Follow the Records

Part One: Stratigakos

by: Georgia Stryker Keilman and Carol Kostakos Petranek

Trying to accurately identify one’s Greek family immediately after the Greek Revolution and during the establishment of the modern Greek state is extraordinarily challenging. Records are scarce, and those that have survived are riddled with inaccurate or conflicting dates and names. This is because the original records which survived were later organized and compiled–thus subjecting them to human error.

The Male Registers (Mitroon Arrenon) now found in Archive and Municipal offices are typed lists, not original handwritten documents. The 1844 Voter Lists remain in their original handwritten format, but the 1872 Lists are typed and arranged in alphabetical order. These compilations, done by people years after their origination, have resulted in typographical errors, inaccurate transcriptions of scrawled handwritten names, and duplication of records.

To complicate this further, individuals and families changed their names, used multiple names interchangeably (even in the same documents), or were recorded with their nicknames instead of their baptismal names. The universal celebration of namedays instead of birthdays led to the common practice of estimating ages, with most people completely unaware of their actual date of birth. In addition, movements of people to reestablish themselves in areas now freed from Ottoman occupation led to families being “lost” and not found in records.

Yet with all these challenges, we CAN find our families. This post is the first of three case studies in which Georgia Stryker Keilman and Carol Kostakos Petranek share their research challenges and detail the steps taken to arrive at solutions.

Case #1: Stratigakos/Stratigopoulos
(Georgia’s family)

Research Question: What was the given name of my great-grandfather’s father?

Georgios Stratigopoulos, my great-grandfather


Facts:

  • Georgios Stratigopoulos was my great-grandfather.
  • Georgios Stratigopoulos was married twice, both times in Agios Ioannis, Sparta. Neither of the marriage records indicate his father’s name.
  • Georgios Stratigopoulos is not listed in the 1872 or 1873 Election List for Agios Ioannis.
  • Georgios Stratigakos is listed as passing away 19 April 1921 – Death Records, Agios Ioannis, Agias Triadas Church Books. Father’s name was not listed.

Family letters received in 1960s mentions that Georgios Stratigopoulos had a brother named Panagiotis. Note: Panagiotis doesn’t show up in any records for Agios Ioannis.

The next step should have been for me to look for Panagiotis Stratigopoulos in a nearby village. I always meant to do this, but since I wasn’t keeping a To Do List, I forgot. Instead, I jumped at the first shiny object and went down a rabbit hole thinking that my great-grandfather was related to a Stratigamvros listed in the Agios Ioannis Voters List in 1844. Since the name Stratigamvros means son-in-law of Strati, and documentation of original name disappears, I assumed this could be a good reason why my great-great grandfather’s given name was not appearing on any records. I spent my research time trying to prove this relationship.

Stratigogamvros of Agios Ioannis from GreekAncestry.net

After consulting with Gregory Kontos, he did what I had meant to do – look for Panagiotis Stratigopoulos in a nearby village. He found Panagiotis in the 1872 & 1873 Election Lists for Parori (village halfway between Agios Ioannis and Mystras).

Line 1043, 1873 Voter List, Parori, Lakonia

The father’s name is recorded as Efstratios. That makes sense–Georgios’ oldest son was named Efstratios.

Parorio, Google Maps

Lessons learned:

  • Keep a research log.
  • Keep a To Do list.
  • Follow the research methodically, generation by generation. Don’t jump back making assumptions.
  • Keep an open mind and research possibilities such as a family member living in a nearby village.

Finding Panagiotis was the key to answering my research question: the given name of my great-grandfather’s father was Efstratios.

Ioannis Paraskevas Alevetsovisitis: My Agios Ioannis, Sparta, Memories

submitted by his daughter, Betty Leonard

When not living through tumultuous times such as war and famine, my town (Agios Ioannis) was a close-knit, loving community where everyone cared about each other and their neighbours. There were many well educated families. There were doctors, army officers, and many Sparti government employees.

The town was full of children. The boys would go swimming at the river or on hot scorching days we would venture to a neighbour’s property in Agios Ioannis. The neighbour was Nikitaras Varvitsioti. He was a prosperous farmer who had a man-made pond full of water for irrigation purposes. We boys spent many days swimming and enjoying themselves there. My dad would usually go with his brothers or his friends. This wasn’t anything that the girls participated in.

I remember the town fondly.

Parents of Ioannis: Paraskevas Alevetsovitis and Vasiliki Kokkoros Alevetsovitis (standing) with Vasiliki’s mother, Politimi Porentas Alevetsovitis seated in front, 1930, Agios Ioannis

This photo is of the ” Horeftiko Sigkrotima to Agiou Ioannou “. They were an all male Agios Ioannis dance troupe that performed during that period at church functions, holidays and Panigyria. They were the community dance group, made up of young men in their late teens. Paraskevas Alevetsovitis (Ioannis’ father) is front and centre. About 1913 in Agios Ioannis.

Beware of Translation Tools!

Knowing how important notary contracts are in finding information about our ancestors, I was very excited when Gregory Kontos of Greek Ancestry brought me a book published by Pepi Gavala, Archivist at the General State Archives of Greece, Sparta Office.[1] This book is not just a synopsis, but a full extract, of contracts from the collection of the notary, Georgios Chartoularis, 1833-1835.

Gavala, Pepi. Notary book of Georgiou Cartoularis of Lakedaimonos, 1833-1835. Sparta, 2016

I used the index to find entries of interest to me, and Gregory provided a synopsis of the contracts.

Here is an example: Contract 388, page 365-366; year 1834.
In the parish of Stavros in Mystras. Martha, daughter of the late Diamantis Dimitrakakis and wife of Anagnostis Dimakos. Martha had property which was part of her dowry. She wanted to sell the property to build a house  in Mystras. Martha’s brothers and her nephew gave permission for her to sell the property to another nephew, Ilias Michalopoulos.  It is unclear whether Martha’s brothers actually owned the property with her, or if they just gave permission for its sale.
Martha’s two brothers were: Theodorakis and Dimitrakis Diamantopoulos, sons of Diamantis [note: they took their father’s first name as their surname!]
Martha’s nephews [sons of her two sisters who are unnamed, but I now have her sisters’ married names]: Diamantis Panopoulos; and Ilias Michalopoulos the one to whom she sold her property.
Permission was given by Martha’s brothers, Theodorakis and Dimitrakis, and her nephew, Diamantis Panopoulos, to sell her property to her nephew, Ilias Michalopoulos.
The contract explains exactly where the property was located in Vitinarias, Mystras.

I was curious to learn some details about the property being sold, so I typed the contract into both Deepl and Google Translate. I was both surprised and confused when the word, αυτάδελφος, (relating to Martha’s brothers) appeared with different translations.

I looked in my Collins Greek-English dictionary and the word was not there.

I checked the dictionary, Λεξικό της ελληνικής ως ξένης γλώσσας, and the word was not there.

Babel Fish gave me the message: “failed translation.”

Microsoft/Bing translated the word as: self-brother (what does THAT mean?)

Systran: translated the word as: colleague

Βικιλεξικό: produced several definitions:  self- brother <ancient greek  αὐτάδελφος <αὐτός + ἀδελφός αυτοδελφος male (female cousin and cousin) brother (from both parents).

By this point, I was truly frustrated. Having the exact relationship is critical in genealogy research and I had many variations. Finally it dawned on me that this word, αυτάδελφος, used in 1833, may be obsolete in modern Greek. Giving it one last try, I went to the Google search bar and typed:  What is the definition of αυτάδελφος? A “new to me” website, WordSense gave this definition: (rare) brother-german, full-brother. And under related words and phrases was: see αδελφός (masc.) (“brother”)

Intrigued, I clicked on brother-german, and found this definition: A full brother: a brother born to the same mother and father, as distinguished from half-brothers, step-brothers, or ‘brothers’ established through relationships such as wardship. 

I went back to Greg and he confirmed that αυτάδελφος is obsolete and no longer used.  He also said that old documents may use the term αθταδέλγη as full sister. Another colleague pointed out that ετεροθαλής is a half-brother.

Now I know why the printed and online dictionaries of MODERN GREEK do not have αυτάδελφος (it’s not a modern word!), and why online translation services mistranslated it.

Important lesson learned:  when translating old documents, do not rely on online translations. They’re okay to get a general idea of the context of the document, but when it comes to important items such as relationships, ask Greek Ancestry for translation help. If Greg had not done the translation and I had relied solely on the translating tools, the relationships in my family tree would have been totally wrong, leading not only to misinformation but to utter confusion when corroborating evidence from various sources.

_______
[1] Gavala, Pepi. Notary book of Georgiou Cartoularis of Lakedaimonos, 1833-1835. Sparta, 2016. Contract #388, page 365

Muslim Converts of Agios Ioannis Sparta in the Year 1689

Although Greece currently is, and has historically been, a Christian Orthodox country, Jewish and Muslim communities have existed within its borders for centuries. Scholars have written extensively about Greek conversions to Islam during the Ottoman occupation, but the same level of study has not been given to Muslims who converted to Christianity. Although not common, it did happen, especially during and after the Revolution of 1821.

Turkish Family, circa 1500
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City

Why would a Muslim, living in a Greek village, voluntarily change religions? “Muslim converts to Christianity were ready to compromise their Islamic faith in exchange for security, social status, and well-being in the changed political and social environment created by Greek nationalism, with a view to advancing their professional opportunities and material interests in the new state.”[1]

Abandoning their faith and adopting a new identity, some converts retained their names; others either took the name, or were given the nickname, of Neofotistos (Νεοφώτιστος), loosely translated as “new light.” Converts, particularly females, who were ostracized by their families found safety through conversion and marriage, and easily assimilated into village life.   

In his essay, Neophotisti and Apostates: Greece and Conversion in the Nineteenth Century,[2] Evdoxios Doxiadis, through his study of notarial and court records, found that “their [Muslim converts] numbers may have been more significant than previously thought.” He writes, “although the evidence presented here is sporadic, it is also indicative of a noteworthy presence of converts, and especially female converts, in the early decades of the modern Greek state and their integration into Greek society as wives and property owners.”

In 2014, historian Giannis Michalakakos gave me a copy of the Periodical Study of the Society of Lakonian Studies, Volume 9. Comprised of essays and documents retrieved from the Venetian Archives (Archivio di Stato), it includes a “list of Turks who became Christians, with their women and children, who are inhabitants of the respective places of the province of Mystras.”[3] The document is dated 1689, and the statistical information was obtained during the Second Venetian rule in the Peloponnese. The villages listed in the document are: Mystras, Agios Ioannis Sparta, Sklavochori, Arkasa, Lopesi, Floka, Kastri and Voaria.

In my ancestral village of Agios Ioannis Sparta, the following converts from Islam to Christianity are named:

Theodoris Bettiafaci, age 40 years
Giannoula, his wife
Panagiota, his daughter
Giannoula, his other daughter

Ilias Papoutsis, age 45 years
Kanella, his wife
Panagiota, his daughter, age 18 years

Ilias Papoutsis, age 45 years
Kanella, his wife
Panagiota, his daughter, age 18 years
Nikolaos, his son, age 11 years

Panagiotis Zalamachera, age 32 years
Panoria, his wife
Baroloni, his son

Ilias Chortatzis, age 20 years
Pagona, his wife
Panagiotis, his son

Giannis Krevelis, age 30 years
Pagona, his wife
Garoufalia, his daughter
Panagiota, his other daughter

Giannis Tsakalis, age 45 years
Maroula, his wife
Kontylo, his daughter

Dimitrios Karas, age 40 years
Panagiota, his wife

Panagiotis Vlachakis, age 28 years
Venetia, his wife

Giannakis Staveris, age 32 years
Paraskevi, his wife
Giorgios, his adopted son

Panagiotis Thereianos, age 39 years
Panoria, his wife
Maria, his daughter
Venetsiana, his sister
Giannis, his son
Dimitrios, his other son
The female, Kanella Achmetitsa
Dominikos, her son
The female, Maroulla Paina
The female, Maroula Koutsevaina
The female, Maria Katanaina

Widow Magio (Maro) Karamenmetaina
Nikolaos, her son

Alexandros Mpanamakis, age 25 years
Chrysafo, his wife

Giorgios Kazakis, age 30 years
Isabeta, his wife

The majority of these surnames are Greek, leading me to wonder if the Muslim convert was the wife who took a Greek given name after marriage. Unfortunately, the document does not provide further details. I find it interesting that none of the names are “Neofotistos;” however, I have found that name many times in the Μιτρόον Αρρένον (Male Register) and Δημοτολόγιον Κοινότητος (Dimotologion Koinotitos) documents from the Archives of Sparta, which were created in the mid-late 1800s.

 “The idea that Greece emerged [from the Revolution] as a solidly homogenous Christian state is rarely challenged,” Doxiadis concludes.[4]  Yet the records prove that a rich kaleidoscope of ethnicities have melded over the centuries to forge the modern Greek people of today.


[1]  Katsikas, Stefanos and Dimitriadis, Sakis, *Muslim Converts to Orthodox Christianity during the Greek War of Independence, 1821–1832,” European History Quarterly, Vol 51, Issue 3, 2021, page(s): 299-323. SAGE Publications: 07/01/2021. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/02656914211025378

[2] Doxiadis, E. (2022). Neophotistoi and Apostates: Greece and Conversion in the Nineteenth Century. Historein20(1). https://doi.org/10.12681/historein.24980. paragraphs 16 and 19.

[3] Lakonian Studies, Periodical Study of the Society of Lakonian Studies, Volume 9, page 272. Athens: 1988. Mystras, 20 September 1689, Document Number 21

[4] Doxiadis, paragraph 34.

1828 Census of Agios Ioannis, Sparta

One of the earliest genealogical records of the modern Greek state is the 1828 Census, which I wrote about in this post. This was ordered by Ioannis Kapodistrias when he was the Governor of Greece. Digital images of this census are stored on the website of the General State Archives of Greece, but the collection is disbursed across many files and difficult to access (records from the Kapodistrias collection are found here).

In 2020, researcher Konstantinos Koutsodontis sent me this image of the 1828 census of Agios Ioannis. It is possible that this list is not complete, or that there could be another list with more names from the village. For now, this is all that I have.

I have translated the names found in this record, and the translations were verified by Gregory Kontos of GreekAncestry.

1828 Census of Agios Ioannis, Sparta
1828 Census of Agios Ioannis
(names are in same order as written in document)

Nikolakis Stamatakos
Georgios Dimakos
Panagiotis Zagklanikakis
Dimitris Zacharopoulos
Sarantos Stamatakos
Vasilis Gourgaris
Konstantis Vlachakos
Georg. Papoutzis
Giannakis Milianitis
Theodoris Lontaritakis
Anastasis Tzirgasakis
Georgis Marakoulakis
Anastasis Tzirimpogampros
Thanasis Kokkinaikos
Nikolakis Kerasotis
Georgakis Giannis
Panagiotis Kavouris
I. Kontakos
Dimitrios & Zanakos Tis poulimenis
Stavros Kalaferis
Panagiotis Linardou
Georgios Skiadas
Giannos & Giakoumis Saltaferos
Ilias Charamakos
Georgakis Liopoulos
Georgakis Kavouris
Dimi. Kourakis
Georgis Tsigkalakakos
Panagiotis Margokaflakos?
Anagnostis Tis Christenas
Nikolakis Tzirgotis
Christos Tsigkalakakos
Giannakis & brother Smyrlakos
Giannakis Moustakaros
Michalis Triantafylogampros
Dimi Tzirgotis
Dim & Vasilis Maltziniotis
Nikolaos, son in law of Maltziniotis
Dimi Tzanos
Giannakis Paraskevakos
Georgakis Charitakos
Panagiotis Birbatakos
Giannakis Maragkakos
Georg., brother of Maragkakos
Nikolakis & his brother Petros Tzirokinakos?
Stratigis of Georgakarinas
Nikolakis Liggitzakos
Kyriakis Antakis
Kyriakos Mourampas
Anagnostakis Georgakopoulos
Apostolis Roumeliotis
Stratigis Dimitrakakos
Nikolakis Michalakos
Theodoros Kokkonis

It is so very interesting to look at these surnames. Some of them are found in the village today (2022). Do you recognize a name that appears in this census, but is now known as a different or modified name? Does your family appear in this census? Please let me know and I will post that information. I would like to trace the evolution of these Agios Ioannis names from 1828 to present day.