Home > Biographical details > Descendants of Zohrab's Son, Simon > The Zohrab Branch
The Zohrabs in Persia/Iran
Part of the Zohrab family in Persia eventually settled between Tehran and the Caspian Sea -- on the plains of Mazanderan, and in the city of Ast(e)rabad -- now known as Gorgan in the area south-east of the Caspian Sea that was once known as Hyrcan(i)a. That is where Armenian agriculturalists were apparently settled, whereas Armenian merchants were settled in New Julfa, Isfahan.
The Family Tradition
The traditional version, as handed down through the generations, goes something like this: Aga Mohammed Khan, who was himself born in Asterabad, later took a dislike to the Zohrab family) allegedly because they were Christians), who had a private army, and killed many members of the family. In 1795, some members of the family who were living in Sistan Province, in South-east Persia, according to Lady Fanny Blunt, escaped to Turkey, crossing the border near Mt. Ararat, near the North-west corner of Persia. Mount Ararat was part of historic Armenia, and is still visible from Armenia today. Some of the family later took as a (probably unofficial) coat of arms a shield depicting a dove above an olive tree, with an Ark above the shield and the words: "Hence Springs Our Hope." See also: Grant of Arms to John Manuk Zorab and his legitimate male heirs, Coat of Arms of John Manuk Zorab and his legitimate male heirs, Crest of the Zorab Family, and Official Badge of the entire Zohrab/Zorab Family.
When and why did the family leave Persia for Turkey?
Hansen et al. (2005) (as translated by David Wilson) states that Paul Zohrab (b. ca. 1740?; d. ca. 1805?) was already in Constantinople (Istanbul) in 1761. That may explain why some members of the Zohrab family who were living in Sistan Province, in South-east Persia, exited Persia at its North-west corner, rather than crossing the nearest border, to the South-east. If they already had a family member in Turkey, it would have made sense to join up with him. Donoghue (2004) (page 297) also states that the father of Sophie Zohrab (and therefore also of her brothers, Constantine and Peter Paul John) was not Constantine (as stated on the family tree up to 2012) but Paul Zohrab, second dragoman (and later first dragoman) at the Danish embassy at Constantinople/Istanbul. However, there could have been confusion about who was who, because it seems to have been common for family members to be known by their middle names, rather than by their Christian names. Donoghue (2004) also states that Thomas Thornton had described Paul, in a letter to Sir Robert Liston, as "in the service of His Danish Majesty" in Constantinople. Michael Gelting, of the Danish State Archives, also stated in an email dated 18 June 2015, that a "Paul Zohrab was Danish consul in Arta-Saloniki in the mid-eighteenth century".
David Wilson prefers to think that the Zohrabs went to Turkey prior to 1761, and that the story about Aga Mohammed Khan is untrue. This explanation is likely to have more appeal for outsiders than for family members, who have grown up with this story. Nevertheless, it is possible that the Zohrabs were economic migrants who found it useful to create a story about their departure from Iran which made it more likely that they would be well-treated. Moreover, this hypothesis of a made-up story fits in with the story of the Zohrab family having refused the Persian throne in ancient times, which does seem to rest on flimsy evidence! However, there are considerations which support the theory that the Zohrab family in Persia had aristocratic status, or was at least very wealthy:
Which members of the family left Persia for Turkey?
According to Judge Edgar Zorab, it was two brothers who fled from Persia to Turkey (This does not exclude the possibility of a sister being with them, as women were typically not mentioned in the early part of the family tree), and the family has generally believed that those two brothers were Peter Paul John and his brother Constantine. Donoghue (2004) states that it was Paul and his three children (Constantine, Sophie and Peter) who made the journey; Peter Douglas Zohrab emailed him about that but received no reply. In addition, Peter Thomas Henry Zohrab's booklet about the family also says that it was the father of Peter Paul John and Constantine who escaped from Persia, together with one brother, who did not have any children (the late Kelvin Pollock, genealogist, also prefered this version of events). This childless brother could well have been the celibate priest, Johannes Zohrab. That booklet does not state whether the wife and children fled Persia or whether the marriage and births took place afterwards, in Turkey.
If the two brothers who fled Persia for Turkey were Constantine and Peter Paul John (together with their sister, Sophie), that is compatible with their father, Paul (if their father really was Paul), being already in Constantinople and with the reason for their leaving Persia being a massacre by the Shah. However, if it was their father, Paul, and his brother Johannes who fled Persia, that must have been before the reign of the Shah in question. We can reconcile the massacre story with the presence of Paul in Constantinople in 1761, if we assume that Paul and Johannes left Persia first, and were not followed by their children until the massacre occurred. In that case, Paul might have left his wife and some/all of his children in Persia, and the above three children must have been adults when they joined him in Turkey. We do know that Peter Paul John later left his wife and children on Malta and went to live back in Turkey, so that scenario is not unlikely. Moreover, Armenians were already spread widely across the World at that time, since historical Armenia has been under foreign rule for much of its history (and much of it still is). For example, a review of Vahé Baladouni, Margaret Makepeace (1998) at http://www2.h-net.msu.edu/reviews/showpdf.php?id=5241 states that "Silk became the lifeblood of a flourishing commerce, with New Julfa the axis in a profitable overland and maritime network traversing Europe, the Levant, the Middle East, Central Asia, India and the East Indies."
One possibility is that some of the following theory (my theory) is true:
The page http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/denmark states that:
"In 1687 a ship belonging to the Danish East Asian Company (Det Østasiatisk Kompagni) seized a Bengali ship and brought it into the port of Trankebar, a Danish colony on the southeastern coast of India. The merchandise belonged to Armenians from Jolfa at Isfahan in Persia. The Danes sent the ship with its cargo to Copenhagen, where four years later a Persian ambassador arrived to negotiate compensation for the merchandise. On 11 December 1691 he presented to King Christian V (1670-99) his credentials and a letter from the Safavid shah Solayman (1077-1105/1666-94) addressed to a former king, Christian III (1534-59); it included a comprehensive inventory of the disputed merchandise and the names of the Armenian merchants (partially published in Boisen, 1965, p. 66)."
So (for example) Marcar and his father could have been held captive by the Danes in India and/or Denmark, and Marcar could have met Katherine in that way. Alternatively, Marcar could have been the Persian Envoy (or a member of his staff) on the trip to Denmark. Boisen (1965, p. 62) states that the Persian Envoy had a retinue of 7 persons.
The "comprehensive inventory of the disputed merchandise and the names of the Armenian merchants" referred to above has also been published in Vahman (1998). The names of the merchants and their clients are as follows (NB these are English transliterations of Armenian/Persian names written in Persian, so you may have seen these names with somewhat different spellings in other contexts! Most of the spellings of names in brackets are alternatives given in the letter to the King of Denmark (The actual inventory is a separate document). Suggested alternative spellings have been added in italics and within brackets:
Uhan (Johanes), son of Biqus (merchant), and Uvanis (client); (Hohannes)
Grigur (Gregor), son of Markus (Marcus) (merchant) and Kasbir (Casper) (client);
Khajik, son of Uvanis (merchant) and Vasil, son of Manas (client); (Hohannes) (Basil) (Minas)
Arabid, son of Ya'qub and Fukar, son of Bidrus and Makirdij (client); (Mackertich)
Uvanis (Ovanes), son of Musis (merchant); (Hohannes)
Siqmun (Simon) (merchant);
Ya'qubkhan (Jacob), son of Zadur (merchant) and Zadur, son of Biqus (client);
Avid, son of Zadur (merchant) and Zakarya (client);
Zakarya, son of Rapul (merchant) and Uvanis Kallah Gush and Sultan Kal (client); (Hohannes)
Agha Piri, son of Uvdik (merchant) and Grigur, son of Mirkiz (Markus) (client); (Avetik)
Sarkiz (Sarkis) (merchant);
Grigur (Gregor), son of Khachidur (merchant). (Cachatur)
The Zohrab family connection with Denmark may have involved neither marriage nor this particular incident at sea, of course. Setting aside the marriage question, however, which of the names listed above corresponds to someone in the right part of the family tree at about the right date?
My best guess is Simon (Siqmun), who could have been the youngest son of the "original Zohrab". That would fit well with the fact that his grandson, Kevork (George) Manukian Manuchariants, lived in British India for a while and ended up as a wealthy merchant in the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia), and with the fact that all of Kevork's family were born in New Julfa and ended up in South or South-East Asia.
Johannes (Hoohannes) Zohrab, author of the "Zohrab Bible", was an archimandrite (celibate priest) of the brotherhood of the Roman Catholic Mekhitarians of St. Lazarus of Venice. Born in Constantinople in 1756, he became a priest in 1779. He was an Armenologist. In 1817 he left the brotherhood and died in Paris in 1829.
I have been told that he was part of the defence team of the French Jew Dreyfus. This is supported by the Google translation of the Turkish Wikipedia page on Krikor Zohrab: http://translate.google.co.nz/translate?u=http%3A%2F%2Ftr.wikipedia.org%2Fwiki%2FKrikor_Zohrab&sl=tr&tl=en&hl=en&ie=UTF-8
His grandfather, Sargis Zohrabyan, apparently moved to Istanbul/Constantinople from Akn (west of Lake Van) in 1779-92. Since he moved from East to West at about the same time (1795) that other Zohrabs were doing that (see above), since Krikor Zohrab was apparently a Catholic, like the ancestors of the New Zealand Zohrabs, and since Zohrab is a first name of Persian, rather than of Turkish or strictly Armenian origin, it is highly likely that he was also part of the Zohrab family that had been living in Persia. In fact, Peter Douglas Zohrab has a transcript of a letter to Dr. John Zorab from Krikor's daughter, Dolores Zohrab Liebmann, who married Henry Liebmann, a New York Jewish brewery owner, in which she states that Krikor had told her that his ancestors had come to Turkey from Persia.
The Krikor and Clara Zohrab Information Center in New York was set up by his daughter and named after him and his wife. See http://www.zohrabcenter.org/ .
(In 2010, Peter Douglas Zohrab entered into extensive email correspondence with Haig Krikorian (firstname.lastname@example.org), who said he was a descendant of Krikor Zohrab's brother, via his (Haig's) mother. Haig said he would attempt to get his cousins, who were descended from Krikor's brother through the male line, to take a Y-DNA test to see if the two Zohrab families were indeed one and the same. Haig kept promising but never delivered or explained his non-delivery, unfortunately.)
As far as is known, it is accurate to divide the known part of the Zohrab branch of the wider Zohrab family as follows: