Thursday, December 31, 2009

What’s in a name?

One of the aims of my travels in 2010 is to discover the history of HASKI, my family name. Thankfully the name Haski is not like Smith or Jones so through the wonders of modern technology (ie Facebook) I have been able to connect with many Haskis around the world – From Argentina and Israel, France and Turkey.

My curiosity with the Haski name actually began several years ago when, reading the Sydney Morning Herald one day, we noticed the by line of Pierre Haski, a French journalist, on an article about French nuclear testing in the South Pacific. My father promptly sent a fax off to the newspaper he worked for in Paris (this was way before email) and we heard… nothing.

Nothing that is until over 10 years later when, one afternoon, I received a phone call from the aforementioned Pierre on my mobile! He was in Sydney for a few days, remembered the fax he had received over a decade ago and looked us up in the phone book!! I was so excited! We met for a drink that night.

Pierre and I still aren’t sure if we are related but he told me a great story about a group of young wives left in Cairo in the 1940s as their husbands prepared the way for their emigration to America. When he was introduced as a Haski these women, now grandmothers, were very solicitous and explained that in Cairo they were looked after by a Monsieur Haski and they had very fond memories of him… was he related? Pierre didn’t know; his family was from Tunisia. Could this Monsieur Haski, in Cairo, have been my grandfather or great grandfather? It’s a tantalizing thought!

My great grandfather, Aslan Isaac Haski, was born about 1845, possibly in Turkey (I recently received some anecdotal evidence that he may have come from Izmir). In the only photograph I have of him he stands proudly in an elaborate army uniform, complete with Fez, sword and handlebar moustache.

According to the Australian War Memorial…
“The Sword appears to be a British Officers Sword pattern 1827 (circa 1846-1890) and not an Ottoman or German one. This would strongly indicate that the image was not taken in the Ottoman Empire but in British controlled Egypt in the late 19th Century. †The ranks on his epaulettes (shoulders) appear to be British style Officer pips which reinforces the previous entry re. British sword and Egypt. These swords as replaced by later models were often passed onto British allies/auxiliaries in Colonial forces all around the world, Middle East/India in particular.

The uniform worn is very similar to uniforms worn by Egyptian/Arab auxiliaries in the British Army during the late 19th century - this would include local doctors, engineers and other highly trained personnel to support the British Army in garrison and their Egyptian Army allies. We could not read or have a good look at the buttons on his tunic front, which could likely have heraldic emblems to assist us with identifying his uniform. You mention that he was a doctor, from what he is wearing, the Officers sword he is holding and the special status that many highly educated/qualified Jews were held within the Middle East (in particular as you mention, within the Ottoman Empire) it is very likely that he was a doctor assisting the British/Egyptians in Egypt in the late 19th century.” (Many thanks to Garth and his team at AWM)

I’m hoping to find a reference to Aslan in the National Archives in Kew when I travel the London. If there are records pertaining to Auxilliary forces I might get some idea of where he came from.

On another tac I hope to find out if my grandfather, Jacques Haski (B Cairo 1902), had a brother who went to South America. To this end I have made contact with Ariel Haski, who lives in Buenos Aries, Argentina. Ariel bears an uncanny resemblance to my father at the same age (early 20s). Could his grandfather be my great uncle??? Well, we’re still not sure but I’m hoping we will find a connection in time.

Many of the Haskis in Israel trace their ancestry to Aleppo, in modern day Syria, once one of the oldest and largest Jewish communities in the area. Aleppo was home to the Chasky family, a line of pious rabbis, some of who immigrated to Jerusalem in the 19th century. One is reputed to have gone to Cairo.

Or could the name be derived from the name of the Istanbul suburb of Hasköy on the south facing slopes of the Golden Horn? When the Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492 Sultan Mehmet II ("the Conqueror," 1451-1481) encouraged immigration and Jewish communities were invited to take up residence at Hasköy. When surnames started to be used many families took their name from their village.

Following the lead I received recently about Izmir I have added it to my itinerary. Here I hope to meet another Haski – 17 year old Sergen. Sergen has thrown up another interesting mystery relating to the family name.

The vast majority of Haskis I have found to date are Jewish… Sergen is Muslim. He lives a couple of hours out of Izmir (Curiously there are also a couple of Haskis on the terrorist watch list [they’re actually El Haski – Moroccan nationals], which will make traveling potentially interesting! At least one of them is in Jail in Brussels! How would they feel if they discovered their namesakes are Jewish?)

There also appear to be other Haski connections with records in the Ellis Island database showing immigrants with disparate ethnicities entering the US with the surname Haski: women like Jamesina who states her ethnicity as English, Anne who is Finnish and my favourite, Satife, an 18 year old 'actress' from Turkey who was last resident in Alexandria but boarded her ship to America in Genoa!

So… what does all this mean? As someone with an unusual surname I’ve often been asked “where is it from?” or “what does it mean?” I’d like to know the answer to these questions myself. With relatively few Haskis around the world I like the idea that there may be ancestral connections between us somehow… and even if there isn’t we still share a name, which is enough in and of itself!

I look forward to meeting as many Haskis as I can as I travel through Europe and the Middle east next year. Happy New Year everyone… whatever your name is!!

1 comment:

  1. Great job Dani,
    an excellent introduction to the world Haski Tour 2010. Hope to see you in Paris, there are plenty of Haskis to meet!
    Till then, happy new year!