AAU Hosts 5th Annual Armenian Genealogy Conference
YEREVAN — The Armenian Genealogical Conference (AGC) held its fifth annual meeting Sept. 24-25 at the American University of Armenia (AAU). The weekend began with a book presentation by AAU President Emeritus and Founding Dean of Turpanjian College of Health Sciences, Dr. Haroutune Armenian. Epidemics and mortality in the parish registers of Armenian churches in the Diaspora (1732-1982) reveals a number of groundbreaking findings from Dr. Armenian’s epidemiological analysis of data drawn from church parish records of Armenian populations in 11 countries spanning a period of 250 years.
On Saturday, after welcoming remarks by AGC Founder George Aghjayan and AAU Dean of General Education Sharistan Melkonian, the conference opened with Dr. Armenian’s introduction to the story behind the retrieval of Armenian church records from the Church of Latter-day Saints (LDS) Family History Library and the importance of their use in epidemiological studies. Dr. Armenian’s presentation detailed mortality trends, outbreaks and the ongoing impact of the Genocide on survivors living in refugee camps.
The next presenter was Dr. Rafael Abrahamyan, President of the Armenian Historical and Genealogical Society, who spoke about the genealogy of Artsakh. Dr. Abrahamyan explained the sources available and the methodology used for the data review. He then showed and discussed images of Armenian family trees and parish registers obtained from sources throughout Artsakh, which is one of the places where hereditary nobility was preserved until the 20e century. At the end of his talk, Dr. Abrahamyan handed over a copy of the inaugural issue of Armenian genealogythe premier journal devoted to Armenian genealogy, at the AAU AGBU Papazian Library.
Dr. Levon Yepiskoposyan, Director of the Ethnogenomics Laboratory at the Institute of Molecular Biology of the National Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Armenia, spoke about the extensive work he is doing to create a genetic atlas of Armenia historical.
Dr. Sonya Mirzoyan, former director of the National Archives of Armenia, closed the Saturday morning session with an overview of the genealogical resources available at the Armenian National Archives. She discussed Armenian church metric books and census material, as well as family genealogies available in archives.
On Saturday afternoon, Dr. Anahit Grigoryan, Director of Artsakh State Archives, offered an in-depth look at the resources available for genealogical research. The destruction of Armenian cultural sites during and after the end of the 2020 war made Dr. Grigoryan’s presentation even more relevant. The preservation and maintenance of these archives is essential to documenting the historic Armenian presence in Artsakh.
Aghjayan ended Saturday with his presentation on the genealogical resources of Armenians living in Turkey and individuals whose ancestors came from various parts of Turkey. He listed Ottoman resources, Armenian church records, Armenian remembrance books, and family history reports available to Turkish citizens through their government’s eDevlet system.
The Sunday morning session opened with Dr. Panov Dmitry Arkadievich, Head of Research and Genealogical Study at DST Kristian (the House of Family Tradition), presenting Armenian genealogical research available in Russian archives. He explained the vital importance of church registers as well as business directories and land records covering a vast geographical region to which Armenians have migrated for centuries.
Presentations by Dr. Tigran Matosyan and Andranik Nahapetyan provided important narrative context. Dr. Matoysan, assistant professor at AAU, discussed the trend of giving names to children born in the city of Van. Throughout the 19e and 20e centuries, Van Armenians have shown a propensity for homonyms to name their children, a practice that has taken many forms, some not so obvious.
Nahapetyan, an independent researcher and member of the Expert Council of the Southern Federal University, Institute of Sociology and Area Studies Center for Armenian Studies, discussed the genealogy and family origins of Simon Vratsian, the fourth Prime Minister of the First Republic. from Armenia. He draws from autobiographical memoirs, field surveys, population censuses, parish registers, reference works and interviews with contemporaries. Nahapetyan also expanded on the resources available to Armenians in Nor Nakhitchevan.
The conference ended with an overview from Aghjayan on DNA testing and the tools available from companies that offer testing: ancestry.com23andMe, FamilyTreeDNA, and MyHeritage, plus third-party analytics website gedmatch.com. He explained the importance of DNA testing in the context of Armenian history and how he located and reconnected with his estranged family in Turkey during the genocide. A number of DNA tests donated by AGC were administered to conference attendees.
Presentations were made in Armenian, Russian and English, with simultaneous interpretation provided by the AAU. All presentations have been recorded and will be posted online.
Undergraduate students from Gregory Chahrozian’s Genetics course volunteered for the conference, which was organized and co-sponsored by the AGC, AAU and the Hamazkayin Armenian Educational and Cultural Society.