Our Immediate Family - under construction
>The above is a photograph of the parchment original in our possession probably dating back to our common ancestor, Petachia of Regensburg (circa 1100), Morpurgo ancestor of Israel Isserlein of Styria (later called Maripor). It was presumably reissued to Bruto Morpurgo or his son Anselmo, along with an Italian baronial title supplanting Austrian titles cast aside by Anselmo's Austrian forebears when they became U.S. citizens circa 1810 and again around 1850.
The precise dates and details of the Austrian branch's North and South American travels have not yet been fully researched, but are partially documented in a number of reference texts including History of the Jews, which does not adequately focus on the Masonic/Unitarian Branch to which our family belongs which played an important historical role in the North and South Colonial Americas. (According to various elliptic family records, made more obscure by the fact that close cousins married close cousins with the same surname Morpurgo, some of the Morpurgo Brothers and Sisters and their sons and daughters, some later close companions of Garibaldi, first joined Simon Bolivar to liberate South America, then returned to the U.S.A. and settled in Staten Island, New York and Pennsylvania (and perhaps also in Rhode Island with Roger Williams). Some Morpurgos, to which our branch belongs, later returned with Garibaldi to Sardinia to fight for Italian Independence circa 1849 while leaving their wives and children in Egypt.
Their common ancestors, Petachia of Regensburg, Israel Isserlein and Baron Giuseppe Lazzaro Morpurgo of Venice-Trieste (note the striking resemblance to Attilio in the portrait of Lazzaro) and Baron Giuseppe Morpurgo, born in Sardinia (note the striking resemblance to Anselmo!) were founders of Assicurazione Generali S.p.A.. See also the portrait of Annselm and Helga).
Anselmo began his career as an executive in the Cairo and Alexandria branches of A.G. during the building of the Suez Canal, and remained there presumably as a U.S. citizen until that status lapsed. (Anselmo's bride, Ida DeCastro Sierra, was a U.S. citizen when they married in Cairo circa 1889.) Sons Aldo and Attilio were born in Alexandria. Circa 1905 Anselmo and Ida joined Morpurgo siblings Edgardo, Gustavo, Leoni, Oscar, Rene, Ugo, Virginia, who had already repatriated in Rome, Florence and Milan.
From 1916 on, according to documents in our possession, Anselmo held a directorial post in the Rome Office of Assicurazione Generali di Venezzia.
Anselmo was also an importer and fine art and archaeological collector. His villa in via Lima, Rome, was filled with art treasures and exotic furniture from all over the world. (In 1937, during Hitler's visit to Rome, then three-year-old Annselma remembers accidentally tripping over and breaking a huge and priceless Ming Vase while waiting in Anselmo's Study while all the adults and servants frantically puzazled where all those treasures were to be hidden or otherwise disposed of. That was one family heirloom the Fascists didn't get to steal!)
(Notes on family tree under construction. Many photos also to follow.)
Brutus Morpurgo (b. Cairo)+ Clarissa Laide
Anselmo(+Ida DeCastro Sierra)
Gustavo(+Anita Zanobetti Sierra) Leoni
children of other brothers:
Lidia Pirina Piero Dino Giorgio
Pierluigi MarieLouisa Milore
Other Morpurgo historical links will also follow. We suggest you search under Maripor, Udine, Buttrio, Nation of Split, and under Lingua Franca for Morpurgo names.* (See below for abstracts.)
In the Americas, see Sephardic Colonials, particularly in connection with Roger Williams and Emma Lazarus.
*Abstracted from other websites:
The ancient city of Maribor, situated on the Drava River, was the stronghold
of Slovenia's medieval Jewish population. Mention of a Jew as early as
1103 -- David son of Moses -- was found in Ptuj, 25 km. south of Maribor. A
Jewish community is first mentioned in Maribor proper in 1277. Noted Rabbi
Israel Isserlein held the title "Chief Rabbi of Styria, Carinthia and
Carniola" between 1427 and 1435. The success of the Jewish community of
Maribor in the 15th century is attested to by the fact that several Catholic
families requested conversion to Judaism, something unheard of in most parts
of Europe. After expulsion, most Jews from Maribor made their way to Venice,
though some, like the Morpurgo family, went to Split, and more importantly,
to Trieste, where they prospered
NOVA GORICA (ROZNA DOLINA)
When new borders were drawn after the second World War, the town of Gorizia,
north of Trieste, was awarded to Italy while its suburbs went to Yugoslavia.
The Yugoslav part -- now in Slovenia -- was developed as a new
administrative center called Nova Gorica (New Gorizia).
The first mention of Jews in Gorizia was in the mid-14th century. Most were
bankers and money lenders. Jews were barred from living in Gorizia (and all
of Austrian Friuli) from 1561-1565. In 1624, the Holy Roman Emperor
declared the Pincherle family of Gorizia to have the rank of Court Jews. A
ghetto was established in the town in 1648. In 1777, "in the name of order
and good governance," Jews were expelled from small towns ruled by Venice
which did not have their own ghettos. The Jews moved to Gorizia, and in
1788 the Jewish community comprised 270 people.
Most of the Jewish sites of Gorizia-Nova Gorica, including a synagogue, are
located in the Italian section, but a historic cemetery dating as far back
as to the 14th century is on the Slovenian side in the suburb of Rozna
Dolina (Rose Valley) a few hundred yards from the main border crossing
The cemetery is a roughly triangular site encompassing 5652 square meters,
enclosed by a thick masonry wall, one part of which has a red-tiled upper
It is set in a beautiful location, a low-lying spot with gentle green wooded
hills in the background. The site is separated from the Ceremonial Hall by
a little stream. The main entrance is an iron gate with a menorah motif,
which is unlocked, in the "base" of the triangle, near the Ceremonial Hall.
A secondary entrance is near the "point" of the triangle via a gate in the
wall which is reached by a footbridge over the little stream. There is no
plaque on either gate to identify the cemetery or to give historical
A big highway overpass parallels the gated "base" of the cemetery, affording
a good view of the site from above. There are approximately 900 tombstones,
some of which were found outside the current walls of the cemetery during
road construction some 15 years ago. A census of stones was made in 1876,
at which time 692 were noted. A later census in 1932 counted 878 stones.
The cemetery has been mapped in detail, to show topography and also the
position of each tombstone and monument, and each of the grave markers has
According to Italian sources, the earliest burial is from 1371. They say
the cemetery was used until the end of the 19th century by all the
communities in the vicinity, especially Gradisca, which did not have its own
place for burials.
According to Darij Humar from the Institute for Conservation of Natural and
Cultural Heritage at Nova Gorica, the oldest legible inscriptions are on two
stones dating from 1406 and 1456. Two stones are identified as from 1617
and 1652. There are 16 inscriptions from 1732 to 1829, and the remaining
stones are from 1829 to the mid-20th century. The last burials are from
during the Second World War, and there is at least one inscription in memory
of an Auschwitz victim.
Most of the stones are low -- some of them knee-high or lower -- grey
mazzevot of local sandstone with flat rectangular or square faces and
rounded tops. Some of them are very thick, presenting a massive three
dimensional form. (In this, they reminded me of the older tombstone in the
cemetery in Sarajevo.) For most, the only decoration is the epitaph and date
of death, framed within a border. A few of the older stones have slightly
more elaborate shapes (scalloped curves). Erosion is taking its toll, and
many are scarcely legible. Many of the stones have numbers carved on
them -- probably from the 1876 or 1932 census.
One of the older stones, near the "point" of the triangle at the back of the
cemetery, has an unusual form, a round ball on a low cylindrical base,
vaguely resembling a turban. The epitaph is on the round base. In a 1972
article in a Yugoslav magazine, Dusan Ogrin said that this stone resembled
the gravestones of men in Muslim cemeteries.
There are a few later, more elaborate but still simple monuments, along with
simple mazzevot from later times. Among the few tombstones with decorative
carving are tombs of several members of the important Morpurgo family (which
originated in Maribor), which show the emblem of (apparently) Jonah in the
mouth of the whale, which seems to be the family crest. There are a few
Levite pitchers, too, and one fragment of stone lying on the ground near the
main entrance bearing a winged head, like an angel, as seen in some
The most famous person buried in the cemetery is Alberto Michelstaedter, a
philosopher and painter who lived from 1850 to 1929. His simple mazzevah
bears the carving of a Levite pitcher, and a lengthy epitaph in Italian with
a briefer Hebrew text underneath.
The Ceremonial Hall was originally built in 1928 and was in ruinous
condition after the second World War. The Jewish community of Gorizia
(Italy) gave it to the municipality of Nova Gorica in 1977 in return for
guarantees that the Nova Gorica municipality would maintain and care for the
cemetery. The Hall, which was basically a shell, was restored in the late
1980s. A simple structure with a small side part attached to a larger main
building, yellowish walls and a red tile roof, it is still owned by the
municipality, which rents it out to the cafe. There is no plaque indicating
what it was.
The cemetery is well cared for, with grass cut five to six times a year.
Only one section of a couple stones (including that of the Holocaust victim)
is covered with vines. (It was unclear why this little section was not
cleared.) The main threat appears to be from erosion. There apparently is
no threat from vandalism. About a decade ago the whole area was flooded
when the stream separating the ceremonial hall from the cemetery overflowed
its banks, but the stream is canalized now and this threat is believed no
longer to exist.
Situated on the Drava River near today's border with Austria, Maribor, known
as Marburg in German, gradually grew up around a fortress castle built
probably in the 11th century. Today Maribor is a lively university town and
regional center which retains a wealth of striking medieval and Baroque
architecture dramatically situated on the river.
Its medieval synagogue, currently undergoing restoration, is one of the few
synagogues from that era in central Europe and is one of Slovenia's most
important Jewish relics.
The town, in Styria, was the stronghold of Slovenia's medieval Jewish
population. A Jewish community is first mentioned in Maribor in 1277, but
Jews probably settled in Maribor a century before that. Jews in Maribor
prospered as artisans, bankers, moneylenders and merchants trading mainly in
cheese, wine, wood and textiles. Their commercial interests extended to
Italy, Hungary and Moravia, and they also owned fields, vineyards and houses
as security on loans. The success of the Jewish community of Maribor in the
15th century is attested to by the fact that several Catholic families
requested conversion to Judaism, something unheard of in most parts of
Noted Rabbi Israel Isserlein (1390-1460), one of the foremost rabbis in
Germany in the 15th century, lived in Maribor for about 20 years and held
the title "Chief Rabbi of Styria, Carinthia and Carniola" between 1427 and
The Regional Museum in Maribor displays the medieval tombstone of Maribor's
first known rabbi, Abraham, who died in November 1379. The 109
centimeter-high tombstone was made from a much older Roman tombstone, which
can be seen by the Latin lettering on the back and one side. The stone
consists of three major fragments, and there is much repair work on one
side. It also looks to me, from the different caligraphy styles, as if the
main fragments come from at least two different stones.
Jews were expelled from Maribor by Emperor Maximilian I's 1496 decree
expelling the Jews from all of Styria. Most Jews from Maribor made their
way to Venice and Hungary. Some, like the Morpurgo family -- who took their
name from the German name of Maribor, Marburg -- went to Split, and more
importantly, to Trieste (and, as we have seen, to Gorizia), where they
The Jewish quarter in Maribor lay in the old town near the south-west corner of the town walls, above the Drava River. The area is still known as Zidovska ulica (Jewish Street), and remains of a synagogue have been excavated here.