Part of the purpose of this website is to provide the tools and networking ability of Levantine descendants to help build a picture of their ancestors. In addition to our community, this website is open to the broader public and the postings and submissions you can do on the website can act as a way to connect with cousins and also get the informed help of those who have done this journey before and advice from genealogists and historians.
We encourage you to post what you know, indicating the degree of confidence in the material by showing sources, being clear as to what is conjecture and opening questions on what you do not know, or merely suspect.
Unfortunately our studies and scope is limited to the Levantines, however we are aware of other developing groups representing other communities of the Levant and happy to point you in their direction as we feel these fragile histories deserve to preserved and together we can celebrate the struggles and achivements of these multi-national origin communities who clearly loved the lands of the former Ottoman Empire, enough to spend the rest of their days there.
My name is Elise and I recently came across the Levantine Heritage Foundation website while researching the communities of Istanbul. I am trying to track down my father’s family. My father was born in Yesilkoy/Istanbul around 1930 to a French Levantine father and a Turkish mother. He deserted the army, made his way to the U.S. after being deported and escaping (twice!), lived the rest of his life in Chicago where had my identical twin sister and I in 1970 and died in 2010. He never kept in contact with his family for reasons I am unsure of. His father died when he was just 12. His name was Pierre Ferry. My father said he fell down an elevator shaft in the bank of Istanbul (?). Must have been the early 40s. Suspicious indeed, especially considering the taxes levied against ‘foreigners’ at the time. My father was sent to live in an orphanage/monastery after my grandfather’s death.
I write to you to ask for help, and to offer. I understand that there are grad students who can assist with research. I have a Ph.D. in sociology and can help as well in any way, with my own research or for the Levantine Heritage Foundation.
Below is an excerpt from text from a link about the settlers of the Ferikoy district in Istanbul. I have very good reason to believe that my father was Pierre Ferry III, great-grandson of the original (from what he told us, and papers I found when he died. He changed his name upon arriving in the U.S.). I translated the French (through Google) into English and Turkish. The English is below. I’ve added comments in English [in square brackets].
“This is a family of Levantine French who gave his name to the district of Feriköy: the Ferry. We find their traces in the late eighteenth century on the island of Tinos, which belonged to the Ottoman Empire and was the only Catholic island in the Aegean. When the island became independent at the same time as Greece, the family settled in Galata [where my Baba was sent to live, St Benoit? Monestary and orphanage :-( ] where Ferry to prosper in business quickly. The head of the family, Pierre Ferry [My father’s father was Pierre Ferry II. My grandfather. He died in an elevator accident [?suicide?] at the Bank of Istanbul] bought a second home in San Stefano [(Yeşilköy) [where my Baba went to elementary school] and a hunting ground near Pera, who will become the headquarters Ferry (Feriköy). He built a pavilion at the site of the present Catholic cemetery [I may have family buried here].
Some of this family left Turkey in the 40s, following the wealth tax (Varlık Vergisi), which ruined the Turkish economy along with most traders minority [this is when my grandfather died. My father was sent to live in a monastery from age 12-18 before the army b/c his father’s family disowned my grandmother b/c she wasn’t French I’m guessing]. However, there are still some Ferry in Istanbul today [!], after over 200 years of presence in the city of cities.”
Two years ago I visited Bornova (formerly called Bournabat) to see where my grandparents and mother had lived between 1921 and 1934. Despite having the old address of my mother’s rented house, I couldn’t find it because the street names had been changed, replaced by numbers.
It is proving a challenge to identify the old street names. The numbering of streets in the 1930s, several previous names for streets, and a lack of older maps all add to the difficulty.
Thanks to a grant from Cornucopia magazine, I am now on a quest to discover the old street names. In addition, I have support from the Levantine Heritage Foundation, Craig Encer in particular, several local historians, museum curators and other interested people in Bornova. With their aid I plan to produce a map of the area that shows the historic names.
One source that has helped me is my grandmother’s address book, which gives a few old addresses with street names for family members and friends resident in the area in the early 1900s. I am therefore making an appeal to anyone whose family lived in Bornova during this period, to see whether they have any address books, and whether they would be able to share some of the old names and addresses with me. If so, please contact me: