St. John the Baptist Armenian Apostolic Church of Milwaukee hosted a one-day Armenian genealogy conference on Saturday, November 3. Lyle Dadian began the day by thanking all those who had made the program possible and introduced each of the featured speakers.
Tracy Rivest Keeney, the administrator of the widely popular Armenian genealogy Facebook group, was the first presenter. She detailed the most useful first steps for beginning genealogists. Weaving in her own personal stories and family photographs, Keeney explained what resources are available, as well as how best to use them. The most useful place to begin is with living relatives; Keeney recounted unique family documents received from those as distant as 5th cousins.
Mark Arslan followed with a presentation explaining the origins and methods for creating the Armenian Immigration Project, the most important and useful website devoted specifically to Armenian genealogy. Arslan explained not only the various records found on the website, but also how they are being linked to expand our understanding of the paths each of our families have taken. The website contains census, military, naturalization, passenger ship manifests, as well as ads placed in the Hairenik newspaper looking for lost relatives in 1919 and 1920, and so much more.
New information is constantly being added to the website, which now contains over 120,000 records pertaining to Armenians. Arslan gave specific examples of how best to make use of the website, often getting gasps of excitement from the audience when information on a relative was displayed on random sample reports.
In the final presentation of the day, ARF Eastern Region Central Committee member George Aghjayan gave examples of the Armenian source records available inside and outside of the United States. Drawing on his seven part series in the Armenian Weekly, Aghjayan explained the additional value Armenian sacramental records supply when compared to civil records. Baptism, marriage, funeral and even Armenian census records were detailed as well as the records of those who had repatriated to Soviet Armenia in the late 1940s. Aghjayan closed with an overview of DNA testing results and a personal account of why it is so important for Armenians to test.