Archive for the ‘blog’ Category

Sunday, March 9, 2014 @ 08:03 AM Bluebird

Fırıncı mahallesi was one of 108 recognised neighbourhoods in Kayseri in 1872. Its name means simply “bakers’ neighbourhood” and it was a small, entirely Armenian quarter of the town, comprising just five streets with 23 taxpaying households, of which 21 are named in the defter. These households are shown in the table below.

inhabitants of Fırıncı mahallesi, an Armenian quarter of Kayseri, in 1872

inhabitants of Fırıncı mahallesi, an Armenian quarter of Kayseri, in 1872

Some thoughts on these householders:

Two of the streets appear to be named after the principal family in residence – the Kazandjian household in Kazancı Sokağı and the Kullukian or Koulloukian household in Güllük Sokağı (“roses street”).

The occupations of four of the householders are given – goldsmith, weaver, confectioner, sawyer. A fifth man – Ohanes, the sole taxpaying resident in Gümüşoğlu Sokağı – is either a barber or bears the surname Berber or Berberian – the original record does not make it clear. He may even have the surname Gumushian, after which the street is named. Given the name of this mahalle, one would assume that at least one of the men without a given occupation was a baker.

Three out of the 21 are women – two described as daughters (kızı in Turkish) and one as a wife (zevcesi), and presumably are respectively spinsters and a widow.

Four of the male householders have their forename prefixed with Hacı, which would normally indicate that they had performed the pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

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Saturday, March 8, 2014 @ 04:03 AM Bluebird

Presently I am working on interpreting, understanding and analysing records relating to Armenians in an 1872 defter, or taxation document, from Kayseri in Turkey (Gesaria or Kesaria in Armenian). The records are arranged by mahalle and, within that, by street. The taxpaying householders in each street are then listed. There were 8,119 taxpaying households in total in Kayseri in 1872.

Kayseri had a total of 108 mahalleler or neighbourhoods, comprising between 16 and 352 households each, with the mean being 75 homes. By no means all neighbourhoods were the homogeneous ethnic or religious groups I had expected. 67 neighbourhoods were exclusively Turkish, 24 were Armenian, two were Kurdish and one was Greek. However, Greeks and Armenians lived together in some Christian quarters and, more surprisingly perhaps, there were seven neighbourhoods with a mixed Armenian/Turkish population.

The original archival material is in Osmanlı Turkish, written using a modified Arabic alphabet, and has been transliterated and transcribed into modern Turkish, which of course uses the Latin alphabet. One needs to understand the pronunciation of certain Turkish letters to be able to match them with the approximately corresponding letters used in English to spell Armenian names in transliteration. For example, the Turkish letter c may be the equivalent of j or dj, and ç and ş represent the sounds ch and sh respectively. Turkish vowels are also problematic, not least because these were poorly catered for in Osmanlı Turkish and therefore there may not be a one-to-one correlation. The undotted ı is usually pronounced short like the e in English “bed” (while the dotted i is used for the long vowel sound at the start of İstanbul, or in the English word “bead”).

Armenian and Greek personal names are rendered in Turkish style, using the suffix -oğlu to indicate “son of”, rather than an Armenian or Greek surname ending. The entries are terse and it is not always clear whether a surname has already been assumed by a family or, contrarily, a simple system of patronymics is still in use – for example, in the case of entries in the format “Manük oğlu Serkis”, it is not certain whether the individual in question is Sarkis Manoukian, or simply a Sarkis son of Manouk with no settled surname. Contrarily, when the entry is in the format “Demiroğlu Karabet”, it seems clear that the man’s name is Karabet (or Garabed) Demirian.

One problem is that there is no single standard spelling of Armenian names – not only does the language have its Western and Eastern variants, but there can be several (sometimes many) ways of transliterating the same name into English.

I began by looking for surnames I knew from previous research to be associated with the town and/or sanjak of Kayseri. I was able to find only about one quarter of these. Either the other names were not from Kayseri itself but an outlying town or village, or they had not been taken by 1872 (which seems less likely).

Some of the names in the defter are relatively simple to match to modern Armenian names, for example:

Arzuman oğlu Parsıh = Barsegh Arzumanian or Arzoumanian

Beyleroğlu Mardiros = Mardiros Beylerian

Erkiletlioğlu Karabet = Karabet Erkiletlian

Gürünlüoğlu Kesbar ve Avidis = (brothers) Kasbar and Avedis Gurunlian or Gourounlian

Kalaycıoğlu Mardiros = Mardiros Kalaydjian

Keşişoğlu Kalus = Calouste Keshishian

Minasoğlu Hacı Agop = Agop Minasian

Odabaşıoğlu Agop = Agop Odabashian

Şahinoğlu Karabet = Karabet Shahinian

Seferoğlu Parsıh ve Artin = (brothers) Barsegh and Artin Seferian

Other names are less confident matches:

Acemoğlu Karabet = Karabet Ajemian or Adjemian

Dökmecioğlu Agop = Agop Dekmedjian, Dekmejian, Deukmejian or Deukmedjian

Taşçıoğlu Ohanes = Ohanes Tashchian or Tashjian

The records mainly involve heads of household, as the taxpayers, and these are usually men – however, there are some women, perhaps mostly widows or women who had inherited property or had established a charitable trust (vakif).

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Wednesday, February 26, 2014 @ 10:02 AM Bluebird

We have created a Google Map showing the locations of the principal Greek communities in Egypt from the mid-19th to the mid-20th centuries, as well as some of the source locations from which the immigrants hailed. Many came from islands and from those Greek areas of population still at that time within the Ottoman Empire.

A screenshot of the Egyptian part of the map is shown below:

Greek communities in Egypt

Greek communities in Egypt

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Friday, February 21, 2014 @ 03:02 PM Bluebird

Who Do You Think You Are? Live returned to the Kensington Olympia exhibition centre in London this week. Last year, an estimated 12 to 13,000 visitors came through the turnstiles during the three-day event running from a Friday through to a Sunday; this year, the schedule changed to run Thursday to Saturday and the organisers are presumably hoping that this will generate even greater ticket receipts.

Travelling to Olympia by public transport, one has, as always, the sense of London as a global city in which are represented most of the peoples and languages upon earth. By contrast, stepping into the exhibition hall, it’s clear that recreational family history in England, if this its single biggest annual fair is anything to go by, is still an overwhelmingly white pursuit. It’s true that each year there are a few more visitors from among England’s black and Asian communities, but there is little on offer for them, not from any exclusionist bent but simply due to the paucity of records available and online. Most visitors with Caribbean and Indian Sub-continent roots of course are from families which arrived in UK during or after the 1950s – in other words, recent history for which few vital records are available other than some incoming ships’ passenger lists in the BT26 record series at The National Archives in Kew.

I took a question from one visitor who had already found some excellent information from archives in Guyana, from 1812 to 1966 the Crown Colony of British Guiana, about his indentured labourer ancestors from Madras. In the papers he had obtained, his ancestors were described as being “Gentoo” and he had found rather limited and contradictory advice about the meaning of this term – some said it was a caste, some that it merely meant Hindu (as opposed to Muslim). I recommended Hobson-Jobson, that marvellous dictionary cum encyclopaedia of the era of the British Raj, first published in 1886. I was quite relieved and pleased upon returning home to pick up my copy and find that there were two pages of tightly composited print on the etymology and nuances of meaning of the term Gentoo – specifically, it transpires that it was used of Telugu speakers to the north and north-west of Madras.

The other questions I dealt with were a very mixed bag. Aside from the standard questions about English, Welsh, Irish and Scottish ancestry, I had interesting conversations about: a Jewish immigrant family from Czernowitz; a Polish forced labourer and later Displaced Person who settled in England in the late 1940s; a couple of German families who were known only to have arrived in England from an unknown place of origin in “Prussia”; and what appeared to be a Jewish Catholic convert from Poland who emigrated to East London, South Africa and married and had issue by an Irishman there.

My favourite stalls were still at the show – the indomitable Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain; the Anglo-German Family History Society; and especially pleasingly, looking stronger than ever, the Polish Kresy-Siberia group with an expanded range of publications, including Polish Resettlement Camps in England and Wales, by Zosia and Jurek Biegus (pub PB Software, 2013), which looks like recommended reading for anyone whose parents or grandparents came to UK from Poland at the end of WW2.

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Monday, February 17, 2014 @ 02:02 PM Bluebird

Mayreni Publishing is a small independent publishing house based in Monterey CA, specialising in Armenian interest books. Their “Khodorchur: Lost Paradise”, published in 2012, has just come to my attention. It is a translation of a 1964 Armenian-language original and is an ethnographic study of Khodorchur, a cluster of 13 Armenian Catholic villages surrounded by Hemshin (Armenian Muslim) communities in the old kaza of Kiskim (now Yusufeli) in what is today far north-eastern Turkey.

The people of Khodorchur largely perished in the Armenian Genocide, being deported and murdered during June 1915 – only an estimated 100 or so from the pre-Genocide population of more than 8,000 are believed to have survived. “Khodorchur: Lost Paradise” is a testament to that vanished community.



Like many specialist works of Armenian (and other) ethnography and cultural history, “Khodorchur” is hard to come by and, not surprisingly given its 652 pages, a little pricey – you may need to borrow it on an inter-library loan.

The location of Khodorchur – today known in Turkish as Sırakonaklar – can be seen on this Bluebird Research Google Map of Hemshin communities.

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Wednesday, January 8, 2014 @ 09:01 AM Bluebird

Our latest map shows some of the main Vlach settlements in SE Europe – especially those where Albania, Greece and Macedonia meet – plus the mid-/late 1920s settlements in Dobrudja, Romania. There are many more settlements not shown on this map – potentially hundreds if not a thousand or more across Albania and Greece in particular.

With the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire and the construction of nation states with enforced international borders, Vlachs have largely had to give up their transhumant lifestyle. Most are bilingual or trilingual, speaking their own Vlach or Aroumanian language plus the official state language and often a minority language – for example, the Vlachs in SE Albania may speak Albanian and Greek or Macedonian as well as their Vlach mother tongue.

Vlach "types" from Macedonia, circa 1922

Vlach "types" from Macedonia, circa 1922

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Wednesday, June 19, 2013 @ 08:06 AM Bluebird

The surname Bashaw is not common in Britain. For instance, there are only 23 registrations of birth in the countrywide index for England & Wales from the start of civil registration in 1837 to 2006. The name is bona fide, although’s remark that it is the “Americanized spelling of French Bachard (see Bachar). Probably an altered spelling of German Beschore (see Bashore)” isn’t very helpful. The, hardly a reliable source, states vaguely that “The origins of the Bashaw name lie with England’s ancient Anglo-Saxon culture. It comes from when the family lived in Derbyshire, where they were found since the early Middle Ages before the Norman Conquest in 1066”. However, it also mentions that the names may be a variant of Bagshaw and Bagshott, which is more credible.

However, names are assumed for all sorts of reasons and at all times, and Bashaw is a case in point. Ishmael James Bashaw was buried in 1815 at the burial ground of the Gildencroft Quaker Meeting House in Norwich. However, the register records that he was a non-member, i.e. not a Quaker. Other records here and there show his marriage to Elizabeth Fornish in Stamford in 1776, and the births of (some of) their children, George, Ann, Esther, James, Charlotte and John, between 1777 and 1795. The pattern of births shows the family moving from Wisbech to Spalding to Norwich to Framlingham to Colchester. They appear to have been mobile if not itinerant, and not wealthy – indeed the parish authorities in Framlingham conducted a settlement examination in September 1788 to establish whether Bashaw and his family could claim relief in the parish, or could be lawfully palmed off on to a different parish.

In fact, in an effort to alleviate this want, Bashaw wrote a short book, published in 1797, entitled: The Turkish refugee: being a narrative of the life, sufferings, deliverances, and conversion, of Ishmael Bashaw, a Mahometan merchant, from Constantinople, who was taken prisoner by the Spaniards, and made a wonderful escape to England, where, having become a convert to the Christian faith, he was publicly baptized, with the approbation of the Right Reverend the Lord Bishop of Lincoln.

Bashaw was apparently aged 80 years at death and had been born in the town of Edirne, or Adrianople, in Turkey. When he arrived in Britain, his name was not Bashaw at all – that is an anglicised version. Bashaw comes from Beşe. However, this is not a name either, but a kind of honorary title: beşe is a variant of paşa, which is usually anglicised as pasha. Moreover, we know that although Bashaw was a “Mahometan” or Muslim, in earlier life he was a janissary. Although the blood levy or devşirme was over by the time he was born circa 1735, the fact that he was a janissary raises the possibility that he wasn’t originally a Muslim, and wasn’t a Turk either – many in the janissary corps were still Christians, who were converted and took Islamic names such as Ismail. As Bashaw was originally from Edirne, if he wasn’t an ethnic Turk, one would have to assume that he would have been an ethnic Bulgarian or Greek by birth or less likely a Serb or Albanian.

Edirne or Adrianople

Edirne or Adrianople, C19th

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Wednesday, April 3, 2013 @ 11:04 AM Bluebird

The list below shows Armenians naturalised in Britain between the years 1845 and 1884. Nearly all were from the Ottoman Empire, with only two or three exceptions from Austro-Hungary, Persia and Georgia. It can be assumed that the great majority were merchant traders, involved with import/export and shipping. The early Armenian community in England was concentrated in Manchester.

Caveat emptor: the list may not be complete for the period it covers, and it is possible that some individuals given in the list may not be ethnic Armenian.

Dates given are in British format i.e. DD/MM/YYYY.

date naturalised name / from / address if given
13/03/1847 Manouk Capamagian (Constantinople)
13/03/1847 Hatzik Capamagian (Constantinople)
10/05/1847 Hussep Capamagian (Constantinople)
10/05/1847 Artin Momgian (Constantinople)
10/05/1847 Ovanes Ovaghimian (Constantinople)
10/05/1847 Boghos Sdepanian (Constantinople)
02/07/1847 Demetrius Spartali (Smyrna)
22/07/1847 Boghos Mirasyedi (Constantinople)
01/02/1849 Nazaret Tomas (Armenia)
01/02/1849 Manouk Ohannes (Armenia)
15/10/1859 Essai Anouckian (Turkey)
17/03/1860 Ovanes Esayi Spartali (Turkey)
10/12/1860 Ovannes Agopian (Turkey), Manchester
21/10/1861 Arthur Mushlian (Turkey)
19/09/1863 Diran Ekisler (Turkey)
25/11/1862 Babo Babayan (Turkey)
10/12/1862 Nishan Harentz (Turkey)
01/07/1863 John Peters (Turkey)
22/12/1863 Nicholas Demetrius Spartali (Austria)
10/02/1864 Boghos Vartanian (Georgia)
17/03/1864 Mardiros Harentz (Constantinople)
16/06/1864 Agop Melikian (Turkey)
16/06/1864 Ghatchik Sinanian (Turkey)
02/03/1865 Meguerditch Hovanessian (Turkey)
01/04/1865 Mesrob Samuel Samuelian (Turkey)
21/04/1865 Haron Varbetian (Turkey)
13/06/1866 Gregoir Antoin Hunanian (Constantinople)
01/04/1867 Abraham Gumuchian (Turkey)
19/02/1868 Kevork Ohannessian (Constantinople)
18/01/1869 Avedis Harentz (Turkey)
07/05/1870 Krikor Gumushguerdan (Turkey)
05/12/1870 Bedross Kricorissian (Turkey)
19/12/1870 Ohannes Andreasian (Turkey)
23/03/1871 Melcon Agop Maxudian (Smyrna)
09/05/1871 Agop Kevork Myrmirian (Turkey)
24/05/1871 Essayi Essayan (Turkey)
24/05/1871 Abraham Gumuchian (Turkey)
17/07/1871 Karnik Ovanes Ovaghimian (Turkey)
23/09/1871 Garabet Nishan Eliazarian (Turkey)
15/06/1872 Meguerditch Andon Capamagian (Turkey)
13/03/1873 Manouk Capamagian (Constantinople)
15/08/1873 Sarkis Nishan Eliazarian (Turkey)
25/08/1873 Ovanes Esayi Spartali (Turkey)
01/05/1874 Mardiros Arabian (Turkey)
01/05/1874 Manouk Maranian (Turkey)
08/06/1874 Krikor Gumushguerdan (Turkey)
24/09/1874 James Papazian (Turkey)
28/06/1875 George Agop Essayan (Turkey)
20/09/1875 Megriditch Beshiktaslian (Turkey)
01/11/1875 Mardiros Tokatian (Turkey)
17/10/1876 Mihran Papazian (Turkey)
23/10/1876 Peniamin Mosditchian (Turkey)
27/10/1876 Meguerditch Kevork Essayan (Turkey)
04/09/1877 Mihran Kevork Capamagian (Russia)
06/09/1877 Dicran Oumedian (Turkey)
02/01/1878 Krikor Krikorian (Turkey)
09/01/1878 Krikor Couyoumdjian (Turkey)
15/01/1878 Carnick Nishanian (Turkey)
15/08/1878 Haroutioun Sourgoudje (Turkey), London
16/12/1878 Stephen Agop Spartali (Turkey), Manchester
19/02/1879 Sukiass Gregoire Sukiassian (Turkey), London
13/11/1879 Avidis Garboushian (Turkey), Portsea
06/09/1880 Pacradooni Kaloost Vartan (Turkey), Edinburgh
19/01/1882 Sarkis Yaldesgian (Turkey), Manchester
03/10/1883 Bedros Aslanian (Turkey), London
03/03/1884 Joseph Melikian (Turkey), Manchester
02/08/1884 Mardiros Hovanessian (Turkey), Manchester
30/08/1884 Hamparsoum Mouradian (Turkey), Manchester
28/01/1885 Zakaria Bakirgian (Turkey), Manchester
08/09/1885 Gabriel Sukias Dobrashian (Turkey), Banbury
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Monday, April 1, 2013 @ 10:04 AM Bluebird

All naturalizations in Britain from 24th August 1886 were published in the London Gazette, the official journal of government. For the first decade or so, when naturalizations were few in number, this took the form of a monthly alphabetical list of no longer than one or two pages, usually published in the first issue of the Gazette each calendar month. Later, the lists grew longer and longer, 10 pages or more, populated in particular by increasing numbers of Jews settling from continental Europe and especially Russia.

Within the 35-year period, from the first appearance of naturalizations in 1886 up to 1920, over 140 Armenians were naturalised in Britain. Many of these were resident in the greater Manchester area and were of the merchant class. In the Gazette, these Armenians are usually described as being subjects of Turkey (until the late 1890s) and then of the Ottoman Empire (until the end of the First World War) but interestingly in 1919 and 1920 these terms are replaced by Armenia, in official recognition of the existence of the fleeting modern nation state the First Republic of Armenia, soon to be absorbed into the USSR. Of course, some Armenians naturalised in Britain came from beyond the Ottoman Empire – there are several in the list from Persia and others from Bulgaria, Egypt, Italy, Romania and USA.

Note that some of the women in the list will be British widows of Armenians, retaking British nationality.

Bear in mind that the names shown are as spelt in the Gazette and often will differ from modern spellings as transliterated from either Western or Eastern Armenian. For example, Mgrdich or Mkrtich never appears as such, because the running together of consonants without separating vowels makes the name too awkward in English. Similarly, Hagop (Hakob) or Agop may be replaced by an English equivalent such as Jacob.

Finally, a word of caution: no guarantees are given that the list is complete for the period it covers, and it is possible that some individuals on the list (over and above the widows) may not be ethnic Armenian.

Dates given are in British format i.e. DD/MM/YYYY.



name / formerly subject of / address / occupation if given
20/03/1888 Dikran Dadurian (Persia), Chorlton-on-Medlock
15/08/1888 Ovannes Agopian (Turkey), Manchester
15/10/1888 David Bezazian (Turkey), Manchester
15/10/1888 Dikran Mouradian (Turkey), Manchester
30/04/1889 Kirkor Odabachian (Turkey), Edinburgh
27/08/1889 Givan Manoukian (Turkey), Manchester
17/03/1890 Onnig Kricorissian (Turkey), Manchester
08/11/1890 Mihran Mouradian (Armenia), Southport
22/05/1891 Christopher Balian (Turkey), Shepherd’s Bush
07/04/1892 Dicran Nahabedian (Turkey), Manchester
06/09/1892 Artin Dabaghian (Turkey), Stretford
26/02/1893 Zareh Stepan Iplicjian (Turkey), Buxton
20/04/1893 Tigrane Haroutune Funduklian (Turkey), Manchester
16/08/1893 Edward Caracashian (Turkey), Manchester
27/11/1893 Raphael Garabed Constantian (Turkey), Cheetham Hill
21/03/1894 Kevork Ohannessian (Turkey), British Seamen’s Hospital, Constantinople
07/08/1894 Dicran Stephen Iplicjian (Turkey), Manchester
04/10/1894 Ghiragos Nazaret Odabashian (Turkey), Manchester
16/04/1895 Artin Kassapian (Turkey), Bradford
24/06/1895 Minas Tcheraz (Turkey), Kensington
27/07/1895 Joseph Hanemian (Turkey), Ortakoy, Constantinople
05/09/1895 Stepan Hagop Astardjian (Turkey), Manchester
08/10/1895 Serope Biman Seropian (U S A), Nenagh, Co Tipperary
09/12/1895 Vincent Joseph Mahdjoubian (Turkey), Bradford
14/03/1896 Agop Paragamian (Turkey), Manchester
19/03/1896 Jacob Politeyan (Ottoman Empire), Tufnell Park
13/05/1896 Manoog Dickran Dingian (Turkey), Brighton
21/08/1896 Baghos Baghdasar Tahmisian (Turkey), Balham
03/02/1897 Aram Hovannessian (Turkey), Didsbury
22/04/1897 Marcar Aznavorian (Turkey), Didsbury
06/08/1897 Moses Agop (Turkey), Tynemouth
15/09/1897 Krickor Garabet Topalian (Turkey), Chorlton-cum-Hardy
16/10/1897 Manouk Kouyoumdjian (Bulgaria), Whalley Range
06/01/1898 Hagop Garabed Gumuchian (Turkey), Manchester
06/03/1900 Charles Samuel Vartan (Ottoman Empire), Perth Infirmary
23/04/1900 Aram Georg Hovsebian (Persia), Withington
26/02/1901 Abel or Apik Cernemossian (Ottoman Empire), Hanover Square
15/04/1901 Haroutune Hagope Yazijian (Ottoman Empire), Leeds
08/06/1901 Hatchik Sekian (Ottoman Empire), Chorlton-on-Medlock
17/08/1901 Leon Checkemian (Turkey), Edinburgh
07/11/1901 Hatchig Guessarian (Persia), Manchester
25/02/1902 Michee Arabian (Ottoman Empire), West Didsbury
01/12/1902 Calouste Gulbenkian (Ottoman Empire), Lancaster Gate
23/12/1902 Simon Chakiriam (Ottoman Empire), West Didsbury
11/02/1903 Albert Percy Michael Narlian (Italy), Chiswick
11/02/1903 Anthony Ephraim Narlian (Ottoman Empire), Chiswick
21/02/1903 Kevork Balabanian (Ottoman Empire), Glasgow
10/03/1903 Agop Yeritzian (Ottoman Empire), Regent’s Park
15/04/1903 Petros Tonapetean (Ottoman Empire), Shepherd’s Bush
14/05/1903 Mighirditch Haritioun Pantikian (Persia), Stretford
27/07/1903 Henry Samuel Rogers Boyajian (Ottoman Empire), Lytham
29/10/1903 Garabed Krikor Gulbenkian (Ottoman Empire), Notting Hill
20/11/1903 Serope Damadian (Persia), Didsbury
22/03/1904 Bedros Mardiros Farishian (Turkey), Grays
22/04/1904 John Arabian (Ottoman Empire), Russell Square
03/05/1904 Haroutioun Frenkian (Romania), West Didsbury
06/04/1905 Hrant Mihran Iplicjian (Ottoman Empire), Knutsford
03/07/1905 Kevork Arabian (Ottoman Empire), Manchester
05/07/1905 Diran Deuvletian (Ottoman Empire), Withington
25/08/1905 Nerces Ohannes  Kalpakdjian (Persia), Chorlton-cum-Hardy
21/12/1905 Megerdich John Mahmourian (Ottoman Empire), Urmston
21/02/1906 Onnik Kirkor Shahbasian (Ottoman Empire), Renfrew
07/03/1906 Setrak Levon Dinguilian (Ottoman Empire), Clapham Junction
22/03/1906 Arshag Manashian (Persia), Urmston
25/04/1906 Garo Keshishian (Ottoman Empire), Willesden Green
01/06/1906 Avedis Aprahamian (Ottoman Empire), Shepherd’s Bush
03/08/1906 Thomas Kricorian Papazian (Ottoman Empire), Cardiff, serving in a British ship
29/10/1906 Carnik Garabed Hanemian (Ottoman Empire), Fallowfield
23/01/1907 Kevork Krikorian (Ottoman Empire), Marylebone
21/03/1907 Dadjad Ajderian (Ottoman Empire), Whalley Range
19/04/1907 Agop Garabet Agopian (Ottoman Empire), Didsbury
03/05/1907 Setrac Mardiros Papasian (Ottoman Empire), West Didsbury
19/06/1907 Hovhannes Kamberian (Ottoman Empire), Withington
24/08/1907 Joseph Simonian (Ottoman Empire), Fulham
04/09/1907 Avedis Mateos Jamgochian (Ottoman Empire), Fallowfield
11/10/1907 Hagop or James Taranto (Ottoman Empire), Tufnell Park
06/11/1907 Haiganoush Arabian (doubtful), Chorlton-cum-Hardy
06/11/1907 Mihran Arabian (doubtful), Chorlton-cum-Hardy
06/11/1907 Onnik or John Arabian (doubtful), Chorlton-cum-Hardy
25/08/1908 Moushegh Keshishian (Ottoman Empire), West Didsbury
20/10/1908 Nishan Movses (Ottoman Empire), Roath, serving in a British ship
06/11/1908 Gregory Agopian (Ottoman Empire), Southport
14/01/1909 Edouard Andon Mahdjoubian (Ottoman Empire), Bradford
13/03/1909 Oscar Leon Sarafian (Ottoman Empire), West Kensington
14/05/1909 Zenope Tchekenian (Ottoman Empire), Roath
22/07/1909 Dikran Arslanian (Ottoman Empire), Cricklewood
16/09/1909 Andon Kalpakdjian (Ottoman Empire), Chorlton-cum-Hardy
29/09/1909 Pilimon Iplikdjian (Persia), Manchester
08/11/1909 Carapiet Mackertich George (Persia), Clapton
19/11/1909 Vahan Sarkis Gulbenkian (Ottoman Empire), Hyde Park
07/12/1909 Krikor Margos Jamgotchian (Ottoman Empire), Northwood
10/12/1909 Onnik Balekdjian (Ottoman Empire), Eccles
10/12/1909 Armenag Topalian (Ottoman Empire), Fallowfield
15/02/1910 John Carabet (Ottoman Empire), Cardiff, serving in a British ship
09/05/1910 Ezepos Garabed Benlian (Ottoman Empire), Harlesden
09/06/1910 Haroutune Kalevradjian (Ottoman Empire), St Leonard’s
10/06/1910 Mardiros Garabet Benlian (Ottoman Empire), Kensington
01/07/1910 Kevork George Ekserdjian (Ottoman Empire), Charing Cross Road
26/09/1910 Mark Bakirgian (Ottoman Empire), West Didsbury
02/01/1911 Zareh Avedis Hatchadour Ekisler (Ottoman Empire), Bayswater
15/02/1911 Stephen Papelian (Persia), Chorlton-on-Medlock
04/07/1911 Murat Marcus Mamourian (Ottoman Empire), Ashton-under-Lyne
31/07/1911 Missak Bedross Baltaian (Ottoman Empire), Fallowfield
09/10/1911 Mihran Krikor Gudenian (U S A), West Kensington
13/10/1911 Ohannes Arakel Akaghaian (Persia), Stockport
11/12/1911 Walter Bogosian (Ottoman Empire), Dunston, serving in a British ship
18/12/1911 Diran Gumuchdjian (Ottoman Empire), Levenshulme
03/01/1912 Mardick Logophete Baliozian (Ottoman Empire), Liverpool
16/01/1912 Garabed Yeghia Yardumian (Ottoman Empire), Liverpool
13/03/1912 Khosrof Seferian (Ottoman Empire), Chorlton-cum-Hardy
29/05/1912 Avedis Keuleyan (Ottoman Empire), Great Crosby
25/09/1912 Gregory Benon Garabed Cherkezian (Ottoman Empire), Whalley Range
03/02/1913 Leon Bedros Djamouzian (Ottoman Empire), Eccles
06/07/1912 Sinian Pedros (Ottoman Empire), Cardiff, serving in a British ship
25/06/1913 Garabed Bishirgian (Ottoman Empire), Westminster
12/07/1913 Balthazar Garabed Agopian (Ottoman Empire), West Didsbury
16/10/1913 Markar Dikran Markarian (Persia), Chorlton-cum-Hardy
19/12/1913 Gerald Zareh M Ekserdjian (Ottoman Empire), Charing Cross Road
23/04/1914 Tackvor Thomas Magaryan (Ottoman Empire), Newcastle upon Tyne, model-maker
29/04/1914 Gregory Garmirian (Ottoman Empire), Willesden Green, Oriental merchant
04/05/1914 Hrand Kricor Missirian (Ottoman Empire), Southport, Company director
08/05/1914 Nihran Malkhas Dabaghian (Ottoman Empire), Chapel-en-le-Frith, shipping merchant
15/07/1914 Yervant Hagop Iskender (Ottoman Empire), Pitlochry, merchant
05/02/1915 Harutun Batmazian (Turkey), Cork, manufacturing confectioner
09/02/1915 Mihran Balian (Turkey), Earl’s Court, accountant & bookkeeper
08/03/1915 Hagop Kehyaian (Ottoman Empire), Willesden, import & export merchant
23/03/1915 Mugurditch Mugurian (Ottoman Empire), Camden Square, motor cab proprietor & driver
09/04/1915 Sarkis Hagop Coliapanian (Ottoman Empire), Ilford, mercantile clerk
02/12/1915 Stephens Paul Stephens (Persia), City of London, merchant
16/02/1916 Eliza Ann Boyajian (Ottoman Empire), St John’s Wood
16/02/1916 Isabella Catherine Boyajian (Ottoman Empire), St John’s Wood, artist
21/08/1916 Rand Artin Sarkis Dedey (Turkey, Armenia), Blundellsands, clerk
08/08/1917 Mesrovb Barseghian (Persia), Wark-on-Tyne, medical practitioner
28/09/1917 Annie Maria Mirakian (Russia), Edgware
08/01/1918 Helen Chobanian (Ottoman Empire), Portsmouth, nurse
08/07/1918 Kevork Kriss Chavooshian (Egypt), Hove, pharmaceutical chemist
15/07/1919 Haig Jacvor Madanian (Armenia), Liverpool, cotton agent
04/10/1919 Lucy Elizabeth Dayian (Armenia), West Kensington
13/10/1919 Annie Mirakian (Armenia), Leamington, nurse
25/10/1919 Gregory Shnorhk (Armenia), Wallasey, fruit packer
18/12/1919 France Lucy Thoumaian (Armenia), Chigwell, school teacher
21/02/1920 Edward Sevagian (Persia), Harlesden, interpreter
26/02/1920 Manuel Tutungean (Armenia), Withington, buyer of cotton goods
13/03/1920 Apcar Jacob Galustian (Armenia), Glasgow, medical practitioner
31/03/1920 Thomas K Mugerditchian (Ottoman Empire, Armenia), c/o G.S.I., Cairo, interpreter
02/07/1920 Charles Garabet Sarkis Hamamdjian (Armenia), Marylebone
29/09/1920 Leon Haig Simjian (Egypt), Eccles, shipper & exporter
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Wednesday, March 20, 2013 @ 06:03 AM Bluebird

Recently I have been looking through records held at The National Archives in Kew, London relating to the Kindertransport and other continental European refugees who arrived in Britain in the late 1930s and early 1940s, fleeing the gathering Nazi supremacist storm in Germany and Austria and the countries they annexed, such as Czechoslovakia.

While looking at these, I was surprised to see a distinctively Armenian name leap out at me – Shoushan Piranian. The references to this refugee date to the winter of 1943/44, when she seems to have applied to become a Guider in the Girl Guides Association. The records give a date of birth in March 1905, so she clearly wasn’t a Kind. Her contact address was care of Minto House School, Birkenhead Road, Meols, Hoylake in Cheshire.

Later Shoushan became a naturalised British subject – the notice of her naturalisation on 6th May 1947 was published in The London Gazette on 24th June 1947. The entry states that she was a teacher and a subject of Turkey.

Exactly what became of her thereafter isn’t known to me, but she did not marry or, if she did, she retained the surname Piranian. She appears in the death indexes as Shoushan Varteni Piranian – her death was registered in March 1984 in Croydon, Surrey.

However, curiously, she seems to have emigrated to Argentina at one time. The outgoing passenger lists (record series BT27 at The National Archives) contain two references to her. In the first, she boarded the “Duquesa” bound from London to Buenos Aires on 11th September 1958. She travelled first class. Her date of birth is shown as 25th March 1905, she is described as a single woman, a teacher, and still resident in Hoylake. The “Duquesa” appears to have been a heavyweight refrigerated cargo ship owned by Houlder Brothers. She arrived back in London aboard the same ship on Christmas Day 1959 for a visit – her UK care of address is in London W2. On 2nd February 1960, Shoushan set sail again, this time from London to Buenos Aires aboard the “Hornby Grange”, another refrigerated-meat cargo ship owned by Houlders. The difference this time is that both her country of permanent residence, and her country of intended future residence, are given as Argentina. Her contract address is in Bromley, Kent. She is still a teacher and again she is sailing first class. As both these two vessels had limited passenger capacity, probably the first class cabins were the only available – the meat would have been carried where steerage or standard class would have been on passenger liners!

The BT27 record series, and its counterpart BT26 for incoming vessels, finish in 1960, so it is not possible to trace online Shoushan’s subsequent return to UK and possible other movements. Presumably, however, Argentina did not prove entirely to her liking, and she returned to England. Equally unknown are the precise circumstances which brought Shoushan Piranian to Britain – was it the 1915 Armenian Genocide, during which she would have been a 10-year old girl, or the subsequent mass population exchange arranged between Turkey and Greece, or some other event?

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Wednesday, March 20, 2013 @ 05:03 AM Bluebird

The 2013 Who Do You Think You Are? Live event at London’s Olympia exhibition centre in February didn’t seem quite as busy as in previous years – perhaps the winter cold and more especially the ongoing economic downturn kept some punters away this year.

Trade was still brisk for many exhibitors, including some which one might say contribute to the recession, by minimising the tax they pay to the Government Exchequer. While campaigners in organisations such as UK Uncut focus their attention, quite rightly, on multinational suspects such as Amazon, Starbucks and the big banking corporations with their casino operations and over-compensated executives, tax evasion and/or avoidance is doubtless widespread throughout British industry, all the way down to the smallest of small SMEs. The genealogy industry isn’t exempt. Think of Ancestry, fronted in ad campaigns by that nice Tony Robinson, with the biggest reach of any online genealogy business across Britain – yet registered in bijou Luxembourg to avoid corporation tax. And think of that supposedly plucky underdog S&N Genealogy, the business behind The Genealogist and a myriad obscure websites – cannily registered offshore, in Jersey, to avoid paying corporation tax. Tax underpaid in UK by Ancestry and The Genealogist means cuts in education, the National Health Service and local authority services. Perhaps think about that, and the alternatives, next time you want to buy some pay-per-view credits or renew your annual subscription.

This also puts into context the activities of the grassroots organisations out there, which are either charities or trusts, or survive on a shoestring. It’s heartening to be reminded of their continued survival each year at WDYTYA. The Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain was there, with pretty much the same stand, same stock of books, and same selfless volunteers. The Anglo-Germans were there, as always, non-denominational and ecumenical – if your ancestor was a pork butcher or a sugar baker, do drop by. The Polish presence seemed stronger than last year, with the Kresy-Siberia stall attracting more attention, and trying to raise public awareness of the Polish airmen and others who fought with the Allies in WW2.

I took questions from visitors from across the planet, and with all sorts of questions from the straightforward to the frankly insoluble – same as always! My favourite questions as ever were from the researchers with the trickiest and most challenging conundrums – this year including visitors with questions about ethnic Lithuanian and Ukrainian ancestry.

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Wednesday, February 6, 2013 @ 09:02 AM Bluebird

It’s often claimed that the first combined fish and chip shop in England was the idea of a Jewish immigrant named Joseph Malin. This seems to have become one of those notions which acquires a life of its own and is then repeated, unverified, especially across the worldwide web. For instance, in the London weekly listings magazine Time Out, we read the following on 27th January 2013:

“In 1860, teenage Eastern European immigrant and culinary visionary Joseph Malin combined the already established Jewish staple of fried fish with the humble spud, and opened an eatery in Cleveland Way, Whitechapel… the National Federation of Fish Friers recognised Malin’s in 1968 as the world’s first fish and chip shop”.

Although Malin could conceivably be a Jewish name, for instance with a root from the Polish malina (raspberry) and truncated (e.g. from Malina, Malinka, Malinowski etc), Joseph does not appear to have been Jewish at all. He was born on 28th March 1852 in the London East End registration district of Bethnal Green and baptised on 25 April 1852 at Shoreditch St Leonard’s – he would therefore have been aged 8 years in 1860 when, according to Time Out, his fish and chip emporium opened its doors. In fact, he appears on both the 1871 and the 1881 census returns as a hearth-rug weaver. It is only by the time of the 1891 census that he appears with the occupation fishmonger at 78 & 80 Cleveland Street in Bethnal Green – his wife Mary Ann Frances (nee Stevens) is described as a fishmonger’s assistant, his recently married daughter Mary Collins is a fish-frier and his 14-year old daughter Charlotte is a potato-peeler. When his daughters Elizabeth and Charlotte were baptised at Bethnal Green St Jude’s in April 1875 and April 1877 respectively he was still a hearth-rug weaver, but by the time his son Joseph was born in May 1879 he was described as a fish salesman. He then reverted to describing himself as a hearth-rug weaver at the time of the baptism of his daughter Rosetta in August 1882, and then back to a fishmonger at the time of the August 1884 baptism of his son Thomas Robert Malin. In other words, his career as a fishmonger appears to have emerged as sideline during the late 1870s and only become his full-time trade in the mid- or late 1880s.

In any event, leaving aside the chronological development of his career, Joseph baptised his children into the Church of England, and was himself baptised. His parents Charles James and Mary Ann Malin married in August 1844 in Shoreditch St Leonard’s – Charles’s father Joseph was a whip-maker. There is nothing to suggest that any of them were Jewish. Rather, Joseph Malin was an East Ender who offered fish fried in the Jewish fashion, together with deep-fried potato chips. His older brother John was also a fishmonger at 560 Old Ford Road by 1891 and it seems that the burgeoning Malin business had at least two outlets by that date.

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Sunday, December 9, 2012 @ 12:12 PM Bluebird

The United Nations Office at Geneva in Switzerland has a vast archive and library, including holdings generated and collected by its predecessor the League of Nations.

Among these are 15 registers under references C1601/497, C1602/498 and C1603/499 which pertain to the inmates admitted to the Armenian Orphanage in Aleppo, Syria during the period 1922 to 1930. Each volume contains short biographies and black and white photographs of up to 100 orphans and others admitted to the Orphanage. The registers do not form a complete unbroken series covering all inmates – four original volumes, known to have existed because of the sequential numbering of individuals admitted to the orphanage, have been lost or destroyed at some date. However, this still leaves illustrated biographical sketches of approximately 1,500 Armenians, victims but survivors of the Armenian Genocide.

Each orphan had been deported from the Armenian-inhabited regions of the Ottoman Empire, and presumably most if not all had lost both parents and all other close family members. Many had escaped or been released from captivity in the homes of Turks, Kurds or Arabs, many had been forced to convert, and many of the girls had been treated as domestic servants or unwilling concubines.

It is possible to search for individual orphans by name and place of origin online at the Center for Armenian Remembrance. Hand-held digital photographs are attached to a proportion of the entries, together with English/French transcription of the biographical text.

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Sunday, December 2, 2012 @ 10:12 AM Bluebird

It becomes ever more difficult to find worthwhile and informative documentaries about culture and society in the rest of the world on terrestrial TV in Britain, even on Channel 4. However, a number of English language satellite news channels, such as RT and France 24, produce interesting material. The best of these is probably Al Jazeera, notwithstanding its occasionally too patent Arab bias (Israel is never going to get a fair hearing on Al Jazeera) or blind-spots (there is almost no coverage of the contemporary situation in the Arabian peninsula, even though the station is based in Doha – clearly, it does not want to bite the hand that feeds).

Of the documentaries with an Eastern European focus currently available online on Al Jazeera, I can recommend the following.

Macedonia: A River Divides. This is a very balanced and fair look at the city of Skopje, with its largely divided Albanian and Slavic Macedonian communities. It’s also nice simply to get an insight into a country that rarely makes the mainstream media.

Cyprus: Island of Forbidden Love. Not quite what its title might promise, this is a depiction of the growth of wedding tourism catering for Lebanese mixed faith couples. There is no institution of civil marriage in Lebanon and, until such time as there is, mixed faith couples have to marry overseas if neither the man nor the woman wishes to convert to the religion of their partner. Cyprus is close, convenient and liberal-minded. Lebanese couples can fly to Larnaca, get married the same or following day, before returning home to Beirut with a Cyprus marriage certificate which is recognised by the Lebanese courts. Among the happy couples featured in the documentary is a young Druze man and his Armenian bride.

civil register office, Larnaka

civil register office, Larnaka

Talking of Armenians, on Al Jazeera World one can also view a documentary called Common Pain about the Armenian Genocide. In this instance, the journalistic balance is weighted too generously towards the side of the Turks, and the essential editorial message of the piece seems to be “both sides suffered, let’s forget about the past and look to the future” – even though, for many Armenians, quite reasonably, recognition of the Genocide is a prerequisite for reconciliation with their Turkish neighbours. The Turkish academics and commentators in the film contend that, in effect, the Armenians died accidentally and unfortunately in 1915 – a bit of a shame but it was wartime after all, and Turkish soldiers also got killed. Among the Genocide-deniers caught on film in this documentary are the quite ludicrous Melih Aktaş of Gazi Üniversitesi in Ankara; the risible Mustafa Budak, Deputy Director General of the Prime Ministerial State Archives; and the pompous American academic Justin McCarthy who went native in Turkey and swallowed Turkish disinformation hook, line and sinker. The fact that McCarthy apparently holds the Order of Merit of Turkey tells one all one needs to know about this dimwit.

For a truer picture of the catastrophe that was the Armenian Genocide, take a look at another Al Jazeera documentary called Grandma’s Tattoos. Note that Al Jazeera feels it necessary to disclaim responsibility for the historical accuracy of the harrowing historical events depicted in the film.

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Thursday, October 4, 2012 @ 07:10 AM Bluebird

After the Revolution in Russia, after the end of WW1 and the conflicts splintering from its ruins, as new states began to emerge out of the ruins of empire, soldiers of the defeated and demoralised Austro-Hungarian army, kaiserlich und königlich, imperial and royal, men of all nationalities and religions or of none at all, returned home to their native lands in nascent countries in the aftermath of war. They came on foot, trudging hundreds of miles in the rags of their uniforms or in motley civilian dress picked up along the way, cadging lifts in trucks or on wagons where they could, or boarding a train where their route happened to coincide with a railway line. They came direct from prison camps, or worked their way back through a series of casual jobs in farms and towns. Some came back lamenting the now extinct Dual Monarchy, others with the contagion of the new creeds of socialism and bolshevism which were transforming Russia into the Soviet Union.

The early works of Joseph Roth capture these years, their sense of a world collapsed and unravelling and uncertain, on the brink. In Hotel Savoy, events are seen from the eponymous hotel in an unnamed small town in what is presumably Galicia, as increasing numbers of effectively discharged and jobless soldiers pass through and then start to mass in an encampment outside town, bringing with them from Russia discontent and disease. Some are from the urban proletariat but many, a majority, are from the peasant lands which made up great swathes of the old Empire, lands which were now being redefined as Poland and Czechoslovakia and the Kingdom of the Slovenes, Croats and Serbs. The soldiers who once were peasants remain peasants – like the protagonist’s friend Zwonimir Pansin, they “dream of fields”, they are “homesick for the sheaves, the scythes and the bird calls of [their] native acres”, they watch the growth of the wheat in the fields about town, and they “cannot forget the bird calls and the boundary stones” of their homes. Not all will make it back home to reclaim their patch of earth.


haystacks to be homesick for

If you are a genealogist with an interest in this time and place, it is necessary to make a leap of the imagination to understand what life could have been like for your relative in 1919, in 1921 or in 1925 in the successor states of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, including of course rump Austria and the new Hungary trimmed of the Slovak and Croat lands it regarded as its own by right and tradition. You need to understand the great upheaval, and think of all the possible events in the lives of your ancestors, to see that those expected births and baptisms, marriages, and deaths and burials may not be anywhere to be found in the civil or church registers of the pre-War place of residence. In the turmoil of war, not all vital events would be duly registered. Where ex-soldiers died somewhere far from home, somewhere en route from the Russian interior to a village in Bosnia or in the Banat or in Bukowina, they would be lucky to have a memorial raised where they fell, and it is unlikely that a precise record of their death would reach back to their place of origin to be recorded in an official record, although perhaps they might be numbered in a central war ministry record as killed in action, or missing presumed dead, with an erroneous date and place. Children were born illegitimately to married women left behind in wartime who did not expect ever to see their husbands again, but who then discovered that they were not widows after all but adulterers. And children died from hunger and want in the towns to which impoverished country folk gravitated in search of employment or charity.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2012 @ 10:09 AM Bluebird

Throughout the Ottoman Empire there were traditions of migrant working – workers would leave their native villages or towns and travel for work, spending months and often years away from home, periodically sending back remittances or saving throughout the duration of their sojourn abroad and bringing home a large lump sum. In Anatolia the general movement was westwards, with workers pouring into Istanbul – Armenians and Kurds were well-known as porters in the Ottoman capital. Other workers went considerably further afield – to America, for example, when opportunities became known and the cost of travel affordable.

In the language formerly known as Serbo-Croat, the term for the Ottoman era migrant workers was pečalbari. A typical Slavic pečalbar in Macedonia would be an Orthodox Christian, male, aged anywhere from his teens to his fifties, and from a mountain village. Different villages in different areas would have their own traditions of migrant working, heading to particular destinations. Of course some would be seeking agricultural work, especially at harvest time. But others had more surprising trades.

In the mountains north of Lake Ohrid, on what is now the Albanian-Macedonian international border, there were communities with long traditions of migrant labour. Among these were the villages of Boroec, Labuništa and Podgorci, which were Serbophile – indeed, the area was known locally as “little Šumadija” after the heartland of continental Serbia. These migrant workers used to travel, usually on horseback, across the Ottoman border into Serbia and head north to Niš, Kragujevac and of course Belgrade. Surprisingly, their speciality was café work – they worked as cooks or as waiters in cafés, taverns and restaurants, and some went on to purchase and manage such establishments (in some cases, opening a café back home in Macedonia).

The Orthodox Macedonians’ Muslim neighbours – with whom there were good relations – in the Debar and Drimkol region were less inclined to travel long-distance, except in the case of skilled labourers such as masons. Rather, the Muslims in villages such as Labuništa worked in local enterprises, or travelled shorter distances to work in the closer Macedonian towns such as Bitola or Prilep. Nowadays, Muslim migrant workers from Labuništa are more likely to travel greater distances, to Greece or to Turkey, where they can earn more money. The character of the cluster of villages around Labuništa has changed, too, and now has a predominantly Islamic character. The local Macedonian Muslims are known as Torbeš and, generally, are not ethnic Albanians (despite the proximity of the Albanian border) but Slavs.

The pečalba tradition was not in its essence economic migration with permanent emigration and settlement in the remote destination as its objective, nor was it simply seasonal (for instance, restricted to harvest-time). Rather, it was an extended period of between six months and three years, often repeated, but usually with the ultimate ambition to return and live in the native village. Notwithstanding this, however, some pečalbari did of course emigrate and among the Macedonian communities in Australia, South America and USA are the descendants of just such pečalbari.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2012 @ 10:09 AM Bluebird

The Armenian community in Cyprus is of long standing, as witnessed, for example, by the historical Armenian quarter of the capital Nicosia and the ancient Magaravank monastery complex, now marooned in the Turkish-occupied north of the island. The population grew during the nineteenth century and continued to receive refugees with each wave of persecution in the Ottoman Empire and of course during and after the 1915 Armenian Genocide (more recently, too, from Egypt, Lebanon and Iran following political crises in those countries).

Most if not all Armenians fled the Turkish military occupation in 1974 and in particular the Armenian community abandoned Famagusta and sought refuge in the Greek half of the island.

Bluebird Research’s GoogleMap shows the location of Armenian communities past and present, places of worship and cemeteries across Cyprus.

Below: Armenian shop in downtown Larnaka.

Shadarevian & Son, Larnaka

Shadarevian & Son, Larnaka

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Sunday, September 16, 2012 @ 09:09 AM Bluebird

The eight currently available decennial census returns for England & Wales, stretching from 1841 to 1911, form the single most informative set of family-based records for genealogists with family resident in the country during the long nineteenth century. The 1841 census features many individuals born in the second half of the eighteenth century, while the 1911 census includes some individuals who will have died in the very recent past and even perhaps some centenarians who survive today. The 1921 census will be the next major milestone in English & Welsh family history publishing online when released by The National Archives at a currently unconfirmed date – probably January 2022.

Some researchers come to the census expecting to find ancestors born abroad – they know already that antecedents of theirs came from southern Italy or Germany, say, or were part of the great Ashkenazic exodus from Tsarist Russia. Others, however, expecting to find an unbroken run of family born in England or Wales, often within the same county through the generations, are surprised by completely unexpected findings. I am not here referring to perspective-changing discoveries, such as great grandfather having been a Frenchman, or grandmother a Levantine. I mean individual or multiple events which point to an unanticipated period abroad in the life of a family.

My own roots lie in East Kent and I am alert to the occurrence in unexpected contexts of what I think of as being distinctive local East Kent surnames. Many of these are in fact found elsewhere, either as a result of Kentish emigration within England or Wales, or of the Kent family having common roots with another branch in a completely different part of the country; or simply coincidentally, with the Kentish family being unrelated to bearers of the same surname elsewhere in England.

Recently I came across some of the names which interest me in the parish registers of the English church in Moscow. One of these is Stroud. This family didn’t prove to be from Kent, however.

In the 1911 census there is an 11-year old Mira Stroud living at 25 Mona Street, Beeston in Nottinghamshire, with her place of birth given quite clearly as “Russia”. She is with older and younger siblings all born in Beeston, and a widowed mother who is a grocer and a native of Nottingham. Confronted with this record, one could be excused for being baffled and for doubting the evidence of the census.

But the census is correct. One can also find Mira on the 1901 census, at the same address, aged 1 year, with her mother and her father (Wm Jos, a “general dealer” born in Swindon, Wiltshire). This time her two oldest siblings, Kate Matilda and Wm Jos Granger Stroud, are recorded as having been born in Moscow but her immediately older sibling, Nancy, aged 2, born in Beeston. This shows that the family must have had at least two sojourns in Russia.

The baptism register of the British Chapel in Moscow records that Mira Stroud was born on 8th/20th November 1899 and baptised on 15th/28th January 1900 (the dates being those in the Julian and Gregorian calendars respectively, the former being used by both church and state in pre-Revolutionary Russia). Mira was the daughter of William Joseph and Mary Ann Elizabeth Stroud. Helpfully, the baptism register also records that the parents were married at the British Consulate. The father was the “Manager of Brickworks, Koudinovo” in the Moscow guberniya. Koudinovo is properly transliterated as Kudinovo (Кудиново in Russian).

Baptism register of Anglican church, Moscow

Baptism register of Anglican church, Moscow

Searching back through the register one can then find Mira’s older brother William Joseph Granger Stroud born 22nd May / 3rd Jun 1896 and baptised 4th/16th August 1896. This time the father William Joseph Stroud is described as being a “Manager, Lace Manufactory, Moscow”. This immediately offers some clarification – Nottinghamshire was famous for its lacemaking and one can tentatively infer that a Russian lace manufacturer sought in Notts a person with the necessary experience and expertise to develop its business in Moscow.

The register entry for Kate Matilda Stroud is even more interesting. She was born 10th/22nd February and was baptised 28th March / 9th April 1893. Although unfortunately the occupation of the father is not given, the maiden surname of the mother is shown as Waplington and the record states that the parents were married at “the British Vice Consulate, Moscow, Nov 10th 1889”. This would explain where the family was at the time of the 1891 census.

What was also interesting was the discovery of a second Stroud family in Russia at about the same time. Arthur Edward and Elizabeth Stroud had daughters Nellie Olga born in 1890 and Katie Melanie in 1892 in Moscow. The father is described as “Lacemaker, Moscow” on both occasions. This family is back in England by 1901, when they are resident in Derby and the father is stated to have been born in Swindon. Later, an Arthur Edward Stroud, lace manufacturer of Long Eaton, Derbyshire, went on to make patent applications connected with his “twist-lace machine” in 1920.

It seems that William Joseph and Arthur Edward Stroud were brothers from Wanborough, a small village to the east of Swindon. Their origins seem humble – not in lace manufacture, and not in brickmaking, after all. According to the 1871 and 1881 censuses, their father Joseph Stroud was a boot- or shoe-maker. How did the brothers come to work in Russia? Did they respond to advertisements in England, did they have an acquaintance who went out to Russia first and then offered them work? As often is the case, vital records can provide facts, but they cannot always produce explanations.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2012 @ 11:09 AM Bluebird

The surname Snow is rendered Сно in Russian Cyrillic. Russian tends to spell foreign surnames phonetically, rather than transliterating them verbatim letter-by-letter. This makes for a clearer guide to pronunciation for a native Russian-speaker (the terminal -w in the name Snow is of course silent in English but would tempt a Russian to pronounce it as a -v).

The Snow family resided in Russia from at least the 1790s until the 1918 Revolution. One of the earliest among them was George Snow, a British merchant in St Petersburg, who married Sophia Frederica Wilhelmina Harnack in the Anglican Church on the English Embankment in St Petersburg in 1797. There was a shortage of British women in St Petersburg and in consequence marriage between British merchants and German or Swedish Lutheran women was not unusual. George’s wife was a Baltic German from Arensburg (now Kuressaare) on Saaremaa, Estonia (in fact, her surname, Harnack, is the old German name for what is today the Estonian village of Aarna, near Põlva, suggesting that the family may have had wider connections among the German ruling elite in the Estland and Livland guberniyas of Imperial Russia). Similarly, George’s son John Snow married a German baroness called Louisa Sophia Bülow in 1831. John Snow took his business to Villmanstrand (today Lappeenranta in Finland) but at least some of his sons (he had 10 children) remained in the imperial capital St Petersburg. These took Russian names, at least for official purposes, and one would expect that they were fluent in English, Russian and probably French or German too. For example, according to a 1897 St Petersburg address-book, one of John’s sons, Aleksandr Ivanovich Sno, was the proprietor of a textiles shop on Karavannaya ulitsa, while another, Fedor Ivanovich Sno, traded in the bazaar under the banner И Сно и Ко (i.e. “I Snow & Co”).

The family’s fortunes under Bolshevism – as merchant guild members, as a family with recognisably foreign roots –are unknown. Certainly, some members of the family remained in Soviet Russia and at least one, Evgeny, is thought to have perished during Stalin’s Purges, while the Russian-language Memorial site shows a Red Army soldier Petr Nikolayevich Sno, born in St Petersburg in 1901, who was missing in action in 1943 (his wife Zinaida was searching for him through official channels in 1946). This Petr may well have been a grandson of Aleksandr Ivanovich Sno, as Aleksandr had a son Nikolai Aleksandrovich, who was born in 1876 and therefore would have been of an age to be the father of Petr Nikolayevich.

However, Aleksandr Ivanovich Sno had another son Anatoly Aleksandrovich Snow, born in 1881. I came across Anatoly’s simple wooden grave-marker recently in the smaller of the two Russian Orthodox cemeteries in Helsinki (the graveyard of the church dedicated to Sv Nikolai). This reads: Анатолий Александрович Сно *1.3.1881 +25.2.1945. Immediately underneath on the same white wooden Russian Orthodox cross, however, is another metal plate reading: Snow Georgij +12.04.1918 +29.10.2009. No patronymic is given for Georgij, this not being customary in Finnish. However, the dates would suggest that Georgij was the son of Anatoly and had been given the forename of his British merchant great great grandfather George.

Orthodox grave marker in Helsinki

Sno or Snow - Orthodox grave marker in Helsinki

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Monday, August 27, 2012 @ 08:08 AM Bluebird

Official Turkish historiography claims that the Hemshin are Turks who, through an unfortunate proximity, took on elements of Armenian language and culture. The truth, universally accepted elsewhere, is that the Hemshin are ethnic Armenians who either voluntarily or forcibly converted to Islam. For the most part they inhabit mountain valleys inland from Trabzon east to Rize and beyond Çayeli and Pazar to Hopa up by the border with Georgia.

Some of the valleys, such as those of the rivers Karadere and Fırtına, are predominantly Hemshin in character. Their villages are loose clusters of homes, often scattered along a ridge or a winding access road, rather than focused nuclear settlements. Many villages have separate quarters (mahalle) with different names, which have been gathered into a single settlement for administrative purposes. The majority of settlements have been re-named, or have alternative names. In certain parts, villages are associated with traditional highland pastures called yaylas, to which entire communities decamp for the summer grazing season.

The Hemshin have also dispersed within Turkey, and there are communities, generally thriving and successful, in big cities such as Ankara and Istanbul – the Hemshin there are famous as pastry cooks. As a result, the Hemshin villages are becoming depopulated, as part of a rural to urban movement pattern common to most developing states in the modern world. This threatens the very existence of the Hemshin as a distinctive people, especially within their context of the homogenising chauvinistic culture of Turkey. However, it is possible that their culture may be preserved through a mixture of urban Hemshin nostalgia and the development of tourism.

Most of the Hemshin are Sunni Muslim and nowadays speak Turkish; however, those in the Hopa district still speak Homshetsma, an Armenian dialect. The same Homshetsma language is spoken by Hemshin in Georgia and Russia where part of the Hemshin (or, rather, their Armenian forebears) migrated to escape conversion to Islam and remain Christian – some of these communities were deported to Kazakhstan and elsewhere in Central Asia during the Soviet era.

The Hemshin are also known variously as the Hamshen (the Armenian name for the Hemshin heartland around what is today the village of Çamlıhemşin); the Hemşin, or Hemşinli (in Turkish orthography); Hemshinli; Homshentsi and Homshetsi (as the Hemshin refer to themselves).

Bluebird Research’s GoogleMap shows current settlements in Turkey and beyond which are known to be Hemshin today. Villages outside Turkey are under-represented on the map. Communities in the big Turkish cities are not shown.



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