A recent development in Jewish genealogy—thanks in part to DNA research—is the large number of Latinos finding connections to the familias viejos—the first families in what’s now the US Southwest. Many old New Mexico families in particular descend from conversos who arrived with Juan de Oñate and other explorers. Conversos also are called bnai anousim—Hebrew for “children of the forced.” The pejorative term marranos refers to swine and should never be used. Some families have preserved knowledge of their Jewish pasts and observe certain traditions, such as lighting Friday night candles and adhering to dietary rules.
If you suspect your family might descend from conversos, start at the Society for Crypto Judaic Studies. Search the passenger lists of Spaniards who left for the Americas preserved in the Archivo General de Indias in Seville, Spain. Besides listing all passengers who sailed to America up to 1800, records may provide such data as birthplace, parents’ names, occupation and destination. Extensive details and searchable indexes are available online in Spanish.
From the September 2009 Family Tree Magazine