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16 July 2017

Theodore Forbes, Eliza Kevork Their Male Descendants and Their Royal Cousins Princes William and Harry

It is already known and well documented that Scottish Theodore Forbes[1] and Indian-Armenian Eliza Kevork are ancestors of British Royals, Princes William and Harry respectively.

The direct male Forbes line of descendancy of
Theodore Forbes, Ann Macdonnell and Eliza Kevork

Theodore and Eliza had at least 3 children, Katherine Scott Forbes in 1812, Alexander Scott Forbes in 1814 and a third, possibly a boy who died as a baby.

Baptism record of Catherine Scott Forbes and Alexander Scott Forbes

The royal line can be traced through Katherine Scott Forbes’s marriage to James Crombie and their children, all of which is well documented in various family trees on a number of genealogy websites. More recently a number of news articles published world-wide both in print and digitally, have explored the direct relationship with the Princes, and it is not my intention to investigate this genealogy line today.

However, scarce recognition (so far) has been given about the life and descendants of Katherine Scott Forbes’s brother Alexander Scott Forbes.

But first, not so commonly known is the fact that Theodore Forbes also had another son, not with Indian-Armenian Eliza Kevork but borne by a Scottish woman called Ann Macdonnell.

Theodore Forbes acknowledged his illegitimate son in his Will.

The child was named Frederick Forbes, and is acknowledged by Theodore in his Will[2] as “my respected son Frederick by Ann Macdonnell of Aberdeenshire”. Little Frederick was bequeathed 20,000 Bombay Rupees, only 5,000 Rupees less than Alexander, the son Theodore had with Eliza Kevork. Frederick was born in Scotland on 22 November 1808 and it would seem that after Theodore’s death, Frederick came under the care of his uncle (Theodore’s brother) Alexander Forbes and his wife Annabella nee Reid and their children.

Conveniently ignoring his illegitimacy, Frederick became fully absorbed into the Forbes family, and he went on to graduate from Marischal University in 1827[3]. In 1831 Frederick was nominated by his cousin, John Forbes (son of Alexander Forbes the uncle that took in Frederick)  for entry into the East India Company as an Assistant Surgeon[4]. His preparations for a military career didn’t quite go to plan. Having studied medicine for some time, The Royal College of Surgeons in London wrote that Frederick was “found to be unqualified for the situation” and was therefore referred back to his professional studies for a further six months. Frederick was finally examined and passed as an Assistant Surgeon in February 1832.

The Royal College of Surgeons found Frederick Forbes "unqualified"

From the book: The Visit of Frederick Forbes to the Somali Coast in 1833” by Roy Bridges[5]: an explanation is give as to why: “…..Frederick found himself in the Gulf of Aden in the Red Sea in 1833 because his ship, the brig Tigris, had been ordered to Mocha to keep an eye on developments there as Mohammed Ali's campaigns against his nominal Turkish overlord proceeded…….

….at the time of his [Frederick’s] visit to the Somali Coast he was attached to the Indian Navy. His regrettably brief subsequent life shows that he was on the way to becoming a notable scholar-explorer. At this early stage he obviously had some hopes of travelling in Africa[6] but the accidents of his career led him to make expeditions in the Mesopotamian and Persian regions of South-West Asia.[7]

Frederick’s thesis in 1840 on the “Nature and History of Plague as Observed in the North Western Provinces of India” gained him a gold medal awarded by the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Edinburgh. Touchingly, Frederick dedicated the book to his uncle 

“Alexander Forbes, Esquire
Boyndlie, Aberdeenshire.
This Treatise is Inscribed
As A
Mark Of Respect And Gratitude”

Like so many about to embark into unknown territories, Frederick made a Will on the 3rd April 1841 in Tehran, Persia.  Witnesses were Frederick Hughes of the Madras Company and Syeed Khan.  Frederick appointed “Charles Forbes Esquire or the managing partner for the time being of the firm of Forbes and Company, Bombay, Alexander Forbes Esquire of Boyndlie [his uncle] in the county of Aberdeen, and James Crombie [his half sister Kitty Forbe’s husband and ancestor to Princes William and Harry respectively] now lately residing at Swailand of Elrick in the parish of Newmachar and county of Aberdeen, to be the executors of this my will.”

Frederick ensured his mother (Ann) was provided an annuity for her lifetime.

Frederick’s Will is also evidence of his blood relationship to Alexander Scott Forbes.

I give and bequeath to Alexander Scott Forbes son of my late father
Theodore Forbes of Bombay........

Frederick’s last bequest: “I give and bequeath the residue of my personal estate whatsoever or wheresoever to my said executors Alexander Forbes and James Crombie for their absolute use and benefit for and on account of the trouble they may have in the performance of the trusts of this my will, to be equally divided between them, their heirs or assigns.”

Frederick Forbes left the residue of his estate to his uncle, Alexander Forbes and James Crombie, his half sister Kitty's husband.

 Just 5 months later, in September 1841 Frederick was murdered. 

“Intelligence was yesterday received at Agra of the murder of Dr. Forbes, by Ibrahim Khan, the Beelochee chief of Seistan.  Dr. Forbes, under the protection of Mohumud Reza Khan, the most influential chieftain in Seistan, had completed the circuit of the lake [at Seistan] and visited all sites of interest in the province, accompanied by one Persian servant. From the residence of Mohumud Reza Khan he was escorted to Jehanabad, the fort of Ibrahim Khan, Beelochee, and after remaining with that chief a few days, he left for Sash, with a party of Ibrahim Khan’s horse for a guide.  The Khan joined him at a short distance from the fort; they breakfasted together in a friendly manner, and Dr. F. was immediately murdered. Our report says, that being attacked by a large hound brought out to hunt the hog, he shot it in self-defence, and the Khan in a moment of irritation immediately fired on him.  The other and more probable story is, that the Khan, on pretence of examining his arms, got possession of his gun, pistols, and sword, then immediately gave the signal to his horsemen, who seized the doctor, dragged him through the water of the lake until he was half-drowned, and when he was brought out, the Khan shot him with his own hand.  His Persian attendant was barbarously murdered a day or two after.[8]

Nearly 10 years with the East India Company, and he was dead at 34.

Direct male Forbes descendants of Theodore and Eliza Forbes
Turning now to Alexander Scott Forbes, son of Theodore and Eliza. He married Elizabeth Cobb 29 June 1865 at Dundee, her father James was a Scottish weaver. Alexander and Elizabeth had two children Catherine Forbes in June 1866[9] and Frederick Forbes in February 1869[10]. Alexander Scott Forbes was an insurance agent and comfortably placed financially, so much so that they also fostered two other children Louis and Jenny Mudie[11]. Alexander Scott Forbes died 7 April 1887[12] and by 1891 his widow Elizabeth and their son Frederick where living alone in the family house 14 Ann Street, Arbroath, Scotland. Elizabeth’s income derived from her husband’s estate whilst Frederick was a clerk with a shoe manufacturing company.

Birth record for Frederick Forbes

Alexander and Elizabeth Forbes’s son Frederick married Agnes Low Petrie 27 December 1897 in Arbroath[13]. Agnes was a working girl and employed as a flax reeler, her father was a hairdresser. Frderick and Agnes had 3 children, Elizabeth Ross Forbes born 1898[14], David Buik Forbes born 1903[15] and Ethel Agnes Forbes born 1904[16]. Frederick Forbes was a commercial traveller/shoe salesman, he died of pneumonia in 1909 in Arbroath[17], the death was registered by his brother-in-law Alexander Buik (who had married Catherine, Frederick’s sister in 1888 in Arbroath) leaving Agnes with 3 young children to bring up alone.

Birth record of David Buik Forbes

The vast fortune that had been left to Alexander Scott Forbes by his father Theodore in his Will of 21 September 1820 was diminishing, In the Will Theodore wrote days before his fateful demise: “To my respected son Alexander Scott Forbes by the said Eliza Kewark [sic] and now in India where it is my wish that he should remain, the sum of twenty five thousand 25, 000 Bombay Rupees.” A handsome bequest for the day.

By 1920, Agnes’s eldest daughter Elizabeth had struck up a blossoming friendship  with a fellow Scot, James A. Keith. He was a grocer’s assistant and in December of that year sailed from Liverpool to New York[18] with a view to starting a new life.  It is this innocuous migration of an unrelated Scottish lad that would end up influencing the remaining Forbes family to leave Scotland and start their own new lives in the land of the brave and the free.

On the 23rd June 1923 (Elizabeth) Lizzie Forbes sailed from Glasgow to Boston to meet James Keith, a month later on the 6th August James and Lizzie had married in Troy, Rensselaer, New York[19] a town which would become the home of the migrated Forbes whose roots where originally from India. Lizzie and Keith had two children, Ronald Bruce Keith born 1926 died 2006 and David Forbes Keith born 1929 died 1985.

Missing her daughter and with nothing to keep her and the two remaining children in Scotland, Agnes followed Lizzie to New York in September 1925[20], taking David and Ethel with her. The three of them took up residence in Stow Avenue, Troy, David found employment as a book-keeper whilst Ethel was a cashier.

In 1928 Agnes’s son, David Buik Forbes married a Scottish woman called Una Smith moving just a few houses away in Stow Avenue. David and Una lived in several locations but stayed in Troy for the rest of their days.

In September 1929[21] Agne’s daughter, Ethel married Alexander Smith a migrant Scot like herself. With David and his sister Ethel now married, Agnes moved in with James, Lizzie and their family, where she lived out her days, dying in 1939. 

Image via

Agnes is remembered on a marker stone at Elmwood Hill Cemetery along with that of her son-in-law James Keith who at the time of his death in 1956, had been the manager of the Mohican Markets in Troy and Albany for 20 years. Agnes’s beloved daughter Lizzie Keith died in 1963 and had been an integral member of the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church choir for over 40 years[22]. Remembered on the same memorial is one of James and Elizabeth’s children David Forbes Keith.

David and Una Forbes had two children a boy and girl and thus continued the direct male Forbes descendancy from Theo and Eliza of Surat in India. David was a salesman for over 20 years with the Tetley Tea Co and heavily involved with community life in Troy whilst Una worked for the Denby’s department store and became a well loved and trusted member of staff.

It might come as a surprise that today there are living descendants in New York who share the same common ancestors of Princes William and Harry, Scottish Theodore Forbes and Indian Armenian Eliza Kevork.

[1] For the personal papers of Theodore Forbes including letters from Eliza Kevork to her daughter Kitty Forbes see GB 0231 University of Aberdeen, Special Collections, MS2740: Ogilvie-Forbes, various family members in India, including merchants William Forbes and Theodore Forbes, and in military service, including Captain William Ogilvie and Dr Frederick Forbes: 19th century.

[2] British Library: L/AG/34/29/344
[3] Roll of the Indian Medical Service 1615-1930
[4] British Library: Cadet Paper L/MIL/9-382
[5] The International Journal of African Historical Studies, Vol. 19, No. 4 (1986), pp.679-691. Frederick Forbes left a manuscript journal record of his cruise along the Somali coast and experiences in Berbera in 1833-1834.
[6] Journal of Frederick Forbes, 29 February 1836
[7] More details on Forbes's family background and life appear in Roy C. Bridges, "An Aberdeenshire Family and the Indian-African Connection in the Early Nineteenth Century," An African Miscellany for John Hargreaves, Roy Bridges, ed. (Aberdeen, 1983), 5-10. Forbes's Asian journeys of note were recorded in Journal Royal Geographical Society, IX (1839), 409-430 and XIV (1844), 145-192. Forbes also wrote a medical treatise, Thesis on the Nature and History of the Plague as Observed in the North West Provinces of India ... (Edinburgh and London, 1840)

[8] Agra Ukhbar, 16 September 1841
[9] Scottish Statutory Registers: Births 272/ 0 319
[10] Scottish Statutory Registers: Births 272/0 151
[11] Evidence of this can be seen in the Scottish 1881 census
[12] Scottish Statutory Registers: Deaths 272/ 124
[13] Scottish Statutory Register: Marriages 272/ 1 199
[14] Scottish Statutory Register: Births 272/ 1 539
[15] Scottish Statutory Register: Births 272/1 70
[16] Scottish Statutory Register: Births 272/1 442
[17] Scottish Statutory Register: Deaths 272/1 19
[18] New York\u002C Passenger Lists\u002C 1820-1957
[19] Troy Irish Genealogy Society Rensselaer County Marriage Index Vols. 4 & 5

[20] the New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957. Glasgow to New York 25 September 1925

[21] Troy Irish Genealogy Society Rensselaer County Marriage Index Vol. 9
[22] The Troy Record, 25 March 1963

06 June 2017

Saved From Assassination by an Armenian called Martin

To Rob I can’t, To Beg I Am Ashamed

Lt. Col. W.F. O’Connor:
Saved from Assassination by an Armenian called Martin.

Missing from this family portrait is eldest son Martyrose Martin.

Jordan Martin’s life in Shiraz prior to 1915 was in his own words “comfortable”. Educated at Calcutta in the Armenian College & Philanthropic Academy[1] between 1885 and 1891, he left there and briefly went to work as a Jute assistant at Naraingunge, Nr. Dacca. However, he had managed to secure a post at the Imperial Bank of Persia in Shiraz, returning to his home town he took up this position in January 1892.  He and his wife Elizabeth neé Baban Catchick had married in February 1893 at St. Mary’s Church, Shiraz. He briefly worked for the Imperial Bank of Persia at Shiraz as a clerk but moved on quickly to establish a successful import/export business enabling him and Elizabeth to stay near to their respective large and close-knit families. It is a widely held belief that Elizabeth’s own family were direct descendants of Reverend  Arathoon Shumavonian through his daughter Varthanoosh. Shumavonian was also a native of Shiraz,  and in 1794, when a priest at the Armenian Church Madras,  is credited with publishing the first known Armenian newspaper, under the name of the "Azdarar”.

Jordan Martin was born on the 11 November 1870 at Shiraz in Persia. He and Elizabeth (who was born on the 16 August 1873 also in Shiraz) went on to have at least four children:

Martyrose Martin born December 1893, Shiraz, married Lucya Carapiet, had four children, died 1937 in Shiraz aged 44.

John Martin born June 1895, Shiraz, remained a bachelor and died in 1981 in Calcutta.

Lucy Martin born August 1904, Shiraz, married Joseph George in 1931 at the Armenian Church Calcutta, they had 1 son Gerald who was born in 1936 in Calcutta and died in London in 2001.

Haik Martin born September 1906, Shiraz, also remained a bachelor and died in Calcutta in 1980.

During the Persian revolution in 1915 Jordan Martin stayed loyal to the British Government, and in particular to Col. W.F.T. O’Connor the Consul for Shiraz.  Spying where he could, sending notes and observations to the Consul enabling the British authorities to understand the tensions and unstable situation evolving around them. Remarkably, Jordan kept records; writing copious notes and letters during this period. In particular his account of how he evaded capture after Col. O’Connor was taken prisoner and the British Residency at Shiraz was taken over by the Gendarmes.  Jordan wrote his Abridged Statement as part of his compensation claim for his losses.

The Globe, 24 November 1915

Col. O’Connor’s own account of the events of 10 November 1915 are recorded in official papers sent back to England from Bushire, and are held at the British Library in London[2]. He also wrote extensively about being taken prisoner at the Consul in Shiraz in his personal memoir “Things Mortal” as well as a detailed account in his book “On The Frontier And Beyond. A Record of Thirty Years Service”.

Jordan Martin, Col. O’Connor’s Armenian saviour lost his business of 25 years, his home, his possessions, and his family were in constant jeopardy. He risked his life and put himself and his family directly in the line of fire to continue to spy for the British. 

Typical of the type of observation note Jordan Martin would make and pass on to the authorities

His wife Elizabeth and their two youngest children managed to escape to Bushire from Shiraz, but Jordan remained in the vicinity evading capture by hiding in sheep sheds but still making observations that he tried to pass to the British.  After the war, he led an almost nomadic life constantly hustling to make a living, now in his mid 40’s he found himself having to start his life all over again. Everything he and his family had was long gone, looted or seized.  Through what must have been irritating persistence he wrote on numerous occasions, and managed to secure a passage to Bombay for Elizabeth and the two young children Lucy and Haik via the British government authorities in Bushire thus enabling them to start school in India. He spent many years writing and re-writing dozens of letters to the British authorities in India and Persia, patiently explaining in minute detail how he played a crucial secret and political role for the British. He meticulously wrote untold numbers of letters, preceded by his many hand-written drafts, full of pain, frustration, explanation helplessness and hope, whilst O’Connor the man whose life he saved from a brutal assassination plot in Shiraz  climbed effortlessly up the military chain of command. He went on to lead a successful and glorious military career with the British Army, culminating in promotions and ultimately a knighthood.


Two Men, One War. Persia 1915.
The Unknown Story

The morning of O’Connor’s capture at the British Consul in Shiraz was a turning point for many people. None more so than Jordan Martin. The burning of the Consul papers by O’Connor in the minutes leading up to his capture, robbed Jordan Martin of the official proof and evidence relating to his service as an intelligence gatherer.  Everything the Residency had been dealing with regarding the war was destroyed, Jordan Martin’s paper trail was gone. It may have helped save his life at the time, but after the war in the protracted fight for compensation of his losses, he had very little to rely on other than his own memory.

There are no references to Jordan Martin at all, and only a brief account of the murder of Jordan’s brother-in-law Mackertich who was Elizabeth’s brother.

Here is the official version of the events of the 10th November 1915 as per a Government communication from Persia to London.

According to Jordan’s personal notes Abridged Statement, Mackertich asked [the Gendarmes] to be taken near to the Armenian Cemetery  [he knew they were going to shoot him], but they refused.

Extract from Col. O'Connor's book "On The Frontier And Beyond"

Mackertich Johannes Catchick

Mackertich[3], Jordan’s brother in law was needlessly and ruthlessly murdered[4].

Jordan’s personal account  Abridged Statement was used as part of his protracted compensation claim for loss of earnings and livelihood. He said:


10th November 1915. The unluckiest day.

All hope lost when flag lowered, started preparations for running away.

Photoman’s wife turned up no cash in the house gave her my gold watch presented by Prince Amatoonee, worth Krs. 800, but she being hard up for money sold it for Krs. 400.

Throughout the night burnt up all letters.

Early in the morning without wishing good-buy to anyone because they were already sheltered in another house started for Kawam’s quarters and took shelter in his Farashbashy’s.

On the road one of the democrats returning from March passed remarks for my cap to be changed. Two hours later received news from Mrs. Martin [Elizabeth, his wife] that 8 Gendarmes had made search for me in house church and other places. Late in the dark shifted to Faraschbashy’s private house, with instructions not to come out from the room before dark.

12th November:-

Wosstrum and Rovers at Kawam’s for an hour and a half. I sent word to him that he had the best chance to quieten further disturbances by keeping the culprits under guard in his palace, but he was afraid and they returned to their usual mean tricks.

13th November:-

My brother-in-law, poor Mack [Elizabeth’s brother] taken out from the barracks and shot. He had asked to be taken close to the cemetery, but refused.

14th November:-

One of my letters dated 6th Nov. re Meeting at Haji Mohamed Mehdy’s garden including Moazeds name found in your coat pocket (luckily you had very cleverly burnt up all the others).[O’Connor had destroyed all the British Consul papers by burning them prior to being marched out of the residency. Any evidence and proof of Jordan’s involvement with the British Consul would have been burnt too].

Johnnie [Jordan’s second son] threatened imprisoned two hours in the Persian Telegraph Office by Moazed, sent home late in the night after stating that he knew nothing about his fathers doings and correspondence.

11th December:-

To evade fresh suspicion shifted to Farashbashy’s third house sheep fold.

12th December:-  Bought two horses.

13th December:-

Started for Bunder Lingeh on passing Servistan en route warned by a carpet dealer unsafely of roads owing to tribal fightings amongst Arabs and advised immediate retreat.

21st December:-

At dawn arrived sheepfold.

8 a.m. balls and bullets of all descriptions started flying over Kawam’s quarters including my little dark dungeon although solitary but soon my companions the sheep and goats plus shepherd returned preferring hunger to bullets.

31st December:_

After 11 days defence running short of cartridges Kawan was obliged to run away with his faithful horsemen carrying what was possible with him with the exception of 25,000 Tomans in silver. Most of his servants who were democrats were the Chief betrayers.

On 3 occasions he took personally several forts but on his return they were vacated and made over to Gendarmes.

1st January 1916:-

Late in the night [Jordan] as an old Haji riding on a donkey went to our Church.

14th January:- shifted to another house.

16th January:- Gang of Gendarmes with six Democrats searched after me in the church.

19th January:- Early in the morning [Jordan pretending to be] as a sick old man returned to church.

26th February:- [Jordan] Left Shiraz in Persian costume for Bunder Reeg where arrived safely on the 8th March and passed the night in the Mosque without food.

Taken in a photographic studio, Jordan Martin re-created the disguise he used whilst hiding in Shiraz

9th March:- Arrived Bushire after a fortnight changed costume and got rid of the red coloured beard.

21st May:-

Joined the late Principal Marine Transport Office on Rs 150/- per mensem, and continued up to date with a promise of good increment from this month but alas health has failed and doubt very much to be able to satisfy my Superiors with my work as before.

I have omitted writing many things which will appear later on in a book if I do not die and go to India.

The exorbitant sums spent and presents to my life protectors will be written when desired.

Out of the 100 Tomans you were kind enough to send in September fifty was given before 9th November to the four reporters.

Jordan Martin in his Persian disguise

Jordan Martin kept detailed notes. These are his expenses from his compensation claim

Jordan Martin’s expenses incurred during the war amounted to Rs65925.

From a letter written by Jordan on 26 August 1922 to the Secretary Foreign & Political Department of the Government of India, Simla, one can sense his desperation.


The extreme severity of my hardship due to the suspense and delay in the representation of my case of conspicuous services and loyalty to the British Government during the German Insurrection of 1915, compels me now to submit for the consideration and orders of His Excellency The Viceroy the most trying circumstances under which I rendered exceptionally valuable service to the British Consulate and authorities in saving the life and prestige at the great danger and risk of my own life as stated below.

1. That the rebels sought to take the life of Colonel O’Connor when he was about to leave the Consulate on a certain evening to go to the Bank Manager, and I stopped his doing so by an urgent letter through an old Persian soldier who reached him time and got his reward of fifty Krans from me and I thus avoided the calamity.

2. That when provision for the British Consulate guards was stopped and prohibited, I secured in small lots and supplied 1000 Shiraz maunds of flour under disguise as a Gendarme, despite the watchfulness of the Pro-Germans and at no small risk to my own life.

3.That I also rendered exceptional service to Captain Hart of the Central India Horse who with Dr.  Woollatt bears sufficient testimony of me in his letter (copy attached).

4. That the danger and risk involved in according service to the British Consulate rendered me as an enemy of the Persian Government, as it is clear from the fact that I generously surrendered all means of living after twenty six years experience in business with the Persians with whom I was closely associated with and which was the only hope I had of maintaining my wife and family, as well as the loss of all my money and property for loyalty to the British Government; and I cannot return to Persia especially now that the S.P.R. have withdrawn.

5. Another incident to which I was exposed was just after Gholam Ali Khan Vice-Consul was shot by Davood Khan.  I was advised by my reporter not to appear as usual in the bazaar and public places. I kept in doors and continued my regular reports to the British Consulate by an increased number of spies (male and female) and even at this stage the pro-Germans selected Dr. Nayhib’s son to put an end to my life, but thanks be to God that he did not succeed. Although he challenged me out of my house and ordered his men to shoot me, but the leader an old known Tofangchee seeing my eldest son and the guard better armed retreated with his men unheeding their commander who was later on imprisoned for some reason.  It is perhaps necessary to state here that the only consideration received by me was from Bushire Residency, being a sum of Rs. 1500/- which was a pecuniary assistance as travelling expenses to come to Calcutta which was not even one tenth of my out-of-pocket expenses spent on account of services to Government plus Rs. 500/- from the Foreign Office; and the education provided for my two children.

To render my case to be less laborious in the consideration of the facts as represented above, I beg to summarise them viz.

(A)      Apprehending as I did the imminent danger to which Colonel O’Connor’s life and the British Consulate was exposed, I gave up everything, abandoned wife, children, house and possessions in rendering exceptionally brave services to the British Consulate and in keeping the British Consulate informed of the movements of the Germans, anti-British and Persians at the risk of my own life, as shown in the letters which Colonel O’Connor had to destroy for fear of their falling in the hands of the enemy; except one which was left out in the Consul’s coat pocket and found by the Gendarmes which he was captured; that very letter was at once sent to Wassmuss who with red ink issued orders to get me cut to pieces.  The anxieties, trouble and fear suffered by my wife and family owing to the Gendarmes, while in search of me to execute the order when I was away from my house in hiding at Kawam’s quarters are beyond imagination, besides the great distress and hardship whilst running away in disguise from Shiraz to Bushire via Bunder Rig.

(B)      That it was through my personal efforts and at great risk and expense I provided the Consulate with flour when they were shut out from all means of obtaining food supply.

(C)     That I was not in indignant circumstances but I had rights and claims on the Persian traders and others of all positions and dignity which I had to give up owing to the German disturbance and my allegiance to the British Government, and now that the British have evacuated the place I have no chance of returning or recovering anything of my rights from the Persians.

(D)     That the value of such services can only be fairly and justly estimated by considering the amount of risk and danger to which I was exposed.

Under the peculiarly difficult circumstances of my case as stated above I beg most respectfully to submit for the consideration of the Government of India that having regard to the fact that I sacrificed everything I humbly claim to be regarded as being worthy of a helping hand from the British Government now in my reclining years by the grant to me of my out-of-pocket expenses as per account enclosed and of a compensation political pension adequate to maintain myself and family in comfort and dignity tenable during my life and thereafter to my family.

No other kind of compensation I respectfully submit could be regarded as an adequate reward for such conspicuously brave service to Government, and I therefore earnestly appeal to your high sense of justice that in placing my case for the favourable consideration and orders of His Excellency the Viceroy, you will be pleased to give the full measure of your consideration with due weight to the fact that the exceptional circumstances of the most critical moment and in my case, would fairly and justly entitle me to exceptional or special treatment.  I have to the best of my ability represented here the extreme severity of the hardships from starvation and all kinds of privations which I generously undertook but perhaps I could better and more fully state the terrible circumstances viva voce if necessary or if I would be given the opportunity by being summoned to Simla.

I have the honour to be
Your most obedient servant.

Over a number of years, Jordan had become known in Shiraz as “old Martin” and “secret reporter”[5]. He had built strong connections both with the British Residency and local businesses alike. Now, he battled depravation that came with being penniless. It was the goodwill and friendship of the local community in Calcutta that helped him and his young family through these very difficult times.  He attempted to re-start a new business because everything he had ever known or possessed in Shiraz was destroyed. He lived with the memories of murder in his family. He wondered if he would ever truly be free of the execution order on his own head for the part he played in favour of the British.  Between 1917 and 1925 He bullishly kept writing his letters, he became a thorn in the side of the government in Simla whose replies placated him just enough to give him a slim hope his claims may be successfully repaid to him.  Eventually he was award Rs2,000 as compensation for his loss of  his livelihood and business; his two younger children were granted a small stipend for their education. His hopes for the recovery of the Rs65,000+ losses incurred whilst spying for the British would never be met. Yet, he continued to write. Politely at first, with respect and reverence. As the years rolled by his letters about war compensation and reparation continued with politeness but were teamed with feint anger, eventually culminating with sheer bloody‑mindedness and abject rage. In one letter to the Governor and Viceroy in Delhi  in 1928 he said “I make bold to suggest to your Excellency that if out of perverse mentality I had in those days only showed pro-German tendencies, I would have been a hundred times better off than what I am at present…..”

One of several passport applications of Jordan Martin. This one shows evidence of a sister, Myill.

Jordan Martin’s Passport application. Included on it is his sister Myill.

I believe Jordan Martin was one of the many people O’Connor cultivated into the ‘useful but don’t get attached ‘ category of life.  Whereas Martin put more importance on their connection/friendship than O’Connor ever would. After the war, Martin remained in stricken circumstances. O’Connor was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and continued his military career, enjoying his time in Nepal at the British Residency from where he occasionally wrote replies to the persevering Martin in his quest for compensation following the revolution in Shiraz. O’Connor’s letters adroitly side-lined him in a way that Martin believed O’Connor was indeed doing everything he could to help. The reality was that O’Connor gave the Jordan Martin claim to government officials and was able to clear his conscience by saying “it is with the appropriate people who are looking into it”. Having got into the British administration system it effectively lost the personal connection and became another case to be dealt with in due course.

Whilst Jordan Martin was hustling to survive and provide for his family, Lt. Col O’Connor retired from India and received a knighthood[6]

For the remainder of Jordan’s days, it was a continual disappointment.

But he was nothing if not unrelenting. In 1918 with nowhere to go, he ended up living in a small corner in the Armenian Church in Bushire for three months. He suffered from what he called indigestion but it is likely to have been something a bit more serious. In addition he was sick with malaria, jaundice and dysentery[7]. How he managed to survive can only be described as a miracle. In a desperate bid for some minor financial aid he wrote:

“…….nobody knew anything of my services and of what had taken place between Col. O’C and myself all confidential papers having been burnt up, Major Trevor on the strength of a telegraphic reply from London was kind enough to grant me for the time being Rs1500 and on going to Simla the Hon. Mr. Bray helped me further [with] Rs500. The poor children will be coming down to Calcutta in a day or two to enjoy their winter vacation………… they will come to know that the last Calcutta debt of Rs3000 and 2000 still unpaid.

To rob I cant, to beg I am ashamed………….”

The Political Resident at Bushire, Major A.P. Trevor eventually granted him a free passage to Bombay in December 1918 enabling him to join his family in Calcutta. Although very sick, he successfully made the journey. By February 1919 his condition had deteriorated so much that he had been admitted to the Presidency Hospital in Calcutta[8].

Regaining some of his health, he managed to secure a position as a clerk in the Shellac business run by a well known Calcutta Armenian, J.C. Galstaun.  Jordan worked for him for 41/2 years after which he set up a business with one of his brother’s in Tehran.

Jordan and Elizabeth quickly integrated into the Armenian way of life in Calcutta, and over the ensuing years went on to become respected stalwarts in the community. He continued to fight for an education for his children, Lucy and Haik and as if he and Elizabeth had not had enough to deal with, they found themselves having to help their widowed daughter-in-law  Lucy Martin and her four young children, after their father (Jordan’s eldest son Martyrose) died unexpectedly in Shiraz in 1937.

These young grandchildren immediately came under the care and protection of Jordan and Elizabeth to whom they looked upon as parents.

Jordan Martin – DNA

Jordan’s eldest son, Martyrose Martin married Lucya Carapiet around 1925 in Shiraz. They had four children:

 Sonia, born July 1926 in Shiraz,
A daughter born in 1928, in Shiraz
Another daughter, Elizabeth born in 1931, in Shiraz
Jordan Martin born in 1932, in Shiraz

The marriage was noted in a local Calcutta newspaper The Statesman

Sonia Martin met and went on to marry Arathoon Mackertich John in July 1947 at the Armenian Church, Calcutta.

Sonia’s sister Elizabeth (Betty) passed away in Sussex, another sister lives peacefully in London and her brother, Jordan Martin (named after their brave grandfather) also lives quietly in London, regularly enjoying card game evenings with his local Armenian friends.

Sonia’s father-in-law Mackertich John speaking with the visiting Bishop.

Sonia John was the only one of her siblings to stay in Calcutta where she and her husband Arathoon ran the Continental Hotel. They equally became an integral part of the Armenian community in the city. Sonia is probably best known for her involvement with the Armenian Church; she held the position of honorary Chairperson for a number of years. She was also the Honorary Manager of the Armenian College and Philanthropic Academy for several years as well, the institute that educated her father Martyrose Martin and her grandfather Jordan Martin.  Her brother Jordan spent some time serving in the Royal Air Force, and as is quite normal for Armenians from Calcutta, was passionate about sport, and in particular rugby, a game that Armenians from India have excelled at for over a century.

One of many social gatherings Sonia and her husband attended in Calcutta

Both Sonia and her brother Jordan were curious about their deeper DNA ancestry. With some guidance as to which DNA test company to use, it was finally decided to go with  By using this particular company  Sonia and Jordan[9] were able to tap in to the vast knowledge of the Armenian DNA Project and its administrators,  Peter Ara Hrechdakian and Hovann Simonian respectively. Sonia’s results came back first and gave the clearest indication of her deep-rooted Armenian family heritage. FamilytreeDNA’s testing initially reporting her  as 100% Armenian/Middle Eastern putting her in the haplogroup H13a1-T152C.

Sonia John's FamilytreeDNA Population Finder graphic

Some time later, familytreeDNA re-calibrated their testing system. The refined results, split by region then came in at 87% Armenian/Middle Eastern. 83% was DNA from Asia Minor (Armenia) and 4% from West Middle East. The remaining 11% were European and “trace” results.

From family stories and knowledge of her own Armenian family history, the DNA test simply confirmed everything she already knew.  She spoke with her brother and he too agreed to take the test. As a male, his results would show the deeper male heritage line of the Martin family.

Sonia John's FamilytreeDNA Ethnic makeup shows her Armenian origins

When Jordan’s results became available, they curiously threw up more questions than answers. His results were also showing Armenian, but not within the range of haplogroups that are currently in the Armenian DNA Project.  Administrators were puzzled, and a fair bit of head scratching went on. It was decided that Jordan’s DNA should be tested for the BIG Y test with familytreeDNA. This test would be able to establish without question his deeper DNA.

Eventually the results came back – and what an exciting read they were.

After much discussion amongst the Armenian DNA Administrators, and further conversations with other Administrators of Jordan’s haplogroup C-V20, the BIG Y test confirmed Jordan Martin’s Armenian heritage.  This group is indigenous to the Middle East and is particularly rare. Ray Banks, Project Administrator for the C haplogroup said: “

“………You have 53 total useful mutations unique just to you. I have selected these to represent a new investigational subgroup unique to you under Z38888. They begin with Z44526, and you can see them under Z38888 on the tree If someone is later found to share any of your 53 unique mutations that might be the basis of a confirmed new subgroup unless the person is closely related. Counting the number of mutations can give a general idea of when you last shared a common grandfather with the men who have had Y sequencing. And these would suggest it was almost 8000 years ago since you last shared a common grandfather with the other known man who has Z38888………” Ray continues: “……….The V20 branch is today rare in the population, but was very common in the initial peopling of Europe……..”

Jordan Martin's familytreeDNA ethnic makeup shows his Armenian origins

With the potential for being part of a new and currently unknown DNA sub-group, if this does indeed turn out to be the case, will prove to be a very exciting development in the science of DNA testing for siblings Sonia John and Jordan Martin.

From a family history view point it is thrilling to know that both Sonia and her brother Jordan are not only the grandchildren of a heroic, loyal and selfless Armenian who served as a spy for the British in Iran in 1915, but also, and far more importantly are able to justly and rightly claim their place in history as part of the rare Armenian haplogroup that began the population of Europe as we know it today.

Armenian Family History – DNA testing the next and modern way forward.

Are you tracing your Armenian family tree? Have you reached the point where you’re stuck, or simply don’t know which way to turn? Why not get your DNA tested with  Once you’ve signed up for a test consider joining the Armenian DNA Project and tap into the wealth of knowledge of the group administrators.  There is also a very helpful Armenian DNA Project Facebook page  where you can also ask questions. By joining the Facebook Armenian Genealogy page at the same time, you will be able to cover all aspects of your genealogical queries.

DNA testing is the future to understanding the past.
Just ask Sonia and Jordan.


Mrs. Sonia John*
Mr. Jordan Martin
Ms. Brandy Sharifa
Ms Louise Culleton
Mr. Greg Marcar
Hovann Simonian, Armenian DNA specialist and one of the Administrators of the Armenian DNA Project

*The Jordan Martin papers have kindly been donated to me by Mrs. Sonia John to enhance my family history archive on Armenian families in India.

[1] Ironically, 110 years later a future Manager of the Armenian College in Calcutta was his grand-daughter, Mrs. Sonia John neé Martin.
[2] 'File W/4 Hostilities in Persia: Tangistan Blockade; Confiscation of Tea for Tangistan', British Library: India Office Records and Private Papers, IOR/R/15/2/50, in Qatar Digital Library <>
[3] My thanks to Louise Culleton, Greg Marcar and their family for positively identifying Mackertich Catchick from a photograph I posted on my Facebook page as an “unknown man in Shiraz”.

[4] Who's who in Persia. Calcutta: General Staff, India, 1916 p.214. British Library: India Office Records and Private Papers, IOR/L/PS/20/223

[5] Letter from Jordan Martin in Bushire to Major A.P. Trevor 5 May 1917.
[6] Edinburgh Gazette 5 June 1925. Lt. Col. William F.T. O’Connor was knighted in the King’s birthday honours.

[7] A draft letter by Jordan Martin dated 26 November 1918 giving an update to his current living conditions
[8] A draft letter by Jordan Martin to Col O’Connor of 10 March 1919 in reply to his letter of 8 March in which O’Connor said he had written to the Govt. of India making certain proposals regarding Jordan’s case for compensation.
[9] Permission to publish the DNA results has been granted by both Sonia John and Jordan Martin