The Three Zaruhy’s

“The wife relinquishes her identity and assumes her husbands identity” – Hampartzoum Chitjian

(following tradition, The girl belongs to the husbands family – H.C.)

Due to this custom, very little was known about who these Zaruhy’s were. Hampartzoum did not even know much about his own mother or her family. Sara Chitjian being named Zaruhy, then made the connection that in each generation there was a Zaruhy and it would become her focus as to trace back who these people were that she was named after and how they fit into the picture of the family story.

Looking into The Past

Several years later when Hampartzoum tackled the task of dictating his memoirs, his only

single reference about his paternal grandmother was that she had four brothers: Ohan, Abraham, Kaspar, and Marsoub Mishmeeshian. They were well-educated and built a two-storey complex that provided each brother with a private house. Two of the brothers were teachers and two brothers were cobblers, making new shoes as well as repairing old shoes. Once a year, Hampartzoum’s whole family made a visit to their shop for a new pair of shoes!

In addition, Hampartzoum remembered sporadic casual family social visits as well as rare festive visits with the Mishmeeshians. The four uncles had a special place in Hampartzoum’s memory.

The Mishmeeshian name appeared in several letters as the four Chitjian brothers corresponded with one another from 1914-1922.23 Unfortunately, even in the letters no mention was made about the Grandmother.
Several years later as we dwelled on this “unknown” name, we inadvertently unlocked several other relationships:24

Juharr Chitjian (Toros’s sister) married a Mishmeeshian.
Subsequently, she named her eldest daughter Zaruhy.
Thus, this Zaruhy is half Chitjian [mother] and half Mishmeeshian [father].
Upon marrying a Mishmeeshian25, this Zaruhy became a Mishmeeshian twice over. Her paternal name was Mishmeeshian and her husband was a Mishmeeshian. Thus, this

22 Previously, Howard had created an impressive and extensive “family tree” covering several generations. This was the only name he did not have!
23 Two brothers (Mihran and Bedros) were in Chicago and three brothers (the twins and Kerop) were in Turkey.
24 We first had to trace Juharr’s role/relationship within the family.

25 Kevork was Ohan Mishmeeshian’s son, which would make him her cousin

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Zaruhy [Juharr’s daughter] was Zaruhy Mishmeeshian [father’s name] Mishmeeshian [husband’s name].

Mardiros (Toros’s only son) named his eldest daughter Zaruhy (Toros’s granddaughter).

Hampartzoum (Mardiros’s son) named his daughter Zaruhy (Toros’s great granddaughter).

Assuming the families adhered to Armenian traditions, and all that we know about Toros and Mardiros suggest that they did strongly hold to their family traditions thus, we could deduce that Toros’ wife was named Zaruhy.

Clues we discovered along the way:

In 1919 Godmother Juharr not only knew where Hampartzoum lived, she also was tracking his moves from the time he lived with Dr. Mikhail through her older daughter Zaruhy. Zaruhy was keeping track of Hampartzoum as he sacrificed his own life protecting his brother Kerop.26 In 1919 unidentified relatives brought Rahan, a barely thirteen or fourteen year old who had been cruelly raped, for Hampartzoum’s care in Sako Mahlasee and change of atmosphere. When she was better, again these same friends or relatives came to pick up Rahan to take her back. And finally, when Hampartzoum was on the road to escape, again Rahan, out of the blue, reappeared. For his “safe keeping” she plucked a few strands of hair from his head and disappeared without a word. Thus, both Zaruhy Mishmeeshian and Rahan must have been Juharr’s daughters. 27

Zaruhy’s date of birth nor her date of death are specifically known. We can only surmise from the information from Hampartzoum’s memoirs and the collection of letters.

26 From town to town, Hampartzoum would take whatever food he earned to the various orphanages where he had put Kerop. In many of the orphanages, Zaruhy was one of the mayrigs. He would find bread to give to her to share with the young orphans.
27 Juharr’s name also shed clues when Mardiros went to Mezreh whenever he needed to purchase red dye for his work. Upon returning home, he would remark on their style of living, such as individual utensils and plates for each person at the table.

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Did Toros’ wife die or was she killed in a mericiless manner that her memory was too hard to bring to mind? Considering the strength of memory that the six brothers had, not one was able to bring her to memory. Did she die in Ismiel and thus shortly after, the family moved to Perri? Or did the family move to Perri so that she could be closer to her four brothers: Orhan, Marsoub, Abraham, and Kaspar.

Since her memory had faded away or was consciously not brought to mind, her memory was recalled neither in Hampartzoum’s memoirs nor the letters. However, the Mishmeeshian uncles were mentioned in the correspondence between the brothers as evidenced in the letters. While constructing the family tree, three successive generations bore her name.28 In the late 1980s, Howard Chitjian (Bedros’ son) was working on an extensive family tree covering more than seven generations. When he started this work, we do not know. Since his father, Bedros, was the oldest survivor, he could have helped Howard compile the information. One day in the 1980s, Howard made a visit to Hampartzoum to ask if he remembered his grandmother’s name (Toros’ wife). At this time, Hampartzoum was the only survivor of the five Chitjian brothers. Surprisingly with Hampartzoum’s acute memory, he too did not remember her name! Thus, Hampartzoum’s memoirs was published without her name.

However, fifteen years of laborious scrutinizing Hampartzoum’s memoirs, including 300 letters, six audio tapes, various papers explaining his feelings, finally enough clues surfaced that the puzzle was solved! Thus, Zaruhy Sara Chitjian at the age of 80, was finally able to trace for whom she was named.

Zaruhy Mishmishian