The Corvallis Gasette
Wednesday, April 21, 2004
Remember, recall and pass on family history
By ROBERT CLARK
I enjoy genealogy and have worked with my parents and in-laws to assemble
information about my children’s family tree. I always felt it was important
that future generations hear and understand our family history. Little did I
know how true this would be.
One day I noticed gaps in my mother’s family tree. Since she was of Armenian
descent, I assumed poor recordkeeping was to blame. Then about 10 years ago,
I learned of a genocide directed at the Armenian people by the Turks during
the late 1800s and World War I. The reason for the hole in my family tree
dawned on me: Some of them never made it out.
Two years ago, I attended a lecture by Richard Hovannisian during Oregon
State University’s “Holocaust Memorial Week.” During the question-and-answer
session, I asked why family members – who must have seen these killings –
did not speak of it. His response was that other family members remained in
Armenia, and they feared reprisals for speaking out. This fear remained
strong 40, 50 even 60 years after they left Armenia. An Armenian woman in
the audience stood up and echoed those sentiments. Fear bred silence, and
silence shrouded our family’s past in mystery.
That brings us to 2004. My mother sadly passed away in May of 2003 and with
her, a chance to hear more of what her father had seen and done. Only three
children of the witnesses are alive in my family, and all are in poor
health. Through my uncle (the youngest of the remaining) I found a direct
link to the killings in 1895.
My grandfather lived on a farm near Mount Ararat and saw things firsthand.
He decided to immigrate to the United States with his immediate family,
traveling at night to board a ship bound for Ellis Island. From what I can
tell, my grandfather mentioned what he saw only once before his untimely
passing in 1944.
I have two purposes for writing this. First is to encourage the reader to
use every opportunity to learn about your heritage, no matter what you might
find out. Ask question, take notes, read letters, look at photo albums, ask
more questions. Future generations need to know this history, and when the
firsthand sources are gone, they’re gone. I regret not making a more
concerted attempt to talk with my mother. Don’t let fear stop this worthy
Second, April 24 has been marked as Armenian Remembrance Day. Please take a
few moments to remember those killed during the first genocide of the 20th
century, the prototype for the Jewish holocaust. Though my family was
impacted 20 years earlier, during the first Armenian “cleansing” in 1895,
those killings set the stage for events in 1915.
Do not let fear and silence be your family’s hallmark. Tell your history.
Remember, and then act.
Robert Clark of Corvallis owns Dixon Creek Software.
From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress