Armenian Orthodox Church in the United States

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History in the United States[edit | edit source]

Holy Trinity Apostolic Armenian Church
Fresno, California

The pioneers of Armenian immigration to the United States were young high school graduates who, beginning in 1834, arrived in small numbers in search of higher education at American universities.

Larger groups began arriving in the 1880s and 1890s to escape Ottoman Turkish oppression, especially the massacres of 1895-96. The influx of Armenian immigrants to the New World reached its peak in the aftermath of the 1915 Armenian Genocide when large numbers of Armenians living in Turkey were systematically persecuted, deported, and exterminated by the Ottoman regime.

Beginning in the 1950s and continuing through the 1980s, another wave of Armenian immigrants—originating from such countries as Lebanon, Iran, and Iraq—came to America, a result of the rising political unrest in the Middle East. Immigration from Armenia itself was rare during that country’s period under Soviet domination, but this trend reversed in the wake of the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the establishment of a free and independent Republic of Armenia.

The first Armenian Church was built in Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1891. The first Armenian clergyman had arrived earlier, in response to a petition by 300 Armenian residents of the city. By 1897, as the number of Armenian immigrants grew, there were six clergymen serving the Armenian Church in America. With the exception of Worcester, services were held in non-Armenian sanctuaries, notably Episcopalian churches. The Armenian Church of America was established officially by Catholicos Mkrtich Khrimian in 1898.


The Armenian Apostolic Church currently has two Sees:

  • The Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin is the spiritual and administrative headquarters of the worldwide Armenian Church, the center of the faith of the Armenian nation – the Mother Cathedral of the Armenian Church, and the Pontifical residence of Karekin II. In the United States, there are two eparchies (dioceses):

The division of the two Catholicosates stemmed from frequent relocations of Church headquarters due to political and military upheavals. The division between the two sees intensified during the Soviet period and to some extent reflected the politics of the Cold War. The separation has become entrenched in the United States, with most large Armenian communities having two parish churches, one answering to each See, even though they are theologically indistinguishable. There have been numerous lay and clergy efforts at reunion, especially since the fall of the Soviet Union.

The Armenian Apostolic Church is distinct from the Armenian Catholic Church, the latter being a sui juris Eastern Catholic Church, part of the Catholic Church. When in the 1740s, Abraham-Pierre I Ardzivian, who had earlier become a Catholic, was elected as the patriarch of Sis, he led part of the Armenian Apostolic Church into full communion with the Pope and the Armenian Catholic Church was created. Presently, around 1.5 million Armenians live in North America, of which 35,000 belong to the Armenian Catholic Church.

There are also Armenian protestant churches, organized under the Armenian Evangelical Union of North America (AEUNA). Source: Wikipedia

Finding the Records[edit | edit source]

Records on Microfilm[edit | edit source]

Correspond with or visit the actual churches.[edit | edit source]

Some records are still held in the local churches. Contact the current minister to find out what records are still available.

  • See the Letter Writing Guide for Genealogy for help with composing letters.
  • Make an appointment to look at the records. Or ask the minister of the church to make a copy of the record for you.
  • Frequently, parish staff no longer read Armenian. Generally, the staff are not set up for genealogical services. A personal visit to study the records would be more successful, or hiring a researcher.
  • To find church staff available, you might have to visit on Sunday.
  • Ask for small searches at a time, such as one birth record or a specific marriage. Never ask for "everything on a family or surname".
  • A donation ($25-$40) for their time and effort to help you would be appropriate.
  • If the church has a website, you may be able to e-mail a message.


Facebook Help[edit | edit source]

Writing to Church Headquarters[edit | edit source]

Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church
630 Second Avenue
New York, NY 10016

Phone: 212.686.0710

Eastern Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church
138 East 39th St.
New York, NY 10016

Tel: (212) 689-7810
Fax: (212) 689-7168

Western Diocese of the Armenian Church
3325 N. Glenoaks Blvd.
Burbank, CA 91504

Telephone: (818) 558-7474
Fax: (818) 558-6333

Western Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church
6252 Honolulu Ave.
La Crescenta, CA 91214

Tel: (818) 248-7737
Fax: (818) 248-7745

Information in the Records[edit | edit source]

The quality and completeness of records is not uniform and even the information contained will vary from church to church and even during different time periods for the same church depending on the diligence of the priest. In a best case scenario, you could find:
Baptism records:

  • the name of child
  • date and place of birth
  • date of baptism
  • the name of parents and their birthplace (might say only Armenia)
  • maiden name of the mother
  • the name of the godfather
  • name of officiating priest

Marriage records:

  • the name of the groom, his age, birthplace, occupation, marital status (single or widowed), and name of his parents
  • the same information for the bride
  • date of marriage
  • godfather
  • officiating priest
  • Sometimes the current address of the bride and groom are also included.

Funeral records: (most diverse)

  • the person's name, age, birthplace, date of death, date of funeral, cause of death, address, officiating priest and cemetery. In the best case scenario, sometimes the names of the parents are given and sometimes the name of the next of kin is given.

Church census:
Beyond the sacraments, occasionally you will find very valuable census records from the churches.
Source: Courtesy of George Aghjayan, Facebook message, 30 May 2020.

Reading the Records[edit | edit source]

Carefully compare any record you find to known facts about the ancestor[edit | edit source]

You will possibly find many different people with the same name as your ancestor, especially when a family stayed in a locality for several generations, and several children were named after the grandparents or aunts and uncles. Be prepared to find the correct church records by gathering in advance as many of these exact details about the ancestor as possible:

  • name, including middle name and maiden name
  • names of all spouses, including middle and maiden name
  • exact or closely estimated dates of birth, marriage, and death
  • names and approximate birthdates of children
  • all known places of residence
  • occupations
  • military service details

Dark thin font green pin Version 4.pngCarefully evaluate the church records you find to make sure you have really found records for your ancestor and not just a "near match". If one or more of the details do not line up, be careful about accepting the entry as your ancestor. There are guiding principles for deciding how to resolve discrepancies between records that are seemingly close. For more instruction in evaluating evidence, read the Wiki article, Evaluate the Evidence.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. "The Armenian Church of America", The Armenian Church Eastern Diocese of America,, accessed May 19, 2020.