The Armenian Families of Havav

Searching for clues from a map by a Genocide survivor

The path to recreating the lost memories of our families and homeland is often winding and arduous. The many fragments rarely can be joined to form a coherent and comprehensive image of the lives once lived in a time and place long since destroyed. However, every so often, history comes forth in interesting and unexpected ways.

In 2019, Matthew Karanian wrote about the search for the ancestral home of Laura Gaboudian in the village of Havav in the region of Palu. I had a very small role in that search which made use of a sketch map of Havav drawn by Haroutiun Tsakhsourian and included in his published book Palahovit: History of the Valley of Palu from the Earliest Times until our Days (Beirut, 1974).

The referenced sketch map of Havav by Haroutiun Tsakhsourian

Recently, Karanian reposted the article on the Armenian Genealogy Facebook group and, based on a request made there, I transcribed the names on the map into English. The surnames appearing on the Havav map are all too familiar to me from having grown up in Rhode Island where many from Havav would come to live. As is often the case with me, after such an effort I cannot help but search for confirmation of those surnames. The first place I will typically begin is with the list of those coming from a particular place of origin as compiled in the Armenian Immigration Project by Mark Arslan. The list of those from Havav coming to the United States gathered from ship manifests, naturalizations, etc. conforms well with the households identified by Tsakhsourian.

The following Havav surnames can be found in the Armenian Immigration Project website and on the Tsakhsourian map – Ampagoumian, Aproian, Aramian, Arzoumanian, Avakian, Aylaian, Azarian, Bkhian, Boranian, Boyajian, Der Mkhsian, Desdegiulian, Dolbashian, Ellian, Gadarian, Garmrian, Isrigian, Kasbarian, Khalarjian, Khimatian, Leylegian, Mangigian, Manougian, Odian, Papazian, Pashalian, Peretsian, Tkhtkhian, Tsakhsourian, Vosganian and Yeghiazarian.

An entry about the Dolbashian household in 1840 from the Ottoman population register

Delving further into the available records, I found a confirmation of the details on the map. As I have noted previously, Ottoman population registers exist for certain locations from the early 1800’s. I have two population registers for the Armenians of Havav. One is dated 1840 and the other 1847. The fascinating aspect that caught my attention was the first seven households listed in the 1840 register – six of them clearly were the same families listed in the same complex on the Tsakhsourian map!

In the upper left corner of the map, the first building complex contained the following families: Dolbashian, Hajian, Pashalian and Desdegiulian. It seems unlikely that the six households thus listed at the beginning of the register is mere coincidence. 

The Dolbashian household is the first listed in the 1840 register. At the time, 12 Armenian males were recorded in the household headed by Ohan Dolbashian, age 44. Ohan had five sons ranging in age from 1 to 14. Also in the household were Ohan’s brothers, Boghos and Arakel, and their sons as well. The 1847 register indicates Krikor was the father of the three brothers, Ohan, Boghos and Arakel.

The difficulty lies in bridging the gap between 1840/1847 and 1915 and later. In the 1980s, Peter Bedros Aproian recorded the memoirs of his father Ghazaros. Some of the information contained in the memoir can be verified with the population registers.

Peter’s father Ghazaros was named for an earlier ancestor. He indicated that the Turks called the Aproians by the name Chatalbash, and the population register confirms this. Here are the occupants of the 68th household recorded in the register:

Boghos Chatalbash, age 100
Apram, son of Boghos, age 32
Ghazar, son of Boghos, age 27
Manoug, son of Boghos, age 24
Hovhannes, son of Boghos, age 20
Sarkis, son of Apram, age 12
Asadour, son of Mardig, age 5
Movses, son of Ghazar, age 4
Hovhannes, son of Ghazar, age 1
Mardig, son of Hovhannes, age 3

Mardig was another son of Boghos who must have passed away prior to 1840. It is very likely that Boghos’ father was also named Apram and was the source of the surname Aproian. The memoir also confirms that Ghazar had a son named Movses. 

Another note of confirmation is found in the 2002 memoir Odyssey of a Survivor by Souren Papazian in which he included a detailed family tree. The population register was again used to confirm the names of those listed in the tree and that the Papazians were referred to at the time as top or tob keshish, which seems to indicate son of the head priest.  

Coming full circle, the Aproian memoir also discusses a Turk named Sherif Pasha who had terrorized the Armenians in Havav for a time before being expelled. The family living in Gaboudian’s ancestral home was named Sherifoghlou (of the family of Sherif). Had the Sherif fulfilled their threat to return to Havav? Also of note, Tsakhsourian discusses the expulsion of Armenians from Palu in the late 1920’s and who came to live in the Armenian houses of Havav. The Boranian household is stated to be occupied by Kurds from the nearby village of Kouroum.

One of the advantages of the map of Havav is that we have three reference points to line up with current satellite images of the village – the two fountains and the ruins of St. Gatoghige. The map comes to life as we walk the same pathways of our ancestors.

A satellite image of Havav today

George Aghjayan

George Aghjayan is the Director of the ARF Archives and a member 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 frequent contributor to the Armenian Weekly and, and the creator and curator, a website dedicated to the preservation of Armenian culture in Western Armenia.


  1. George Aghjayan, that is an amazing detective work and detailed map that corroborates with the satellite picture. I wished we had a similar map of the Armenian section of Gesaria/Kayseri.

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