Weekly Publishes Baptism Records from Gesaria (1914-15)

As I write this (Dec. 11, 2013), we now stand 500 days from April 24, 2015. One hundred years ago, babies were born, couples married, and there was no idea that life in Western Armenia would change forever in 500 days.

The Sourp Krikor Lusavorich Church in Gesaria (Kayseri)
The Sourp Krikor Lusavorich Church in Gesaria (Photo by George Aghjayan)

Some may say it ended, but that implies the presence of Armenians on those lands will never return. I do not believe that.

As far as I know, only records from one Armenian Apostolic church outside of Istanbul exist from the pre-genocide period: the records of Sourp Krikor Lusavorich in Gesaria (Kayseri). Beginning with this issue in the Armenian Weekly, a counter indicating the number of days remaining to April 24, 2015 and a list of all children baptized in this church during 1914-1915 will be posted. (The full baptism records for 1914-1915 are available in the calendar below.)

I wished to provide some additional information about the families of these children baptized a century ago in Gesaria. Unfortunately, the few sources I have do not offer such stories. It will have to wait for either another week or maybe for some reader that has such information.

Regardless, it is appropriate to reflect not on dry statistics but on the children born into a tempest and the trauma they and their families were about to endure.

I only ask that you turn that reflection into action!

 

 

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George Aghjayan

George Aghjayan is the Director of the Armenian Historical Archives and the chair of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) Central Committee of the Eastern United States. Aghjayan graduated with honors from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in 1988 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Actuarial Mathematics. He achieved Fellowship in the Society of Actuaries in 1996. After a career in both insurance and structured finance, Aghjayan retired in 2014 to concentrate on Armenian related research and projects. His primary area of focus is the demographics and geography of western Armenia as well as a keen interest in the hidden Armenians living there today. Other topics he has written and lectured on include Armenian genealogy and genocide denial. He is a board member of the National Association of Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR), a frequent contributor to the Armenian Weekly and Houshamadyan.org, and the creator and curator westernarmenia.weebly.com, a website dedicated to the preservation of Armenian culture in Western Armenia.

34 Comments

  1. This is yet another of the so many meaningful and important research projects George has done for the preservation of our history. Sadly, most of the small village churches are now gone, along with their records, making it a very special gift to have the baptismal records of this one. What a creative and moving way of remembering them on their birth months! Thank you, George, for giving so freely of your time and expertise.

  2. I was in Gesaria this summer. Unfortunately the church was closed so we only could take pictures from outside. So thank you for the data you are giving. However, I’m unable when printing (asking to show the whole article) or saving this article to have the data given at the end. What should I do to have them in the printed version? Thanks,
    Aida

    • The church is almost always closed – even on the twice yearly feast days of St Gregory when it is meant to be open. Priests from Istanbul are meant to attend on those days but they almost never come, finding any old excuse to avoid making the journey. If you are fortunate enough to ever get inside, don’t expect to be allowed to take photographs – the obnoxious caretaker will stop you (but the same thing happens in every active Armenian church in Turkey). When I was last able to get in (3 years ago) the pews were thick with dust and there was damage to the frescoes (crosses scratched out) that was not there in 2001, the last year that I was able to take photos of the interior.

  3. Aidajan,

    Go to an Internetshop once in a month and get the list of the baptized Armenians of Gesaria printed there. It just costs you the time and hardly money.

  4. My mother was born 100 years ago this coming may in Istanbul, she is till alive and we hope she will be able to celebrate her 100th Birthday. I am sure I will find her name in one of hose lists, thanks for all the research and effort.

  5. The altar at Sourp Krikor Lousavorich church is the most beautiful one I have seen in any Armenian church. Once a year, Armenians from Istanbul, do a pilgrimage to the Armenian churches in Anatolia.
    Garo, the caretaker at the church, only knows a few words in Armenian. His wife has relatives in Watertown. In 1986, the caretaker was a lovely lady by the name of Hripsime.
    Since my parents were from villages just northeast of Gesaria (Kayseri),I have visited the church many times, the last time being in 2012.
    There is a very telling video in Turkish entitled Kayseri Ermenileri (Armenians of Kayseri) made by a young Turkish student. You can Google it but there are two sites but the one beginning with the bishop speaking at the service in the church is rather interesting.

  6. Thank you. What a wonderful Idea. My family also originates from Gesaria ( the bastrma and manti country) , and my grandfather was born in 1914. I also know that he and his siblings did secretly learn Armenian alphabet at the St. Krikor church before the family had to relocate in early 1920s. (they knew the Armenian alphabet but not the language, all their written correspondence was in Armenian letterers and Turkish language).
    Unfortunately I did not find his name on the list. The discrepancy could be due to the fact that this is just the baptism list at St Krikor and does not reflect all the actual births. Other factors that were “place/ time” specific also might have played a role. Considering that at the time, for security reasons many in Gesaria had to conceal their religious/ national identity (many had double names, Armenian for the family and a Turkish one for outside of it, etc). At the same time I did find several registrations with the family last name, one of which I think is my grandfather’s first cousin (they were of same age) by the name “Shoushanig Semedian”. Judging from the fact that there are several entries with the same family last name “Semedeian”, our family must have been a large one. One other important discrepancy I came to notice is the way our family last name is spelled (unless it’s totally a different name and has nothing to do with my family).
    We always knew that our last name is Simidian /( yan) or Simitian and not “ Semedian”. We were told it derived from bagel like, sesame seed covered bread popular in Turkey called “Simit” or “Simid” / Simitian/ Simidian (yan).
    I wonder if this is some sort of “lost in translation” or a grammar related issue. Can you please check into it and reflect on it if possible?

  7. At home I was my Family’s amateur, unofficial historian ethnographer and gathered information on habits, customs, and traditions of the family in pre-genocide Gesaria. Growing up surrounded by genocide survivors I wanted to know anything and everything about their lost world/ reality. Unfortunately and sadly, I find our new generation growing more and more indifferent this days toward the heritage of their predecessors.
    I tried more ways than one to pass down this “treasures” to the new generation in the family, but as you can guess from the undertone of my massage, it did not work. At least the way I hoped. The most that was absorbed by them, I think was the general cultural, social values, the general message. No one seems to be interested in fragments of memories that the general sum of cultural message is shaped by and is grounded in. Times have changed and new entertainment, communication technologies have consumed everyone. It’s close to impossible to move and ignite an interest about the way of life 100 years ago, about a place and time that are “ night and day” different from reality today…
    The importance of the heritage is undeniable in our contemporary lives as source of spiritual nourishment and strength. Thank you for this interesting project.

    • Hello Hrair,
      This is interesting, because my great grandfather was one of the officiating priests here: Der Ghevont (Gemidjian) and my grandmother, his daughter was a school teacher in that very school were you remember your ancestors learning Armenian in secret. She was the one who took them down to a basement classroom reserved for that purpose, and taught them Aravot Louso and the alphabet, etc… It is amazing how the story is coming together.

    • Hello Hrair… I appreciated your post… and your deep desire to study our ancestral homeland. My great grandparents were from Gesaria. I will be visiting there in April. I would love any advice you might have regarding my trip.

  8. My father was born in 1910 in Kayseri and baptised there. If the records for this church go back to 1910 he might be listed. Who can I contact to find out if the baptism records go back that far, or it other church records exist from that time? I am catching my breath about this!

  9. Haunting indeed, how a church record from 100 years ago sends shock waves into today, how 3 generations later we still dig into every bit of info from our grandparents lives. Just a week ago at work I met a Kurdish man recently migrated from malatya. With his broken English & with the help of the few Turkish words I remembered, he was proudly able to explain how his grandfather helped a few Armenians during the genocide… My grandad was from malatya & my grandma was from guessaria, she escaped to Lebanon with her brother. I’m curious to know how these church records arrived to present day. Any idea on what the status of this church was among all (how many?) of the other ones in the area?

  10. Dear Nora Armani.
    Hi …
    That’s just emazing .
    And yers later, in mid 1980s I designed posters for plays that you took part in LA /AGBU … I believe we even talked after rehearsals …. And we did not know about Gesaria school connection … It is a small world indeed …
    My parents turned out to be related , (separeted during genocide )after they married , had kids… Compared family stories etc …
    Thank you for the reply …
    Best regards !

  11. When a family friend sent us your website, I started going through the names and amazingly I saw a name that I knew,”Yeghisapet Ghouroushjian” Jan, 5th 1914 baptism date, my aunt. Of course I clicked on the name, I saw the name “Verjin Takvorian” my grandmother, she was a genocide survivor but her husband Krikor Ghouroushjian one day was taken away from home and never returned. Later my grandmother married again to Stepan Dermigirditchian (Ozalp), they had already moved to Istanbul. With my grandmother and my parents and my sister and I moved to Canada in 1963. My grandmother died on May 9th, 1986 in Montreal-Canada, may her soul rest in peace.
    What you are doing is very important, keep up the good work. I hope that with this effort other families will be able to trace their family roots.

  12. Hi,
    The fourth child on the list that was baptized on January fifth 1914 “Yeghisapet Ghouruscian is or rather was my mother because she died in 1990 in Ridgewood New Jersey where she was residing with my sister Alin Papazian. After my Grandfather Krikor was taken away one night from his home and never returned , my mother (4 years old ) and my grandmother Verjin (Takvorian) Ghourusciyan moved to Istanbul under Turkish identities Verjin (Munevver) and Yeghsapet. (Zarife). Sometimes my grandmother told us about the horrible Happenings she witnessed or
    heard. In those days nobody would talk about those things. I am glad that today people like you are working hard to find out whatever happened to the Children who were born and baptized in -Anatolia . Thank you,God bless you and good luck.
    Tamara Nizamian
    Los Angeles ,California

  13. For anybody that finds relatives or friends on the list of baptisms, please contact me through the Armenian Weekly. In the future, the baptisms will be published and it would be nice to include stories about those who we know about. Thank you,

    George Aghjayan

    • Hello George!

      The entry for Yester Tellalian is the daughter of my great-grandfather’s brother. This family immigrated to the US in 1921. Sadly, Yester was not with them and until now, we had no record of her life. Thank you for this! I would love any additional information you may find on these families.

      -Sarah W. Jones

      Yester Tellalian
      StartMon November 9, 1914
      EndMon November 9, 1914
      Baptism Date: 9-Nov-1914
      Birth Date: 10-Oct-1914
      Child: Yester Tellalian
      Father: Apraham Tellalian
      Mother: Giulen Jebedelikian
      Godfather: Mihran Piulkhanjian
      Officiating Priest: Der Ghevont
      District/Town: Keoy Yukan

  14. I found my Father ( Hagop Dilsizian ) birth Date: April 10, 1914
    but the names of the Parents seem different then we thought….
    Could it be an error, or what we thought ALL this time is Incorrect?
    I wonder!
    Hagop’s dad is “Bedros Dilsizian” NOT Garabed like listed!
    and his Mother’s first name was “Magdaghine” not as listed.
    Any help?

    Bedros

  15. Bedros,

    I have sent your sister an image of the actual record so that you can verify the information as I have shown. It is possible that it is a different Hagop Dilsizian or that the priest recorded the names in error (one name is possible, but both parents names wrong seems unlikely). There are other Dilsizian’s listed in the records so possibly another Hagop will turn up once I have translated them all,

    George Aghjayan

  16. Thank you for the great information. As our world creates new methods of collecting information it brings us closer and closer to our ancestors.

  17. We congratulate George Aghjayian for finding baptism records of Armenians in Gesaria. Perhaps on his return to Historic Western Armenia he can go to my father & mothers village and find records of their families. My father was born in Sis in the Provence of Shabin Karahissar & my mothers was born in the village of Goteh outside of Mamakhatoun in the Provence of Erzerum. We would be forever grateful if he has a chance to go to those villages. The village of Sis is now renamed Chatal Olukh & my mothers village has be renamed from Goteh to Keuteur. Great findings George.

  18. My parents Garabed Kundakjian and Arshalous Giritlian (Kerchaian) were respectively born in the years 1907 and 1912 in Gesaria. My aunt, Peruz Kundakjian, was also born in Gesaria in 1915. I hope their baptism records are also found.

    Thank you for taking on this great project!

    Sincerely,
    Anahid Nalbandian

  19. My uncles were born in Van’s Alur village with no records to be found, is it out of your reach? or can you help?

  20. I’m very disappointed that I couldn’t find any of our family members’names.
    I know my grandma was only a baby went they started their march to Der Zor. Her name was Torouhi ( Tirouitza)Chatsian. They lived very close to Sourp Krikor Lousavoritch. Wish I could find names like Chakmakian, Chatsian, Mesedjian, Jerjerian.I’m planning to go to Kesaria next spring. Does anyone know about Sourp Karabet monastery near Kesaria? My dad was in the last group of people leaving the monastery. Hayr sourp of the monastery trusted the keys to everything to my grandma. My dad remembers the way turks were taking away the riches of the monastery in trucks for months, especially carpets.

  21. Helo, hope yr having a nice day thks for all yr good work that you’re
    doing. Pls help me,… going through yr calendar of January 2015 it is off by one day, today Thr, Jan. 29, 2015 and in yr calendar it is
    Fri. Jan 29, 2015. Pls be kind to let me know what I’m missing, there
    is always something new that I can learn.
    Thks in advance,

    Recpectfully yrs,
    Joseph

  22. Hello, Pls be kind to forgive, actually I was mistaken 1915 for 2015
    It did not take long to realize. Blown away with this out-
    standing work Baptism Records, My two best friends are
    Gesarietsi, trying to find connection to their familys.
    Thks again for yr understanding, keep yr awesome work.
    Recpectfully yrs,
    Joseph

  23. I really hope somebody can read this – my grandmother was born in Kayseri, but we do not know what year (between 1900 to 1910 perhaps). Her mother was Rose Varterian and her father was Hagop Berberian. Her name was Isabelle Berberian – is there any information in the records on her?

  24. I am enquiring about my father GARABED DEOKMEDJIAN born in gesaria mother’s name Dirouhi Khambourian Father’s name Magaros Deokmedjian.
    Also my mother’s family lived in Gesaria Father’s name Parsegh Khandjian. had two daughters named Never and Meline both lost during the genocide. Please let me know if you have any records.

    • Berdjouhi, I do not find any records related to Parsegh Khandjian. However, as to the baptism record for your father Garabed Deokmedjian, I find that there is a similar record from 1903. Now it could be a different Garabed Deokmejian, but it could also indicate that your father was named for an older brother that had passed away as a child. This was fairly common,

      George

  25. Hi, I just found this article during a search. My grandmother and grandfathers (mums side) were from Gesaria. How can I get a hold or search for possible baptism records for family members ?

  26. Dear George, thank you so much for all your hard work. I’m a British Armenian with ancestors from Gesaria (Kayseri).

    I’m wondering if in the records you’ve transcribed, have you find any information about my ancestors?

    Specifically:
    Parsegh Gogoshian / Barseg Kokoshian (born ???, died 1955)

    Or Parsegh’s parents:
    Harutyun Gogoshian / Harutyun Kokoshian
    Guliané Gostanian / Gulenia Gostanian

    If you have any information about any of these 3 relatives of mine, it would be amazing!

    – Steven

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