The story of a community
I am American by birth and residence (probably not so much in spirit) based in Philadelphia. Tubini is in fact my middle name, and was the maiden name of my grandmother (Antoinette Tubini Miner). My father gave me the surname in her honour, and it probably contributed to my historical and genealogical obsessions, having to constantly explain it.
My father spent his teenage years in Turkey, as well, and I grew up hearing him swear at the dog in Turkish and eating baklava. So I am barely 1/8 levantine by blood, but have a far closer relationship to it than that percentage would suggest.
My grandmother had 4 sisters and 2 brothers. They all grew up in Istanbul, on the campus of Robert College (Boğaziçi University) near Bebek. During WWII they all left Turkey, save one brother, who died there in the 60s. The only direct relations I have with the last name Tubini live in Australia (how’s that for diaspora?) - the children of the other brother. Other descendants of my great-grandparents are in England and the US.
Through Craig’s work to get my information up on this website, I have been contacted by Tubini relatives in Italy, France, England, and some from right around the corner from my house in Philadelphia! The thorough research work of Dr. George Bruas and Jean-Francois D’Andria (who went through all the Catholic church records in Istanbul) has provided me with a huge family tree dating back to 1750, for which I am eternally grateful! The Urmenyhazi’s, in Philadelphia, have provided a whole new set of relatives to visit with, a ton of delicious Turkish food, and great hugs and affection. I owe Craig so much for maintaining this website, for doing research himself, and for patiently harassing me to add information.
But it gets even more complicated! because the way my grandparents met was when my grandfather Miner was in Turkey, teaching at Robert College. Antoinette’s grandmother approved of him because even though he was American, he was ‘un bonne Catholique’. Later, my grandfather worked for the state department, and became the consul general in Istanbul. So my grandmother moved back to Turkey, and was living in the US Embassy, which had been once owned by her grandmother’s family - further information from the book ‘The bank, the money lenders, the money changers, the usurers and the jewellers of Pera and Beyoğlu - Behzat Üskiden’.
My grandmother, Antoinette Tubini, was one of Bernard and Jenny’s 6 children, who grew up practically touching the towers of Rumeli Hisar, in a house owned by Robert College (now Boğaziçi University).
My grandfather, an American, came to teach [political science?] at Robert college in 1930 and was introduced to Bernard’s daughters by Bernard, whose mother approved because the American was ‘un bonne catholique’.
My grandparents wed in 1938 and lived in the US for a few years, until my grandfather was appointed to the US State Department. He had posts in France, Athens, and then as the consul general in Istanbul, from 1960-1963. He went to work every day in the American Consulate, the grand building once named Palazzo Corpi – which had been built by my great-great-grandmother’s family. My father spent his teenage years in Istanbul and still considers it home. In the family tradition, he spent all his time on a small sailboat, cruising around the Sea of Marmara and camping on small islands [link]. This had been a favorite pastime of the family for at least two generations. It seems from family photos that my grandmother and her siblings were practically raised on a boat [link]– and had a lot of liberties there that their very proper grandmother wouldn’t permit on shore [link].
The Tubini Family of Chios and Istanbul:
I have a notebook of my great great grandmother’s. The first page says, in fancy Victorian handwriting, “Je suis nee a Constantinople le 28 Mars 1862. Je suis Genovise et me nomme Rosalie Celestine Marie Corpi.” - hover to view - I think this sums up the richness of the Levantine experience perfectly. In records, my family is described as Italian, Greek, Genoese, English, French, Christian… and they were all and none of these. The Levantine experience reveals nationalism for the over-simplification that it is.
From my grandmother’s research, the oldest records of my family are as follows:
1500 – First Catholic register of births, marriages and deaths in the Church of St. Nicolas, Chios. Among Italians listed: TUBINI, CORPI, and relatives and friends of the Tubinis later resident in Istanbul: BRAGGIOTTI, D’ANDRIA, NOMICO, NEGREPONTE, SPERCO, VERNAZZA, VUCINO. From Sperco ‘Les Anciennes Familles Italiennes de Turquie (Istanbul - 195-)’ - [The Tubini name is mentioned in the Chios listing of this book on page 47 and in the Syra listing page 61].
1621 – Listed on the island of Syra – TUBINI, DAPOLLA, VUCINO.
1642 – Listed on Chios, a Francesco TUBINI, “medico”, presumably a doctor.
1680 - Listed on Chios: TUBINI, CORPI, CASTELLI, GLAVANI, GUISTINIANI, D’ANDRIA, RALLI. From the Abbott Giovanni Battista del Burgo, ‘Viaggio di Cinque Anni in Asia, Africa, Europa del Turco. (Milan 1680)’.
Sperco says that among other documents he saw in Chios in the fifties, he learned that the CORPI family came from the island of Corsica, the TUBINIS from Genoa. He makes no mention of listings for any Genoese there after 1680, but it is known that many stayed on until the Greek War of Independence in 1822. It is therefore possible that there were no documents of later date available to him.
In Italy, documents concerning the family can be found in the Heraldic Archives of Antonio Vallardi of Milan, with reference to records No. 242/11684, vo. 1184. Also, at the Bibliotheca Civica Berio in Genoa, a volume entitled Libro d’Oro lists the early Genoese families of that town. In addition, in the Genoa Campo Bianco Cemetery are numerous early burial vaults and gravestones of various members of the Tubini family.
The Tubinis seem to have stayed on Chios through the 17th- and 18th- centuries; Several Tubinis were born on Chios between 1707 and 1727(refer to the submission by Alex Baltazzi on this site) and Jean-Francois D’Andria’s family tree lists Bernardo Tubini as born on Chios in 1755. However, his son Antoine is supposed to have been born in Constantinople in 1795, so presumably Bernardo had moved by then. It is likely that some Tubinis or Corpis stayed on Chios until the massacres of Christians there during the Greek rebellion of 1822. My father recalls a story of an ancestor, orphaned in the massacres as an infant, who was nursed by a goat during the refugees’ voyage to Constantinople.
The Tubinis and Corpis, like many other non-Muslim families in Ottoman Constantinople, were in the business of banking. Several were extremely successful, and made their families exceedingly rich. Ignace Corpi, (the uncle of my great-great grandmother) for instance, made a fortune and in 1870 built the Palazzo Corpi,[link] a grand building in Beyoğlu that became the American embassy building in 1907[link]. Many Corpis were listed living in the compound during the 1880s, and the Tubinis, with whom Corpis had intermarried for hundreds of years, had their own building on the property, as well. When the Palazzo Corpi was acquired by the US government, the Palazzo Tubini became the Istanbul Club,[link] and was later acquired by the US.
Tubinis also clearly owned significant lands in Kadikoy, as a large area of Moda is marked “Quartier Tubini” on an 1880 map [link], and there were even postcards with photos of “Quai Tubini” in the early 1900s. My grandmother and her sister wereborn in a house on the water in Moda, [link], and baptized in the Catholic Church Assumption (on ... Cadd) [link] in the 1910s. In 2009, the priest at the church of the Assumption told my family that the Tubini family had a private chapel in the basement of the church, which is now walled up and inaccessible, and also built another building for worship on xxx Cadd, which is now occupied by the xxx [link].
The Tubini name became most famous in 1910, when the banker Michel Tubini, and his partner Lorondo, who had loaned money to the indebted Sultan AbdulAziz, became fed up with the h’s delay in repaying. As both men were French citizens, they appealed to the French government to put pressure on the Sultan. After several other methods were unsuccessful, Tubini and Lorando convinced the French navy to blockade the island of Mytilini in the Aegean. There was a tense standoff for several days, covered in the media as “the Tubini Affair”, and finally the Ottomans relented and promised to pay off the debt - a cartoon depiction of the time.
My Direct Ancestry:
Anthony Bernard Tubini – British Citizen, born London, 1862 (?)
Rosalie (Rose) Corpi Tubini – Italian citizen, born Constantinople, April 28, 1862, educated at North Dame de Sion Convent.
Rose and Anthony married: Constantinople, Sept. 22, 1883
Bernard Anthony Tubini, their only son, born: Constantinople, 1886, first schooling at St. Louis, French Jesuit school in Constantinople.
1896 - Family moves to London, where Anthony works on the London Stock Exchange. Bernard attends Beaumont College, Windsor, a Catholic college for boys, and later City and Guilds College of the University of London. Qualifies as an Electrical Engineer with degree of A.M.I.E.E.
Jane (Jennie) Richardson “British citizen”, born Preston, Lancashire, 1892. Meets Bernard in Preston about 1909 when he trains in mining engineering in Preston coal mines.
At the death of Anthony Tubini in London in 1912, Rose, Bernard, and Jennie Richardson came out to Turkey. Bernard and Jennie were married in Istanbul in September of that year and Bernard entered the office of Robert Rowell whose business was to represent the interests of the Association of British Manufacturers in Turkey. The family lived in Kadıköy, where Antionette was born in 1913 and Nancy in 1916.
Rose nursed wounded Turkish soldiers with the Red Crescent in the 2nd Balkan War, 1912-1913. When Turkey joins German side in WWI, all British subjects are interned, but it may be that Rose’s service in the Red Crescent is what keeps the Tubinis free.
In 1917, Bernard moved his family up to Robert College to become a member of the Electrical Engineering staff. He subsequently became head of that department and remained there until his death in June 1940. His children attended the Robert College Community School, and later the boys were educated at Robert College and the girls at the American College for Girls, the twin college three miles away.
Robert G. Miner “American citizen”, born Scranton, Pennsylvania, 1911. Antionette Tubini meets Robert G. Miner when he comes to Robert College (later Boğaziçi University) to teach English, in 1935. They were married in Montreal, Quebec, Canada in 1938. They had four sons, the first of whom, Robert Jr., is my father. My grandfather was appointed to US state department posts in Athens, Paris, and London, before becoming the consul general of the US Istanbul consulate in 1956. They stayed until 1960, when they fled during the university riots.
Istanbul Houses formerly owned by the TUBINIS and CORPIS:
1. The Istanbul Conservatory. One of its buildings was a TUBINI house.
2. The present (1969) American Consulate General. (from 1907 to 1941, the building was the The American Embassy, now moved to Ankara), was owned by Ignace CORPI, uncle of Rose (Corpi) Tubini, Bernard’s mother. Document of sale of the property to the U.S. government, dated Constantinople, June 29, 1907, is signed by Anthony and Rose Tubini, Fanny (Corpi) Trombi, Rose’s sister, Demosthenes Corpi, Rose’s brother, Amelie (Corpi) Vidovitch, Rose’s sister, and other Corpi relatives.
see also: a history of the Palazzo Corpi by Thomas J. Carolan Jr., a retired US consul general.
3. The annex of the American Consulate General was formerly a TUBINI house, and then the Istanbul Club, before it was acquired by the U.S. Government.
4. This same Ignace CORPI, who settled in Constantinople in 1830, also founded the ‘Artigiana di Pieta’, a charitable institution for aged Catholics. From 1853 on, both TUBINIS and CORPIS are listed in the building’s registers as interested patrons of the institution.
5. The house at Rumeli Hisar on the Bosphorus.
Around 2005 I found a large document in a genealogy book of my grandmother (Antoinette Tubini). This is a 50 cm x 60 cm document on vellum, and has a date of 1627. I don’t speak italian, but I could tell from what I understood that it was a land deed, and signed by King Charles Emmanuel I, the Duke of Savoy, Prince of the Piedmont, Count of Nizza, & etc. Recently I showed it to a historian who specializes in Italy of the 15th-17th century, and she gave me a quick reading of it, and the context. This document is a feudal contract, which grants land rights, judicial rights, military rights, and rights to a castle at St. Agnes [google earth view - view], in the vicary of Sospello, in the county of Nice, (also “the waters, the ice both old and new, the fishes and animals” etc.).