The Saltaferos Family of Mystras

One act of kindness can expand into ripples of eternal importance. Our family is—and will forever be–indebted to the Saltaferos household for the kindness and assistance extended to my paternal grandfather, John Andrew Kostakos (Ιωάννης Ανδρέας Κωστάκος).

John Andrew Kostakos

This is the story that has been related for years by several Kostakos elders.

In 1879 in the verdant farming village of Agios Ioannis, Sparta, John was born to Politimi Christakos Kostakos and her husband, Andreas. She died shortly after his birth, and by age eight John was orphaned. He and his siblings lived with various relatives until they were taken in by their half-brother, Gregory, and his wife, Maria Theodoropoulos, who had eight children of their own.  

Life was difficult for John and he did not have the opportunity to receive a formal education. When he was about fourteen, he left Gregory’s home to work for Saltaferos, a wealthy man of Mystras. John was employed as the family chauffeur, and his responsibilities were to drive beautiful horse-drawn carriages and to take care of the horses and stables.

Family lore is that Saltaferos was considered ruthless and even heartless in his business dealings, cheating farmers by tipping the scale when their goods were weighed and “stealing them blind.” One graphic story recounts that upon his death, his most bitter enemies dug up his grave, removed his clothes, and returned his naked body to the casket.  

However, to his employees, Saltaferos was known for being caring and generous. He and his wife were childless, and he took great interest in the well being of the young people who worked for him. He considered his female employees as goddaughters, marrying them off when they became of age and providing their dowries. He liked my grandfather, John, and made him the manager over the other boys who worked for him.  John earned this respect when he proved his honesty.

One day, unbeknownst to John, Saltaferos spread some silver money under the hay in the stables. The next morning, John told the other boys to start cleaning the stable. As he worked with them, John found all the coins, about six or seven drachmas. He went to Saltaferos and said, “’I found some money in the stables, and it’s not mine. Do you know who lost it?” Saltaferos replied, “Well, give it to me, John, and I’ll find out.” John never knew that the money had been planted to test him. A couple of years later when John was corresponding with his brother, Bill, who had emigrated to America, he realized that he would have better opportunitities there. He told Saltaferos he wanted to leave and that his brother would send him the fare. Saltaferos replied that he would hate to see him go, that he would miss him, and that he would give John the money to travel to America. As my relatives proudly said, “He liked John so much that he gave him the money — that’s what honesty will do.”

I love this story. It reveals my grandfather’s character and soul, sets a standard of integrity for our family, and fills me with gratitude that I am his descendant. Although I do not know which Saltaferos man provided him the work which lifted him from poverty to independence,  I hope the family will know that they are recognized and remembered with my deepest gratitude.

This story drove my curiosity about the Saltaferos family—their wealth, business dealings and standing in the community. During one of my “research summers” in Sparta, Pepi Gavala, Archivist of the Sparta Office of the General State Archives (GAK), gave me two books she published with abstracts she made of the files of Dimitrios K. Salvara[1], a notary in Mystras in the 1800s.[2]  It was here that I found dozens of references to the Saltaferos family, their business ledgers, letters and transactions.

Gavala, Pepi; Archives of Dimitrios K. Salvara, Notary, Detailed Index Volumes A & B; Sparta, 2001, Ministry of National Education and Religions, General State Archives of Greece – Archives of Lakonia

I have translated every entry mentioning the Saltaferos name into a document that can be accessed here. My translations are amateur and imperfect; some of the words are of Ottoman origin and cannot be properly translated into either Greek or English.

These abstracts are incredibly fascinating to read. They are a window into the lives of people of Mystras during the historic period of the pre-Revolution through the birth of the new Greek state. This post is sorted into categories; the abstracts tell the stories.

Mystras, 1890. Library of Congress

The household of “Chatzi”[3] Saltaferos was among the affluent and notable families of Mystras. His sons, named in the Salvara books, were: Giakoumis/Diakoumis, Dimitris/Mitros, Nikolaos, and Ioannis/Giannos. They were businessmen with operations in Mystras, Nauplion (then the seat of government), Constantinople and numerous villages in Lakonia.

The brothers engaged in the purchase and sale of commodities and in shipping and trading. Ledger entries reveal transactions dealing with:  olive oil, rope, caviar, bottles, raki, wine, beer, pipes, silk, pistols and rmaments, gold, corn, sheep, goats, salt, fish, straw, grains (wheat, semolina, barley). The family was engaged in auctions of homes and properties, and was active in the purchase and rentals of trees in “national olive tree groves.”  Today, the Saltaferos operation would be considered a conglomerate.

These abstracts reveal the varieties and complexities of business transactions:

  • #1036. 9,04 – Sparta, 25-01-1835. Payment receipt. Accepted for the amount of 200 drachmas kept by N. Saltaferos on behalf of his brother D. Saltafero and D. Maltziniotis from Em. X. Tsouchlo, for the rentals of the national olive groves of Parori and Agios Ioannis.
  • #106. 2,52 – Constantinople, 22-11-1820; Letter from Dimitri C. Saltaferou (Constantinople) to Konstantine Salvaras (Mystras) reporting on shipping and trade.
  • #135. 2,81 – Anapli [Nauplio], 14-03-1823: Letter from Dimitri to Konstantine Salvaras reporting on financial, commerical and economic transactions.
  • #131. 2,77 – Trinisa, 13-11-1822; Letter from Giakoumi C. Saltaferos (Trinisa) to Konstantine Salvaropoulo mentions the delivery of fish and care for straw and barley.
  • #554. 5,48 – Mystras, 28-05-1831. Letter from N. Saltaferos to Konstantinos Salvaras. It refers to the storage of two shipments of semolina in the store, however, the one from Chrysafa cannot be entered separately. That is why he suggests that they send it to him separately from each threshing floor and thus store it, so that they do not get confused.
  • #148. 2,94 – Anapli [Nauplio], 16-11-1823 – Letter from Dimitri C. Saltaferou (Anapli) το Anagnostaina Salvara (Mystras).  His request is stated for the care of the olives by the family and not by foreigners.
  • #172. 2,118 – [no location] – 02-09-1824 – Ledger. Transaction accounts of Dimitri Saltafero (oil, rope, caviar, bottles, raki, pipes).
  • #821. 7,35 – Mystras, 01-05-1833.  Account.  Account for the shop between Ilias Karteroulis and Konstantinos Salvara (to give to Ioannis Efstathiou, Nikoli Alexaki, Mitro Saltafero, etc. and to take from wine, beer, cash, income, oil, corn, etc.) In total, Ilias Karteroulis will give 17.911,27 grosia and will take 4.341,13 grosia.
  • #187. 2,133 – Anapli [Nauplio], 10-03-1825, Letter from Dimitri Saltaferou (Anapli) to Antoni Salvara. Mentioned are family (Konstantine’s stay in Nauplio) and financial (gold purchases which have not yet been sent), their cases.
  • #880. 7,94 – Nauplion, 23-10-1893.  Letter from Anagnostis Tzortzaki (Nauplio) to Nikolaos Saltafero, Mitro Saltafero and Antonis Salvara (Mystras) in which he informs them that today the auction of the olive grove in the name of Ilias Karteroulis ended, that is, for them, 23,550 drachmas, which was raised because the gentlemen did not agree, but Karteroulis agreed and gave I. Efstathiou and Sarantari half, which he finds better. He asks them for their opinion.
  • #1284. 11,48 – Mystras, 01-09-1837. Proof of Rent. Antonis Slavaras will  rent his shop in Aletropazaro, opposite N. Saltaferos, to G. Giorgiklakis for 140 drachmas, which he will pay every four months. Saltaferos also gives him four cypress barrels of wine and three jars of oil which he found inside.
  • #1311. 11,75 – Mystras. 25-11-1837. Ledger.  Store of the tenants of Tripi, Mr. Mitros Saltaferou and Captain Antonis Salivaras and Emmanouil Economopoulou. I note all the olive presses of the caretakers and the meterikia [a unit of measurement of cereals], and I set up the ‘botzes’ [wood or clay vessels to measure, store and transport liquids such as wine.] The recording is made by olive press – ecclesiastical, Logastra, Katochoritkio, Politi.
  • #121. 2,67 – Mystras; date: 02-11-1821: Work Contract . Mitros Panagakos declares that he will deliver 60 bottles of oil to Nikolakis Krevvata, “for cutting the olives where I touched” in Parori. Witnesses: Dimitri Nikolakos, Dimitri C. Saltaferos. 

When problems arose, lawsuits and complaints to police and civil authorities were filed.

  • Forgery, counterfeiting: #1049. 9,17 – Sparta, 3-05-1835. Report. The citizens of Sparta, S. Giannakopoulos, Giannakos Tzannetakis and F. Karamalis are complaining to the Municipal Committee for the election of the Mayor of Sparta against those who cannot lawfully vote – Ioannis and Nikolaou Korfiotaki, Dimitriou Saltaferou, Dimitriou Manousaki, A. Kokkoni and A. Salvara after D. Manousaki, because they have been accused of forgery and have not yet been acquitted, and of Ioannis Korfiotaki as illegitimate under surveillance for the crime of counterfeiting in the year 1830. Exact Copy 26.05.1835. Signed: Magistrate A. Tzortzakis
  • #1474. 13,65 – Sparta. 17-10-1839. Lawsuit. Lawsuit of N. D. Petropoulou against Antonios Salvara and announcement of a lawsuit against N. Saltafero, regarding the price of oil.
  • #1025. 8,120 – Sparta. 02-12-1834. Petitions-Protests. Report-protest of A. Kokkonis, according to the Justice of the Peace Spartis, to which he is protesting against N. Saltaferos, D. Manousakis and A. Salvaras, with whom he rented [homes] the first two were Koutzava and Koutzava Karveli and the third was Sitzova.  For the payment of the third installment, however, the citizens did not pay and Kokkonis pays them and protests against them for all the damages and expenses he suffers.
  • #1560. 15,23 – Sparta. 08-09-1841. Court Document – Complaint. Counterclaim/response of Dimitrios Saltaferos, reident of Mystras, against Anagnostos Tzortzakis, resident of Kastorio, on accountability for rent and late payment of the share of Parori rights. Was served 10-09-1841.
  • #397. 4,24 – Nauplio, 07-06-1829. Report of Konstantinos Salvara (Nauplio) to the Justice of the Peace of Nauplio, in which he accuses that General Floros Grivas forcibly kept from him 460 grosia of the 1,160 grosis owed to him by the Dimitris Saltaferos. Now, “where justice shines” seeks compensation.

The Saltaferos brothers loaned money to their contemporaries and kept careful track of invoices to be received, accounts to be paid, debts owed to them, and problems encountered. Businessmen had open accounts where items were purchased “on credit,” and debts were paid after a harvest or a transaction.

  • #1540. 15,02 – Sparta. 11-01-1841. Oral Complaint prepared at the Police Office by Antonis Salvara and Anagnostis Kokkonis against the shepherds and masters of flocks regarding damage to the olive fruit due to their sheep. The shepherds named in the complaint were:  Dimitrios, Georgios, Vasileios and Spyros Alexandropoulos, Stavros Nikolakakos, Ioannis Vlachos, Dimitrios Saltaferos, Panagiotis Vlachakos, Dimitrios Darmo and Panagiotis Mourgokefalo, Georgios and Petros Adamakaios and Diamanti Chachalako.
  • #141. 2,87 – Anapli [Nauplio], 13-08-1823 – Letter from Dimitri C. Saltaferou (Anapli) το Konstantine Salvara (Mystras). Τheir economic and commercial affairs are reported. He is particularly concerned with unsold goods.
  •  #153. 2,99 – Anapli [Nauplio], 06-02-1824 – Letter from Dimitri C. Saltaferou (Anapli) το Antoni Salvara (Mystras) in which he urges him to sell the goods and send the money to be debited.
  • #157. 2,103 – [no location] 01-03-1824 to 12-08-1824, Ledger. Detailed account of goods and debtors; what Antonis owed to Mr. Georgakis Pygeraki; what goods were sold to Mitros Saltaferos of Mystras. 
  • #161. 2,107 – Agiantika, 09-04-1824 – Letter from Dimitri C. Saltaferou to Konstantine Salvara (Mystras). Mentions shipment and invoice, and his desire to sell the goods even at cost to get his grosia [money].
  • #1401. 12,80 – Sparta. 15-12-1838. Note. Note of G. K. Feggara (Sparta) to his  “friend and brother” Antoni Salvara,  in which he is worried about the 500 drachmas which should have been in corn to Mr. Mitros, who complains it was not given to him. Please give it to him as they have agreed.
  • #1560. 15,23 – Sparta. 08-09-1841. Court Document – Complaint. Counterclaim/response of Dimitrios Saltaferos, reident of Mystras, against Anagnostos Tzortzakis, resident of Kastorio, on accountability for rent and late payment of the share of Parori rights. Was served 10-09-1841.

Under Ottoman rule, numerous taxes (Ottoman tax) were levied. Payment of the “tenth” or tithe which went to Ottoman authorities was mentioned several times.

  • #783. 6,147 – 1832. Ledger.  Name register of Agios Ioannis.  “where we have the revenue of Parori, a tenth is owed by everyone.¨ Specifically, it is recorded that “every tenth Paroritiki goes to the olive press of Agios Ioannis of D. Saltaferos.”  [Note:  1/10 tax was levied on everyone by the Ottomans. Here, the tenth owed in taxes is paid in oil; the people of Parori went to use the oil press in Agios Ioannis which was owned by D. Saltaferos]
  • #902. 7,116 – 07-12-1833 to 27-01-1834.   Ledger of olive presses of:  Salvara, Kokorou, Agiou Spyridonos, Kamaradou, Mitrou Saltaferou, Mposinaki, Manolou Manousaki, Church of Parori, Matala of Parori, Niarchou of Kato Chora, Prastaki, Trichaki… It is stated how much oil they extracted and how many oil bottles are for the tenth [the Ottoman tax].
  • #1333. 12,12 – Chrysafa. 02-02-1838. Note. Note of Ioannis Mpalasaki (Chrysafa) to Antonis Salvara (Mystras), with which he sends him 2 tulums of oil 39 and 33 okades, a simple tithe, while he informs him that the rest of the shipment will be sent later. He asks if they took the pastoral tax. There is a note on the back page: 3 February 1828, I also received a load of oil from Chyrsafa okades 68.
  • #572. 5,66 – Kastania, 19-06-1831. Letter from Anagnostis Tzortzaki (Kastania) to his son-in-law Antonis Salvaras (Mystras), whom he informs that he is sending him the cocoon of Perivolia. He complains about Saltaferos’ accusations and informs them that “we do not collect the tenths of the cocoons here, but let him find out that the machines are working and let the manager Saltaferos bark like a rabid dog.”  

The Revolution of 1821 surely affected the Saltaferos businesses and family. The notary ledgers alone do not indicate the extent of impact, but entries during 1821-1830 denote numerous business transactions and concern about safety of the family.

  • #138. 2,84 – Anapli [Nauplio], 02-08-1823 – Letter from Dimitri C. Saltaferou (Anapli) το Konstantine Salvara (Mystras). The problem of repairing the second pistol, the shipment of goods and a lot of family news are mentioned.
  • #184. 2,130 – Niokastro, 25-02-1825 – Letter.
    Letter from Ilia Kouskouri (Niokastro in Pylos) to Nikolaki C. Saltafero (Anapli), in which he informs him about the movements of Ibrahim Pasha, the destruction of Methoni, Koroni, Petalidi and the expectation of an attack on Niokastro. He is worried about the absence of Antonis Salvaras from Niokastro and assumes that he may be in Kalamata with the troops.
  • #200. 2,146 – Nauplio, 02-07-1825 – Letter from Dimitri Saltaferou (Nauplio) to Antoni Salvara. Saltaferos and his wife deem it expedient to transport at least the women, perhaps the rest, to Nafplio and from there send them to another place for safety.
  • #142. 2,88 – Anapli [Nauplio], 24-08-1823 – Letter from Dimitri C. Saltaferou (Anapli) το Anagnostaina Salvara (Mystras) Mentions the plan of the secret transport of their family from Mystras to Nauplio.
  • #201. 2,147 – Nauplio, 09-07-1825 – Letter from Dimitri Saltaferou (Nauplio) to Antoni Salvara, in which Saltaferos insists on moving the family to Anapli [Nauplio].
  • #242. 3,34 – Agina, 11-01-1827 – Letter. Letter from Michalis Karamitrou, Antonis Salvara and Ioannis Petropoulou (Aigina) to Mitro Saltafero and Konstantine Salvara. The former informs the latter that “we have reached the boss/master mills 21,200 grosia” and order them to “find and sell them to comrades” on the best possible terms. In a footnote, they inform about the good news in Distomo, where Karaiskakis “scolded” the Turks. On the back there is the next document. 
  • [Post-Revolution sale of land owned by Turks]  #1287. 11,51 – Sparta. 09-09-1837. Contract Vineyard Sale. Sale of the vineyard of the mullah Sali Mpoyrakaki of Sklaviki (1 stremma, 280 meters with 7 olive roots and 4 figs) bought by M. Koutzis of Dimoprasia, instead of 310 drachmas, and gave it to one of his neighbors, Antonis Salvaras (also borders on Konstanti Mpakali, Lewnida Dimitrakaki and Nikolaos Saltaferos). Each year he will pay the market rate until it is repaid in 10 years. Guarantor: Michalis Koutzis. Witnesses: Konstantinos Pappakonstantopoulos, Ilias Karteroulis and Anagnostis Patrinakos.

It is always exciting to find references to families! Births, marriages and personal matters are mentioned in several extracts. The marriage between Dimitri Saltaferos and Anna Salvara could have either complicated or cemented the families’ business dealings–perhaps a bit of both. Either way, the union between these two powerful families would have been significant.

  • Volume B, page 16, “Genealogy of the Salvara Family”: Anna Panagioti (Anagnosti) Salvara married in 1823 to the businessman Dimitri Chatzi Saltafero and lived in Nauplio. Anna died in 1837. Her olive grove in Pakota (Parori) was inherited by Antonis, Kanelitsa and Panagiotitsa [her siblings].  [My note: Pakota is a settlement in Agios Ioannis, not Parori.]
  • #143. 2,89 – Nauplio, 02-09-1823 – Dowry Agreement; Detailed record of the dowries given to her daughter by Anagnostaina Salvara and to their sister from Konstantinos and Antonis Salvaras, due to her marriage to Dimitri Saltaferos. Two copies are saved.
  • #159. 2,105 – Anapli [Nauplio], 04-03-1824 – Letter from Dimitri C. Saltaferou (Anapli) το K. Salvara (Mystras) refers to the receipt of “amantatiou” sent by Konstantine with Konstantine Leviodotis, and the announcement of the birth of twin boys.
  • #926. 8,21 – Hydra, 13-04-1834. Letter from Dimitrios Ioannis Stavropoulou (Hydra) to Dimitrio Saltafero and Antonio and Konstantino Salvara (Mystras)  in which he mentions a proposal made in Nauplio by friends and relatives for a match with their niece and the letter sent to him by their mutual friend Kyrillos about this issue and he replied that he would discuss with Anastasios Sigalos when he goes to Mystras. Now that Mr. Anastasios is going there, he will speak to them as his own man and may this match end positively.

The will of Konstantinos Salvara is so interesting to read. It confirms that Dimitrios (Mitros) Saltaferos is his son-in-law, provides for family members, and reveals his most important wishes.

  • Will of Konstantinos Salavara, who is bedridden at the brothers’ house and dictates to S. Parthenopoulos, a notary of Sparta:  transfers his property to his brother Antonios and orders him to give to each of his sisters Panagiotitsa, Kenelitsa, Anna 300 drachmas each. Regarding the debit bond, 2000 grosia, of Antoni Salvara, held by his son-in-law Mitros Saltaferos, he states that it has no force, because he intends to buy it in Konstantinople iron, which was sent to me with Maltziniotis’s nephew, but was blocked by Mitros himself because the revolution appeared, but the money was given to him by Konstantinos and he has proof. He also asks Antonis and his mother to make 3 contributions, to contribute 100 drachmas to the primary school, and when Saint-Spyridon is repaired, to contribute in order to preserve the name of the founders. He asks Antonis to do the right thing. Witnesses: Ioannis Th. Leopoulos, Ioannis Kokkonis, D. Manousakis, Athanasios Dimopoulos.

Finally, several entries reveal the community service rendered by the Saltaferos brothers. Next time I see the palm trees in Spartan villages, I will think of them.

  • #487. 4,114 – Mystras, 28-10-1830. Payment receipt. Dimitris Saltaferos received from Antonis Salvara 996:67 palm trees for the second installment of the villages of Vamvakou, Arachova and Zarafona and 903:33 palm trees for the second half of the second installment of Vordonia.

I would love to read the original files and full documents, but the old Greek handwriting makes it impossible for me. To learn the details in these summaries would enliven these people and help me better understand everyday life during this momentous time in Greek history.  

I express my deepest gratitude to Pepi Gavala for her ongoing work in publishing holdings of the Archives of Sparta. All of us must appreciate and be supportive of the efforts of the GAK offices to preserve and make available the documents which reflect the stories and times of our ancestors.

Family Tree of Chtazis Saltaferos (click on image to enlarge)

Chatzi Saltaferos Family Tree, March 2021



[1] Γαβαλα, Πεπη, Αρχείο Δημητρίου Κ. Σαλβαρά, Αναλυτικό Ευρετηρίο, Τόμος Α, 1709-1831], Σπαρτη, 2001, Υπουργείο Εθνικής Παιλείας και Θρησκευματών, Γ.Α.Κ., Αρχεία Νομού Λακωνίας, Σπάρτη 23100.
Gavala, Pepi;  Archives of Dimitrios K. Salvara, Notary, Detailed Index Volume A, 1709-1831;  Sparta, 2001, Ministry of National Education and Religions, General State Archives of Greece – Archives of Lakonia

Γαβαλα, Πεπη, Αρχείο Δημητρίου Κ. Σαλβαρά, Αναλυτικό Ευρετηρίο, Τόμος Β, 1832-1843], Σπαρτη, 2001, Υπουργείο Εθνικής Παιλείας και Θρησκευματών, Γ.Α.Κ., Αρχεία Νομού Λακωνίας, Σπάρτη 23100.
Gavala, Pepi;  Archives of Dimitrios K. Salvara, Notary, Detailed Index Volume B, 1832-1843;  Sparta, 2001, Ministry of National Education and Religions, General State Archives of Greece – Archives of Lakonia

[2] Volume B is downloadable in pdf from GAK Lakonia website:

[3] Chatzi is not his baptismal name; it is a nickname indicating he had made a pilgrimage.(Gregory Kontos to Carol Kostakos Petranek, October 10, 2020.) Two of Chatzi’s sons named their first sons Perikles, and according to naming traditions, I assume that may be Chatzi’s baptismal name.




200 Years of Freedom and Victory

Today, March 25, 2021, is the bicentennial of Greek Independence after 400 years of Ottoman rule. Social media and websites are flooded with commemorative photos, stories and events to mark this historic and meaningful day. I am celebrating by honoring men in my ancestral families who received Aristeia awards for their service in the Revolution, and by sharing some resources that are especially meaningful to me.

Tracing Freedom: 1821 – The Revolution of 1821 and its impact on your ancestors. My friend and teacher, Giannis Michalakakos, has written this outstanding article which describes conditions during the Revolution and helps us visualize and understand how our ancestors survived this historic yet difficult time. A shortened version of Giannis’ full article has been published today on the GreekAncestry website. Giannis explains the complexities of this period: 

The echo of the Greek Revolution of 1821 was extensive and complicated. Movements, disasters, and changes were created, depending on the prevailing conditions. Each family acted differently, according to its geographic location and economic power. So despite the overall picture, we must be careful. We must study every case separately because each family has followed its own path in history. Only then we will touch the truth.

Photography Exhibit 1821
Elias Pergantis is an extraordinary photographer. He has created a series of photographs depicting scenes from the Revolution that is currently on display in Sparta and will then be taken throughout Greece. His works of art have been captured in this poignant video which moves me to tears.

Honoring My Ancestors
My Spartan Roots post of March 25, 2020 describes the various Aristeia awards received by those who fought with distinction in the Revolution, and has photos of the medals. Today, I honor these men in my ancestral family who have been identified to date as receiving an Aristeia. Many others would have fought without recognition:

  • Mihail Aridakos / Aridas of Agios Ioannis
  • Efstratios and Dimitrios Iliopoulos of Agios Ioannis
  • Christos Kostakos of Anavryti
  • Georgios Christakos of Agios Ioannis
  • Christos Lerikos of Agios Ioannis
  • Dimitrios, Vasileios and Nikolaos Maltziniotis of Agios Ioannis
  • Kalogeros Papagiannakos of Agios Ioannis
  • Ioannis Zacharakis of Sellasia/Theologos
  • Dimitrios, Ioannis and Georgios Zarafonitis of Sklavohori

This post from January 2016 honors Ioannis Zacharakis, one of my ancestors from Theologos, Sellasia. The documents signed on August 4, 1840 in Mystras state that he fought under the mighty Maniate captain, Georgios Giatrakos, and participated in many battles including: Valtetsi, Doliana, Tripoli, Naplion, Argos, and New Kastorio Pylos. I am thrilled to have not only his name, but also copies of the letters which are published in the post and have his signature!

Signature of Ioannis Zacharakis of Theologos, Sellasia about 1840

Celebrations in Athens
What celebration of freedom could be complete without a military parade? This is a video of today’s events in Athens. With Covid-19 precautions in place, soldiers are masked and crowds are forbidden, but the spirit of Greek independence is palpable and inspiring.  Χρόνια πολλά σε όλους τους Έλληνες!

Greek Ancestry Party!
A bicentennial event needs a party! Today, our friends at Greek Ancestry hosted a party which was recorded and is viewable here.  We shared stories, photos and histories to commemorate this special day. Ζήτω η Ελλάδα!!!


U.S. President Joe Biden’s Video Message for the Bicentennial

A Signature, An Ancestor

Letter of Consent to Marriage of Giannoula P. Zarafonitis and Dimitrios Nikolaos Zacharakis, April 18, 1869 in Sklavochori (now Amykles), Lakonia, Greece

This letter granting permission for the marriage of my second great-grandparents, Giannoula Zarafonitis and Dimitrios N. Zacharakis, was signed by Giannoula’s father, Panagiotis G. Zarafonitis. By adding the “G” in his signature, Panagiotis (my third great-grandfather born 1821) provided the first initial of his father which took my lineage back one more generation to my fourth great-grandfather! In this area of Sparta and for my family, the initial “G” would most likely indicate the name of Georgios.

P. G. Zarafonitis

I am thrilled that this document –so meaningful to me–is one that I digitized with my own hands. During the summers of 2019, 2018 and 2017, I volunteered to work with Gregory Kontos of to preserve, through the digitization process, marriage books and documents at the Metropolis of Sparta for the years 1835-1935.

It is incredibly emotional for me to see the signature of my third great-grandfather, Panagiotis, and to know that through my work, his handwriting and mark of mortality has been saved and is now viewable by his descendants. And I am especially grateful to him for choosing to include that most important initial of G.

Translation of marriage letter*:

Metropolis of Sparta and Monemvasia
Marrriage #89
The consent of the parents and other relatives of the future groom and bride, Dimitriou Zacharakis of the village, Theologos of Dimos Sellasias, and Giannoula daughter of Panagiotou Zarafonitou of the Dimos Sparta and village of Sklavochori, affirming that there is no kinship between the future couple nor any other impediment for them to join in matrimony, both for the first time, with the signature of two guarantors and two witnesses.

In Sklavochori on 18 April 1869

Signatures, left side:
Relatives of the groom:
N. Papastratis
Priest, S. Dimitropoulos
For the bride:
P. G. Zarafonitis

Signatures, right side:
P. Anagnostakos
P. Iliopoulos
M. Michalalopoulos
Ioannis Chatzikos

*Translation by Gregory Kontos,

1856 Farmer’s Census, Sparta: Correlating Information

On the Road to Sparta. Frédéric Boissonnas. The J. Paul Getty Museum.

Understanding the lives of our ancestors’ entails a fascinating exploration of photos, documents and stories. Who they were, how they lived, and what they experienced becomes real to us when we can find, and then analyze, any and all available materials.

Our search become easier as more documents from Greece become available online at MyHeritage and Greek Ancestry. A new collection, the 1856 Farmer Census, has recently been released on Greek Ancestry. Sandwiched between the voter lists of 1840s and 1870s, it is an important collection. It willverify our ancestor’s residence; reveal people who were “missed” or were too young to be enumerated in 1840; and alert us to seek for specific men in the 1870s voter lists. The collection bridges a critical gap of 30-40 years during a time when records were scarce in the new country of Greece.

The 1856 Farmer Census is country-wide and includes the areas of: Aitoloakarnania, Arcadia, Argolida, Euboea, Evrytania, the Cyclades islands, Lakonia, Messinia, the Sporades Islands, Voiotia, Achaia (Patra), Ileia (Pyrgos), Fokida (Amfissa) and Fthiotida (Lamia). The collection totals over 85,000 records. Its information provides the farmer’s age, marital status, number of family members in household, nativity/residence in the village, and father’s initial. However, information varies according to municipality; records for Spartan villages do not include the farmer’s age or father’s initial.

Compare, Contrast and Correlate Zacharakis Families

I used the Farmer’s Census to compare, contrast and correlate information for my Zacharakis ancestors in the village of Theologos, Lakonia. The 1844 Voter List has 4 Zacharakis men; the 1856 Farmers Census has 4; the 1872 Voter List has 8.

Panagiotis Dimitrios Zacharakis, born about 1810
1844 Voter List: name Zacharakakos, age 34, peasant/farmer, native
1856 Farmer Census: name Zacharakos, age 46, farmer, married, native, 4 people in household
1872 Voter List: name Zacharakis, age 62, farmer, father: Dimitrios

Theodoros Zacharakis, born about 1812
1844 Voter List: name: Zacharakakis, age 32, peasant/farmer, native
1856 Farmer Census: not listed
1872 Voter List: not listed
Died before 1868; not listed in the 1856 or 1872 lists, assume death prior to 1856

Georgios Dimitrios Zacharakis, born about 1802
1844 Voter List: name: Zacharakakis, age 42, farmer, native
1856 Farmer Census: name: Zacharakakos, age 52, farmer, married, native, 7 people in household
1872 Voter List: not listed but is named as father

Dimitrios Nikolaos Zacharakis, born about 1832
1844 Voter List: not listed (too young)
1856 Farmer Census: name: Zacharakos, father: N, age: 24, farmer, married, native; 3 people in household
1872 Voter List: not listed

Anastasios Theodoros Zacharakis, born about 1838
1844 Voter List: not listed (too young)
1856 Farmer Census: name: Zacharakos, age: 21, farmer, single, native, 7 people in family
1872 Voter List: name: Zacharakis, age 34, farmer, father: Theodoros

Compare, Contrast and Correlate Village of Socha

Below is a comparison of information for the village of Socha, Lakonia as found in two different types of 1856 census collections, one ecclesiastical and one government:  the 1856 Parish Census conducted by the church, and the 1856 Farmer’s Census conducted by the municipality.

The Parish Census lists 55 families; and the Farmer Census lists 25 of which 12 are also in the Parish Census. The Parish Census gives the wife’s name, the Farmer’s does not. The Farmer’s has nativity and occupation; the Parish does not.

A few examples:

Christos Arniotis
Farmer: Christos Arniotis of Socha, farmer, married, native, # in family: 7
Parish: Christos Arniotis of Socha, wife: Panagiota; male children: 7; female children: 1; total in family including parents: 10

Dimos Asimakopoulos
Farmer: Dimos Asimakopoulos of Socha, farmer, married, native, total number in family: 3
Parish: Dimos Asimakospoulos; wife: Maria; male children: 2, female children: 1, total in family including parents: 5

Panagiotis Maniakis or Maniatakos
Farmer: Panag. Maniakis; occupation: farmer; married; native; number in family: 2
Parish: Panag. Maniatakos; wife: Panagiota; male children: 1, female children: 1, total in family including parents: 4

Female Heads of Households
The Farmer’s Census does not list women, but the Parish Census lists female heads of households, all of whom are widows. In Soha, 9 out of 55 people (16%) are are widows while only one man is a widower. That statistic is a fascinating demographic peek into the community!

Maria, widow Kourakos; male children: 4; female children: 1; total in family: 6

Poli, widow Pavlounis; male children: 2; female children: 2; total in family: 5

Petros Minakakos, widower, two male children, two female children, total in family: 4 [math error, should be 5]

By correlating various collections, a more complete representation of the individual and his family emerges. Different records were created for different reasons; therefore, they ask different questions and collect different information. That is why we must vigorously pursue obaining any and all records which can be found. We must also remain open to the possiblity that new information may dispell or disprove our previous theories. Such is the ever-evolving nature of research.

Village History Project: Agios Ioannis Website

At the Greek Ancestry International Conference last weekend, Gregory Kontos announced an innovating and promising new initiative–the Village History Project. Its purpose is three-fold:

  1. to encourage people to “reconstruct their ancestral village” by creating an extended genealogical family tree to include any identifiable inhabitants of a village,
  2. to foster connectedness and collaboration among people who share family names and/or village roots with those who also have ties to that name or location;
  3. to create a “hub” where projects can be publicized and easily found online

There are many individuals who have already embarked on village history projects comprised of thousands of people verified through documentation. These researchers are focused and dedicated, yet they are working solely and inconspicuously. Their ultimate desire is to share their findings with others who have common ancestral roots. Until now, there has not been a centralized place for these projects to be cataloged and located.

The Greek Ancestry Village History Project Initiative (VHPI) fills this void. On this page is a list with projects that have met one or more of the following criteria:

  • A publicly available family tree which is posted on any genealogy forum (e.g., Tribal Pages, Ancestry, MyHeritage, Geni, WikiTree); and, such tree is extended beyond a specific surname to include all identifiable people residing in a specific village for an extended period of time. (Information on living people is to be excluded).
  • A website dedicated to a village in Greece, incorporating information about its families and individuals (information on living people is to be excluded unless permission is granted). Adding stories and photos about the village provides important context to understand the lives and traditions of its people.
  • An e-book written about a village and its families. The publication must be free to access and be posted online. 

Having these projects discoverable on the Greek Ancestry website means that people worldwide can more easily find “new cousins” and meet others with roots from their same village. It is exciting to contemplate how this will promote the gathering of extended families!

Every three months, Gregory Kontos will choose a project to receive support which could include one of the following:
• purchase of a book relevant to the project
• DNA kit(s)
• payment to a subscription website (such as
• a discount on records purchased from Greek Ancestry.

In addition, the recipient will be interviewed about his/her project and featured in a post published by Greek Ancestry.

Unlike many communities large and small throughout Greece, my ancestral home of Agios Ioannis, Sparta has the distinction of having no written village history book. Typically, these books are written by teachers during their summer breaks and published locally. When I am in Sparta, I ask family, locals, librarians and professional historians why no one has every written the story of “Agianni” and the answer is usually a shrug and a simple “δεν ξέρω” (I don’t know). One historian postulates that the village is considered insignificant as its notable neighbors, Sparta and Mystras, were the locations with significant activities. While I understand this in theory, my heart is sad. How I would love to know the history of the village and its people–my ancestors!

In an attempt to bring Agios Ioannis out of literary obscurity, Georgia Stryker Keilman and I have collaborated and founded the website, Agios Ioannis, Sparta. We are proud to have it listed on the Greek Ancestry VHPI and hope that this platform will help others find us. We are seeking to highlight the families and share photos and stories of the community throughout the years.

I am delighted to have this opportunity to share information with new cousins of Agios Ioannis heritage, and I am honored that our website is part of the Village History Project Initiative.

Can your research expand to become a village history project? Because it was customary for brides and grooms to live within a few kilometers of each other, it is inevitable that your tree will naturally expand to include other families within the village and even surrounding communities.

Please, join us! Just fill out this simple form and add your project to the Greek Ancestry VHPI. Your work will benefit countless others in their quest to learn about their family origins. And, you will meet new cousins and expand the family circle started by our ancestors many years ago.