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Descendants of Zohrab of the Manuchariants

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This website is about a man called "Zohrab", his descendants, and -- to some extent -- his ancestors.  He probably did not have a surname, as far as we know, but his clan name was "Manuchariants".  His male-line descendants, as far as we know, have mainly been using his Christian name (or "Zo(h)rabian") as their surname.

The earliest known written record available in English about the family is apparently Avetik Zorabian's Annotations as to the Genealogy of the Zorabian Lineage, on which Armèn Joseph (d. The Hague 2013) apparently partly based his book.

Zohrab was born in Yerevan, Armenia, in about 1580, and died in New Julfa, Isfahan, Iran. His tombstone is to be found in the common cemetery of New Julfa. No date of his death is mentioned, but from the dates on the tombstones of his sons it has been inferred that the year of his death was about AD 1620. Avetik Zorabian's Annotations as to the Genealogy of the Zorabian Lineage mentions some names on nearby tombstones, which Avetik considers must be of members of Zohrab's family.  He does not mention Basil or Simon (see below), but he mentions Khoja (= merchant) Petros, Khoja Avetik (who does not seem to be on the family tree), Astvatsatoor, and two female names, Khanoom and Khatoon.  Females were generally left off the early part of the family tree.

"Zohrab" is a common Persian/Iranian first name -- cf. the poem "Sohrab and Rustum", by Matthew Arnold.   The page http://armenian.name/index.php?a=list&d=1&t=dict&w1=Z states as follows:

ZOHRAB: From Persian name Suhrab which came from "Shahname" by Firdusi. It was also used as Zurab, Surab for short (surkh "red" and ab "water", "bright"). The corresponding surname is Zohrabyan.


The Zohrab family is said to have refused the Persian throne on two occasions -- the first being in "ancient history" and the second being in the 18th Century.  Their refusal of the throne on the second occasion has been put down to their being a Christian family in a Moslem country.  The claimed refusal in ancient history appears to relate to Sam (or Sahm), the Prime Minister of the King (Shah) Manucheher (Minoutcher).  Sam is claimed to have been a member of the Zohrab family and to have refused the throne when the son of the late Manucheher, Nouzer, offered it to him.  His reason for refusing could have had nothing to do with Christianity or Islam, presumably, because these two religions would not have existed at this time.  Here is a relevant document:

(In the above scan of the document "From the first Persian Monarch to the first Zohrab", you may notice that Peter Douglas Zohrab was holding the document onto the scanner with his hand!)

The idea that the modern Zohrab family is descended from the House of Sahm and thereby got both its name "Zohrab" and also its clan name "Manucharian" is not particularly credible, because:

  1. The name "Zohrab", in both this document and in the case of the "original" Zohrab whose name is now used as a surname, is just a given name, not a surname, and therefore its use creates no implication of a family relationship between the two people;

  2. There is no apparent family relationship between the House of Sahm and the Shah Minoutcher, so this document does not provide a historical origin for the clan name "Manucharian".

  3. This early era in Persian history contains much that is apparently mere legend, as is clear from the above story of the simurgh feeding Sahm's son on a mountain top.

  4. If there was a very old document in bad condition that proved the origin of the Zohrab family, it would not be in English, but in Armenian or Farsi (Persian), for example.

However, if this document has some truth in it, then the Zohrabs lived "originally" in Persia, then became meliks in Armenia, and then were taken back to Iran by the Shah Abbas I.  Maybe there were branches of the family in both Armenia and Iran throughout these many centuries.


One manuscript claims that the famous Persian poet Firdausi was a member of the Zohrab family, possibly because Firdausi wrote about Sohrab and Rustum..


Mangkasar and Manucharian

According to the book by Armèn Joseph, Zohrab was a descendant of the Mangkasar meliks (dukes, or minor kings).  However, that appears to be based on Avetik Zorabian's Annotations as to the Genealogy of the Zorabian Lineage, which contradicts itself.  Avetik says that "the famous Melik Mankasar" was contemporaneous with Shah Abbas I, who was contemporaneous with Zohrab.  So, although Avetik also says that Zohrab was descended from Melik Mankasar, that is impossible, unless he was his son.  Of course, he could have had some other relationship to the Melik, such as brother.

According to the same book, the name "Manuchar" is a Persian/Iranian version of the Armenian name "Mangkasar". This was an Armenian noble family, from which were drawn some of the "Meliks" (minor kings, or dukes) in Armenia. Volume 2 of RG Hovannisian's The Armenian People from Ancient to Modern Times, on page 29, identifies the Meliks with the "Nakharars," the feudal lords whom the author treats throughout Volume 1 (i.e. until they disappear in most of historical Armenia) as the most important secular institution in the country.  According to Judge Edgar Zorab, his cousin Albert Zorab was told by the Armenian Archbishop of Jerusalem, during World War I, that the Manuchariants clan was related to the Orbelians.

According to Hewsen (1975, page 237):

The Manucharid Meliks of Dalughardash

Represented at Tatew by Ehie, son of Pudal, and grandson of Telulartash, this house had its seat at Dalulardash village, now the village of Saruxan, located some ten kms. south of Kamo. Nothing is known of the family but inscriptions found in the village reveal the existence of Manucharid meliks there in the XVIIth and XVIIIth centuries (I have altered the transcription of names, in order to avoid having to use special phonetic characters -- PZ).

According to Hewsen (1984, page 321, Footnote 8):

That there was a Melik Jan at this time (i.e. circa 1750 -- PZ) is certain..., but being a son of Melik Manuchar, he appears to have been of the Manucharid house which held the Melikdom of Dalughardash in Gegharkunik (I have altered the transcription of names, in order to avoid having to use special phonetic characters -- PZ).

Prima facie, therefore, we can assume that this "Manucharid" house is probably the ancestral house of the Zohrab family. As against that, it appears that Manuchar was a common name, and Professor Hewsen mentioned someone called Zohrab, who was the son of one of the Mirzayid meliks of Ghulali ( see Hewsen 1975, page 235). Professor Hewsen has told Peter Douglas Zohrab that male children are/were often named after their grandfather, so that this Zohrab -- given his probable dates -- could have been the grandfather of the eponymous ancestor of the Zohrab family. However, it is clear that there are many exceptions to this naming practice.

MANGASAR(Mankasar): From Armenian manuk "child" and Persian sar "head", "mount" i.e. "head of children", "teacher". It is out of use now, only the surname Mangasaryan is met.


MANUCHAR: From Azerbaijan name Manucher (Old Persian Manuchikhr), which means "from the kin of Manu God". This name is very common in Georgia. We also have the surname Manucharyan.

I do not know which explanation(s) is/are correct, but it is possible that they are both correct. Armenians commonly change their surnames for various (including socio-political) reasons, and it is possible that the Mangkasar clan changed their name to Manucharian in order to appear more Persian during a period when Persia ruled relevant parts of Armenia.

Traditionally, Armenian children receive one Christian name when baptized.  The second name is the Christian of her/his father....  The suffix -ian denotes 'son or daughter of'.  The suffix -iants denotes 'of the family of'.

However, Emeritus Professor Robert H. Hewsen informed Peter Douglas Zohrab (by email) that "-ian" just means "of", and "-iants" is just a plural form of it.



According to Hewsen (2001) and other works, between 1603 and 1618 the Armenian population of Eastern Armenia was deported by Shah Abbas I of Persia to Persia -- apparently to West Persia and the general area of his new capital, Isfahan.  New Julfa (founded in 1605) is now the Armenian quarter of Isfahan, named after the town of Julfa, on the Silk Road, which was famous for its Armenian silk crafts.  The Armenians were also known as merchants and artists, as well as farmers, weavers, and tradesmen.  The Shah wanted his country to be able to process the raw silk that it produced -- rather than exporting it to Turkey and then re-importing the finished product from Turkey. He also wanted to have some Christian citizens who could trade with the Christian West, and to depopulate the border region near Turkey, for security reasons.

The former Zohrab house in New Julfa is located in Little Shahents Street, which, according to Avetik Zorabian's Annotations as to the Genealogy of the Zorabian Lineage, is in the Erevan quarter of New Julfa.  So, although most of the inhabitants of New Julfa may have come from Julfa (in Nakhichevan), the inhabitants of Erevan may have been settled in this Erevan quarter of New Julfa.  Avetik Zorabian says that the Manucharian noble family was in Erevan at the time of Shah Abbas I's deportation of Armenians to Persia.  Meliks usually lived in their home villages, apparently, and only went to their regional capital (Erevan, in this case) on special occasions.

Some Zohrabs/Zorabs/Manuks may have left Persia for India around 1795, in order to escape a politically-motivated massacre of the Zohrab family (or of Armenians generally) then being carried out by the Shah of Persia (Iran), or because of the economic situation in Iran following an invasion by Afghanistan in 1722. This is indicated by the fact that all five children of Manook and Hannai (Anne) were born in New Julfa (Persia) and died either in India, the Dutch East Indies, or on the way there -- at around that time. According to Maddocks (1989) , some members of the Zohrab family went to India at the time of the Armenian deportations to Iran, between 1603 and 1618, and there had been Armenians in India since the 16th century (especially at Agra).


The Dog That Didn't Bark In The Night

There is a Sherlock Holmes story, where the crucial issue was the fact that a dog did not bark in the night.  It seems significant that we have records of the descendants of only two of Zohrab's children:  See Descendants of Zohrab's Son, Basil and Descendants of Zohrab's Son, Simon, and that these two are apparently absent from the graveyard in New Julfa where their parents and siblings are buried. 

  1. This website is about English-speaking and Dutch-speaking members of the Zohrab family, since few of us speak Armenian, Persian or Russian, and know little about any Zohrab family members who may still be in Armenia, Iran or Russia, for example.  Sources such as Baladouni, Vahé & Margaret Makepeace (1998) state that Armenian merchants formed world-wide networks and operated on the basis of mutual trust.  One's own family members are the people who one can trust most.  So it is possible that Basil and Simon moved elsewhere, in order to facilitate trade with their family members and other Armenians in New Julfa and elsewhere. 

  2. We know (probably, according to the tombstones) that two of Zohrab's sons were merchants in New Julfa: Khoja Petros and Khoja Aviet.  We also know that some Zohrab family members were in the North-East of Iran, and some (i.e. the ones who fled the country around 1795) were in the South-East of Iran.  Did Basil move to the North-East, in order to facilitate trade through Central Asia along the Silk Road?  And did Simon move to the South East, in order to facilitate the maritime trade to India and the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia)? So were all four of them merchants, trading with each other (and with others)? The role of some of the descendants of Basil and Simon was to move out of Iran, to further the trade network, perhaps.

  3. Did all branches of the Zohrab family in Iran get massacred, or only those closely involved in politics?  Are there Zohrab descendants in Iran now, apart from any who may have gone back to Iran from the safety of an overseas country after the massacre?

  4. In other words, is this website only about the descendants of Basil and Simon because the descendants of the other children of Zohrab were massacred?  Or is the reason that it was principally the descendants of Basil and Simon who ended up in English-speaking and Dutch-speaking countries?









Peter Douglas Zohrab

Latest Update

11 October 2015