Turks investigate heritage after state release of family trees

A Turkish government website displaying official data on individuals’ family trees has led to a rush of interest in family heritage, Islamist newspaper Yeni Şafak said.

Since the website reopened on the night of Feb. 14 after crashing the e-Devlet (e-State) website when initially launched on Feb. 9, 8 million Turkish citizens, or 10 percent of the population, have requested their family data stretching back to Ottoman records in the early-to-mid-nineteenth century, the newspaper said.

Those whose ancestors hailed from former Ottoman territories in Europe have also been researching the possibilities of dual citizenship, opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet said.

In particular, it said, those with Bulgarian, Romanian, or Greek heritage could have the opportunity to obtain a European Union passport, making travel within the bloc much easier.

Others have been cross-referencing their ancestry with another government website, which lists the names of Turkish soldiers killed in battle throughout the ages – leading the Defence Ministry website to crash as well.

As surnames were only introduced in Turkey in 1934, it has been difficult for amateur genealogists to discover information about their ancestors without knowing their official details.