In 1923 Greek Orthodox Christian citizens were expelled from Asia Minor, the failed Ottoman Empire, as it became the new nation of Turkey. Our four grandparents who immigrated to the United States from Turkey, were covert about their Asia Minor identity in their adopted US communities. They instead simply passed as Greek immigrants, although they had never lived in Greece and had never stepped foot in that country. In transmitting family history to their children, they both omitted details of this past and simply did not have records and documentation that could elucidate the history of preceding generations. Consequently, as second-generation descendants, our understanding of the Ottoman cultural heritage has been missing, distorted and obscured.
The early efforts of this project included visiting Turkey and seeking evidence of our family there. In the current political climate, however, seeking assistance in Turkey is not advisable since under Article 301 in the Turkish Penal Code, public discussion that “insults Turkishness” would be vulnerable to prosecution under this law. Thus, soliciting assistance from Turkish citizens with census and other official records, identifying descendants’ homes, cemeteries or any other tangible evidence that attests to persecution by the Turkish government and that would be published for this research, does not seem wise at this time. For this reason, we have chosen to focus on family stories, historical accounts and genetic testing. Also, we are hoping to elicit family stories from other US descendants of this diaspora that will enrich our understanding of how Greek Orthodox Ottoman citizens assimilated in the United States.
Are there aspects of our family origins and our Ottoman Asia Minor heritage that may be validated by triangulation of “data” from
• Our family stories
• Historical accounts
• Genetic tests results from family members
• Family stories of other descendants of the Greek Orthodox Asia Minor diaspora in the United States