My Ancestors the Gabays of Portugal

A lot of fiction is based on fact That is certainly true for the story “Leaving Faro” in my book of short stories Villa Fair My family the Gabays have always known that though we were Jamaican our father’s ancestors were Portuguese Jews Ever since a young age I have been seeking and in some cases have been lucky enough to find a history of the Jews who came to the Caribbean What puzzled us though is that the three Gabay brothers who came to Jamaica in the fifteen hundreds never kept in touch with anyone back in Portugal Then upon researching I found that many Jews could not do so since there was no one left Relatives and friends had been lost to persecution
I also found that many children were taken away from their parents and families For my story I decided to create a fourth brother to speak for the others since having died they cannot speak for themselves This fourth brother is an artist such as myself as many Gabays have been

I work in a library and have access to research materials Much of the research was done by family members and on some occasions friends who were interested in what they thought of as our unusual name Some research was also done by a genealogist In addition the internet helped me find much historical information and as you know the events in the story are based on historical fact although the story itself is fiction But I will always remember my long deceased father constantly reminding us while we were growing up about our Jewish heritage

Edmund Austin Gabay my father who passed away in 1963 told us that his father George Edmund Gabay was of Portuguese Jewish ancestry Grandfather married Emma Elizabeth Mudie in 1895 She was a dark skinned fiery redhead of Scottish and Black ancestry Grandfather was subsequently disowned and disinherited by his parents who did not approve of a racially mixed marriage Leaving his wealthy family he became a baker and the father of seven children one of whom was my father

Years later George Edmond was alleged to have been murdered by one of his disgruntled employees The family was split up among various relatives One sister Remona was taken to Panama as a very young child where she grew up and lived until her death as an old woman It was not until after my father’s death that she managed to make contact with the family since as a child she was unable to do so limited by speaking only Spanish Fortunately she kept the surname Gabay after marriage facilitating roundabout contacts to be successfully made a short time before her death

There are also records in the Jamaican Island’s Records Office that speak of the early Gabays and their purchases of various pieces of property in 1676 There is also an extract from the will of Isaac Gabay dated 18th June 1730 where he requests to be buried in the Jamaican parish of St Catherine It also records his bequest of ten pounds to the Jewish synagogue in Spanish Town Jamaica and of five pounds each to the synagogues of Port Royal and Kingston

There are also folios referring to properties owned by Gabays back in the sixteen hundreds One such landholder was Solomon Faro Gabay hence the idea for “Leaving Faro” which I was surprised and delighted to find is an actual place in Portugal There was also Abraham Jacob Gabay and David Gabay who bought property in partnership with a David Gomez

My father told us that the Gabay brothers who originally came to Jamaica were separated from each other and sent to different parts of the island which considering travel conditions back then meant that they probably never saw each other for years It is also said that they each became wealthy and were treasurers of the temple

I live in Toronto and work for the Toronto Public Library system I work in a low income neighborhood It takes an hour to get there from where I live but it has its rewards since the people are very appreciative of whatever is done for them I actually live in a middle class neighborhood that is made up of predominantly Poles and Ukranians People here keep to themselves and you could live here for years without even knowing your neighbor! In a sense that’s good if one values privacy And there are times that I value privacy There are no real overt racial problems

Yes there is “another Canada” for this is truly a country of immigrants and Toronto the most multicultural city in the world My children are a wonderful mix of races and I hope they have inherited the best from each one I also have a granddaughter whose father is a mix of Spanish and Chinese She is an exotic with light coloured eyes and skin and very straight long dark hair And in each of us there runs the bloodline of those Portuguese Gabays who wanted to practice their religion so long ago

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