The little that I know about the origin of the Bitar family, I heard it when I was a child from my father in his occasional conversations with others of the family. At that time I was a child and I did not pay much attention, but after I became an adult, the bits of conversations stored in my memory came to the surface of my attention, and what I really know is not a whole lot. I know that our remote ancestor, the grand, grandfather of all the Bitars was a man by name Hanna El-Bitar (this name means : blacksmith in arabic) (whether he was a blacksmith himself or maybe one of this ancestors and he inherited the name, I don't know). I am more inclined to think that he was a farmer and not a blacksmith for a blacksmith would not have come to settle in that valley between the hills where the land was virgin and I believe there was hardly any people living there. No one knows where he came from or in what year he came to that valley of Bazbina. Without any facts I tried to figure that myself, and I estimated that he must have come to that area around the 1800. I figured that my father (the fourth generation of his descendants) was born in 1892-this is a fact that I know (my mother is Nazah Tannous Dib from Bazbina). Starting from this base I estimated that my father's father: Mihail (Mikhael), (my grandfather) was born in the 1860s. I estimated he got married to my grandmother Hanni around 1885 or so. It took my grandmother Hanni (Hanni Asi) seven years to become pregnant and to have my father in 1892. Now I figured that my grandfather's father, whose name was Mulhim (Melhem) must have been born around 1835 or so and Mulhim's father whose name was Mihail too must have been born around 1810 or 1805, this would make his father Hanna il-bitar present in that land of Bazbina about the 1800 or at the beginning of the 19 century.
Hanna il-Bitar had five boys. No girls are mentioned. Mihail was the name of one of them who fathered our branch of the family. My father Abdallah said that the other four sons fathered the branch of the Sleimens, the Antoons, the Hazims and the Naamys. From this little information I gather that the names of the other four sons must have been Sleiman, Antoon, Hazim and Naamy. My father mentions that about that time other families came to that area. No one knows from what region of Syria they came from, or if they were related in any manner to Hanna il-Bitar or not, or were friends or neighbours from the town he came from who had heard of his finding of a great vacant area of arable land with a stream of fresh water coming down from the surrounding hill and rushing through its middle which would make it a very desirable place for settlement. My father mentioned that these new families that came, few years after, were Kabazies (bait Kabasie) [Khebbazeh or as in Dom. Rep.: Pani-agua], Bait Mussan [Mssan], Bait Ossi [Asi] our grandmother Hanni were an Ossi - bait Kenaan, and the late comers were bait Nassar who were nicknamed by this fact (bait La-iz) meaning late -comer, (the Nassars did not like this nickname, they found it kind of derogatory and became mad if someone referred to them as bait La-iz.
I did say that Mihail, one of the five children of Hanna il-Bitar begot our branch of the family. According to my father's recollections, he had three sons: Mulhim, Georges (Jirges) and Slaimen. The oldest Mulhim, begot Georges, Hanna, Nicolas and and Mihail my grandfather. My grandfather oldest brother, Georges Mulhim (Jirjes Melhem) as was known by every one, was a crazy character, he had come to Santo Domingo, made few dollars, returned to Bazbina and bought himself a horse and thought that he was the best one in the village and did not respect anyone. He used foul language with men and women, and he beat his wife, his daughters [Sarah and Naifeh] and his two sons [Melhem and Ibrahim], his oldest son escaped from the village when he was sixteen and came to Brazil and never went back home. He lived next door to his brother Mihail-my grandfather, and he fought with him constantly, and since the two houses were built with one wall between them, he would threaten my grandfather with the tearing down of the wall and would run up to the roof with a pic over his shoulder trying to dig the roof and separate the wall. But he never did what he had threatened to do. I was a child then about 6 or 7 years and he used to send me to the store in the village to get him tobacco and coffee and he always gave me some little gifts
The other brother of my grandfather was shot and killed by a native in Santo Domingo where he had gone with his brother Georges, the other brother Nicolas has a fame of being a rebel because he never bowed to the Turks who tried to make him work on their road building plans and he fled in the hills, and the general talk says he was sort of lunatic in his own way, and my grandfather Mihail was a mild and peaceful man very hard working, he never took a rest but worked seven days a week taking care of his land and of his home keeping the food supply plentiful at his home. Everybody called him Abou Abdallah as is the custom in the old country to call a man respectfully: Abou his oldest son. Going back to the narrative of explaining the origin and ramifications of the Bitars. The second son of Mihail was Georges who begot Hanna and Abdala. Hanna Georges [Hanna Jirges the grand father of Hanna Elia] lived next door to my grandfather and he had sixteen children. Six died in childhood and 10 survived. The older ones: Mihail (fathered Fred Peters, May Peters and another girl has a gas station in ninth st. and second ave.) the second was Ayub Hanna lived in Pittsburgh, worked in the mill, and Dr. Nicolas Bitar the dentist lived in Pittsburgh, the other children Abraham, married my aunt Kaukeb and had three children two boys and one girl, (Cristin my cousin) Ibrahim and a younger brother Jacob were in Cuba with us, the others were Elias, Isaac, Asma, Marianna and Virginia. They are all dead now. Abdala Georges Hanna Georges's brother, has about five or six kids and he was here in Pittsburgh about 1908 untill 1920. Went back to the village with my grandmother and us in 1920. He had Azor, who was here and who was the father of Ray Bitar and his brothers and sisters. Azor and a brother by name Mulhim who came to Cuba and died from syphils. I dont know about the other kids. Now the third son of Mihail was Sleiman. I believe he had a son by name Yussif, and I believe that Yussif begot Georges, Georges Yussif is Shaff's father. Sleiman had other children, and I know that Aziz madame Faye's husband, he is a Slaimen, there are others that I don't know how they are connected, so as you see the connection between Sheff and us is the link of Sleiman to his brother.
Also you hear the name of Elias Mitchell [younger brother of Nasr the Mekhtar of Bazbina] here in New Kensington, he is also from the Bitar family. Him and my father were cousins, and in the period between 1915 and 1920 Elias was a constant visitor at home and every time he came to visit he took me to the store to buy me candy, the same with Aziz, he was another cousin, who visited my father and mother very often and he also took me to the store to buy me candy. I was then about 3 or 4 years old. I was five when we went to Lebanon in 1920. Mitchels name is Elias Ilies Mihail, he had a brother by name Nasr when we went back to Lebanon, Nasr was always over our house and my father and him were like brothers going out hunting or visiting or in picnics with the family.
I tell you why the connections were lost. This important detail was left because the people in Bazbina were farmers, illiterate with no learning of any kind because the Turks dominated the country for over 600 years [Seljuks, Mamaliks and the Ottomans upto 1918] and they oppressed the Christians; something awful. They did not build them schools, they did not try to educate the masses, they only exploited them and took them as slaves to work for them, building roads and other details and since they were illiterate they did not have any knowledge of anything except working the fields, and the custom among them was that the newly born will take the name of his father as his last name. Such as my fathers name was Abdala my name or complete name would be Farid Abdala. My fathers name was Abdala Mihail and my grandfathers name was Mihail Mulhim. My aunt Kaukeb's husbands name was Ibrahim Hanna (his father was Hanna Georges). Dr. Bitar's name was Nicolas Hanna and this is the reason that the connections were lost. They knew that they were cousins and as such they treated each other. And who revived the last name Bitar among us? Was Dr. Bitar our cousin. He went to school in Beirut [American University of Beirut AUB] and he learned from the more enlightened ones how the names are supposed to be, and he started to teach us to put Bitar as our last name. We were living then in Cuba and our name was translated from the Syrian, my father was Alberto Mitchell Osea Abdala Mihail, my name was Alfred Mitchell, my uncles name was Abraham Hanna Y Asi. I want to say, when Nicolas told us to change our names we began to belong to one family: Bitar, and Nicolas did the same thing here, telling Shaff and Azor and his brother Ayub in Pitsburgh, to use the last name Bitar. And we joined the civilized world. This system unifies the families and gives them a name.
The comments in square brackets were inserted by me to enhance the meaning. At the moment, Farid Bitar is living in New Kensington, PA. His uncle is Abou Hani (Ibrahim Mikhael). His father is Abdallah Mikhael Bitar son of Abou Abdallah. His mother is Nazeh Tannous Dib [daughter of Tannous Dib, a cousin to Ibrahim Musa Dib, who lived and worked in Puerto Rico, and Katbeh Nassar sister of Mitri Nassar (Abou Ibrahim), Jirges and Elias Nassar (Abou Habib). He was born on 18th April 1915 in Puerto Rico while his pregnant mother went from Cuba to visit her sick father, Tannous Dib. She returned to Cuba after the death of her father carrying with her Farid, the newly born boy of two weeks old. The family came to Lebanon in 1920 and stayed in Bazbina for three years. They returned to Cuba in 1923. Farid knows Bazbina well from those 3 years he spent there. He spoke to me over the telephone in fluent Arabic and a perfect Bazbinian accent.