A cousin forwarded this video to me, and I just had to share it. It is the perfect blend of old and new and demonstrates how universal our world has become. Of course it was shot in New York, my birth city! Love it!
In a recent post, the Zaharakis/Zacharakis Family of Theologos, I mentioned that the earliest member of this family that I could find was Ioannis, born approximately 1798 in Theologos.
Ioannis is found on line 236 of the 1844 Election List for Theologos, where he is listed as being age 46.
I was thrilled when my friend, Giannis Michalakakos, sent me documentation that cites Ioannis as being the recipient of an Aristeia for his military service in the 1821 Revolution. Aristeia comes from the word άριστος (aristos) which is defined as “excellent.” In Greek warfare, an aristeia (αριστείο) is an award of great prestige and distinction. It is earned by a soldier for his exemplary actions in battle. In the eyes of his comrades, he is a hero and is recognized as such.
This is a copy of the Application of Ioannis for an Aristeia:
Document #261 – Application dated 1839
The request and application of Ioannis Zaharakis for certification of military service. The request was made to the Royal Secretary of Lacedaimon under the existing law 3028, to receive medals and certifications. I am making use of this law and I submit my certification for the Aristeia.
This document #266 contains the signature of Ioannis at the bottom.
Document #309 – Certificate, dated 1839
The man that is holding this paper certifies that Ioannis Zaharakis of Theologos of Sellasia, in the beginning of the war, with his fellow villagers, willingly fought under orders of my brother, the captain (Georgios Giatrakos).In the start of the revolution with other people of the government of Greece, Ioannis Karakasou or Kastasou; he participated in many battles: Valtetsi, Doliana, the siege of Tripoli, the city of Naplion, city of Argos, city of New Kastorio Pylos during the invasion…. We certify and give this certification to Ioannis Zaharakis for any use. Date: Aug 4, 1840 in Mystra.
Signed by: George Giatrakos; Nikos Giatrakos; Dimitri Nikolopoulos; Ioannis Matalas; Georgios Sklavahoritis (possibly); last signature is the mayor of the area, unintelligible. (Link to document online at website of General State Archives of Greece: http://arxeiomnimon.gak.gr/search/resource.html?tab=tab02&id=561094)
I am always excited to find any document for any member of my family — it is a clue to who they are, where they were, and what they did.
Knowing that Ioannis received an Aristeia brings me a profound feeling of both joy and pride. His blood runs in my veins which makes me the descendant of a hero!
Searching my Eftaxias family in Laconia is yielding some exciting results. My great-great grandfather, Ioannis Eftaxias1, was born in 1809 in Mystras. As far as can be determined, he is the oldest Eftaxias in Mystras. He had two sons listed in the 1872/1873 Election Rolls: my great-grandfather, Konstandinos2, (born 1840) and Georgios3 (born 1848).
Dimitrios Eftaxias4, born 1846 in Mystras, is also found in these Election Lists; however, his father is not named. It is very likely that Ioannis is his father, because Ioannis is the only male Eftaxias in Mystras who is of the age to be a father during that time period. I am hoping that the staff at the Archives office in Sparta will be able to resolve this by finding Dimitrios in the Male Register, which will list his father.
My friend, historian and teacher, Giannis Michalakakos, has found the name in two areas in Laconia: Mystras and Lagia (Mani). He said this name is rare and may be Byzantine in origin. It is likely that all Eftaxias from Laconia are blood-related. Giannis surmises that members of the Eftaxias family moved from Lagia north to Mystra after the 1821 Revolution, as this was a time of widespread migration throughout southern Greece. When the Ottoman occupation ended, families were free to move about, unmolested and unafraid. It was common for families to leave their hiding places in the forbidding mountains to find work in cities and farming opportunities in the fertile plains of Laconia.
A newly-found Eftaxias relative was told by his father that his family originated in Kalamata. Corroborating this, the map below reveals the route from Lagia through Kalamata to Mystras. Understanding migration patterns helps us move back through time.
Giannis determined that the oldest Eftaxias in the village of Lagia is Mihalis Eftaxias, born about 1800. He fought in the 1821 Revolution. Mihalis had a son named Vrettos, and Vrettos had two sons: Michalis5 (born 1826) and Panagiotis6 (born in 1832).
The Eftaxias name is found in Atatka, the first Modern Greek dictionary! The Atatka was compiled by Adamantios Korais, a Greek humanist scholar who played an influential role in the Greek Enlightenment, the 1821 Revolution, and in particular the development of the “purist” Greek language, Katharevousa. His monumental work, Atatka, is comprised of 17 volumes and was published in France in 1832.
Recently Giannis sent me an entry from page 147 of Volume One of Atakta, where the name “Eftaxias” appears.
A rough translation reveals that Eftaxias is an ecclesiastical servant; one who keeps the order of the church. [From Gregory Kontos: Ευταξίας: good=ευ, order=τάξη]. He is the one that ensures there is orderliness among the people by preventing disorderly conduct, noise and mischief. There is reference in this document that Eftaxias was named “the Lord of peace.” This description gives me a most interesting insight into my ancestor who was first given (or adopted) this name.
Some families spell the name without an “i”: Eftaxas. Giannis explained that in the Maniate language, the name is pronounced Eftaxeas (accent on the 2nd e, and pronounced as a long e). The family is part of a Maniat clan (blood related families with different names) named Ksifomaheridianoi. Other branches of families from this clan are Kassimis, Royssakos, and Kapylorihos, all of whom remained in Lagia.
Along with clan affiliations, name changes pose real challenges. Most occur from either παρατσούκλι (paratsoúkli) which is a nickname; or creating a surname from a given name — males taking the given names of their fathers and adding -akos to indicate “son of.” Example: my surname, Kostakos, means “son of Kostas.” Thus, the original surname is lost. Reading through Election Rolls, I see this phenomenon on almost every page in Mani records. With the Eftaxias name having a distinct definition, there is no name change. Tracking down the “first” Eftaxias would be a fabulous find!
1General Archives of Greece, Election Lists, 1843-44
File 22, Image 62, Line 239, Mystras
Ioannis Eftaxias, age 35, owns property; gardener; no father listed
2General Archives of Greece, Election Lists, 1872
File 25, Image 404, Line 573, Mystras
Konstandinos Eftaxias, age 32, shepherd; father: Ioannis
3General Archives of Greece, Election Lists, 1875
1872: File 25, Image 402, Line 480, Sparta-Mystras
Line 480 : Georgios Eftaxias, age 24, b.1848; occupation: student; father: not named
4General Archives of Greece, Election Lists, 1872
1872: File 25, Image 403, Line 506, Sparta-Mystras
Line 506: Dimitrios Eftaxias, age 26, occupation: shepherd; father: not named
5 General Archives of Greece, Election Lists, 1875
File 9, Image 99, Line 188, Lagia
Mihalis Eftaxias, age 49, farmer, father: Vrettos,
6 General Archives of Greece, Election Lists, 1875
File 9, Image 100, Line 237, Lagia
Panagiotis Eftaxias, age 43, farmer; father: Vrettos
The family of my great-grandmother, Stathoula Zaharakis, has been an elusive mystery to me. Her photo, which is on my desk, reminds me daily to think of her as well as all those who came before me.
Her face haunts me at times. How did she feel as she sent all three of her daughters to the U.S. so they could marry and have a better life? She had no sons; who took care of her as she aged? My mother said that she died as she was preparing to come to the U.S. to visit her daughters and their families in the mid-1950’s. How heartbreaking!
When Gregory Kontos and I were at the Greek Orthodox Mitropolis in Sparta in 2014, he found the marriage record for Stathoula and Konstandinos Ioannis Eftaxias.
From this marriage record, I learned that Stathoula’s father was Dimitrios. I knew that the family lived in Theologos, Oinountos – just north of Sparta.
At the office of the General Archives of Greece in Sparta, Gregory and I digitized pages from the Dimotologion Koinothtos (Town Register) of Theologos which listed the Zaharakis families. I can’t believe that I overlooked the Male Register – a critical component to understand father/son relationships! Until I return to the Archives next summer, I have only the Dimotologia, Election Lists of 1872 & 1844, and information sent by family members to organize the structure of the Zaharakis family prior to 1940. I know the Male Registers will eventually provide missing information.
As I worked through the various resources, I learned an important detail about the 1844 Election Lists: there is an index at the beginning of each municipality. In the image below, notice two columns of numbers to the left of each name. The first number is the line number in the index; the second number is the line in the record itself. In this image on line 272 (right column, 3rd down) is Ioannis Zaharakis or Zaharakakis; the number 236 indicates the line in the record where his registration is recorded. (see next image)
This is an image of the voter registration page. Ioannis is found on line 236, which reads: Ioannis Zaharakis, age 46, farmer.
Also found on both of these pages are:
Index line 256/Record line 238 – Panagiotis Zaharakakis, age 34, farmer
Index line 273/Record line 239 – Theodoros Zaharakakis, age 32, farmer
Index line 267/Record line 250 – Georgios Zaharakis, age 42, farmer
Big important note: Thank you, Gregory Kontos, for finding these names for me. You have my undying gratitude forever! I can read records that are typewritten, but the handwritten ones are Greek to me.
I will update this post after my next trip to the Archives in Sparta in July 2016. This time I’ll have the Male Registers and I will be able to further corroborate and correct what I have documented.
If anyone has information that can shed further light on these families, or give a better translation of the handwritten Greek, I would be most grateful!
Now I can put this aside to enjoy the holidays. Merry Christmas!
A recent discussion on the Facebook page, HellenicGenealogyGeek, centered around the various ethnic groups that populated the Peloponnese in the late 1800’s. My friend and historian, Giannis Michalakakos, posted this map which shows the areas where various languages and dialects were spoken.
In a subsequent telephone conversation, Giannis told me many interesting facts. Alfred Philippson was a German geologist who took yearly journeys through various areas of Greece and Asia Minor to study geology. His maps provided valuable information not readily found during that time frame. In the Peloponnese, he visited many ancient sites such as Olympia and Mistras. More information about Philippson can be found on Wikipedia here.
Giannis explained the various colors on the map:
– Purple: Greek language
– Blue: Tsakonian dialect, one of the oldest in Greece (more here)
– Rose: Arvanitika, spoken by people of northern Epirus and Albania who migrated and settled in several areas, most notably around Corinth. This language is a mixture of Albanian and Greek. Those who speak this language call themselves Greek Arvanites to distinguish themselves as Greek rather than Albanian (more here).
– Darker Rose: Mixed Greek and Arvanitika.
– Pale Rose: Also Greek and Arvanitika.
– Yellow lines: denote areas where the Slavic population existed during the years 800-1200.
This map intrigued me for several reasons. First, it is a visual depiction of the major ethnicities populating this area after the Revolution of 1821. Second, it helps me understand the various dialects which continue to exist to this day, particularly in the less-accessible mountainous regions.
But the third reason is the most profound one for me, personally. I have taken DNA tests which show my ethnicity to be:
9% Eastern Europe
2% Western Europe
less than 1% Jewish
Science doesn’t lie! I am a mixture of many ethnicities. What Philippson’s map reveals is just because I am a mix, that does not mean that my ancestors came from all of these various countries. Some or all of them could have lived in the Peloponnese for many generations, yet intermarried with people from other cultures.
It is an eye-opening and fascinating perspective of who they were; and consequently, who I am.
I express my deepest appreciation to Giannis for his patience in teaching me and expanding my horizon of knowledge. In his blog, Maniatika, Giannis posted Philippson’s map and included an in-depth description of it written by Elli Skopeteas. That Maniatika article can be found here.
On November 7, I went to Orlando, Florida to teach 4 classes at the Central Florida Genealogy Conference. Although my classes were well attended, the one on “Researching Your Greek Ancestry” attracted two people. Nevertheless, I was happy to be able to give them individualized help in the areas they need to research.
While in Florida, I took full advantage of connecting with new cousins. On Friday evening, I met Maria Lambrakos Skordilis and her son, Peter, for dinner in Ybor City (downtown Tampa). Peter, Sophia and I are DNA cousins, and according to GEDmatch Peter and I are about 4.6 generations from our “most recent common ancestor” (MCRA); Sophia and I are 4.8.
We share Brooklyn, New York roots: Peter and I were both baptized at St. Constantine & Helen Church, which is also where Sophia was married. We recognized many Greek Brooklynite names, but as hard as we tried, we couldn’t determine our common ancestor. Sophia’s pedigree includes the surnames Lambrakos, Papastratis, Stratakos, Lambrianakos and Doukas. These families are from Gorani, about 6 miles south or a 1/2 hour drive from Sparta and Agios Ioannis. I’m thinking that Sophia and I are related through my maternal line, as she looks as if she could be a twin to one of my cousins. Even our waitress commented that there is a strong resemblance between us!
On Saturday evening after the conference, I visited with George Topalidis whom I had met at our Hellenic Genealogy Conference in Salt Lake City on September 26. We were discussing plans for a similar conference in Tarpon Springs, Florida next fall.
Was I ever surprised to learn that George’s wife, Eva, and I also share Brooklyn connections! Her family is from Anavriti, the village next to Agios Ioannis (honestly, I think everyone in Brooklyn has ties to Anavriti!) Her father’s family is Capous; her mother’s line is Chrisomalis. We started comparing notes and I learned that her Chrisomalis family married into my grandmother Aridas’ family, and that she is thus a cousin to one of my 2nd cousins. Huh? What are the chances???
On Sunday morning, I had brunch with my 2nd cousin, Jim Stavracos and his lovely wife, Maria. This was the first time we met. Jim’s grandmother, Antonia Kostakos Stavracos, is the sister of my paternal grandfather, John Andrew Kostakos. Of course, Jim and I are Brooklyn-born although both of us left the city as young children. He grew up in Baltimore and I grew up in New Jersey, then Maryland.
I had found Antonia’s death certificate and her husband, Peter’s naturalization records which I brought to Jim. He filled me in on many family stories and shared photographs. He said he has a photo of Antonia holding a shotgun, standing in front of the family home in Greece. I sure hope he can find that one!
I am so excited to meet these new family members and look forward to collecting more cousins!
On another note…last Monday evening, I gave a presentation at the Carroll County, Maryland Genealogy Society and met a woman named Antigoni Lefteris (Eleftheriou) Ladd. Her family is from Trikala, a city in north central Greece. They emigrated and settled in the town of Westminister in western Maryland.
In April 2013, Antigoni became involved in an initiative begun by Westminster’s physician, Dr. Dean Griffin, to collect and preserve the stories of local Greek families. From these first-person narratives, photos and news articles, a community history evolved and is now preserved in the fascinating book, Honoring Our Heritage, The Greek Families of Westminster, Maryland. The following families comprise the heart of the book: Amprazes, Sirinakis, Haralampoulos, Koretos, Bourexis, Lefteris, Letras, Nickolas (Nikolaou), Pappas (Batayiannis), Samios, Sharkey (Chakou).
Antigoni became the editor of this project, and it was her persistence and dedicated effort that culminated its publication in August 2015. I love this book! It is so inspiring and heartwarming to see the stories of these Greek families memorialized and preserved for the generations to come.
More of us need to follow Antigoni’s example. With each generation, we slip further away from our immigrant ancestors. Their stories will be lost to future generations if we don’t write what we know and collect what we can find. That is a tragedy which we can prevent — but only if we choose to act.
My friend and Greek genealogist, Gregory Kontos, prepared some excellent handouts for the Hellenic Genealogy Conference in Salt Lake City on September 26, 2015.
This is a sample of a Dimotologion Koinothtos, or Town Register. It is similar to a U.S. census record as it lists the families in the villages, with parents and children’s names, birthdates, birth places, and other relevant information. These records were created in the 1900’s. The oldest families will have parents born in the late 1800’s, with their children born in the early-mid 1900’s. To my knowledge, there is no such record collection dated earlier than this timeframe, which is unfortunate as we cannot go back to find a father or a mother in this record, when he/she is listed as a child in their parents’ family.
This is page 1 of 2.
Here is an example of the 1st page of the Dimotologion, with an entry translated into English.
This is page 2 of a Dimotologion. It gives additional information about each person in the family.
This is a Mitroon Arrenon, or Male Register. It is a record of every male born in a village. It was kept by the government for military draft purposes, and is considered an official register of birth.
These two record sets are the backbone of genealogy research in Greece. The regional offices of the General State Archives of Greece (GAK) have books with these record collections for the villages over which they have jurisdiction.
A list of the Regional GAK offices can be found here: http://www.gak.gr/frontoffice/portal.asp?cpage=NODE&cnode=36. The page can be translated into English using Google translate. If you write for information, include whatever you know about the family you are searching. It is especially important to know the spelling of the original surname in Greek (e.g., Papagiannakos, not just Pappas). You must also know the exact village and its location because there are many villages with the same name (e.g., not just Agios Ioannis, but Agios Ioannis Sparta).