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Family History in India
Armenian Ancestors in India

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This page is part of the Family History in India website which is designed to help people trace their British, European and Anglo-Indian family history in colonial India. Much of the website is devoted to British families, but this series of pages refers to non-British family history. This particular page was prepared with input from Mike Lavocah, for which the author is very grateful.

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Brief History

The Armenians came to India as traders, and established settlements in most major cities in India. Job Charnock allegedly invited the Armenians to Calcutta at the time of is founding in 1689. There was a large Armenian community in Calcutta. This site provides a brief history of Armenian settlement in Calcutta. Armenians - The Merchant Princes of India gives a brief history of the Armenian trade in India. There are several errors and disputed dates in these two websites.

The Indian Government has a website which provides a very brief history of Indo-Armenian relations, and then discusses the relationship between India and Armenia in modern times.


Church Records

If your ancestors were baptised, married or buried in a European church in British India, then the church records should have been transcribed and sent to the capital of the Presidency, where they would later have been forwarded on to London. These records were indexed and about 80% of church records in British India are believed to have survived. You can access these records at the OIOC in the British Library in London, or at your nearest LDS Family History Centre. This website has extensive information on locating church records on microfilm for British India.

At the very least, the Armenian church in Calcutta had its records included in the general ecclesiastical records in the OIOC for the 1890's. It is possible that other Armenian churches in India, and other time periods, may also be indexed in the OIOC records, and I would welcome comment on this subject.

Most Armenians were members of the Armenian Church, an ancient Christian denomination in the Orthodox tradition (i.e. the Church never recognised the authority of Rome). In Madras, St Mary's Armenian Church was located at 2/A Armenia Street, South Black Town (this area is now called Georgetown). The building still exists. It is not to be confused with St Mary's of the Angels Co-Cathedral at 64 Armenian Street, Georgetown, which is a Roman Catholic church and is very much functioning today.

In Calcutta, the Armenian Church of of St Nazareth was erected in 1724 at No.1 Armenian Street. The church still exists although the community is now very small, possibly only numbering about 400 souls.

The LDS has microfilmed records of the Armenian Apostolic Church. Currently, the records available are:

The Family History in India website has a complete index of all marriages in Bengal 1855-1864 which is available at the Bengal Marriage Index page. A number of Armenian surnames are included, such as Aratoon and Aviet.


Names

Common Armenian surnames are Aratoon (or Arrathoon), Avakian, Paul, Anthony, Apcar and Carapiet. Armenian surnames are usually handed down in the same manner as European surnames, but in the past the father's forename has been used as a surname.

There is a list of Armenian given names, many of which became surnames over time.


Directories

Many European, Anglo-Indian and other businessmen were named in the Directories of their day. The most prominent Directory was Thacker's, which originally only covered Bengal, but eventually encompassed all of British India. If your Armenian ancestors were merchants or businessmen, there is a good chance that they would have been listed in Thacker's Directories. A complete set is now housed at the OIOC in London, but most major libraries will hold a few copies for given years. For a comprehensive description, and lists of where they can be located, please visit the informative Thacker's Directories webpage created by Ian Poyntz and Sylvia Murphy.


Books

Many of the Armenians in Singapore and Malaysia came via India, having lived there, traded there or been educated there. Usually it was in India that their names were anglicised into very British sounding names such as Chater, Edgar, Gregory, Jordan, Martin and Stephens.

The following book related to Armenians in India is available from Amazon.com :

There appear to be many inaccuracies in the book, but it is the only one available to date. The book was originally published in Calcutta in 1937 by its author. It was reprinted in New Delhi in 1992 by Asian Educational Services of New Delhi who sell it for 895 rupees. They also have an office in Madras. In Europe it is available from Bay Foreign Language Services of Ashford, Kent, England.

Other books published previously on Armenians in India include :

Dr Omar Khalidi of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has published two articles on the Armenians of India:


Family Histories

The Armenian Studies Department of California State Univeristy has a brief family history of Diana Apcar of Rangoon, Calcutta and Japan.

Peter Orr has traced the family history of his wife's Armenian family in India. These include the families of Apcar, Balthazar and Arrakiel.


Other Information

There is information on the Armenian community in Penang.


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