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Family Stories

This page will be a repository of interesting family history and stories of the Altabets, Gabays, Magrisos and Levys (2 sets) in our Sephardi background, and stories of the Katzes in our Ashkenazi heritage.. We hope you find some of these as interesting as we do.

  • Mumya -- Discovering what this old Turkish remedy really was, was a never ending mystery for me and my cousins that was not quite solved until well into adulthood.
  • Family Trees by branch
    • Altabet
      • Family Tree
      • Family Photo -- 2004
    • Magrisso Family Tree
    • Katz Family Tree
    • Levy Family Tree -- still need a bit more work
  • Gabay Family Tree: Gabay-Levy descendants of Bohor & Sarah Betzion
    • Family tree
    • Gabay & Levy: See the separate Gabay Pages also
  • Katz & Levy
    • Family Tree
  • Family Name Background:
    • For a study of the possible origins of the family name, go to this page: Altabet
    • For Uncle Albert's writings go to: Uncle Albert
    • The family was from Tikirdağ, Turkey, also called Rodosto in Greek. There are records of Altabets in pre-expulsion Gerona, Spain. See "Los Ijos de Ibero-Franconia," by Nissim Elnecav. A list of names in this book compiled by Ben Nahman can be found at: .Besides the Arabic "Altabets" noted in the origins notes mentioned above, we have since discovered the name among Christians in the Barcelona/Gerona area.
  • The family name Gabay:

Alternate spellings in Latin characters: Gabay, Gabbay, Gabai, Gabbai

Hebrew: גַבַי, גַבַאי

 The name is clearly derived directly from the Hebrew and means a trustee or board member of a synagogue. It is also used as the word for the person who monitors the Torah reader during services  to assure correct pronunciation of the reading. In modern Hebrew it is also used to mean treasurer, which would have been one of the functions of a trustee.

 The name is common throughout the Sephardic world (and including the Jews of Arab countries). The name is also found in the Philippines, where it comes from the Tagalog language and appears to mean “guide,” so one can occasionally meet non-Jewish Gabays.

      • The family name Magrisso

Alternate spellings:
Latin Characters: Magrese, Magresi, Masgrissi, Magreso, Magriso, Magrisso, (Magriço in Soundex system)

Turkish Language: Magrýso

Hebrew Characters: מאגריסו

Adapted from a write-up on the origins of Brazilian names:
Italian, Spanish or Portuguese or other Romance language surname, typically with origins as a nick name, it comes from the word “Thin” (Magro/a – Spanish/Italian/ Portuguese, Maigre – French,  the English cognate is “meager”), with a suffix added-isso/issi (which indicates the plural affectionate or diminutive form), Magro comes from the Latin macer, macrum, words by which slender people were known, such as lanky or thin. Literally we could translate this last name as "Skinny". Once someone had such a nickname due to physical traits, the name was transmitted to descendant as " So-and-so, son of Magrisso", the plural "form Magrissi" appeared to indicate a family clan, for example, the Family of Magrissos " in Italian is "Famiglia dei Magrissi", the termination " i " indicates the plural form.

There appear to be numerous unrelated families with the name, both Jewish and Gentile, all with roots in Spain,. Portugal or  Italy. If Jewish, it is clearly of Sephardi origin.

Grandma Elizabeth (Boulissou) came from Kirkkilise (now Kirklareli), Turkey but the family fled to Edirne, Turkey (Adrianopolis in Greek) during the Balkan Wars when Kirkkilise was taken over by Bulgaria (returned to Turkey in 1922). The town was also known as 40 churches (Saranta Ecclisiae). See the Wikipedia entry at ( ) for more information. Her mother Rebecca Levy was originally from Serbia.

There have been several famous Magrisos in Jewish history, the most famous being Yitzhak (ben Moshe) Magriso who took over the writing of Me’am Loez after Yakov Culi died in 1732. His commentary on Pirke Avot, done as part of Meam Loez is still considered by most scholars the best commentary ever done on Avot. He lived in Constantinople (Istanbul), but his family appears to have originally come from Edirne. And an Avraham Magriso who died in 1687 (possibly his grandfather) was Dayyan (judge) of the Rabbinical court.  A Rabbi Haim Ezra Magriso was alive in 1717 when  he donated funds for the publication of a book written by Rabbi Haim Algazi, called Beney Hayai. Several Rabbis named Magriso are recorded as living in Serbia during the 1800s.

      • The family name Levy

Latin character alternate spellings: Levy, Levi

Hebrew: לֵוִי

Meaning is “my addition” from the root “joined to me,” see the verse below where Leah names Levi, Jacob’s third son.

 Genesis 29:34
וַתַּהַר עוֹד וַתֵּלֶד בֵּן וַתֹּאמֶר עַתָּה הַפַּעַם יִלָּוֶה אִישִׁי אֵלַי כִּי-יָלַדְתִּי לוֹ שְׁלשָׁה בָנִים עַל-כֵּן קָרָא-שְׁמוֹ לֵוִי

"Vatahar od vateled ben, vatomer atah hapaam yilaveh eeshee elai ki-yaldti lo sh’loshah vaneem al-ken kara-shmo Levi"

 "And she conceived again, and bore a son; and said, Now this time will my husband be joined to me, because I have born him three sons; therefore was his name called Levi."

The name almost always indicates descent from Jacob’s son Levi and being of the tribe of Levites. It is a common name among all Jews from all traditions.

© R. Altabet, 2003-2018