My Strange and Fascinating Travels Around My Far-Reaching Family Tree

In a bid to find out about my Sephardic roots, I am uncovering new relations and tying together surprising stories

Sally Prag

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Image generated on Canva Magic Studio.

In 2015, a year before the disastrous referendum in the UK that would eventually rip our European citizenship from us come the end of 2020, the Portuguese government made an announcement.

I wasn’t aware of the announcement they had made until a couple of years ago, and then only stored it in a special compartment in my brain marked “for later.” But now, I have dug it out to revisit.

You see, as many Brits who opposed leaving the EU felt, taking away our European rights was not only a disaster for the economy of Britain, but it also stripped us of the freedoms I had grown up with and enjoyed to the max — freedom of movement throughout EU member nations and the ability to live, work, and buy property in Europe. Freedoms and rights my own children were now being denied for their lifetimes.

Many Brits who didn’t want to lose these freedoms looked for opportunities to become citizens of European countries. We learnt that my dad was automatically considered a citizen of Ireland since his mother was born in Dublin. And thus, both my sister and I could apply for Irish citizenship too.

But that opportunity wasn’t available for the next generation. It stopped at us. And that felt decidedly unfair to our children.

But then the Portuguese decision from 2015 came to light — the announcement of a “right to return” for all descendants of Sephardic Jews who had been forced to convert or flee in the fifteenth century during the Spanish Inquisition. And since we knew we definitely had Sephardi in our bloodline, and both Moroccan and Portuguese origin was murmured in discussion about this great-great grandfather of mine with the Sephardic surname, we wondered if this was something we could explore.

Back in 2022, when I first learnt about it, it seemed like such an impossibly difficult mission to take on that I put it at the back of my mind for another time. But on New Year’s Day this year, when the topic happened to be mentioned while on a walk with friends, my daughter begged me to look…

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Sally Prag

Wilfully niche-less, playfully word-weaving. Rethinking life through my words. Sometimes too seriously, sometimes not seriously enough.