Reuniting in diaspora: DNA is bringing my Armenian family back together

Reuniting in diaspora: DNA is bringing my Armenian family back together

Story | Olivia Deloian

Olivia’s Great-Great-Great Grandmother Soultan Kalajian Bogosian. Photo provided by the Deloian Family.

I had always known that I was Armenian. Even when teachers would capitalize the ‘L’ in Deloian. Even when others had a hard time pronouncing my last name. Even when some would say, “That’s French right?” I would always be quick to reply, “No, it’s Armenian.”

I am very proud of my last name and where it came from. My Dad often told my brothers and I of the Armenian Genocide and how it was one of the first to ever occur and how most people are unaware of its occurrence or perpetrator. But what I did not know was the details of my family’s history; Who was the first to come here? And where are my other relatives now? 

In 2018, my boyfriend’s Dad bought me an Ancestry DNA test after joking that I couldn’t be Armenian because of my fair complexion and light eyes. A few months later, I received a message from Diana Korsog, whose maiden name is Bogosian, and was ecstatic to find out that our DNA matched. Diana was my cousin. I had asked my Dad if he recognized the name and he said that Bogosian was his Great Grandma’s maiden name. 

Eventually, I discovered that her first name was Kaskatoon, born in Kharpert, Armenia—now Harput, Turkey. My Great-great Grandmother is one of my family members who came to the United States fleeing the genocide.

I did not have any intention to find Armenian family, but I did! To realize that I have family I was unaware of was a confirmation of survival—something all Armenians know as a part of our identity following the genocide. And it certainly reaffirmed that this strength is a part of mine.

Olivia’s Great Grandpa Sam Deloian, pictured with unknown. Photo provided by Diana Korsog.

Although I have not been able to meet Diana in person yet, I’ve been thankful to get to know her and her beautiful family over the last few years. In return, I’ve learned more about my family.

She later sent me old family pictures where I spotted my Great Grandpa Sam Deloian.

“When I was young my family moved out of the Chicago area for my Dad’s work,” Korsog said. “This meant leaving behind all of my Armenian relatives who could have passed down our history and experiences. So to be honest the first thing I look for [within my DNA matches] is whether we match on my Armenian side.”

In July, I was scrolling through my DNA matches when I noticed another cousin with an Armenian last name—Christine Kalajian Shooshan. I decided to message Christine on Facebook, and she accepted the message from me. Another cousin I’m connected with. And another link to my family’s history.

I asked my Dad and Aunt, “Do you remember having any family members with the last name Kalajian?” They said they did not, but my Aunt suggested I log onto her Ancestry account and do some digging.

Sure enough at the very top of our tree, I noticed the same last name with my Great-Great-Great Grandma; Soultan Kalajian, her married name Bogosian. So not only did I find a new relative for me, but for Diana as well. She was Kaskatoon’s Mom, and they had both made it to America together. I had never seen her before and was so happy to learn that another one of my ancestors made it here safely. 

“It has been so thrilling to talk with these new relatives and find similarities in appearance and familial traits. They are the kindest, sweetest people,” Christine said. “For many people the DNA process can be life changing. It brings forth knowledge in our health history, familial connections and a line of connectivity with our ancestors, many of which were spread far and wide.”

After finding this, Diana sent me more pictures where we see her Great Grandparents, Kayojan and Martha Bogosian, standing in front of the same house my Great Grandma stood in front of the picture I found on Ancestry. It’s comforting to know our family was together before this, after all.

Kayojan and Martha Bogosian, Diana’s Great Grandparents. Photo provided by the Korsog Family.

“As a child you never think to ask the questions of your relatives that you wish you could later in life,” Diana said. “The beautiful thing about Ancestry and finding relatives is that you’re given a second chance to figure out your family puzzle.”

I’m sure there are family members I will never know because of the attempted ethnic cleansing my ancestors faced those many years ago.

But as my new-found cousin Christine said it best,“The Genocide took away not just fathers, brothers, children; but it tore apart the connectivity many families shared with their extended families. I pray Ancestry DNA connections bring part of what we lost back to us all.”

My experience with Ancestry has been nothing short of amazing. There are more Armenians in diaspora than Armenia today, and many are still displaced as a result of the Genocide. To know that despite all of that, there is still a way to find each other, and as a result find myself, after all of these years is extremely comforting.

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