Massive GAK Digitization Project Announced

In its January 2023 newsletter, the General State Archives of Greece (GAK) announced a major digitization project to include “55,000,000 digital downloads from the archives and collections of almost all of the General Archives Services of the State*(Central and Regional) with parallel documentation and development of a thesaurus of items for all the digital material…Upon completion, the project will also utilize the content of the digital portal @ρχειομνημων, of the first major digitization project of the GAS Service which was completed in 2008.”

The implications for researchers, both historical and genealogical, are phenomenal. The announcement below was in the GAK January 2023 newsletter. You can subscribe to the newsletter at this link. The English translation is via Google Translate.

*Address: General State Archives · Dafnis 61 · Filothei-Psychiko 154 52 · Greece

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New Greek Records Online at MyHeritage & New Search Engine at Greek Ancestry

The MyHeritage website has added two new databases to its Greek collection, bringing the total to five. They can be found at this link.

The two newest additions are:

1856 Farmers’ Census – 99,800 records. “This collection contains census records of farmers from Greece in 1856. Records typically include the name of the individual, their year of birth, residence, and may include the name of the father.”

1901-1947 City Directories – 202,823 records. “This collection consists of city directories from Greece from the first half of the twentieth century. Records may contain the full name, residence, and occupation of the individual. Additionally, the year and name of the directory, and a comment may also be included. The individual’s residence normally contains the street name and number, the name of the town, and the prefecture. Information is given in Greek, and there is additionally a transliterated version of the information in Latin script.”

They are in addition to:

1856-1950 Electoral Rolls and Male Registers – 1,408,633 records. “This collection includes the election material of the Vlachogiannis Collection of the General State Archives of Greece. The collection consists of voter lists from 56 regions of Greece, and two male registers from another two regions. Most of the material covers the decades of 1860, 1870 and 1880, while the voter lists of Athens include records from the 1920s. The voter lists are sorted by province (επαρχία), municipality (δήμος) and town/village. Voter lists generally include: the voter’s given name and surname, father’s name, age and occupation.”

1835-1936 Sparta Marriages – 179,411 records. “This collection includes marriage records created by and kept at the Holy Metropolis of Monemvasia and Sparta from 1835 to 1935. As every marriage needed to be licensed and blessed by the area’s Metropolitan, the Metropolis kept systematic records of the marriages in its jurisdiction…both licenses and indexes.

1841-1932 Corfu Vital Records – 646,880 records. “This collection consists of birth, marriage, and death certificates from the entire island of Corfu, kept at the General State Archives of Corfu. As the vital records were created by the civil authorities, all of the island’s ethnic and religious groups are represented.”

The GreekAncestry.net website has a powerful new search engine, Zeus, which simplifies and enhances accurate search results. Try it here. The collections at Greek Ancestry continue to expand; descriptions are here.

Records at both MyHeritage and Greek Ancestry collections can be searched by name in either English and Greek.

My colleague, Gregory Kontos of Greek Ancestry, is the force behind these online collections at both Greek Ancestry and MyHeritage. His team is busy finding, digitizing and name-indexing records from all areas of Greece. People worldwide are now able to research their family history, beginning at home — a huge step forward for all with Hellenic roots!

The Shoemakers of Xirokampi

By Socrates P. Vafakos
published in The Faris Newsletter, Issue 33, January 2003, pages 19-21

In today’s world, a pair of shoes is a simple matter in terms of manufacturing. They are made in factories on mass production lines with the latest technology and sold en masse to the world. In the early decades of the 20th century, however, when technology and modern machinery were non-existent, there were a few cobblers, who at the bench and in their workshops, made custom-made leather shoes and repaired worn and punctured shoes. Due to poverty, making a new pair of shoes was a rare phenomenon. It was considered a luxury to have a second pair of shoes. For this reason, the craftsmen, the so-called shoemakers, made new shoes on demand only. They would usually set up their bench in the shoe shop and with the help of workers and apprentices, they would repair damaged shoes. How many times didn’t the cobblers return to the surrounding villages to repair people’s shoes?

Every region of Greece had shoemakers and of course Xirokampi was not an exception. In Xirokampi, Ioannis Panageas had a shoemaker’s shop across the street from where Mr. Mandrapilia’s paint shop is today. The brothers Nikos and Argyris Kalianiotis had a shoemaker’s shop in the building that belonged to Panagiotis Kyriakakos. Later in the same place was the shoemaker’s shop of Yannis Alexakis, who had married the daughter of Argyris Kalianiotis. Panagiotis Christopoulos had a shoemaker’s shop in the building that belonged to Napoleon Andreakos. In Katsouleika was the shoemaker’s shop of Evangelos Kritikos, while Panagiotis Kalianiotis, who lives today in Sparta, had his shoemaker’s shop opposite the bakery of Nikolakakos. Finally, there is Georgios Starogiannis who is 96 years old today and lives in Xirokampi. His first shoemaker’s shop was in the house of Arachovitis. In 1933, having already been 10 years in the cobbler’s art, he went to the square and opened a shop next to Vangelis Liakakos’ house.

“Barba” Georgios Starogiannis retired when he completed 45 years of love for his craft. He is the only shoemaker along with “barba” Pantelis Skliros who now lives in Katsouleika. Like all shoemakers, he had several workers in his shop, around 20. He mentioned a few to me: Pantelis Skliros, Pantelis Frangis, Iraklis Komnenos, Konstantinos Chrysikos, Lias Chios, Yannis Filosofos who was also a good shoemaker, just like the aforementioned. There were of course many other cobblers who worked with diligence and craftsmanship in the shoe shops of Xirokampi. “Barba” Giorgis Starogiannis, during the occupation period, was the only one in Xirokampi who could manufacture the so-called German boots or vaketes (βακέτες).

The shoemakers made shoes on demand. They were made to fit the feet of the person who ordered them. At first, the cobblers took measurements with a tape measure. To give the shape of the shoe to the treated leathers and sole, they fitted them with a special shoe mold called kalapodi (καλαπόδι). Previously, of course, they had cut the leathers with a sharp blade, or if the skins were thin, with a cutter [similar to a wire cutter]. These two tools were sharpened with a special tool, called matsaki (ματσάκι). The pieces of leather were placed in the kalapodi and underneath was the vardoulo (βάρδουλο) [a strip of leather on the bottom of a shoe to which the sole is nailed or sewn].  Using small nails called spragges (σπράγγες), they nailed the sole to the skin.

After the whole construction took the shape of the shoe and the leather was repaired, they removed the nails and threw them away and where the nails had been, they sewed the skin with an awl. Then, to fasten the heels to the shoes, a hole was drilled to insert the wooden spike which was made from a piece of board. The tool which was used to drill the hole was called katsaproki (κατσαπρόκι). After affixing the heel with the wooden spike, they secured it with nails called telakia (τελάκια), which varied in size. To prevent the shoes and especially the boots from wearing out easily, two metal taps (or clips) were nailed, one on the toe and one on the back of the shoe. All around the shoe, where the leather meets the sole, the cobblers made various decorative stitches and engravings.  The construction of the shoe was completed by polishing the sole, the heel and the bottom of the shoe with three smooth surface tools, the machineta (μακινέτα), the camareto (καμαρέτο) and the lampougio (λαμπούγιο). In particular, for polishing the heel, the cobbler would first heat the polishing tool over a fire in a small tin can. Such a pair of leather shoes needed a day to be made by an experienced craftsman.

Making a pair of shoes required great craftsmanship and artistry. An incident proves this: a customer from Potamia haggled with “barba” Giorgis Starogiannis for a pair. “Barba” Georgios, to show him the quality of the shoes he would buy, put the shoes on scales which balanced perfectly. The shoes were of equal weight, something difficult to do because they were handmade.

Of course, as we have already pointed out, the main work was repair. They patched full of holes and repaired damaged, worn out shoes. Every time there was a market, people from the surrounding villages and the mountains would come and have their shoes repaired by the shoemakers who set up their stalls in the square of Xirokampi. Often, the cobblers would go to villages and mend shoes on the spot. When the sole was punctured, they would patch it with a piece of leather. When the leather was punctured, they would put the shoe in the kalapodi and patch it with a piece of leather, called fola (φόλα).

At the beginning of the century, in the first decades, when there was no eight-hour work day, the shoemakers worked many hours a day (10 – 15) and sometimes stayed overnight at their work, without being paid extra wages and overtime by their bosses. The working conditions in the shoemaker’s shops were difficult, but they became more humane when the right to an eight-hour work week was secured, for which there had been many struggles all over the world.

Today, no one in Xirokampi follows the art of shoemaking. The old ones have either died or have now retired (G. Starogiannis, P. Skliros, P. Kalianiotis), while the younger ones do not have the passion to continue this profession. After all, there are now shoe industries that manufacture many pairs of shoes at low cost. Very soon, unfortunately, the shoemaker’s trade will be completely eliminated in all of Greece, as the last cobblers will also retire.

___

I am honored to receive permission from the Katsoulakos family to translate and share articles from The Faris. Translation verification and corrections have been made by GreekAncestry.net. This is the sixth article of the ongoing series. Previous articles can be viewed here.

Beyond the Basics: The EETAA Website – Nuggets of Important Information

Have you ever wondered why you cannot find your ancestor’s village on a Google map? Do you need to find the email or phone number of a community to request a record or ask for information? The EETAA website (Greek Society of Local Development and Self Government) has these answers. But, it takes some digging to find them. I hope this guide will help you.

NOTE: There are links to specific pages in this guide to help you navigate. It takes time to maneuver to the exact page you want. When you find your pages, bookmark them for easy access.

First and very important — if you do not read Greek, install a translate extension (such as Google Translate) which will enable you to click on “translate this page” so it can be read in English. As you explore this website, you will use this browser extension.  Note:  the example below is how it looks on Chrome, it will look different on other browsers i.e. Microsoft Edge, etc.

Second, understand the structure of Greece’s Levels of Administration (as organized under the Kallikratis Plan of 2011). Note that the designations of Nomos and Prefecture were eliminated under the Kallikratis Plan, but these terms continue to be used.

The “official” levels of administration:

Level 1:  7 Administrative Districts (Αποκεντρωμένη Διοίκηση).

Level 2:  13 Regional Units (Περιφέρεια)  

Level 3:  325 Municipalities (Dimos – Δήμος). These are further divided into municipal units (Δημοτική ενότητα). The municipal units are then divided into:  (1) municipal communities  (Δημοτική κοινότητα) and (2) local communities  (Τοπική κοινότητα).

The EETAA website is a gateway to contact information for these three levels.  

This is the homepage.

Remember, this is a government website with a myriad of information. To dig into what is needed by family historians, focus on the left column. Ignore the top of the column, and scroll down almost to the bottom where you will see the categories described below.  


The images below show the categories as they appear in Greek (on the left). I have added the English translation (on the right). I have also inserted numbers which correspond to detailed information and links below the image.

The first category of interest is Local Government Today (Η Αυτοδιοίκηση Σήμερα). This is where you will find contact information for each administrative level.

#1: Dimos or Municipalities – contact info; emails, websites. Use page numbers at bottom to jump ahead: https://www.eetaa.gr/foreis/dhmoi.php

#2: Municipal Councils – click on the name of the municipality for names of mayor, deputy mayors, board members and municipal councilors. Use the alpha list at the top to find your area and page numbers at bottom to jump ahead: https://www.eetaa.gr/foreis/ds_select.php

#3: Regional Units – name of governor, address, phone number, email, website. Go to the regional website to drill down into municipal units:  https://www.eetaa.gr/foreis/perifereies.php

#4: Regional Councils – click on name of region for names of district governor, deputy governors, regional council members: https://www.eetaa.gr/foreis/ps_select.php

#5: Local government today / ENPE – KEDE – PED. Regions listed with contact information, website and email. Click on the region name for names of officials. https://www.eetaa.gr/foreis/enpe_kede_ped.php


The next links of interest are Changes in T.A.
These show the administrative changes of municipalities and their communities. This is where you can find the history of a municipality or a community, and you will learn what happened to the “old settlements” that no longer exist.

#1.  Administrative Changes of Municipalities and Communities: https://www.eetaa.gr/metaboles/dk_metaboles.php
Every municipality and community is listed. Use the alpha list at the top to find your municipality and page numbers at bottom to jump ahead. Click on the name of the municipality or community to see its history. There is a link to the issue of the ΦΕΚ which decreed the change. Click on the ΦΕΚ line to see a digital issue of the newspaper.

Example: Avantos (Evros)

#2. Administrative Changes of Municipalities and Communities by Law: https://www.eetaa.gr/metaboles/nom_metaboles.php
This section gives details on which settlements or neighborhoods were dissolved or incorporated into a larger community. First, find your region (the website uses the outdated word nomos). Click on its name, and the next page lists municipalities and their histories. Scroll until you find one of interest. As of the date of this post, the link to the issue of the ΦΕΚ does not work.

Example: Agios Ioannis Sparta, Lakonia

#3. Administrative Changes of Settlements: https://www.eetaa.gr/metaboles/oik_metaboles.php
Settlements are listed in alphabetical order. Use the alpha list at the top to navigate to a settlement, and the numbers at the bottom to jump ahead. Click on the name of the settlement to access its history and ΦΕΚ links.

#4. ΦΕΚ issues:   https://www.eetaa.gr/metaboles/fek_year.php
The official government gazette has been published since 1833. Use the drop down menu to find a year of interest and to access digital images.

#5.  Census Gazette: https://www.eetaa.gr/metaboles/apografes.html
Population censuses do not list names, but they do give the number of inhabitants in municipalities. These statistics can help you track the influx and outflow of people in your village. Digitized copies are viewable for the following years: 1879, 1889, 1896, 1907, 1913, 1920, 1928, 1940, 1951, 1961, 1971, 1981, 1991, 2001, 2011.


This section has regional maps.

#1. Maps of Greece: https://eetaa.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=6501bf4632f24f608a20101faaca205c
The map shows administrative boundaries for municipalities, regions and prefectures, etc. Use the zoom tools on the lower left to drill into your area of interest. Use the Legend and Layers icons on the top right of the page to choose exactly what you want to view on the map.

#2. Glossary of Local Government Terms: https://www.eetaa.gr/lexikon/list_words.php?task_id=71
Click on a word to see a translation of its meaning in English, French and German.

#3. Website Archive: https://www.eetaa.gr/index.php?tag=arxeio

#4. Contact: https://www.eetaa.gr/index.php?tag=contact_eetaa
Contact information for the EETAA offices in Athens, Brussels, Central Macedonia and Thessaly.

This is a complex website, and this post has examined only the areas of interest to genealogy researchers. If there is something else that would be helpful to our community, please send an email to Carol Kostakos Petranek at spartanroots1@gmail.com and I will update the post.

Good luck as you dig further into these government resources to help you learn more about your community and to contact those who can provide further information.

Solomos Family of Laconia

Author: Stratis A. Solomos

published in The Faris Newsletter, Issue 73, December 2020, pages 12-16

I am most pleased to receive permission from Stratis Solomos to share his genealogy of the Solomos Family of Koumousta and Xirokampi. Stratis wrote: “Last year I was asked by the chief editor [of the Faris newsletter] to write a genealogy on the Solomos family, one of the most important families of Koumousta-Xirokambi…For practical space reasons the family tree was confined to the generation of 1960-70.  By the same token, the few historical footnotes are limited to the older generations only.”

Publicizing and publishing our family history work is an unselfish and important act. It allows us to share what we learn with those who may not have the resources or abilities to conduct such research. They, too, want to know about their ancestors and connect with extended family worldwide. Thank you, Stratis, for your sharing your work with us and for providing this English translation.


The Solomos family of Laconia originates from Koumousta, a village in the Taygetos mountains, close to Sparta. In the 19th century, after the Greek War of independence, most family members moved gradually down to the flat land, to the newly founded village of Xirokampi. The origin of the Solomos family of Laconia is unclear and there is no oral tradition or myth related to the family history. In the 1950s-60s, the lawyer Georgios V. Solomos, known as “Pyrgodespotis” (Castle-Lord), was saying that he had done a bibliographic research that had allowed him to conclude that the family came from Crete in the middle of the 17th century, after the fall of Chandakas (Heraklion) in 1669 and its occupation by the Turks. More specifically, as it was narrated in the informal ‘kafenio’ gatherings, there were initially two brothers, one of whom stayed in Laconia and the other went to Zakynthos. The latter was the great-grandfather of the national poet of Greece Dionysios Solomos. Unfortunately Pyrgodespotis did not leave any written report and the above cannot be confirmed. His version may have been based only on various biographies of Dionysios Solomos.[1]

Nevertheless, the above hypothesis is not completely unfounded and can be based on the following arguments:

1) The family appears in the mountain village of Koumousta in the early 18th century, following the end of the Venetian domination over several Greek territories (and succeeded by the Ottomans).

2) It settles in an area where there are other well-known families, of established Venetian[2], Frankish and Byzantine origin. These families were living in the Laconia plains, but they moved to the mountains in 1715, when the Ottomans again conquered the Peloponnese.

3) More recent publications show that the great-grandfather of Dionysios Solomos, Nikolaos, did not go directly from Crete to Zakynthos, but to Kythira, where he married to Maria Durente[3], a woman from a “noble” family and with a large dowry. The Salamon-Solomos family, which is mentioned as important during the Venetian rule of Crete, had other members who settled in Kythira [4] and probably in the fertile Laconia, where the Venetians had provided them with arable land.

4) In addition, it was at this period that the Turks occupied Kythira for three years (1715-1718), for the island to be finally recaptured by the Venetians. It is possible that the move from Kythira to the neighboring Laconia happened at this time.

5) The wife of Elias Solomos of Koumousta (born around 1750) bears the name “Margarita”, which is not a usual name of Ottoman-occupied Greece. It is a “western” name mostly used in the Greek regions under Venetian rule.

Stratigis & Vasiliki Solomos,
courtesy of Stratis A. Solomos

The Solomos families of Xirokampi and Koumousta, which today number hundreds of descendants in many parts of the world, are divided into two branches which meet somewhere in the late 18th century.

The first and most numerous are the descendants of Elias Solomos. The other branch comprises the descendants of Georgakis Solomos and then Thanasis, who was nicknamed “Lales”, hence their identification as “Lalaioi” (pronounced “Lalei”). Because of this nickname there was a traditional rumor that this family branch came from “Lala” a village in northwestern Peloponnese. However, it is rather unlikely that part of the family, with the same rare surname, came to the isolated village of Koumousta from such a remote area, unless there were relatives with the already settled Solomos of Koumousta. Another rumor has it that one of them fought against the infamous Turcalbanian mercenaries “Lalaioi”.

The reconstruction of the two branches of the published genealogical tree is mainly based on earlier oral reports, but also on documented, written information from the book of Th. Katsoulakos and P. Stoumpos[5]. Some evidence was also found in a report of a court dispute of a certain Meropoulis or Myropoulis, against trespassers of his property[6]. Archival research done by the genealogy research company “”ΟΙ ΡΙΖΕΣ ” (THE ROOTS) [7] was also taken into account. Another source of information was the list of immigrants passed from Ellis Island[8], as several members of the family immigrated early to America, from 1896 to 1921. The internet site of the Ellis Island Foundation has provided precious information concerning marital status, name of spouse, fellow travelers, relatives left in Greece, relatives to be met in the US, previous travels and age. From the age declared we can we conclude the year of birth, although with caution, because they often deliberately changed their age depending on the immigration laws in force. Some of these Solomos came back; for those who remained, there is the indication (USA, CAN) next to their name in the tree.

It is expected that there will be shortcomings and mistakes, especially in the tree of “Lalaioi”, which was done with more recent and less credible present-day oral testimonies. Where there is doubt, this is stated in the footnotes and the parental relationship is drawn with dashed line – – – -. Also missing are members who died in infancy or childhood. A future digitization of the registry files of Xirokampi and additional genealogical surveys could substantially help to improve this two-branch tree.

Although there is still abundant material available on the recent family members, for practical space reasons the tree was confined to the generation of 1960-70. By the same token, the few historical footnotes are limited to the older generations only. The year of birth is only mentioned for the older ancestors. Where the year of birth could not be determined exactly, it was estimated and preceded by the symbol (~). The construction of a more complete family tree that could encompass current family data and include offspring of female members would require a greater research effort and special lnformation Technology tools.

Finally, I would like to thank for their substantial contribution:
1) George P. Solomos (Italy), who decades ago recorded his first family tree version of “Elias Solomos descendants branch” and now helped significantly in the historical research.
2) Doros G. Solomos (Italy), who years ago spent time and resources on additional research for the improvement of the above mentioned family tree.
3) Dimitris “Mitsos” Ath. Solomos (Xirokampi), Nikos El. Solomos (Kalamata) and Dimitra G. Solomos-Giangos (California USA) who helped making the first, integrated version of the genealogical tree of the “Lalaioi” branch.

Stratis A. Solomos
Geneva Switzerland stratis.solomos@bluewin.ch


[1] Ν. Τωμαδάκης: Οικογένειαι Salomon-Σολωμού εν Κρήτη, Επετηρίς Εταιρείας Βυζαντινών
Σπουδών, 1938, Έτος ΙΔ’, 163-181.
[2] Σ. Α. Σολωμός: Η ετυμολογία μια τοπικής λέξης και ήθη της Γαληνοτάτης Δημοκρατίας. Φάρις-Ξηροκάμπι, τεύχος 55, Δεκέμβριος 2011.
[3] Ελένη Χάρου: Μαρία Δουρέντε, η Κυθήρια πρόγονος του Διονύσιου Σολωμού, 27 Μαρ. 2016.
[4] Μπαλτά Ευαγγελία: Η οθωμανική απογραφή των Κυθήρων 1715, Ινστιτούτο Νεοελληνικών Ερευνών ΕΙΕ, Αθήνα 2009.
[5] Θ. Κατσουλάκου και Π. Στούμπου ‘η Κουμουστά της λακεδαίμονος’, 2012.
6] ΣΥΜΒΟΛΑΙΟΓΡΑΦΙΚΕΣ ΠΡΑΞΕΙΣ του «μνήμονος Λακεδαίμονος Κυρίου Γεωργίου
ΧΑΡΤΟΥΛΑΡΗ» 1833-1835.
[7] Γραφείο αρχειακών ερευνών «ΟΙ ΡΙΖΕΣ» ( http://www.oirizes.gr ) Άρης Πουλημενάκος,
[8] Ε. Α. Σολωμός: Μετανάστες των χωριών μας που πέρασαν από το Ellis Island. Φάρις-
Ξηροκάμπι (τεύχος 50, Δεκέμβριος 2009).