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Armenian Immigration Project - Ship Lists (by Mark B. Arslan)


Armenian Immigrants to the USA & Canada
from Keghi, Erzeroum, Armenia


Introduction

Between the late 1890s and the start of World War I in 1914, over 50,000 Armenians immigrated to the USA and Canada from their native land. Most of the immigration was from western Armenia, in what was then a part of Turkey in the Ottoman Empire.  The former Ottoman Empire vilayets (provinces) of Van, Bitlis, Erzeroum, Diarbekir, Kharput (Harput), and Sivas comprised the heart of western Armenia. Much of this immigration was a result of severe economic conditions and persecution (including periodic massacres) of the Armenians, a Christian ethnic minority in an empire surrounded by Muslim Turks, Kurds, and Arabs. The Armenian immigrants during this time were predominantly young and middle-aged males of working age, who came to the USA and Canada to find jobs and improve their economic condition. Many of the married men who came over to America left their wives and children in Armenia, planning to work for a period of time and then go back to Armenia or bring their families to America. Some returned to Armenia; many stayed in their new country. With the start of World War I in 1914, immigration of Armenians to America came to a virtual standstill due to American immigration restrictions and the difficulties of emigrating from Turkey during wartime. The year 1915 saw the genocide of the Armenian people in Turkey, where a majority of the population were killed outright or died during mass deportations from their home towns and villages to the deserts of Syria. The few survivors sought refuge in the Syrian cities of Aleppo and Beirut, in Constantinople, Turkey, or elsewhere. When immigration to America was opened again in 1919, some of the surviving Armenians in the Old World came to America to join their families who had come prior to the war.

My grandfather Dikran Arslanian came to the USA in 1906 to find work in the iron factories of Granite City, Illinois (across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, Missouri). His family lived in the village of Sergevil (also known as Sivgelik), sanjak (district) of Keghi, vilayet of Erzeroum, Armenia. He and several other male members of his family (brothers, brothers-in-law, a nephew, and cousins) immigrated over, one-by-one, in the years between 1900 and 1914, settling (initially) in Granite City-Madison-East St. Louis, Illinois, and then to Detroit, Michigan. They worked in the iron factories and (in Michigan) in the automotive industry. Some (including Dikran) then moved westward to Idaho, Montana, Washington, Oregon, and California to find work on railroad crews and in agriculture. Only a few of the members of this family who remained in Armenia survived the genocide. After the war, some were brought to the USA to rejoin their family; the others settled in England and France. When I started researching my Arslanian family history in the early 1970s, some of the older members of my family who had emigrated to the USA and England from Armenia shared their memories with me of their life and family in the Old Country. From interviews and correspondence with them, combined with later research in USA records such as censuses, city directories, vital records, World War I draft registrations, and ship passenger lists, I was able to learn much about my Arslanian family - those who immigrated and those who remained in Armenia. Unfortunately, no known records remained from Keghi, Armenia to enable research any further back than what was allowed by the memories of my relatives whom I interviewed in the 1970s.

Sergevil, as it looks today (courtesy of Mehmet Emin Oktan)

A number of years ago, I discovered a ship passenger list from Ellis Island, New York that showed my grandfather's arrival in 1906 aboard the ship La Provence, sailing from Le Havre, France to New York. This was the earliest original record I had found showing my grandfather's link with Armenia. Eventually, I found entries on ship passenger lists for the other males members of his family who immigrated from Armenia, confirming what I had been told during my interviews and correspondence. The ship passenger lists turned out to be an invaluable resource, since it was the closest thing that I could find to Armenian source records. The key thing about these records from 1907 onward is that they showed the name and relationship of the closest relative in Armenia, as well as the name, relationship and street address (!) of the person they were joining in the USA or Canada. In other words, these ship passenger lists provided, for each immigrant, a direct documented link between the Old World and New World. Even in the absence of original records from Keghi, I thought it might be possible to use this resource to discover the relationships between my Arslanian families and allied families from Keghi. A challenge was the fact that these records were located on microfilm in the National Archives in Washington, DC. Since I did not live near Washington, DC, but only travelled there occasionally, progress was slow. A major breakthrough occurred in 2001 when the Ellis Island ship passenger lists were indexed and posted to the World Wide Web by the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, Inc. at <http://www.ellisislandrecords.org>. This made it possible, with a broadband (cable modem or DSL) Internet connection from home, to quickly access the Ellis Island ship passenger lists from 1892 to 1924. (In addition, the USA federal census records were, in the same year, posted online by MyFamily.com Inc. at <http://www.ancestry.com>. Using the 1900-1920 census listings in conjunction with the Ellis Island ship passenger lists, it is possible to get a clearer picture of the groupings of the recent immigrants in the USA.)

With the online availability, I began a research project to identify any Armenian immigrants from the sanjak of Keghi to the USA or Canada. The objective of this project was two-fold: (1) find out more about my Arslanian family and related families from that district, and (2) provide a unique resource for other researchers of the Keghi community to find out about their own families. I was also inspired by reading Torn Between Two Lands: Armenians in America, 1890 to World War I, by Robert Mirak (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983), a comprehensive and fascinating account of the conditions and characteristics of Armenian immigration to America, of which the Keghi immigrants were a significant part. Another wonderful book, just released, is Like Our Mountains: A History of Armenians in Canada, by Isabel Kaprielian-Churchill (Montreal & Kingston, Canada: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2005). A high percentage of Armenian immigrants to Canada were from Keghi, and Isabel's book provides much background on Keghi and its immigrants and sojourners to Canada.

This web page includes a compilation of my findings and observations. As of this writing, I have found 2,690 entries for Keghi immigrants on the ship passenger lists.
 

Location of Keghi / Immigration Patterns

The town of Keghi (in the sanjak of the same name) was located about 70 miles to the southwest of the city of Erzeroum (capital of the vilayet of Erzeroum). (See map below.) The modern-day town of  Kigi (Turkish spelling) is located at 39° 19' N (latitude) 40° 21' E (longitude) in present-day Bingol province, Turkey. This is a very mountainous area, with Keghi (the town) at an elevation of 5439 feet above sea level. A number of smaller villages surrounded the town of Keghi. The village of Sergevil/Sergiwlik, where my Arslanian family lived, was located about 10 miles to the southwest of the town of Keghi. (See listing of villages in Keghi). This German military map from the 1930s shows the area around the town of Keghi. "Surgulik" is Sergevil. It is just west-southwest of "Huvis", or Khoups. (Thanks to George Aghjayan for providing this map. It can be found in the map room of the New York Public Library in New York City, as well as in the Library of Congress in Washington, DC.) An excellent resource for maps of Armenia, including the Armenian diaspora in the USA and Canada, is Robert H. Hewsen's Armenia: A Historical Atlas.

Travel in the Turkish interior was often restricted for Armenians. To get from Keghi to the USA or Canada, a very difficult journey out of Turkey and across Europe was required. Based on my analysis of the Ellis Island ship passenger lists, many of the pre-WWI emigration from Keghi appeared to have occurred through the Black Sea ports of Trebizond and Batoum. Trebizond was the nearest major seaport serving the vilayet of Erzeroum and Keghi. Batoum was further away, but was just across the Russian boarder and somewhat safer for Armenians who had fled Turkish oppression in Keghi. To get from Keghi to the seaports (and perhaps onto the ships) often required bribery at many points along this phase of the journey. The next leg of the trip was to the European continent, often through Bulgaria.
 


 

The Keghi Armenians typically travelled across Europe to an Atlantic seaport, where they embarked on a ship to New York. Of the 2,690 Keghi immigrants found so far in this study, the most common ports of departure from Europe were: Le Havre, France (66.5%), Cherbourg, France (28.6%), and others (4.9%). The mode of travel was almost entirely steerage (the lowest-cost accommodations).

Where did they go once they arrived in America? This study, so far, includes only the immigrants who came in through Ellis Island in New York City. (Other ports of entry will be added later.) Of those immigrants in the study, 89.9% indicated a final destination in the USA; 10.1% in Ontario, Canada. The most common destinations were: New York (27.9%), Illinois (23.8%), Michigan (11.1%), Ontario (10.1%), Massachusetts (8.7%), Rhode Island (7.8%), Maine (6.2%), and others (4.4%). Not all of these immigrants were admitted. Some were deported for reasons of health, mental infirmity, etc. An interesting observation is that these immigrants' destinations were concentrated in a fairly small number of communities within these states, and there were certain streets and street addresses (boardinghouses) that received a large number of these immigrants. (This will be expanded upon later in this analysis.)
 

Research Methodology

The primary source records for this research project were the New York ship passenger lists for Ellis Island. Finding Keghi immigrants presented several challenges. These records are not indexed by place of birth or last residence. Place of birth was not included on the lists until late 1906. Prior to late 1907, the departure port from Turkey (e.g., Trebizond or Batoum) was given as place of last residence. (After 1907, the actual place of last residence in Armenia was usually recorded, rather than the port city. The place of last residence was typically the place of birth for Keghi immigrants.)

In addition, the town or sanjak of Keghi was also spelled in a variety of ways by the recorders of the passenger lists: Keghi, Keri, Khery, Kurry, Khegie, Curry, Kheghi, Kaighi, Keghy, Khigi, Kaire, Keighi, Gheri, Kare, Kery, Kire, Keghe, Kerry, Kerie, Keurri, Kighi, etc. To see why the "gh" in Keghi is often rendered as an "r" in the spelling of the place name, it is important to understand that the pronunciation of "gh" in western Armenian is very similar to the uvular "r" in French (as in the French pronunciation of Paris). The vast majority of Keghi immigrants departed for America from French seaports, so the passenger lists were prepared by French employees of the shipping companies (primarily the French Fabre Lines). Therefore, the spelling included the French "r", since that is how the place name Keghi sounded (to the French). Sometimes, the name of the vilayet (Erzeroum) was given instead of Keghi. (The administrative division of vilayet roughly corresponds to a state in the USA, while a sanjak is similar to a county. Saying you were born in Sergiwlik, sanjak of Keghi, vilayet of Erzeroum, in Turkish Armenia is synonymous with being born in Bakersfield, Kern County, California, USA.)

The indexes to the Ellis Island passenger lists were arranged by surname of the immigrant. The search screen on the web site (<http://www.ellisislandrecords.org>) also requires that at least two characters of the surname be entered. Therefore, I began by searching for immigrants with the surname Arslanian, Aslanian, and other spellings, as well as for families that are known to be connected to my Arslanian family in Keghi (e.g., Gopoian, Kakligian, Apoyan, Atamian, Bozoian, Maloian, Tetezian, Aivazian, Boghosian, Kesdegian, Baronian, Hairabedian, Depigian, etc.). A number of various spellings for those names needed to be pursued, as well. When I found an entry on a passenger list with Keghi (any spelling) as a place of birth or last residence, I recorded the information for that immigant in a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. I then looked at the rest of the same page (and, typically, adjoining pages on the same ship) for more Keghi immigrants. Depending upon the year of the list, I recorded some or all of the following information for each immigrant:

1. Ship name, class of travel, departure port, arrival port, departure date, and arrival date
2. List (page) and passenger number
3. Name of immigrant
4. Age, sex, marital status, and occupation
5. Place of last residence (town and country)
6. Name and relationship of nearest relation in native country
7. Name and relationship of person (sponsor) whom they were joining in destination country (including, often, the exact street address!)
8. Whether in the USA or Canada previously, physical/mental defects, and whether deported
9. Height
10. Place of birth

Most of the data was recorded by me exactly as it was shown on the original passenger lists, misspellings and all. The quality of the images and the handwriting was sometimes marginal. I did my best to accurately decipher the handwriting, but there are certainly cases where I did not succeed. There were a number of other facts about the immigrant that I did not bother to record (identification marks, who paid for passage, how much money did they bring, etc.). In addition, some of the search results on the Ellis Island web site did not link properly to the original ship passenger list image. For those immigrants, I was only able to record a portion of the information (that which appeared on the search results screen): fields 1, 2, 3, 4 (except for occupation), and 5 on the above list. This was the case for 26 of the 2,690 Keghi immigrants found thus far, leaving 2,664 immigrants for whom I did examine the original list.

Eventually, it became clear that the immigrants from Keghi were often destined for specific cities, streets, and even particular street addresses in the USA or Canada (Ontario). For example, 79 Keghi immigrants (out of 2,664 of them) listed 166 Lancaster Street in Portland, Maine as their travel destination. The names of the sponsoring relative or friend (at these destination addresses) also started to look familiar. A man named Sarkis Vartanian, who lived in Troy/Watervliet, New York, was listed as a sponsor for 29 different immigrants (out of 2,664). The groupings and relationships of various Keghi families began to appear. To further investigate these interesting patterns, I transferred the data from the Microsoft Excel spreadsheet to a Lotus Notes database. This allowed me to sort and categorize the data in a number of different ways and to more easily search for particular names and places. The discovery of additional patterns and commonalities led me back to the Ellis Island passenger lists for more searches. By knowing the immigrant names and street addresses where the Keghi immigrants congregated, it was then possible to find many of the immigrants in the pre-1907 records where the birthplace was not recorded and the place of last residence only included the seaports of Batoum or Trebizond. In this iterative manner, I was able to find 2,690 Keghi immigrants. There are likely many more in the Ellis Island ship passenger lists that I have not yet found, not to mention the passenger lists for other USA and Canadian ports of entry.

Much work remains to be done to analyze this data and identify the sponsors (when they immigrated, and on what ship), document the family groupings and relationships, and find out when immigrants who had been in this country before had previously immigrated (date and ship). I have begun to corroborate my findings by identifying Keghi immigrants on the USA census records of 1900-1930 and other USA and Canada source records. That will allow us to get a clearer picture of what these individuals did when they came to the New World and where they moved from their original destinations.

I recently learned that there were several Armenians from Keghi aboard the ship Titanic, which sunk en route to New York from Southampton, England in 1912. Only one, David Vartanian (from Oror), survived. He was picked up on the ship Carpathian. See the article Even on the Titanic , by Katia M. Peltekian (Armenian News Network / Groong, 5 February 2007).

Findings

[Note: To view these findings you will need the Adobe Acrobat Reader software. This can be downloaded free from http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/readstep2.html. You can download the files to your disk to view them, or use your web browser with the appropriate plug-ins.]

 Ship Passenger List Detail (Adobe Acrobat document, 1,120K, 30 May 2004)

This is a detailed listing of Keghi immigrants abstracted from the ship passenger lists. It is arranged in order by ship arrival date, and best viewed by Acrobat Reader at about 250% magnification. (Due to the width of the page, it cannot be easily printed on an 8.5"x11" sheet of paper. If you would like the original Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, please send me a note and I will e-mail it to you. The Excel file is about 3.3 MB in size.) The rest of the findings are based on the data contained on this file.

The vast majority of Keghi immigrants travelled in steerage class. The trip across the ocean from the French Atlantic ports typically took about a week to 10 days. Very few families (husband, wife, and children) travelled together. The immigrants were primarily men of working age (many of them married), coming to the USA or Canada to join male relatives or friends from Keghi. About 17% of them had been in America previously.

A majority were farmers (cultivators) or laborers, but there were a number of other occupations represented, including cook, carpenter, druggist, jeweler/watchmaker, waiter, tailor, blacksmith, barber (hairdresser), shoemaker, coachman, stonecutter, mason, etc. Some of the occupations reflected their factory jobs in America, often iron workers or moulders. Notice that the Malleable Iron Company (in various cities in USA and Canada) was frequently listed as the destination, for about 13% of the immigrants. (A number of other immigrants probably also worked for the Malleable Iron Company). Many children were listed as students. The few women in the list (7.0% of the total) were almost exclusively described as housewives or housekeepers.

The Armenians were typically short in stature. The average height of adult males was around 5'-5" or so.

The second-to-last column in the spreadsheet (either a "0" or a "1") is used to indicate whether or not this immigrant was a native/resident of Keghi. A "1" in that column indicates "yes". I also recorded those whom I suspected were probably Keghi immigrants (indicated by a "0"), even though the ship list did not explicity state Keghi as last residence or birthplace. As I am able to confirm that they were indeed a Keghi native or resident (by finding them on a later immigration record or by linkage to a "sponsor" known to be from Keghi), I will change the "0" to a "1". (The number of Keghi immigrants found (2,690) does not include the "0s", nor does it include the non-Armenian Keghi immigrants - Turks, Kurds, or Arabs - whom I did not include on my list.)  

 List by Immigrant Name (Adobe Acrobat document, 305K, 30 May 2004)
 List by Immigrant Name (Combined) (Adobe Acrobat document, 344K, 30 May 2004)
The List by Immigrant Name arranges the Keghi immigrants by name (last name, first name), as the names were spelled in the original record. (Although I changed the name order where it was obviously incorrect, I preserved the spellings.) These renderings of the Armenian names (primarily by French employees of the shipping companies) were phonetic, since the Armenian language did not use the Latin/Roman alphabet. Therefore, a lot of variation in the spellings is to be expected. (See my earlier discussion regarding the spelling of the place name Keghi.) As an example, a single surname can appear with a number of different spellings (i.e., Cakligian, Caklikian, Gakledjian, Gaklidjian, Kagligian, Kakeligian, Kakeliguian, Kakiligian, Kaklighian, Kakligian, Kaklikian, Kekligian, Kekliguan, Keklikian, Kuklighian, etc.). The List by Immigrant Name (Combined) combines those with similar surnames under the most common spelling (among the Keghi immigrants as shown in the ship lists).

This wide variation in the spelling of names, and (sometimes) inaccuracy in the recording of other personal data is not unique to the ship lists; the same can be said for nation-wide censuses and other surveys. That is why it is important to use independent, non-related sources to corroborate the data.

The use of family names did not really become common in Armenia until the 1800s. For centuries prior to that, many Armenians had used a patronymic naming system, where their surname was the father's given name followed by "ian" (son of). For example, a son of man named Kevork Arslanian may be called Hovsep Kevorkian. The use of this patronymic naming system still appears occasionally in the Ellis Island ship passenger lists of the early 1900s. Some Armenian surnames are also based on occupation (e.g., Najarian - carpenter), geographic origin (e.g., Harpoutlian - from Harpout), or trait (e.g., Arslanian - like a lion). The base name, such as Arslan for lion, will often be a Turkish word. Sometimes you'll see a surname like Der Manuelian. The "Der" prefix indicates a name based on an ancestor or relative in the priesthood.

Here are some links describing Armenian names:
<http://www.hyeetch.nareg.com.au/armenians/names_p1.html>
<http://www.armenianheritage.com/faname.htm>

In both of these name listings (above), you'll see that the rightmost column is titled "Joining Arrival". I have attempted, where possible, to identify the earliest arrival information (port, ship, and date of arrival) for the individual whom the immigrant was joining in America. For example, Avagin Abrahamian arrived in New York on 8 September 1906. He was destined to join his friend Hatchik Bozoyan at 9 Main Street in Brantford, Ontario, Canada. Based on my research, I believe that Hatchik Bozoyan is the same individual who immigrated to New York on 30 July 1903 aboard the ship Waldersee. Refer to the Ship Passenger List Detail for the original ship list entry for Hatchik Bozoyan (whose name on that entry is spelled Hachig Bazoian).

When you encounter the word "ditto" in the name listings, refer back to the Ship Passenger List Detail to find the original phrase to which the ditto refers. (I recorded the ditto as used in the original passenger lists.)

 List by Destination City  (Adobe Acrobat document, 282K, 30 May 2004)

As indicated earlier, many of the Armenian immigrants from Keghi were destined for specific cities in the USA and Canada, particularly those with significant job opportunities in heavy manufacturing, such as the Malleable Iron Company. This list is arranged by destination city within state (or province).
 List by Destination Address  (Adobe Acrobat document, 314K, 30 May 2004)
This is similar to the previous list, but arranges the immigrants by the actual destination street address. You can see that some of these neighborhoods and street addresses were home to a large number of Keghi immigrants during that time period. Many of these addresses were boardinghouses, where a large number of new Armenian immigrants lived together while working at their new jobs in America. The neighborhoods were often near the manufacturing sites, often in a very tough, poverty-stricken area of the city. See Torn Between Two Lands: Armenians in America, 1890 to World War I, by Robert Mirak (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983) for a good description of many of these neighborhoods. You can see the proximity of the streets to each other (and, in some cases, an modern aerial view of the neighborhoods) by searching at the MapQuest web site.

It is also interesting to look at these street addresses in the 1900-1920 US census records (<http://www.ancestry.com>) to see how the residents compare to the groupings of immigrants at these addresses in the ship passenger lists. I am in the process of trying to locate these immigrants in the census records to find out more about them and their relationships to the other immigrants.

The cities of Watervliet and Troy, New York are adjacent to each other, separated by the Hudson River (just north of Albany). I suspect that these city names (Watervliet and Troy) were often used interchangeably when the immigrant provided the information to the recorder of the ship passenger list. For this reason, I combined Troy and Watervliet into a single designation: Troy / Watervliet.

 Summary by Destination (Adobe Acrobat document, 129K, 30 May 2004)

This document includes numerical listings of how many Keghi immigrants were destined for specific states, cities, streets, and street addresses. It includes the following sections:

Summary by Destination State / Top States
Summary by Destination City
Summary by Destination City / Top Cities
Summary by Destination Locale
Summary by Destination Locale / Top Locales
Summary by Destination Address / Top 25 Streets
Summary by Destination Address / Top 25 Addresses

The top state was New York (27.9%). The top city was Troy / Watervliet, New York (15.7%). The top locale was Granite City - Madison - East St. Louis, Illinois (22.0%). The top street was Solvay Avenue in Detroit, Michigan (6.5%). The top street address was 166 Lancaster Street in Portland, Maine (3.01%). (My Arslanian relatives travelled from Keghi to Granite City - Madison -East St. Louis, Illinois, and then moved to Detroit, living on and near Solvay Avenue. Apparently, they lived among many of their fellow Keghi immigrants.)

 Summary by Ship & Port (Adobe Acrobat document, 69K, 30 May 2004)

This document includes numerical listings of how many Keghi immigrants departed from particular ports (on the ocean journey to America), and which ships they were on. It includes the following sections:

Summary by Port / Top Ports
Summary by Ship
Summary by Ship / Top Ships

The top departure port was Le Havre, France (66.5%). The top ship was the La Touraine (11.7%), which sailed from Le Havre.  

 1910 US Census (Adobe Acrobat document, 137K, 30 May 2004)
 1920 US Census (Adobe Acrobat document, 151K, 30 May 2004)
 1930 US Census (Adobe Acrobat document, 129K, 30 May 2004)

Many of the Keghi immigrants remained in the USA and can be found in the federal decennial censuses. In 1910 and (to some degree) in 1920, the new immigrants often lived in large boarding houses with other Armenian laborers. By 1930, many of the men had married and established families in their new communities.

I have attempted to locate known Keghi immigrants in the censuses. This is a challenge because the spelling of the names was often done phonetically by USA census-takers who were not familiar with the Armenian language or names (perhaps even less so than the French who recorded the names on the ship lists). I tentatively linked the immigrants on the censuses to those on the ship lists on the basis of their names, ages, year of arrival (which is shown in the censuses), occupation (especially specific occupations like barber or tailor), where they lived, and with whom they were living. In some cases, I recorded members of the same household who were not necessarily Keghi immigrants. I also found some of the specific street addresses that were a common destination of the Keghi immigrants, and recorded those too.

In the census documents (above), I have included in the far right column my identification of the arrival information for the immigrant (where they entered the US, name of ship, and arrival date; e.g., "NY-La Provence-6 Nov 1906"). The date of arrival stated may not necessarily be the immigrant's first arrival to the USA, but it is the first arrival where I could find a confirmed entry in the ship lists.

This identification of Keghi immigrants in the USA censuses is still very preliminary. I would appreciate knowing of additional censuses citations (state, county, enumeration district, page), so that I can continue building these documents.

 World War 1 Draft Registrations (Adobe Acrobat document, 100K, 30 May 2004)

In 1917 and 1918, approximately 24 million men living in the United States completed a draft registration card. This represented approximately 98% of men under the age of 46 covering a huge portion of the population of the U.S. at the time. Young men were required to register for the draft regardless of their USA citizenship status. Aliens were required to register but were not subject to induction into the American military. This is an especially interesting source of information to complement the ship lists and censuses, as it often lists the exact date of birth and (in many cases) the name of the town or village in which they were born.

Ancestry.com (WWI Draft Registration Cards, 1917-18) has recently posted the images of the cards themselves to the Internet. I have begun to search the posted registration cards to locate Keghi immigrants and tie them back to the ship lists. This allows us to identify the town or village in Keghi where the immigrant originated, something that the ship lists and censuses rarely do.

DNA Research as a Tool for Genealogy

There are several significant challenges to western Armenian genealogical research, as compared to genealogical research in the USA, Canada, and many western European countries. Obviously, few if any civil and church records exist from Armenia, and those that do remain are mostly printed in Armenian. Also, as noted above, passing of the same surname from generation to generation did not become commonplace until late the late 1800s in western Armenia. For example, my great-grandfather Sarkis Arslanian and his brother Garabed were the first in my family to use the Arslanian surname; their father's given name was Arslan ("lion" in Turkish). Finding someone else from Armenia with the surname of Arslanian is meaningless to me, in terms of a possible blood relationship, unless they were descended from either Sarkis or Garabed. (Most western European countries began the use of surnames, passing them down relatively unchanged from generation to generation, in the 1400s and 1500s.) Until very recently, these restrictions and others significantly hindered Armenian genealogical research.

However, a significant new tool has emerged recently in genealogical research allowing the use of genetic markers in DNA to establish family relationships. See Genetics, DNA and Health History. The Y chromosome is passed down from father to son to grandson to great-grandson, etc. along the male line (as are surnames in many modern western societies). Occasionally, due to random mutations, one or more of the genetic markers may change in an individual and be passed down to his son that way (similar to a surname changing from Arslanian to Arslan). Standard tests are available (based on a cheek swab) to identify 12, 37, 67, or 111 markers on the Y-chromosome. (The more the markers, the more precise the idenfication; I strongly suggest 37 or more markers, in order to be useful for genealogical purposes.) All direct male descendants of my great-grandfather Sarkis Arslanian would have a very similar, if not identical, set of markers (or haplotype). Someone with a surname of Arslanian (or some variation), whether or not they had done in-depth genealogical research, could compare their haplotype to known Sarkis Arslanian direct male descendants see if they were likely to be a direct male descendant of Sarkis Arslanian. Likewise, the Sarkis Arslanian haplotype could be compared to haplotypes of other Arslanian families in the USA, England, France, or elsewhere to see if these families were closely related. I would like to establish a database of haplotypes of direct male descendants of Keghi immigrants to give us a tool to identify the related families from the various towns and villages in Keghi. For example, if I were to find someone else from Keghi with the same 25-marker haplotype as mine, there is an 80% probability that we share a common ancestor on our direct male line within the past eight generations (roughly 200-240 years ago). A 37-, 67-, or 111-marker match would refine our estimate of most recent common ancestor to an even more recent period. By combining this information with the Ellis Island ship lists and other family information (e.g., town of origin), I hope that we can see some patterns emerging to show the family relationships of the Keghi immigrants.

The Family Tree DNA testing service is one of the most well-known. If anyone is interested, please contact me by e-mail. I have set up a geographic project on the Family Tree DNA web site dedicated to Keghi immigrants. If you are a direct male descendant of a Keghi immigrant, you can order a DNA Kit from them. The tests range in price from $99-$248, depending upon the number of markers, when ordered from Family Tree DNA as a part of the Armenia DNA project. My 67-marker test results have been obtained and I'm anxious to see if I get a match with any others. Once there are enough results on the Keghi immigrants geographic project to be meaningful, I will hopefully be able to start defining relationships between the families and can start posting the findings to this web site. (The markers are "junk DNA" on the Y chromosome, not genes, so no genetic information of project participants will be disclosed or reported.)

Further Research Topics & Links

I hope that this study proves useful to others who are interested in Armenia and their Armenian families. I will continue to search for Keghi immigrants in the lists of Ellis Island and other ports of entry to the USA and Canada, and will update this web page as I found new information. I would appreciate hearing from anyone who has found any Keghi immigrants that I have missed, or who can provide additional information about those I have found.

Here is an obituary (written in Armenian) for Mamigon Kaklikian, an immigrant from Keghi (with a translation from Armenian to English). (Click on the thumbnail image to retrieve the obituary in Adobe Acrobat format.)

The Khoups Village of Keghi (by Mehran Tourigian) (Beirut: Aztag Daily, 15-17 March 1951)

Since my primary interest is the history of my Arslanian family, I would also welcome correspondence from anyone who is familiar with my Arslanian family or the families of Keghi who are connected by marriage to the Arslanians. These include the following families: Gopoian, Kakligian, Apoyan, Atamian, Bozoian, Maloian, Tetezian, Aivazian, Boghosian, Kesdegian, Baronian, Hairabedian, and Depigian.

Lastly, I hope that studies like this of other Armenian communities are conducted and shared through the World Wide Web.
 


Mark B. Arslan   (marslan@nc.rr.com



Last updated on 28 May 2012