mother's last name was Morris. It is my opinion Nancy Morris comes from the Morris family that originally settled New Jersey.

Although I can't be 100% certain of this branch of the family line, I will say that the majority of people that have traced their family history to the Riggs family of New England claim that a certain Edward Riggs married Elizabeth Roosa. There is a small group of genealogists that claim Elizabeth's family name was actually Rose, hence my caution that we can't be 100% sure about this branch of our family line. All I can say is that this is what the majority believe. With that said, we continue.

This is the Relationship Chart based on the majority opinion of those that have researched the Riggs family line.


Guysbert Roosa and Maria Dircksen
Heyman Roosa and Metje Deroos
Edward Riggs and Elizabeth Roosa
Edward Riggs and Mary Munn
Edward Riggs and Alphia Stoughton
Mary Riggs and Daniel Morris
Issac Morris and Rebecca Hathaway
Benjamin Morris and Mary Spinning
Isaac Morris and ?
Nancy Morris and Whitty Victor
Effie Helen Victor and William Jonathan Williamson
Vennie, Ima, Inez, Lille, Josie, Emmett, Walt, Charles and Maurice Williamson

There is evidence our probable Dutch Roosa ancestors were actually Spanish Jews who escaped the Spanish Inquisition. The following information was gleaned from several emails exchanged from family researchers detailing their evidence of the Roosa's family origin.

The name Roosa is pronounced "Rosa" in Dutch. The theory the Roose family is Spanish comes from Bert Feldman in which he states that the Roosa family were called a "Rabbinical family".

The Alhambra Decree (also known as the Edict of Expulsion) was an edict issued on 31 March 1492 by the joint Catholic Monarchs of Spain (Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon) ordering the expulsion of Jews from the Kingdom of Spain and its territories and possessions by 31 July of that year.[1]

In 1492, the king of Spain expelled all Jews from that country, and the king of Portugal did the same a few years later. Many Jews escaped expulsion by being baptized, and continued to secretly carry out the tenets of Judaism in private. Jewish converts to Christianity were relentlessly spied upon by the Spanish Catholic Inquisition, which tortured and burned to death those who were found to be "impure" in their Christianity. Many conversos (Jews who converted to Catholism then secretly practiced their Jewish faith) made their way to Belgium and the Netherlands during the 1500's, a place to which many of their "unconverted" brethren had apparently (according to Feldman) fled earlier.

The ROOSA name first appeared in the Netherlands in the 1400's, so this lends support that the ROOSAs were "rabbinical" (and therefore openly practicing) Jews of the earlier migration, rather than "conversos" ("converted" Jews).

The "Judaic" (Talmudic) religion is passed on through the mother, rather than the father, so when Albert HEYMANS (Heyman's son), the first American ROOSA, married Wyntje DE JONGH, the family probably ceased to be "practicing" Jews. Wyntje was the daughter of a Dutch burgomaster, and therefore was most likely a Gentile. Because of Albert's parentage, though,
we can claim to be descended from one of the first Jews (possibly the first Jew) in New York.

Albert was one of the first leaders of the Wiltwyck settlement, and along with his son Arien ( = Arie, "the Lion" or "the Jew") was among those petitioning Governor Andros to provide the community with a Dutch-speaking minister. Remember that the Dutch Reformed Church in New York served as an extended family "community center" for everyone in the Dutch community, so this action of the ROOSAs may have been more motivated by community concern than by religious convictions. His daughter Wynte, though, married into the DePuy family, descended from devout Huguenots.

There is a story told to about the Black Jew's in the Netherlands. It seems that during the Spanish Inquisition the Jews were given the chance to become Christians or leave. Some of the Jewish people did turn Christian but the majority of them left and traveled northward through Germany and France. Some ended up in the Netherlands. Over the years many adopted the Christian faith.

They were called Black Jew because of their dark Spanish complexion and their marriage into Spanish families.

The following is an article written about the question of whether or not the Rossa family is of Spanish / Portugues Jewish ancestry. It is an interesting read.

I have seen a great deal of supposition regarding the possibility of the Dutch Roosas being of Spanish/Jewish origins. There seem to be two firmly rooted camps; those who unquestionably support the theory, and those who believe it to be only a "legend". Hard evidence to support either argument has yet to surface.

Bert Feldman asserted that the Roosas were "from a rabbinical family", yet nobody has been able to identify his sources for this. His being Jewish himself does not qualify him for special knowledge that would enable him to ascertain this. Strictly speaking, Mr. Feldman was, at best, an amateur historian making an educated guess. And, without his source material, we can only wonder at what information he used as a basis for his statement.

That being said, there is enough historical background material available to convince me that the assertions made by Abraham Guijsbert Roosa of the family being of Spanish origins may be true. (The Nederlandse Familienamen Databank of the Marteens Institute states that Roosa only claimed Catalon descent, nothing of Jewish origins). First and foremost, anyone bothering to look at old Dutch records will find that the name was spelled "Rosa" with one 'o'. In many instances, it is "de Rosa". Kingston Dutch Reformed Church records from the 1600's list it as "Rosa" with one O. Secondly, after culling through many available online records from the state archives of the Netherlands, I cannot find one reference to this name prior to the end of the 1400's. I did, however, find Jewish names; Coen and Haym. Jews were in Gelderland from the middle of the 14th century, particularly in Nijmegen. The main migration of Sephardin came at the end of the 16th century following Dutch independence from Spain, but there had been Jewish communities in Holland for over two centuries already.

Many Jewish families from the Catalon region of Spain did migrate to Holland. And, the city of Rosas is in this part of Spain, a region heavily populated by Jews during the middle ages. Rosa/Rosas was a Jewish family in that region.
This is where the "theory" of Roosa Spanish roots do look more than merely plausible. The coat of arms for the Roosa family (Dutch) is three stemmed roses (two over one)on a field of gold. The coat of arms for the city of Rosas Spain is three roses (two over one).

In Spanish heraldry roses were rendered more realistically than the familiar English rose, and they were shown with stems. Additionally, Spanish heraldry followed the custom of the French in presenting trinaries (groups of objects in threes). Many Sephardic Jew coats of arms followed this same rule of trinaries, particularly in using a set of 3. One can find many examples with 3 Stars of David, 3 hats, 3 trees, and so on. And, these families continued their coats of arms even after emigrating to Holland. At least one known Sephardic coat of arms for a family by the name of Rosa is a realistically rendered stemmed rose on a field of gold.

The name Heyman has two historic origins. It is a variation of "Herman", like Herman Munster (I have actually run across this name in historical sources). However, the interesting take on this name is that it is also an anglicized corruption of "Heym" or "Haym", itself an Anglicization of "Chaim". Chaim is the Hebrew word for "life", and is a Hebrew name. I have encountered the name "Heym" in early 15th century tax lists alongside names like "Coen", another Hebrew name. So, it is likely that there were Dutch Jews named "Haym" who eventually became known as "Heyman".

I am not saying that either argument, the one for or against, the Roosa family being Spanish Jews lacks merit. However, while finding information that is consistent with the claim of Sephardic origins, I've found nothing refuting the idea. Taking into consideration all of this information when examining Abraham's claim, one can see that the story of the Roosa family's Spanish origins is not inconsistent with facts. It is even consistent with the possibility of their roots being Jewish in origin, as well as Spanish. This does nothing to prove the claim, but it does place it within a context that forces us to give the idea more serious thought.


  1. Hi,
    DNA testing has confirmed that the Spanish/Jewish rumor is not true. I have nots of Roosa info if you need it!

  2. In my case, DNA testing has lent credence to the Spanish/Jewish theory. My sister's DNA has traces of Iberian peninsula (Spain and Portugal) and Mid-east ethnicity. My DNA does not show that, but I have other traces that she doesn't. The way the chromosomes mix and re-align during meiosis results in some pieces being "lost," so to speak, from the new cell created. Thus, I show no indication of Spanish/Portuguese ancestry, but my sister does.

    Genetic genealogy is not always simple to interpret. Just because one's DNA does not "prove" something, it doesn't disprove it either.

    Sue Runnells Berryhill