WATERTOWN — On April 9, the first-ever Armenian genealogy conference will be held at the Armenian Museum of America. Throughout the day, featured speakers will detail the tools and methods specific to tracing Armenian family roots. In addition, there will be a workshop in the afternoon where volunteers will help answer questions from those wishing to learn more about their families.
Tracy Keeney, one of the conference organizers and a scheduled speaker, noted “At some point in our lives, most people feel a tug at the heart to reach into the past and connect with those who came before us. For those of Armenian descent, that was a seemingly hopeless quest for decades. But that is simply no longer the case. That’s the significance of this conference. Armenians around the world are longing to find traces of their ancestors, to learn their stories, the name of their ancestral village, etc. They feel a pull– like the voices of their ancestors are calling from dust. This conference will help them answer that call.” Keeney is the person behind the Armenian genealogy facebook page which has more than 2,500 members from around the world.
The conference grew out of a phone conversation between two of the other organizers, Mark Arslan and George Aghjayan. Arslan is the creator of the Armenian Immigration Project (http://arslanmb.org/ArmenianImmigrants/shiplists.html). Aghjayan maintains a website devoted to Western Armenia (http://westernarmenia.weebly.com/).
Arslan noted, “The recent proliferation and acceptance of social media has allowed a level of collaboration on genealogical and historical research never before possible. Tracy Keeney’s Armenian Genealogy group on Facebook has brought together people from the Armenian diaspora worldwide, as well as the Republic of Armenia, who share a passionate interest in learning more about their Armenian families and heritage. The collective knowledge of our online community is amazing, everyone bringing their own special talents to uncover genealogical treasures from the primary records online and in archives, as well as sharing their own family anecdotes, memories, and experiences.”
Beside Arslan and Keeney, other speakers include Vahe Tachjian (houshamadyan.org), Janet Achoukian Andreopoulos and Stephen Kurkjian. Tachjian will speak about the Houshamadyan project to reconstruct Armenian village life prior to the genocide. Andreopoulos and Kurkjian will be speaker about how DNA testing was able to reconnect one family to their Armenian roots. There will be DNA kits available at the conference for purchase and testing.
“Armenian genealogy has grown by leaps and bounds over the last 10 years. Advances in technology have allowed access to information previously thought unattainable,” Aghjayan said. “It is a natural progression to hold annual conferences for those desiring to advance knowledge of their Armenian roots. For so long, Armenians were told no records exist, everyone has passed away and other messages of futility. I think many Armenians will be surprised by just how much is possible to repair the rupture in our family histories caused by the genocide.”
Sponsors of the conference include the Armenian Museum of America (AMA), Project Save Armenian Photographic Archives, Houshamadyan.org, the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR) and the Boston chapter of Hamazkayin. Conference registration can be done on-line (https://www.armeniangenealogyconference.com/). The registration is free, but there is a small cost for lunch, if chosen.