Yesterday, an important Armenian parish record was made public for the first time. The register lists the names of over 2,000 Armenian migrants from Dortyol (and its surrounds) who migrated from Alexandretta to Lebanon (Beirut) and Syria (Aleppo). The document is dated January 15, 1928, and was handwritten by Father Hovhannes Najarian. This constitutes the third known migration of Armenians from the region following the Armenian Genocide of 1915, and the second known migration during the Mandate for Syria and Lebanon.
The first migration occurred in 1915-1918, during and in the aftermath of World War I, and the last migration happened in 1938-1939, when Turkish forces expelled Armenians and Alawites from Alexandretta. What do we know about this second (1928) migration?
After World War I, the French forces took control of Cilicia. In 1921, as part of the Ankara Agreement, Turkey and France agreed to give the Sanjak of Alexandretta its own administrative status, establishing Turkish as the official language and promoting Turkish cultural development in the area. Starting from 1923, many Armenians from Dortyol and its surrounds relocated to Alexandretta as a result of the French mandate1. Why did hundreds of families, thousands of individuals, migrate to Syria and Lebanon in 1928, seven years after the signing of the Ankara Agreement? It is not yet clear.
In the meantime, this serves as a useful record for individuals with Dortyol heritage who wish to learn more about their ancestry. My own family is number 25 in this record; it includes three generations of names from my paternal side, including my grandfather Antranik (b. 1914), my great grandparents Kevork (b. 1889) and Marta (b. 1894), and the names of my great, great grandfathers (Toros and Khachatur).