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Samuel Ribero Nunez (1668 - 1744)

Dr Samuel Ribero Nunez aka Ribeiro, Nunez
Born in Beira, Açores, Portugalmap
[sibling(s) unknown]
Husband of — married 1699 in Portugalmap
Descendants descendants
Died in Charleston, Charleston, South Carolinamap [uncertain]
Profile last modified | Created 1 Nov 2014
This page has been accessed 1,489 times.



Notables Project
Samuel Nunez is Notable.
Samuel Nunez has Jewish Roots.
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Samuel Nunez migrated from Portugal to Georgia.
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U.S. Southern Colonies Project logo
Samuel Nunez was a Georgia colonist.

Samuel Nunes (or Nunez), a physician, born in Portugal, was one of the first Jewish immigrants to the Georgia colony in 1733 aboard the William and Sarah. He provided vital medical aid, which helped the settlement survive its first year of existence. [1]

In Lisbon, Nunes was a well-known physician who served the prominent Dominican monastery there and, according to his daughter, the Portuguese Grand Inquisitor. Nunes and his family were considered crypto-Jews—individuals who complied with the Spanish and Portuguese orders to convert to Christianity but who maintained Jewish traditions in secret. The Portuguese Inquisition sought to root out such people. It arrested Nunes during the summer of 1703 on an accusation of ascribing to Judaism and encouraging associates to reject Christianity. His reputation as a physician prompted several Dominicans to testify in his defense, but the prosecution and torture of Nunes took their toll. He confessed to the charges and implicated his wife and several family members as well.

Nunes and his family experienced success and difficulties in Georgia. Cultural, religious, and language differences between the Sephardic and Ashkenazic Jews hindered efforts to build a synagogue. He ws assigned lot #43 in Savannah. He eventually left the Province of Georgia for Carolina for fear of the Spanierds. He quitted Savannah in September 1740. [2]


Born Diogo Nunes Ribeiro in Portugal, in 1667 or 1668.

In the mid 1720's and once in London, Nunes and his family took different names that reflected their Jewish heritage. Nunes assumed the name Samuel, and his wife became known as Rebecca.

He became known as Dr. Samuel Nunes.


Arrival in Savannah, the Province of Georgia on July 11, 1733 aboard the William and Sarah schooner. [2]
U.S. Southern Colonies Project logo
Samuel Nunez was a Georgia colonist.

Diogo Nunes Ribeiro was born around 1668. He initially practiced medicine in Lisbon, Portugal. He married Gracia Caetana de Veiga. [3] In 1703, he and his wife were arrested as part of the Inquisition. His father was arrested as well. He testifies in 1703 regarding his genealogy that he is "a native of Idanha-a-Nova, son of Manuel Henriques de Lucena, Attorney of Casa dos Sincos (customs officer) and Maria Nunes, who has died. Paternal grandson of Diogo Henriques and Isabel Henriques, from São Vicente da Beira, already deceased. Maternal grandparents were Luis Lopes, already deceased and Maria Nunes, residing in Idanha-a-Nova."[4] He was released from custody in 1704 but his wife was not released until later, and she was taken back into custody in 1706.

In May of 1726 the family moved to London, England. The doctor was circumcised on July 2, 1726, taking the name of Samuel. His godfather was the cousin of wife Isaac Sequeira de Samuda. He "remade" his marriage to his wife in the Jewish rite, now called Rebecca or Ribca on August 7, 1726.[5]

In London, he and his family abandoned Christian practices and becamed involved with the Jewish community there. In 1732, King George II established a Council of 21 " trusts " to direct the establishment of a colony in Georgia, America. It was mainly a matter of protecting Carolina from the Spanish, established in the Fort of St, Augustine, in Florida and also from the French. Governor James Edward Oglethorpe was appointed (1696-1785). He was an idealist, interested in penal reform, proposing to regenerate criminals through work. The Jewish Community of London showed interest, asking above all that the Jews should not be considered inferior to the English.

The preparation for the departure of the group of Jews was made during the year 1732, under the guidance of Dr. Samuel Nunes Ribeiro, now 64 years old. However, on June 4, 1732, his daughter Teresa (now Esther), married Abraão de Leão, whose Christian name is not known. Although the Council of Trustees has not yet ruled on the departure of Jews to the colony (and the truth is that they then voted against), the group of 42 people embarked in early January 1733 on the ship William and Sarah , for a six-month trip to Georgia.[6]

The group was part of the doctor's family. In London, daughter Isabel (Raquel) and her husband, son Rodrigo (José) and daughter Ester had stayed. His wife Grácia (Rebecca or Ribca), sons Manuel (Moses) and André (Daniel) and daughter Maria Caetana (Zipporah or Zipra), son-in-law Abraão de Leão and sister-in-law Teresa Eugénia (Abigail) and husband Sebastião (Isaac), with two children, the oldest Shem and the other baby; finally a maid with the Jewish name of Shem Noah (so she was not a slave). The sister-in-law's baby died on the trip. The list does not include the daughter Ester, who a few months later left London to join her husband, taking her two daughters, Rebecca and Raquel.

The group had 34 Sephardic Jews and 8 Ashkenazi. They arrived on July 3, 1733.[7]

From an article in The Harvard Alumni Medical Bulletin:

Early in 1732 the British Crown granted 10,000 pounds sterling to twenty-one trustees, noblemen, and gentlemen of Great Britain and charged them with establishing a colony named Georgia. This, the last British colony to be founded on American soil was to serve the head, heart and the pocketbooks of George II. It was intended as a buffer state for the protection of Charleston in the north from the Spanish at Saint Augustine to the south; in addition, it was to be a convenient dumping ground for the English poor. Finally, Georgia was to become a source of raw material for English industrialism. Six months later the medical history of Georgia began.

Six months later, the medical history of Georgia began at Palace Court, London where a certain Dr. Cox, surgeon, offered his professional services to the immigrants for one year without fee or reward. His only stipulation was that the colonists build him a home and till fifty acres. However history loses all trace of Dr. Cox after this, and the only hunt of his fate is found in a record of grant of land. Garden No. 52 made in Savannah, July 14, 1733 to Frances, widow of Dr. William Cox.

Strangely enough, medical help for this colony of Anglicans, when it finally came was furnished by a Jew through the backwash of The Spanish Inquisition which began during the reign of Queen Isabella.

Spanish and Portuguese Jews had been forced to make the choice between compulsory conversion to Catholicism or death by fire or torture. Those who could fled to more friendly lands, among these , the Netherlands, Curacao, and the Racife in Brazil. Those trapped in Spain accepted death or conversion. Many of the Catholic Jews or Marranos (Pigs), as they were called, followed the precepts of their religion secretly, much as early Christians in the Roman period.

One of the Crypto-Jews living in Lisbon in 1726 was a Samuel Ribiero Nunez. Although he was a member of a distinguished family and an admired physician with an extensive practice in that city, he and his mother, and his wife Rebbca and their two sons Daniel and Moses and daughter Zipporah, and servant Shem Noah were apprehended by the "Familiars of the Inquisition" during a Passover Service, " while seeking the Lord according to their prohibited faith". Thrown into jail, they were tortured repeatedly and would have soon perished except for the intervention of the Grand Inquisitor, a long time patient of the good doctor. The Catholic Ecclesiastical Council reluctantly agreed to release Dr. Nunez so that he could treat the Grand Inquisitor who was afflicted with a prostate obstruction of the bladder. First, however, they made provision for two officials of the Inquisition to live with the family to prevent another relapse into heresy.

In his mansion on the banks of the Tagus River, Dr. Nunez frequently entertained the first families of Portugal and of Europe. One evening he was host to the Captain of a British brigantine anchored in the river. When the party was in full swing, the captain invited the guests and the Nunez family (accompanied by their Inquisitor keepers) to visit his ship.

As soon as they were on board, anchor was weighed according to prearranged plan, sails unfurled, and the ship put out to sea and arrived safely in England. History does not disclose the fate of the ecclesiastical spies, or the natural history of the Grand Inquisitors medical problems.

London Jews, who had been contributing liberally to the Oglethorpe scheme providing new homes for impoverished Christians in the new colony of Georgia, found it logical to provide transportation for their own poor. They chartered two boats and sent a total of ninety Jews to Savannah in one year. Sailing on the first of these boats was a Dr. Nunez and family, and forty other Jews. They arrived in Savannah on July 11, 1733, six months after General James Oglethorpe and his first batch of colonists. [8]After this boat landed, Captain Thomas Corain, one of Oglethorpe’s aides, wrote, " Georgia will soon become a Jewish colony." He feared that if this news leaked out, rich Christians would not support the colony, and poor Christians would not settle there . The trustees urged Oglethorpe to remove them but, though he was annoyed by their arrival, he did not press for their departure. He knew that , in addition to the Scroll of law, Hanukah, Candelabrum, cult utensils, circumcision kit and Hebrew prayer books, these Jews also had a knowledge of agriculture acquired in Mediterranean lands. He wanted to use them as tools to create in Georgia a "Mediterranean colony of wine, olive oil, silk and indigo."

Dr. Nunez’s arrival, however, was more than welcome since an ncontrolled epidemic of "bloody flux" and "malignant fever" was raging. Of the original one hundred and fourteen settlers, twenty- nine were already dead, while the survivors had hardly the strength to bury the victims in shallow graves. The formal remedies at his disposal were limited and were soon exhausted, but his training in botany helped make use of indigenous plants and and with great success. He made extensive use of laudanum (opium) to control the "bloody flux," and lemon extract to treat the scurvy which appeared in debilitated patients. He used ipecacuanha (emetine) empirically without knowing that it had a specific action on the amoeba histolytica. With infusions of cinchona bark (quinine) he treated the "malignant fevers" considered in the medical texts of the period to originate form the evil night miasmas of the marshes (malaria =mal aria= bad air). When his supply of chinchona bark was exhausted, he used as substitutes the bark of white oak, red oak, and dogwood. He used tartar emetic to produce vomiting in patients with food poisoning, jimson weed smoked in a pipe for asthma, and sassafras root tea as a "purifier of blood."

The epidemic subsided, the colonists returned to their work, and Dr. Nunez built his home and settled his family. General Oglethorpe sent to the Trustees of the Colony a report of the help rendered by the first active practitioner of medicine in Georgia. These gentlemen requested Oglethorpe to pay that humane physician for medical service he had rendered to the colonists. The accounts of the colony do not indicate that payment was ever offered or received. (Received land on Ogeeche River).

Dr. Nunez did receive help from another Jew named Abraham de Lyon, who had accompanied him on the original contingent in 1733. De Lyon was a farmer who grew peas, grain and rice. He was also a viniculturist by training, and succeeded in raising "beautiful, almost transparent grapes" in Savannah, from choice cuttings he brought with him from Portugal. He laid out a ten acre tract as a Botanical Garden (Trustees Garden) , and introduced to the colonists foreign plants with valuable medical properties and developed herbs which were native to Georgia.

Two years later, Dr. Nunez met John Wesley, who arrived in Savannah with a commission from the Trustees appointing him to the office of "priest of the Church Of England" to the Savannah mission. Wesley courted the society of this Sephardic Jew, but had no illusions about the ease with which he could be converted to Christianity. Pastor Bolzius, the leader of the Salzburg Germans, and George Whitefield, another pioneer Methodist, had offered the Jews conversionist literature, which had been vigorously rejected. He exhibited a great interest in Dr. Nunez’s medical practice, and discussed with him the conduct and care of his patients. Said John Wesley, the Methodist, "I began learning Spanish in order or converse with my Jewish parishioners, some of whom seem nearer the mind that was in Christ than many of those who call him Lord."

Before Wesley had left England for his priestly mission in Georgia in 1735, he had made "anatomy and physics the diversion in his leisure hours." In Georgia, he met John Regnier, who was a male nurse among the Moravians, and assisted Regnier with the first autopsy in Georgia. The two men listed among the causes of death as "a hematoma of the abdominal wall, among other things"! It was in Georgia that John Wesley became an active practitioner of bodily as spiritual healing among his parishioners, and on his return to England he organized the first free clinic " for the ill and ailing."

The Trustees in England showed their interest in Dr. Nunez’s work and sent him "casks of wine and packets of drugs" to be used in treating the colonists. With "two barrels containing twenty- three deer skins, weight of Bears oil" and several parcels of " sea pod, make root, sassafras, china root, sumac, and contra-yerba." Dr. Nunez opened the first pharmacy in Georgia to compound his medications form imported and native grown herbs.

Dr. Nunez watched with apprehension while General Oglethorpe made a series of aggressive moves southward toward Spanish Florida form 1735 to 1740. First came the fortifications of St. Simons Island and then the establishment of the British Fort in Frederica. Finally came the preparations and the disastrous attack and the unsuccessful alege of the Spanish Fort at St. Augustine. The beaten British troops brought news that the Spanish were planning on invading Georgia. The Inquisition was still a reality to Dr. Nunez and his family. His aunt, Abigail de Lyon, who had recently died in Savannah, carried to her grave the marks of the ropes which had tied her to a rack in a Portuguese dungeon. Dr. Nunez had given up an assured position of wealth and affluence in Lisbon to practice the faith of his Jewish forefathers. And he had no desire to expose his family and himself to the uncertain mercy of the Spanish Inquisitors again.

Dr. Nunez paid his last visit to his patients, traveling by foot, horse and rowboat. He again assembled his family: his mother , his wife Rebecca, his two sons Daniel and Moses, his Portuguese-born daughter, Zipporah, his Georgia-born daughter Esther and his personal servant Shem Noah, and set sail for Charleston, South Carolina. The Portuguese Inquisition had been responsible for the arrival in Georgia of Dr. Nunez, gentlemen of letters, humane and skillful physician, the first active practitioner of medicine in this colony. The threat of the Spanish Inquisition was responsible for his departure from Georgia after he had helped sustain the colonists for seven long and arduous years.

When the threat of Spanish invasion subsided, the family returned to Savannah. Dr. Nunez’s name fades in the mist of history but his qualities carried on in his children. His Son Moses became a man of wealth and distinction and a member of Oglethorpe’s Masonic Lodge .

He served as Indian interpreter and agent for the Georgia Revolutionary forces. In his will he divided his property equally between his children born in and out of wedlock.[9]

Dr. Nunez was one of the founders of Congregation Mickve Israel in Savannah, Georgia, the third oldest Jewish congregation in America. [10][11]

History tells us that Dr. Nunez and his family later moved to Charleston, South Carolina. But some members of his family remained in Savannah, and cultivated the six rich estates granted them by Oglethorpe, for the valuable services to the colony given by the family of Dr. Nunez. Later, the son-in-law of Dr. Samuel Nunez moved to New York and became the spiritual leader of the newly-founded Portuguese community. A descendant of this-branch of the family of Dr. Samuel Nunez Ribiero was the mayor of New York; Dr. Manuel Mordecai Noah, one of whose projects was the establishment of a Jewish colony in America.[12]

A historical marker in Savannas states: The Georgia Medical Society The first Medical Society in Georgia, sixth oldest in America, was organized June 28, 1904, and continues to be active in Savannah today. Dr. Noble Wimberly Jones, first President, was the son of a member of General Oglethorpe's first settlers of 1733. Dr. Samuel Roberio Nunez, first practicing physician, arrived July 10, 1733, with the second expedition to the new colony. He arrived in time to treat successfully a raging epidemic of dysentery. In 1740, the first clinic for the poor opened at nearby Bethesda under Dr. John Hunter and Reverend George Whitefield, who previously had founded America's oldest orphanage there. The Georgia Medical Society adopted the state's first Code of Medical Ethics, achieved a program of systematic vaccination against smallpox, carried out health surveys of Savannah and surrounding counties, founded a Medical Library, formed the first systematic anti-malarial effort begun in the United States, and conducted extensive studies of Savannah's major epidemic diseases -- malaria, yellow fever, and smallpox.


Name: Diogo Nunes Ribeiro DR. SAMUEL /NUNEZ/[13]


  1. Ebel, Carol. "Samuel Nunes (ca. 1667-ca. 1741)." New Georgia Encyclopedia. 05 January 2017. Web. 01 December 2020. -
  2. 2.0 2.1 A List of the Early Settlers of Georgia (Coulter and Saye, Georgia, 1949).Persons Who Went from Europe to Georgia at the Trustees' Charge. Part II, Person #917 , Page 91 (Online Page #106)
  3. Vindos de Portugal before 1750, page 15,
  5. Maximiano de Lemos, Letters by Ribeiro Sanches to Dr. Pacheco Valadares, in Archivos de História da Medicina Portuguesa, Porto, Vol. II - 1911, Pags. 111 - 120, 150 - 156, 193 - 196, Vol. III - 1912, Pags. 28 - 30, 40-48, 75 - 80, 131-139; Vol. IV - 1913, Pags. 25-31, 57-62, 90-96, 119-128,137-143.
  6. A List of the Early Settlers of Georgia (Coulter and Saye, Georgia, 1949).Persons Who Went from Europe to Georgia at the Trustees' Charge. Part II, Person #917 , Page 91 (Online Page #106)
  7. Leon Hühner, AM, LL. B., The Jews of Georgia from the outbreak the of American Revolution to the close of the 18th Century. Reprinted from Publications of the American Jewish Historical Society, No. 17, 1909. Online:
  8. IMMIGRANTS FROM GREAT BRITAIN TO THE GEORGIA COLONY. Morrow, Ga.: Genealogical Enterprises, 1970. 27p.
  9. By Dr. Alfred A. Weinstein Article published in the Harvard Medical Alumni Bulletin Summer 1961
  12. Mindel, Nissan "Samuel Nunez - Ribeiro The Life of a Marrano"
  13. Source: #S0 Page: This information comes from 1 or more individual Ancestry Family Tree files. This source citation points you to a current version of those f iles. Note: The owners of these tree files may have removed or chang ed information since this source citation was Data: Text: h t t p : / / id=-1297890181
  • Source: S-548512447 Repository: #R-1048724813 Title: Georgia, Compiled Census and Census Substitutes Index, 1790-1890 Author: Publication: Operations Inc APID: 1,3542::0
  • Source: S-563807640 Repository: #R-1048724813 Title: U.S., Sons of the American Revolution Membership Applications, 1889-1970 Author: Publication: Operations, Inc. APID: 1,2204::0
  • Source: Title: Ancestry Family Trees Publication: Online publication - Provo, UT, USA:

See Also


Nunez-300 was created by Darlene Van Sant through the import of Jerome Scott Lieblich Family T.ged on Oct 28, 2014.


Format: htm
Title: Dr. Samuel Nunez and family By Dr. Alfred A. Weinstein
Format: jpg
Title: Congregation Mickve Israel in Savannah, Ga.
Format: htm
Title: Dr. Samuel Nunez
Format: doc
Title: Samuel Nunez
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Title: Dr. Samuel Nunez Arrival in Savannah, Ga
  • Other literary sources and further reading:
  • Richard D. Barnett, "Dr. Samuel Nunes Ribeiro and the Settlement of Georgia," in Migration and Settlement: Proceedings of the Anglo-American Jewish Historical Conference, ed. Aubrey Newman (London: Jewish Historical Society of England, 1971), 63-97.
  • Richard D. Barnett, "Zipra Nunes's Story," in A Bicentennial Festschrift for Jacob Rader Marcus, ed. Bertram Wallace Korn (New York: Ktav Publishing, 1976), 47-58.
  • Mark I. Greenberg, "A 'Haven of Benignity': Conflict and Cooperation between Eighteenth-Century Savannah Jews," Georgia Historical Quarterly 86 (winter 2002): 544-68.
  • B. H. Levy, "The Early History of Georgia's Jews," in Forty Years of Diversity: Essays on Colonial Georgia, ed. Harvey H. Jackson and Phinizy Spalding (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1984), 163-82.
  • Phillips, N. Taylor. “Family History of the Reverend David Mendez Machado.” American Jewish Historical Review volume 2.
  • Huhner Leon, “The Jews of Georgia in Colonial Times. ” American Jewish Historical Review volume 10.
  • Sheftall, Mordecai, “The Jews in Savannah.” The Occident vol, 1 no. 8)

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It may be possible to confirm family relationships with Samuel by comparing test results with other carriers of his Y-chromosome or his mother's mitochondrial DNA. However, there are no known yDNA or mtDNA test-takers in his direct paternal or maternal line. It is likely that these autosomal DNA test-takers will share some percentage (beta) of DNA with Samuel:

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Nunez-300 and Nunez-379 appear to represent the same person because: 1. These two profiles represent the same individual. The problem is that the individual changed his name at birth (Diogo Nunes Ribeiro) once he arrived in Georgia (Samuel Nunes/Nunez). As a rule, the Profile should have name at birth and then add other names in fields and biography.

3. The wives are now duplicates as well: Gracia Rebecca Caetana (Rebecca) and Gracia Caetana Rebecca

3. These two have been sitting in an "unmerged/unmatched merge" status since 2018. They were never merged and need to be as soon as possible.

4. There is A LOT of gedcom junk from Ancestry that needs removed once merged. "Objects" text needs removed.

5. Narrative needs a compromise between the two. Hard to read.

Let me know if you need help. I am happy to lend a hand.

posted on Nunez-379 (merged) by Sandy (Craig) Patak

Rejected matches › Samuel Nunez (1745-1815)