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Tuesday, 4 March 2014

The Conundrum That Is Indian Armenian Surnames



The genealogical nightmare that is Armenians.



Ter Carrapiet Ter Abraham Ter Carrapiet (yes, this is ONE person) had 3 brothers and a sister as well as 2 sons and a daughter.



Two of the brothers’ last names were Ter Carrapiet but one brother had the last name of Ter Abraham.



Ter Carrapiet Ter Abraham Ter Carrapiet’s two sons surnames were Ter Abraham.



But the most frustrating of this particular family naming convention has to be one of the brothers of Ter Carrapiet Ter Abraham Ter Carrapiet.  He was called Astwachatoor Ter Abraham Ter Carrapiet but  commonly known as Cason i.e. Astwachatoor Cason. One of his sons was named Cason Ter Abraham but commonly known as S.C. Seth (Where the heck did the name SETH come from?!). The other son was called Arratoon Cason Ter Abraham who was commonly called A.C. Seth.



Just when you think you’re getting your head around the name Carrapiet, they turn into the surname Seth and just when you think you’ve cracked the surname Seth there is double TER-ouble and you will probably have to start again!



This has to be one of the longest and complex naming strings that I have come across in the Armenians in India.



Sunday, 2 March 2014

Khojah Petrus, The Armenian Merchant – Diplomat of Calcutta from 1756-1763

An original paper belonging to Mesrovb Seth
with a personal dedication to Jordan Martin.

This is an original paper on “Khojah Petrus, The Armenian Merchant – Diplomat of Calcutta from 1756-1763”. It was read by Mesrovb Seth at the 11th meeting of the "Indian Historical Records Commission" held at Nagpur in December 1928. The contents of this paper were included in his later book "Armenians in India..." published in 1937 minus the photograph. 


What is unique and original about this particular document is the personal dedication written by Mesrovb Seth to Jordan Martin Esq., whose wife, Elizabeth Catchick was the 2xgreat grand-daughter of Rev. Haruthiun Shumavonian of Madras who published in 1794 the first known Armenian newspaper, under the name of the "Azdarar". The dedication reads: “Jordan Martin Esq., with the author’s very best regards. 15.3.29”.

Armenians in Madras Pray for Rain - 'Amen' Was Audible from the Whole Congregation - 1807



Extracted from “The Literary Panorama by Charles Taylor, 1807”

Supplication for Rain by the Armenian Christians.

The uncommon series of dry weather in the district of Madras gave occasion to solemn service in the Armenian Church at Madras on Sunday November-- 1806.  After the customary Mass, prayers were read, and the Rev. Arathoon Simeon, the Vicar, in a short discourse from Kings xvii.1.xviii.1.43.44.45. Isaiah i.5. “ I will command the clouds that they rain non rain etc” stated instances and reasons of similar visitations with which Providence chastised corruption of morals, and neglect of religious duties in the days of the prophets, exemplified the contrition and conduct of pious men of old, and exhorted his audience to penitence and supplication. 

After this, a Hymn, commencing  Turn thy wrath from us they earthly creatures: benevolent Lord, spare and do not let us perish etc was sung, kneeling before the altar, with every mark of humility and devotion.  This was followed by an appropriate prayer, and recital of Psalm vi.xxxiii.li.cii.cxxx.cxliii. the whole concluded with the Lord’s Prayer: in which the sentence  thy will be done in Earth as it is done in Heaven, was emphatically repeated by the Vicar, to which a feeling chorus of Amen was audible from the whole congregation.  In their own country the Armenians perform this service on such occasions, in the fields and arid plains.

Extracted from Oriental Commerce: 1813



Merchants Resident in Calcutta.

The British merchants resident in Calcutta are a respectable and enterprising class of men, many of whom are possessed of large and independent fortunes, in the acquisition of which they have displayed those merchant talents, and that enterprising spirit, which are the characteristic of the British nation.  The following are the principal houses.



Alexander & Co                            Joseph Barretto & Co                                  Robert Campbell 
Campbell, Hook, & Co                   Mackintosh,Fullon, & Co                            William Hollings
Colvins, Bazett & Co                     Mathew & Co                                              John King 
De Verinne, Pere & Fils                 Palmer & Co                                               Stephen Laprimaudaye 
Downie, Crullenden & Co              Peter Lumsdain & Co                                  Robert Lawson 
Fairlie Fergusson & Co                  Reid Price & Co                                          John Mackenzie 
Francis & Gabriel Vrignon              James Scott & Co                                       James McTaggart 
Hogue Davidson & Co                   Sinclair,Inglis & Co                                      E.A. Roussac 
Johannes Sarkies & Co                
Charles Blaney


The Armenians are considered the most numerous body of foreign merchants in Calcutta; they carry on an extensive commerce with all parts of India and China, and are extremely diligent and attentive in business.  They are considered to have the most accurate information from other parts, of any body of merchants.  The principal houses are

Moses C. Arackel                            Simon Phanoos Bagram                             Narcis Johannes
Sarkies Johannes                            Abraham Avitmall                                       Aratoon Joseph Camell
Carrapit Chatoor                             Z.J. Shircore                                                 S & Petruse Carapiets
Car. Muckertich Morat                   Stephen Aratoon                                          J.M.Simeon.     

Armenian Churches of Calcutta, Chinsurah, Karaya and Tangra - 1924 Property Inventory

A Gift of Carpets by the Shah of Persia to the King of Afghanistan in 1855 Surface in Calcutta in 1935

Exceptional provenance with this item. These carpets were presented as a gift to the King of Afghanistan in 1855 by the then Shah of Persia. The carpets were sold to an Armenian gentleman in Calcutta in 1933 by the King of Afghanistan's grandson with provenance letters below. In 1935 the Armenian gentleman offered them for sale to Her Excellency Countess Willingdon in Calcutta.

The carpets gifted by the Shah of Persia
to the King of Afghanistan in 1855




Letter from Abdul Aziz Khan
grandson of the King of Afghanistan
provides confirmation of
the provenance
The carpets were offered to Her Excellency
Countess of Willingdon in Calcutta
by a local Armenian resident who
was the legitimate owner in 1935.

The Arathoon Nicholas Story of the Missing Millions

This is another of my occasional reviews concerning Armenian family history. A story of great riches, unpaid legacies and inevitably great disappointment, of women, legitimate and illegitmate children, a woman scorned, a spell in jail, desperate insolvency, a dishonest apprentice and a priest whose head was turned by the contents of a will.

Various documents are slowly being brought together that fleshes out the story of a vast fortune now lost somewhere.


Arathoon Nicholas, son of Nicholas Arathoon Nicholas was born in Julfa around 1807. Like so many Armenians he travelled to India in the hope of starting a business and enriching his life. In 1832 he married Khachkhatun Hyrapiet in Calcutta and they went on to have 8 children, 4 boys 4 girls. During this marriage he had a relationship with a woman called Anna Catchick Ter Astwachatoor. Exactly what her personal circumstances were are unclear, but no marriage record can be found for them. They did however have a son whom they named Tegran Arathoon Nicholas born in 1841. Meanwhile his wife Khachkhatun died in 1858, no formal union appears to have taken place with Anna. In 1883 Arrathoon married the widow Varvar Lucas nee Sarkies with whom he went on to have two daughters.

Arathoon’s fortunes do not appear to have gone successfully as he can be found in government gazettes applying to the courts in Calcutta for relief in December 1855 his occupation listed as River Merchant. It would appear from original documents I have obtained of the insolvency order (see image Nos. 1,6,7 & 8 ) that not only was he applying for relief, he had been in jail since October of that year brought about by Anna the mother of the illegitimate Tegran above for unpaid debts.

Image No. 1
He tried and failed to get court protection from arrest in respect to the debts he owed and hoped that he would be allowed to appear before the court to plead his side. He was refused and remained in jail, how long for is unclear.


His two eldest sons by Khachkhatun, Nicholas and John both die as children aged 5 and 16 repectively. His youngest son Astur died at the age of 22 leaving only one legitimate son Nicholas Arrathoon Nicholas and the illegitimate son Tegran Arathoon Nicholas. These two half brothers became engineers. They worked together on the ship the SS Scotia, Tegran as the chief Engineer and Nicholas as the 2nd engineer. On the 17th June 1876 they were sailing the ship from Calcutta to Penang delivering her to new owners, the ship must have hit a storm it never made it to Penang and nothing was ever heard from her again. All perished.

 Arathoon Nicholas now did not have any male heirs.

Image No. 6

 Jumping forward 70+ years
 A story of a vast lost fortune was the talk not only of Calcutta but of Julfa too.

In a letter written by Mayill Jordan to his nephew Johny Jordan dated 20th June 1947 Mayill explains to him about a lost fortune and how, with Johny’s help they could help recover it and earn themselves a portion for their trouble. 

(See Image No. 9 - transcription of image is below)

Image No. 7
























Image No. 8
























Image No. 9
Tehran
20th June 1947

“Now dear old Johny there is a more important and profitable matter which I would like to explain to you as briefly as possible and ask your co-operation.

You must have no doubt heard of the existence of a Amirkhanian Legacy involving several millions of Pounds. I am now explaining you the whole affair as has been explained to me by one of the heirs, Mr. Harutune, the son of Mariam Bulbulian. From the copies of documents shown to me by Harutune it appears that some 60 or 80 years ago there has been a Harutune Nicholas, possessing river steamers and one or two indigo factories somewhere near Calcutta. He had two small sons who could not help him in his business. Harutune Nicholas inherits a young and energetic Armenian called Amirkhanian, who gradually masters the whole business in a faithful manner. Amirkhanian goes to the Straits on business and upon arrival at Penang he gets seriously sick. Ter Sahak is being called form Singapore or Rangoon to make his will. Amirkhanian in this will gives everything to his two step brothers (the two young sons of his kind step father) and goes to the next world. Ter Sahak seeing the weight and value of the will, instead of handing it over to our priesthood in Calcutta puts it in his pocket and while transferred to Julfa he brings the will to Julfa with him without saying a word to any official source, except to his daughter Assaneth. The latter for years tries to get heir of some sort and share the legacy with him. She fails. Upon hearing that one of the real heirs – Levon Tussikian – lives in Tiflis, she takes the will to Tiflis, where Tussikian’s wife becomes aware of the case and makes her [missing text] and to apply for his share. He succeeds, however, in getting [missing text] it being £8.000.000. Assaneth returns to Julfa without [missing text] success where she dies and no body knows what became of [missing text] original of the will. Amirkhanian will has been in every mouth for a score of years. Anybody in American, Afrika, Turkey, and elsewhere bearing that name has claimed to be the proper heir of the deceased Amirkhanian. People with their advocates have gone to Madras Court but have returned as empty as they had gone. Mrs. Mariam Bulbulian claims to be the real heir of the Legacy. She has a pile of documents and certificates proving that and has been following the case since the past 15 years. She has a good advocate who, I am told, has gone 70% of the work and he has got to take Mrs. Mariam to Madras to the madras Court where copy of the Will is and make her claim. To finish the case she needs nearly Rupees 40.000 which I would not mind to accord provided what I have been told are bare facts, they are substantiated by authentic documents, she is really the heir and she will appropriate the legacy. I want you to go through all the file that Mrs. Mariam will put before you. If you find the business clear and solid as has been put before me you may advance her the necessary money for her journey, and that of her advocate, to Madras and for all the expenses for the first session which, as I am told will amount to rupees ten thousand. Should you not have this money at your disposal, or being unable to raise it from somewhere to pay her at once till I arrange the remittance upon hearing form you, you may at once wire me to remit you. By the time this letter reaches you our relation with Lahoti [a business contact with whom Mayill is having trouble with] might have been cleared and I may have plenty of money with him to be remitted to me for my preliminary expenses. I am enclosing, however, a line or two to Lahoti to be presented to him or his friend should you find our relation with these people clear and friendly enough to present this draft of mine when quite sure that it will not be refused. Anyhow I want to help this lady first of all because she belongs to my race. She is a child of Julfa. Her late husband has been my teacher whom I am indebted for my schooling. Once she gets the will out she will be one of the biggest millioneers (sic) of the world. Many people will get enriched. She will make a rich contribution to our dear country and in the meantime she will make me a liberal remuneration for my co-operation. All you have to do is to see that her papers are absolutely right and she is recognised to be the proper heir. Once this is proved you must see what she is prepared to pay me for my co-operation. The money is a big one and I don’t think Mrs. Mariam will fail to accommodate me in a liberal manner. After closing the bargain with her you must get her [to] sign an official agreement for the amount she promises to pay on collection of the will. You are a smart boy and you must be very careful in your investigations. This is not a commercial risk I am going to do. Very few people will make risks like this and you must be careful that besides that I do not lose I fairly liberal remuneration is made to me. I leave the size to you. Once you ascertain that there is a will in the Madras Court in the name of Amirkhanian you must try to find out what is nature is. Is it true that everything has been made in the name of Arratoon Nicholas’s two sons who were drowned with their own steamer. Should this statement be correct then there is no doubt that the father of the deceased 2 boys must be recognised as heir. And in as much as Arratoon Nikolas died after his two sons the legacy will going to the latter’s heir. As I said in the above after going through the papers Mrs. Mariam will show you and you find them all in order and after you are convinced that the legacy is hers and she will inherit it during current year you may apply to Lahoti for Rs. 10.000 and pay her at once, should our relation with this Morvari will have been put on clear understanding and footing then, otherwise you must not refer to him for money. If you cannot raise the money and pay her at once, pending my remittance from here. I believe everything is more than clear to you……
My kind regards to your mother, Lucie and Haik. Your loving uncle
Mar---l [his signature is not clear]

Mrs. Mariam Bulbulian
Fairlawn Hotel
13a Sudder St
Calcutta “

Image No. 2,3,4 &5 show that T.A. Zachary a nephew of Arathoon Nicholas was trying to enlist the help of the US government to track down his rightful legacy to “millions of Pounds and property”.
Image No. 2
Image No. 3

It would seem that after his spell in jail Arathoon Nicholas turned his luck around, and if we are to believe the above story, became a wealthy man. But what became of him and his wealth and how and why did Amirkhanian think he had a fortune to leave in his will in the first place?

Unfortunately [at the moment] I have not been able to find anything about Amirkhanian, his presence in Penang (if indeed that is where he died) is eluding me. However I have the wills of both Tegran Nicholas and his father Arrathoon Nicholas.

Tegran made his will on the 16th June 1876 naming his two sisters Catherine and Regina as exectutrixes and beneficiaries of his estate inheriting the profits from the sale of his house in Bow Bazar street.

Arrathoon Nicholas made his will on the 27th January 1890 in which he devised and bequeathed all his property both real and personal to his beloved wife Varvar to enable her to look after their two daughters. Arrathoon subsequently died on the 29th January 1896 in Calcutta.

As far as I can tell, there never was a fortune; a holy grail pot of gold inherited by Amirkhanian from Arathoon Nicholas. For nearly 100 years “legitimate heirs” have been chasing the rainbow trail of Amirkhanian……does it exist? Who knows but Arathoon Nicholas does not appear to have left him anything.


Image No. 4






Image No. 5