If your family has been removed from your Armenian heritage for a generation or more, you may be looking for ways to build your family tree. Whether you’ve always known of your Armenian roots or you just discovered your family’s geographic origins via a DNA test, the desire to learn more about your Armenian family tree can push you to begin researching. There are plenty of simple ways to get started!
You may find it beneficial to learn more about Armenia and its history. The Armenia FamilySearch wiki page will assist you in learning how to find your family in Armenia and in discovering other details that will come in handy along your research journey.
You may be under the impression that all records about Armenians who lived in the Ottoman Empire have been destroyed. Though many pre-1915 civil and church records were destroyed, not all have been lost. Additionally, records of genealogical value are accessible for many Armenian immigrants residing in America or western Europe.
One of the first steps in genealogy is filling out a pedigree chart. As with all family tree projects, we begin with ourselves. Next, we add the names of the relatives we know. Add your parents’ full names and your grandparents’ full names if you know them. Add names as far back as you know. You can begin recording your family tree on something as simple as a homemade pedigree chart—or, to save your tree online, use the FamilySearch Family Tree.
Interview Family Members to Learn More
If you aren’t sure of the names of your grandparents or great-grandparents, interview your relatives for help.
Here are some things to remember when interviewing relatives:
1. Talk to the oldest family members first. Be sure to make a list of questions before starting the interview. You will also want to be sure to ask to see any family Bible, old letters, documents, or pictures. It is a wonderful idea to video or audio record your interview, but if that is not an option, be ready to take notes with pen and paper or a laptop computer.
Learn how to use the Memory App at FamilySearch to record your interviews.
2. Talk to all relatives, not just your direct line. Distant cousins and great aunts and uncles may have information or even pictures your family line didn’t inherit. Be sure to interview them too!
3. Use social media to create family groups for collaboration. Facebook is a familiar tool for nearly every age group. Private groups can be created easily and at no cost. You can also invite your family to collaborate on FamilySearch’s shared tree.
Digging Deeper for Armenian Family Documents
At some point, you will have gathered all you can from living family members. The next step is to find civil and church documents to fill in the gaps of your Armenian family tree.
1. FamilySearch has a large collection of Armenian records—both for the Caucasus, or what is now modern-day Armenia, and for the former Ottoman Empire—that you can access for free. Church registers, censuses, and military records are just a few of the documents and records you will find.
2. The Armenian Immigration Project is a free website you will find useful. It introduced a historical research project that transcribes not only the manifests of the passenger ships that brought Armenian immigrants to North America, but also information about Armenians listed in other United States records. These records include vital records, naturalizations, passports, censuses, military records, and newspapers.
3. Read historical books on Armenian immigrants. Historical accounts can give you information on what life may have been like for your ancestors and hints on where to look if you’ve hit a roadblock.
4. Join the Armenian Genealogy Facebook Group, which has over 12,000 members from all over the world. Collaborating with other Armenian descendants is sure to help you in your own search for answers.
5. Obtain records from government sources. Records of genealogical value for individuals still residing in Lebanon and Syria can be obtained from the central government. The Central Administration of Statistics in Lebanon has recent population information. In Syria, you can contact the Center for Historical Documents in Damascus. In Turkey, the government’s website offers a family tree free of charge to all Turkish citizens, using the Republican and Ottoman records. Armenians of Turkish citizenship can visit the website and secure a family tree that may reach back as far as the 1800s.
6. Research Ottoman Empire tax records. The Ottoman Empire compiled detailed information for tax purposes initially on all males and later on all persons. This information goes back to as early as the 19th century. These records are in Ottoman Turkish and can be viewed at the Ottoman Archives in Istanbul, Turkey. However, the digitized images can be purchased at the Ottoman Archives for a small fee to be copied to a CD. Below is a list of Ottoman records that can be used for Armenian family tree research. This list was created by Jonathan McCollum, PhD.
|Coverage Estimate over Time||Record Type||Years||Location||Coverage Description|
(Population Certificate; Formerly Mürür Tezkeresi and Tezkere-i Osmaniye)
|1831-1918||Turkey and Former Ottoman Territories||Location of Birth, Year of Birth, Residence, Father, Age|
|Census||1831-1914 (1893 Census Covered Entire Empire)||Turkey and Former Ottoman Territories||Residence, Age, Patrilineal Relations (Counted via Household, Later Censuses Include Female Members of Household)|
|Yevmiye Vukuat (Daily Occurrences)||1871-1914||Turkey and Former Ottoman Territories||Name, Date and Location of Birth, Date and Location of Death, Changes in Military Status|
|30%||Temettuât Defterleri (Tax Registers)||1844-c. 1914||Balkan States and Turkey||Name of Individual, Location of Residence, Possessions|
|10%||Tapu Senedi (Title Deeds for Immovable Property, esp. Land)||1858-1918||Turkey and Former Ottoman Territories||Name of Proprietor of Deed, Location of Immovable Property, Year of Issue of Deed, Previous Proprietors, etc.|
|<1%||Sicill-I Ahval Defterleri (Registry of Civil Servants)||1879-1909||Turkey and Former Ottoman Territories||Name, Other Titles, Name of Father, Tribe (if applicable), Religion if not Muslim, Rank, etc. BUT only for Employees of the Government|
7. Research the records from the League of Nations. The League of Nations oversaw the resettlement of Armenian refugees and assisted in obtaining passports. A great deal of information was collected on refugees. The United Nations Archives in Geneva keeps these records. You may be most interested in the Refugees Mixed Archival Group (Nansen Fonds) (1919–1947), which can be accessed only from the Geneva Archives, and the records of the Armenian Orphanage of Aleppo. A list of all 1,880 persons included in the Armenian Orphanage of Aleppo can be found online. Information includes first and last names, fathers’ and mothers’ names, native country, and city or village from which the refugees fled.
Slow and steady wins the race! As you steadily and methodically search for records and information, your Armenian family tree will grow. Be sure to share your newfound information with your family and on FamilySearch Family Tree.
Source: Family Search