Support The Stories!

Do you like these stories?
Please help me to continue bringing them to you.
A contribution, no matter how small will help.

14 December 2014

Making Their Mark in Madras: Catholic Armenians, 1840.

Albert Arathoon, a young and promising 15 year old Catholic Armenian had a very strong family history. On his paternal side he was descended from Chorhatsgerentz Stepan Manuel (sometimes referred to Stephen Manuel of Persia). On his maternal side his mother Margarida Baboom was an Armenian born in Macao and whose own father, Gregory Baboom was a merchant trading between India, Hong Kong, Macao and Manila to name but a few. I will do a separate post on the Baboom family of Madras and China in due course.

Albert’s father John was a successful banker in Madras. The sons of the family were all sent to England for their Education and his family was so highly thought of among the Catholic community and by the religious heads of the Catholic church in Madras, that in December 1840 young Albert was selected, as a 15 year old boy, to lay the foundation stone of St. Patrick's Catholic Church at St. Thomas's Mount. It was reported as follows:

Ceremony of Laying the Foundation of a Roman Catholic Church at St. Thomas’s Mount. 

On Tuesday the 8th instant the First Stone of a new Roman Catholic Church was laid at St. Thomas’s Mount, by Albert, the eldest son of John Arathoon Esq. As usual, on such occasions, some pieces of the current coins of Great Britain and of India, together with a copy of a public Journal (The Examiner were chosen in the present instance) were placed beneath the Foundation of the intended edifice. We subjoin a copy of the Inscription which was deposited together with the preceding memorials. 

Quod Rei Religionis Et Reipubllicae

Felix Faustamque Sit.

Sexto Kalendarum Decembris


Post Christi Nativitatem


Ecclesiae Sti. Patricii

Apud Montem Majorem

Primum Lapidem Posuit

Optimoe Spei

Ingenuus Adolescens

Ex Majoribus

Fidei Catholicae Addictissimis


Albertus Arathoon

Translation of the Inscription

On the Eighth Day of December


Albert Arathoon

An Ingenuous Youth, of Great Promise

Descended from Ancestors

Who were most Devoted

To the Catholic Faith

Laid the first Stone

Of the Church of St. Patrick

At. St. Thomas’s Mount

May this Even Happily

And Auspiciously Conduce

To the Welfare of Religion


Of the Empire

At the conclusion of the ceremony, Bishop Carew addressed Mr. Arathoon to the following effect.

“My Dear Young Friend

I have been induced by several considerations to invite you to take a principal part in the ceremony, which has been now performed.  Were I to advert merely to the circumstance, that you are the representative of a respectable family, which for ages has been most devoted to the Catholic Faith and which by its benefactions to Religion is entitled to particular notice on an occasion like the present, this alone would justly have due weight with me.  But whilst I respect the claims derived from ancestors, I would remind you that they are as shadows, unless sustained by personal worth, and that the very records of the virtues of those ancestors, if destitute of such an accompaniment, only aggravate by contrast the faults of a degenerate descendant.  Happily, the claims, which you may put forward on this head have not been impaired by you – on the contrary, if the harvest of your mature age should, as I pray that it may, correspond with the promise of your opening manhood, you will enhance the inheritance of your ancestors and transmit it with increased lustre to your posterity.

You have been already informed of the motives which induced me, to solicit your co-operation on this occasion.  I remembered, that you were the senior pupil of the seminary of St. Mary, which was established on my arrival at Madras, that for the two years which since then have nearly elapsed, your uniform attention to your religious duties and studies afforded to your superiors sincere gratification, and supplied to your fellow pupils a strong incentive to literary industry and exemplary piety.  I also reflected, that in the ordinary course of events you were soon to enter on that course of life which is marked out for you, and I wished, before you would have retired from the seminary, to evince in the most public manner, my approbation of your conduct, and the strong hopes I entertain, that your career in society will be creditable to the place of your education, useful to society, honourable to yourself, to your family and to the religion of your ancestors.  In any country, a young gentleman, possessed of the advantages you enjoy, could confer great benefits, more especially on the humbler classes in his vicinity.  But in this country, the value even of one such member of society is inestimable.  For, were one young gentleman here to devote, from his entry into public life, with constancy and uniformity, even only a moderate portion of his time, his talents, his influence and his wealth to the moral and temporal improvement of the poor in his neighbourhood, can it be doubted, that the most important advantages would hence result.  In Europe, instances of this kind happily abound.  Here, alas! Almost a single such example in unknown.  It is not for me, at present, to point out the causes of this anomaly; you must be more familiar with them, than I am.  But, I trust, that better days, even for this country are nor far removed.  Days, when such examples, as I have alluded to, will not be extraordinary, days when those in power, will feel it to be alike their duty and their interest, to assist in providing for the education of the almost countless Catholic youth, for whose instruction not even the donation of a spelling book can now be obtained from government.  Days, when the asylum established by private benevolence to rescue the Catholic orphan from the danger of being perverted, will be visited by some other public functionary besides the tax gatherer, who is to be annually sent to collect from the refuge of the fatherless one hundred Rupees quit rent.  Days when the dying soldier will be cheered in his agony by the consoling assurance, that his little ones will grow up in their father’s faith and that their tender years will be watched over, not by heartless mercenaries, but by those who have bid adieu to the world and its rewards, and who, like her, whom the scriptures declare that all nations shall call blessed, while they remain virgins by purity, become by their tender charity the mothers of the destitute and of the orphan.  I cherish fondly the hope, that we shall yet witness these consoling scenes.  Even the ceremony of this day forbids me to abandon such happy anticipations, for it shows, how much the liberality of one governor can accomplish.

Assuredly such a precedent will have its due effect on those who may succeed Lord Elphinstone, and we may expect that thus, the hopes we cherish will be eventually accomplished.  There are moreover ten million of our fellow Catholics in the United Kingdom, many of them are possessed of wealth and influence; I know that they are not indifferent to your welfare and that they will not be ungrateful to your friends.  That they seek to be informed of your necessities, and that, as circumstances permit, they will cheerfully co-operate, both, to relieve your wants and to obtain, for you the full enjoyment of that civil and religious liberty and equality, which are, at once, the glory and the safeguard of the British Constitution.”

To the address of his Lordship, Mr. A. Arathoon returned the following very appropriate answer.

“My Lord,

I feel and will always feel proud of having been the first student who entered Saint Mary’s Seminary. It was the first establishment that has been opened for Catholic youth in this Presidency.  Without endangering the religion he inherits from his fathers, the Catholic youth may receive there that education which will make him an ornament to society.  There he has within his reach every thing in science and learning which adorns and enlightens the mind.  Remembering that I am, if I may say so, the foundation stone of Saint Mary’s Seminary, to know of its prosperity shall always be a subject of sincere joy to me.  When engaged in my worldly occupations, I shall always look back with fond recollection to the happy days I have sent in it, free from all solicitude, except that of the student who frequently thinks his own labours the most difficult, and I will rejoice when the salutary influence of St. Mary’s Seminary shall have reached through society.

My friends and those feel an interest in my welfare congratulate me on the improvement I have made during the two last years.  I have indeed laboured with assiduity too; but I ascribe my improvement to the system of education adopted in the seminary, and above all to the care and attention of the gifted and respected president who has given his invaluable services to the education of youth.

Your Lordship has made kind allusion to my family, I have only to observe on this point that I hope the Divine aid may enable me to preserve with credit the sacred deposit of faith which I have received from them.  That living in the true practice and observance of its laws, I may become a really useful member of society here and prepare myself for hereafter.  With the deepest sense of gratitude for the honor conferred on me.  I have to acknowledge my best thanks to your Lordship for your kindness I have always experienced in my intercourse with your Lordship.  I have only to add my best wishes and hopes for the success of your undertaking.”

When Mr. Arathoon finished his reply, the Bishop proceeded to perform that part of the religious service which had not as yet been completed.  At the conclusion of the ceremony, the numerous assemblage which attended, retired, evidently much pleased with all they had witnesses.  -  Madras Examiner, December 10”.

Albert Arathoon married in 1865 in London to Louisa Andoe, her family originally came from Ireland. Her grandfather Hilary Andoe was a distiller in Ireland before moving to France in 1760 setting up a wine exporting and brandy distilling business. He and his family returned to London and settled there in the early 1790’s, Hilary died there in 1797 where his wife Catherine died in 1821. Louisa’s father William was born in France but he was just an infant when Hilary settled in London amongst the French community. Louisa married on the 1st July at Our Lady’s Church, Grove Road, St. John’s Wood, it was a particularly joyous occasion because it was also a double wedding.  Lousia’s sister Mary was also married at the same time to her bridegroom Edward Rymer a leather merchant.

Immediately after Albert and Louisa’s wedding they set sail for Madras and their first of six children Mary, was born in June 1866 at Albert’s father’s home near Nungumbaukum. Five more children were born in Madras between 1867 and 1874.

Albert had a premature demise in 1877 aged just 53 years.  He was on the ill-fated Meikong vessel that hit rocks 3 miles south of Guardafui (off the coast of Somalia). Passengers were able to make their way from the ship to shore, although it was being thrown around by the surf the lifeboats were lowered and starting to take people cautiously to safety.  Albert was one of only two men who died during the process of helping others.  He was overcome with exhaustion and heat stroke assisting others as they walked in the desert trying to reach the Gulf of Aden where a rescue ship called Glenartney was waiting. A journey that was fool-hardy in the blistering heat with no water or sun protection but a necessary one to ensure the passengers and crew were saved.

After the tragic death of Albert, Louisa left India returning to England and by 1881 had placed herself at the Convent of our Lady of Sion in Kensington with her four daughters, Mary Louise, Catherine, Isabelle and Alice. Ten years later the 1891 census reveals that Louisa was living at Pembroke Gardens Kensington accompanied by her unmarried children Mary and son Albert who was a leather merchant. Louisa’s youngest son Hilary was a medical student.  Also at the same address at the time of the census were Louisa’s two sisters Catherine Gibb and Isabelle Andoe. All were looked after by two household staff a maid and a cook.

The Bath Chronicle and Herald 13 April 1929

Louisa died on the 7 April 1929 in Bath, England. However, after a small service in her local church of St. John’s on South Parade, Louisa was burial in Kensal Green cemetery, in the family grave.  Probate of her estate was given to her son Hilary who had clearly had a successful career as he was noted as being a Royal Navy Commander (retired).

I am certain that had Albert lived, he too would have made his mark in life and been successful just as his sons had been after his untimely death. It was quite out of the ordinary for a 15 year old boy to lay the foundation stone of a church, I do hope it is a story that continued down through the generations of the family.


02 December 2014

Debeneau of Meerut Should Be Dubignon

I was curious about the daughter of Major Owen (John) Jacob (he died 1857) whose daughter (according to Mesrovb Seth 'Armenians in India' Page 141) married a Frenchman called Debeneau, I thought I’d do a little research on her.

Seth says: “[Major John Jacob] had an only daughter who married a Frenchman Debeneau, who was distantly related to General Ventura of Ranjit Singh’s Sikh Army. Their son, James Denbeneau, with his wife and children lived at Sirdhana with their grandmother, Major John Jacob’s widow, in rather crippled circumstances.”

Having spent a few hours researching, it would appear that Seth doesn’t seem to have got it quite right.

The name is not Debeneau but Dubignon, James Dubignon was a son of Robert Walter Dubignon and an Armenian lady called Ellen nee Moses his wife. Ellen’s sister Ann married the well known Colonel Jean-Baptiste Ventura.

James Dubignon married Ellen (or Helen) Jacob Petrus daughter of Major Owen (John) Jacob. Ellen died after giving birth to her second child in 1861, the child also died and was buried with her in Meerut Cantonment. James and Ellen’s first child John Dubignon survived, married and went on to have issue with descendants living today.

This is something to be aware of. If you are using Seth's book as a reference for Armenian family history you should remember he does not source or cite references to his work, so it is imperative to independently verify anything that he quotes. The British Library is a good starting point for such verification and now that their birth, marriages and death records are online, it makes researching and double-checking a whole lot easier

20 November 2014

Bombay to Blighty - Arratoon-Crokatt an Unusual Union

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Wills are a great source of untapped family history.

A few years ago I purchased from the National Archives at Kew in London, a number of Wills that I thought had a vague Indian-Armenian connection. In other words I took a bit of an educated guess at them. The writing was cursive and very difficult to read, even with enlarged images on the computer, it was a torturously slow process.

As with any Will I acquire, if it looks interesting I transcribe it. One such Will was that of Taukhui Arratoon. I knew nothing about her and was curious to know and try and find out why an Armenian lady was in London in the early 1800’s. It was most unusual to find a female writing such an early Will outside of India. At first I thought she must have been a widow of an Armenian, as it turned out, that thought couldn’t have been further from the truth.

Taukhui wrote her Will in London on the 14th March 1815, added a codicil on the 2nd April 1829 with a 3rd codicil was added on the 18th October 1835. This indicated to me that she was well and truly established in England. Taukhui’s exact date of death has not been possible to find but she died some time before the 25th January 1837 in Kensington as this was the date that two of her executrixes, Madelina Forbes Mitchell (more of her later) and Mary Mason made an oath stating they had known Taukhui in her life time. The Will was proved and granted to Madelina Mitchell and Mary Mason at London on the 2nd February 1837. It is therefore plausible to suggest that Taukhui died some time between the 18th October 1835 (the date of her last codicil) and the 25th January 1837.

Snapshot view of Taukhui’s Will.

Taukhui Arratoon was an Armenian lady from Bombay, probably born around 1768. She is yet another example of an Armenian female from India who became a companion to a British gentleman, bore his children but in the eyes of the establishment was never quite good enough to marry him. She was however, treated reasonably well compared to some other Armenian females in India who were entangled with men from ‘home’. Taukhui had a sister named Joanna who stayed a life-long spinster and who also ended up in England and living with Taukhui, firstly in London and then after Taukhui’s death in Kelverdon in Essex.

Taukhui had two children with Daniel Crokatt in Bombay. John born around 1783 and Daniel born in 1784, their baptism records both state ‘filius populi’ i.e. they were illegitimate children but they took their father’s name. Daniel Crokatt was from a wealthy Scottish family, his father having made a vast fortune trading in (Charles Town) Charleston South Carolina. Daniel was born May 1744 in Richmond, Surrey and was one of at least six children of James Crokatt and his wife Esther Gaillard.

N3-3-509 states filius populi i.e. illegitimate son
N3-3-314 states filius populi i.e. illegitimate son


To give you an idea of the enormous wealth that Daniel’s father James Crokatt possessed here is an extract from his Will of 1777.

James Crokatt snapshot of Will

“I have given to my daughter Mary Nutt at her marriage about six thousand Pounds, I have also given my son Daniel Crokatt at different times after and since his being in the service of the East India Company about the sum of four thousand Pounds, I also gave my eldest son Charles Crokatt about the sum of ten thousand Pounds at his marriage and settled ten thousand Pounds by marriage contract payable at his or my death which sum I have since paid to his executors and have besides lost a very large sum by his failure. I have also given my wife Esther by a deed dated 19th August 1767 in trust…..a long annuity of four hundred Pounds a year for her life and after her death to my daughter Joan crokatt now Cranford and her children……also to my daughter Joan Crokatt alias Joan Cranford eight thousand Pounds…………….”

Using a useful “measuring worth” website At today’s values £6,000 equates to approximately £670,000. £10,000 equates today at approximately £1,128,000.00 £8,000 equates today at approximately £900,000

An interesting extract from ‘The Papers of Henry Laurens’ states: “James Crokatt, the son of Charles Crokatt of Edinburgh, was a merchant in Charleston, South Carolina for many years before he left for England in 1737. With his Carolina fortune he established himself as the foremost “Carolina merchant” in London. On his arrival in London he was referred to as a “Scotch Jew Lately come from So. Carolina.” He was largely responsible for the bounty that Parliament granted to the Indigo planters of South Carolina in 1748 and was that colony’s agent in London from 1749 until 1756. “

The Henry Lauren papers go on to say that James’s wife, Esther Gaillard was the daughter of John Gaillard. Three of her children with James; Charles, Mary and James were all born in Charleston, South Carolina whilst the remaining three younger children, Daniel, Jane and David were born in England.

Whilst Daniel’s eldest brother Charles was involved with their father’s business as London agents for South Carolina, his uncle (James’s brother) who was also called Daniel Crokatt was trading in Jamaica and involved in the slave trade. In his Will of 1813 Daniel Crokatt ‘late of Jamaica but currently of Fishguard Pembrokeshire’, left bequests to his “grand nephew Sir James Cranford, Baronet” as well as his “grand nephew Daniel Crokatt formerly of Bombay but now supposed to be a prisoner in France and to his legitimate children but in case the said Daniel should die without leaving any legitimate children then I give and bequeath unto Ann Hutton……….” This is a rather pointed remark at Daniel Crokatt of Bombay who had at that stage only the two illegitimate sons by Taukhui.

Besides the side-lining by colonial society in Bombay and London, Taukhui suffered more humiliation because in March 1791 Daniel Crokatt married Jane Seton daughter of Daniel Seton Lieutenant-Governor and Chief of Surat. Taukhui’s boys being only 7 and 8 years of age at the time of their father’s marriage. One can only wonder at the feelings Taukhui must have experienced.

Marriage of Daniel Crokatt and Jane Seton N3-3-381

Sadly, Daniel and Jane’s first born child died in December 1791 shortly after birth. I do not think they had any other children. Jane died in London on the 17th May 1802 after a “deep decline” the newspaper notices stated that her husband was the ‘late Counsel at Bombay’.

Daniel Crokatt ended his days in Paris where it would seem he had created yet another life for himself. He died there on the 12 December 1827. In his Will he left an annuity of twelve hundred Francs per annum that he had executed before a Royal Notary in Paris in favour of Mario Brigot Willior for the term of her natural life, there is nothing in his Will indicating who or what kind of position she held in his life. He further bequeathed the remainder of his estate to be split between his only surviving natural son (by Taukhui) John Crokatt and a female called Miss Flora Eugene Lafond “who for several years past has devoted herself to my service and from whom I have received the most zealous and unremitting care and the kindest attention……..”.
Snapshot of Daniel Crokatt’s will written in France

As already mentioned, Taukhui’s first born son by Daniel Crokatt was named John. Although born and baptised in Bombay it is quite likely he and his brother Daniel would have been educated in England. Daniel may not have married Taukhui or formally recognised her in any way, but the two children took his name and therefore were afforded a certain level of lifestyle and respect by others in their younger years. Once adults, both brothers forged singularly different lives to those they could have had in India. John married on the 14th June 1808 at St. James’s Piccadilly, London to a French woman called Caroline Mary Ann Michele.
Marriage of John Crokatt and Caroline Michele

 Caroline’s family were well known musicians in London. Her grandfather Leopold de Michele was a musician and chief copyist in the Italian Opera at the Kings Theatre London as well as acting at the orchestra librarian there in the late 1790s. Caroline’s aunt Elizabeth Michele (Leopold’s sister) married Joseph Mazzinghi who was apprenticed to Leopold, Joseph becoming a respected musician in his own right. John and Caroline went on to have two children of their own, Ann Matilda Crokatt born in 1817 died a spinster in May 1881 in Nice, France. Her brother Daniel John Edward Crokatt was born in October 1820 in Paris but no further records have so far been found for him. Their mother, Caroline also died in Nice in 1877.

John’s brother Daniel Crokatt Junior married Mary Cartwright in April 1808, Daniel junior was a widower at the time of this marriage but no earlier marriage for him can be found. The marriage to Mary was short-lived because Daniel sought a legal separation and ultimately divorce from her on the grounds of her adultery in 1815, a case that caught the attention in a number of English newspapers.

Taukhui maintained a certain lifestyle in London living with her sister Joanna who had a flair for art. Taukhui, realising that there would be no financial support either from her own far-away family, nor the Crokatt clan, ensured that her sister was well provided for in her Will. Shrewdly, Taukhui was meticulous in the attention to detail of a deed that she and Daniel Crokatt had entered in to in London in 1801. The fact that Taukhui and her boys and Daniel and his wife Jane were all in London at the same time, perhaps shows that there was courtesy and civility amongst all parties. Nonetheless, Taukhui may not have ever married him but she was sufficiently intelligent to secure a large sum of money which would have afforded her some standing and respect in London society and given her family financial security in an otherwise unforgiving city.

“This is the last will and testament of me Taukhui Arratoon heretofore of Bombay in the East Indies and now residing in Rolls Row in the parish of St. Pancras in the county of Middlesex whereas in and by a certain deed poll or testament in writing under the hands and seals of Daniel Crokatt heretofore of Bombay aforesaid but then of St. James’s Street in the county of Middlesex Esquire, John Stutt of the City of London Esquire, Christopher Rolleston of the same city merchant, John Samuel Torrano of Kensington Esquire in the county of Middlesex Esquire and me the said Taukhui Arratoon therein described as residing at Turnham Green in the said County of Middlesex and bearing date on or about the sixteenth day of January in the year of one thousand eight hundred and one after writing that in pursuant and performance of the proposal and agreement therein mentioned the said Daniel Crokatt had that day transferred the sum of three thousand pounds three per cent consolidated Bank Annuities into the names of the said Daniel Crokatt John Stutt Christopher Rolleston and John Torrano……”

She continued

“I the said Taukhui Arratoon do by this my last will and testament and testamentary appointment in writing by me signed by me signed and published in the presence of and attested by the two credible persons whose names are intended to be subscribed hereto as witnesses to the execution hereof give bequeath and appoint the said sum of three thousand pounds consolidated three per cent annuities and the dividends and annual produce thereof unto my said sister Joanna Arratoon who now resides with me her executors administrators and assigns upon trust to cause thereout and pay my funeral expenses debts and the following legatees in Sterling money that is to say……….”

“To the said John Samuel Torrano the sum of fifty pounds for a ring as a small acknowledgement for the trouble and interest which he has kindly taken as out of my said trustees to my dear eldest son John Crokatt Esquire of the India Board Office Whitehall the sum of fifty pounds for a ring to his brother my dear second son Daniel Crokatt Esquire Inspector in the West Indian Commissioners Office No. 10 Spring Gardens the sum of fifty pounds for a ring to my dear friend Mrs. Smith the wife of Nicholas Hankey Smith* of Great Thurlow Hall in Suffolk Esquire the sum of twenty pounds for a ring……”

*Mrs. Smith the wife of Nicholas Hankey Smith was also an Armenian lady from India. Her name was Anni nee Petruse and it is quite likely that Taukhui and Anni’s families were quite familiar with each other back in Surat. Annie had married Hankey Smith in Calcutta in August 1806, she bore him six children, one of whom was Madelina Forbes Mitchell nee Smith who was an executrix to the will of Taukhui in London. This would indicate that the two ladies and their children were close and in regular contact with each other. Anni’s marriage to Hankey Smith also fell by the way-side and they separated in London in October 1822, although never divorced. Hankey Smith had started a relationship with Susan Pierpoint with whom she had seven illegitimate children, all of whom benefitted handsomely from the estate of Hankey Smith. Annie and her children did not fair so well.

Anni Hankey Smith nee Petruse. Photo courtesy of the publically available Green Family Tree on

Nicholas Hankey Smith. Photo courtesy of the publically available Green Family Tree on

Taukhui ensured that after her death her sister Joanna was not left destitute: “I give bequeath direct and appoint all the rest residue and remainder of the said sum of three thousand pounds three per cent consolidated bank annuities unto my said sister Joanna Arratoon her executors administrators and assigns……”

“I give to Captain George Smith [son of Anni and Nicholas Hankey Smith] the sum of five pounds for a ring as a small token of my regard. I give to Mrs Forbes Mitchell [daughter of Annie and Nicholas Hankey Smith] for a ring the sum of five pounds for a ring as a small token of my regard”

Taukhui’s son Daniel Crokatt Junior died in Northamptonshire in July 1820, and although divorced by this time from Mary Cartwright it would appear that Mary was the Administratrix of her ex husband’s intestate estate, the court papers describing her as the “lawful widow and relict”. They did not have any children.

Taukhui’s sister Joanna made her Will in 1850 in favour of her only surviving relative, John Crokatt her nephew.
Snapshot of Joanna's will

Apart from a few small bequests to local friends in Kelvedon John inherited what was left of the three thousand Pounds deed that Taukhui had drawn up with Daniel. Joanna had clearly lived carefully because John inherited approximately two thousand two hundred Pounds from his aunt. An auction notice was placed in the local paper advertising the sale of Joanna’s possessions.
The auction notice of Joanna's possessions

 Daniel’s brother John who had retired as a senior clerk from the Indian Board Commission in London on a pension of £566-13s-4d per annum (the equivalent today of around £44,500) died in Lucca, Italy in September 1855 where he had gone to take the waters. His wife Caroline survived him by 22 years and died in 1877 in Nice, France.

 It is very unlikely that the brothers John or Daniel Crokatt ever met their Indian Armenian family and cousins. Having been acknowledged by their father at birth and thus taken his name, they essentially became English, and India was no doubt a far off land that was only spoken of by their mother and aunt.

Useful links
Armenian graves in India
Families in British India Society
National Archives
British Library
French National Archives
LDS Family History
British Newspapers
National Archives of India
 Details of the Crokatt family can be found in the Papers of Henry Laurens: Sept. 11, 1746-Oct. 31, 1755

08 September 2014

Armenians in Rangoon

Elizabeth Carapiet Jacob’s legacy for a new Armenian Church in Rangoon.

Records of how the Armenian Church in Rangoon was funded and built after the disastrous fire of 1850 are all but lost. The original church was a wooden structure and was consumed by the unforgiving flames of that calamitous incident.

My chance finding of this Will and its contents give a unique and precious insight into how one individual of the Armenian community in Rangoon was desperately hopeful that her legacy could help to rebuild a new and better church for the local Armenians to worship at.

Source: British Library L/AG/34/29/86/87
In the name of the Lord God Amen. I Elizabeth Carapiet Jacob who was born in Rangoon and who am a resident thereof and an Armenian by nation and a Christian by faith being in a tranquil and perfect state of mind, make this my last will that the same may continue from after my deceased. I hereby direct that my respectable executors shall cause my body to be interred after my decease in the Armenian Burial Ground in this city [Rangoon] at a moderate expense and then call in and collect my entire estate and receive my dues and pay my debts and give and pay the residue to my heirs and successors in manner following, that is to say.

I give and bequeath the sum of one thousand and five hundred Companys Rupees to the Holy Deiparous Church of Rangoon to this end that they shall purchase a house in Calcutta with the said one thousand and five hundred Rupees and accumulate the net amount of the rents after payment of charges until the same shall have risen to five hundred Rupees when they shall lay out the amount at interest and on the said Holy Deiparious Church of Rangoon being about to be re-erected they shall give the said five hundred Rupees and the interest thereof whatever the same may amount to, to the managers of the Holy Deiparous Church of Rangoon in order that that sum being added to the amount of the national contributions the said church may be re-erected at Rangoon to the pride of my nation and the Glory of God and then afterwards they shall transmit the net produce of the rents minus charges from time to time to the managers of the Holy Deiparous Church of Rangoon for the purpose of supplying the necessaries and expenses of the said church.

Elizabeth made this bequest in her Will because in December 1850 the original Armenian Church was razed to the ground by a catastrophic fire that swept across the whole of the city.

Reports of the fire were carried in Indian newspapers as well as others around the world
Elizabeth's Will was written in the Armenian language by a local community member.
It was then read back to her in the Burmese language before she signed it.
The Will was translated into English in Calcutta by the Court appointed
interpreter George Aviet.

Later on in the Will Elizabeth goes on to say:

If the English Government restore or procure the restoration of our lost properties then I direct that my executors shall obtain my share and portion which will be more than fifty thousand Rupees and invest the same in the purchase of a few houses in Rangoon if that city remain under the Sovereign authority of the English but if it should not then they shall buy houses at Calcutta and with the net produce thereof minus charges establish a school at Rangoon for the purpose of educating the children of indigent Armenians gratuitously and the well regulated management thereof shall be assigned to patriotic and well disposed men to be elected and approved of by the nation.

And after making payments and distributions in this manner should the residue of my estate amount to more than one thousand Companys Rupees then I direct that my executors shall with that amount purchase one or two houses under the Flag of the English Government either at this place or at Calcutta and transmit the net produce minus charges thereof to my the officiating Priests of the Holy Deiparous Church in Rangoon but if it should not be more than one thousand Rupees then I give and bequeath the same subject to the pleasure of my respectable executors to be disposed of as they may think best.

In confirmation I affix my seal and signature to this my will in the presence of three witnesses this day the twenty seventh day of the month of July in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and fifty two. Elizabeth [her x mark] Carapiet Jacob

We the undersigned bear testimony that she in our presence sealed and signed this will and acknowledged it to be her last will and testament at Rangoon 27th July 1852. C.P. Catchick J.S. Jordan Carrapiet Zecharia.

A true translation of the annexed Armenian will 8th September 1852. Geo. Aviet.
Elizabeth’s husband, Carapiet Jacob who had been born in Julfa, died in Rangoon in August 1850 leaving his entire estate, valued at around fifty thousand Rupees to Elizabeth. She appointed her nephew Stephen Gabriel Eleazar as power-of-attorney to enable her to obtain probate in the Courts of Calcutta for her husband’s estate. Stephen’s English and native languages (he lived in Calcutta rather than Rangoon) were likely to be more proficient than the two languages she knew which were Armenian and Burmese. It would seem that Carapiet and Elizabeth did not have children as besides the bequests by Elizabeth to the Holy Deiparious Church of Rangoon (the Armenian Church of Rangoon), she left legacies for various nephews; children of her sister Margaret.

Sharman Minus, whose family were very much part of the Armenian community in Rangoon has a very interesting blog that recalls history and a number of personal memoires of this almost forgotten Church, it can be found here Chasing Chinthes.

It is also quite a timely find because there will be an Armenian Pontifical visit to the Far East at the end of September. His Holiness, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians will be in Asia from September 28th to October 5th.

As announced on the respective Facebook pages of the Armenian communities in Hong Kong and Singapore - see links below.

Armenians in Singapore - South East Asia

The following press release by the Henri Arslanian, Chairman of the Armenian Community in China says:

Dear friends,

We are pleased to announce that His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians will be in Asia from September 28th to October 5th.

You will see below the details of 2 important events that will take place in Singapore and Myanmar to celebrate the visit of His Holiness. As the dates coincide with the National Day Golden Week in China, I am sure that many of you will be interested in attending these events.

SINGAPORE - Sunday 28th September 2014 - time tbc - Holy Mass will be celebrated in the Armenian Church of Singapore. His Holiness will also bless two Khachkars recently installed in the Church gardens. Lunch will be served following the Holy Mass. Please rsvp with the community in Singapore if you will be able to attend:

MYANMAR - Saturday 4th October 2014 - time tbc - Holy Mass will be celebrated in the Armenian Church in Yangon. More details will be announced soon.

I know that many of you will be very interested in attending these events due to their historical importance. I will of course attend both the Singapore and Myanmar events to represent the Armenian Community of China.

Look forward to seeing you all soon.

Henri Arslanian
President, Armenian Community of China

It is a very exciting time to have a current Catholicos scheduled to visit the Armenian Church in Myanmar. It has been a back-water for a number of years and has just a handful of Armenians who have chosen to stay in Yangon. It will be a wonderfully historic occasion. I cannot find a reference to a previous Armenian Patriarch visiting the Armenian Church in Rangoon. However, in 1876 there was a visiting Armenian Prelate to Hong Kong, who had already seen the communities in Penang and Singapore. It is likely that he also went on to visit the community in India perhaps he also made the journey to Rangoon.

Extract from the North China Herald and the S.C.&C. Gazette December 1, 1876

Report from Hong Kong

Among the passengers who have arrived and departed by the ‘Arratoon Apcar’, is the name of the Armenian Prelate, Archbishop Gregoris. The Right Reverend gentleman has come on to Hongkong as a traveller, to know and see something more of the Chinese and Chinese cities than he has done in Penang and Singapore. The few Armenian residents at Hongkong possessing no special place of worship, the Prelate was unable to hold any service, but he read prayers (of course, in the Armenian language), over the grave of S.A. Seth at the Protestant Cemetery, as the tombstone was being put up. The Right Reverend Father, in his full robe, and with a hat of a peak shape, presented a sight never before seen in this part of the world. Though an Archbishop, under whose See are the Armenian churches in India and Persia, he is only 42 years old, and has made a favourable impression on his few resident countrymen, to whom he made a pleasant address on Sunday last at the residence [Caine Road] of Mr. C.P. Chater. 

The grave of Seth Aviet Seth in Hong Kong over whose tomb the Archbishop said prayers.

The inscription says:

“Sacred to the memory of Seth Aviet Seth who was one of the earliest merchants of Singapore. He came to China in 1845. Born in Madras and died at Hong Kong on 11th February 1875 aged 65 years. Be ye also ready: for in such as hour as ye think not the son of man cometh. St. Matthew XXIV. 44.” 

For those interested in their Armenian family history roots in Burma, the LDS film number 1356948 [Item 2] contains the records of St. John the Baptist Armenian Apostolic Church in Rangoon. It will have a comprehensive list of the only recorded Armenian births, marriages and deaths in Burma that are still available. The LDS film has more entries than those held at the British Library.

11 July 2014

An Armenian Buried in Bombay - 1788

I really like stumbling upon old and completely forgotten Armenian entries in registers. Here we have on the 15th July 1788 the burial of Zachariah Avanzar an Armenian in Bombay. Who was he? I have no idea but it is one of the earliest burials of an Armenian in Bombay that I have found. I know of two other early burials one in 1786 the other in 1777.

Zachariah Avanzar an Armenian buried in Bombay 1788

10 May 2014

Lost And Forgotten: Who Buried The Armenian Bishop?

Parish register transcripts from the Presidency of Bombay, 1709-1948.

Two anonymous Armenian burials and an Armenian Bishop in Bombay in 1810 almost lost amongst the many deaths of soldiers from various regiments.

Extract of a burial register for Bombay 1810
Indian registers hold basic details, no other record exists today for these long forgotten individuals. This is a sanitised return with no further information as to where and what circumstances they were buried.

An unknown Armenian man buried on the 9th October, the next day an Armenian Bishop named Mackertich and later in the month on the 28th another Armenian name unknown.  Were they buried by an Armenian priest, according to Armenian rites? It is impossible to know. There does not seem to be any kind of newspaper report for them and indeed it is difficult to know how “name unknown” could have possibly received an Armenian burial. 

The Armenian Church registers for that period in Bombay have long since gone so there are no original birth, marriage or death records of the old Armenian community save for what can be garnered from papers, documents, newspapers in repositories around the world. 

As for the Bishop Mackertich buried by someone just as anonymous as him, today he lies somewhere in the ground of a bustling Bombay, in an unknown location, long forgotten, no one to remember him but for 4 words in an old register “The Armenian Bishop Mackertich”.

Lest we forget.