Off to Sparta!

I am on my way to Sparta, Greece where I will spend two months at the Greek Orthodox Mitropolis of Sparta, preserving and digitizing old and fragile marriage records. These documents range from the late 1800s to the mid-1900s. I have researched in the index boooks for these marriages in previous years. The books are abbreviated compilations of documents sent to the Bishop by the priests of all the villages around Sparta.

The index books list the marriage license date, the name of the bride and the groom, the church where the wedding was to take place, the best man, and the name of the priest. The marriage documentation which I will be preserving this summer has much more information. There are letters from the priest in the village requesting permission from the bishop for the couple to marry, a letter from the bishop back to the priest granting that permission, and often other documents. I have seen dowry contracts, male registers, and other records in these collections.

Although the index books are marvelous to view, the marriage documentation will provide much more information of great value to researchers.

I am very grateful that my colleague, Gregory Kontos, has diligently sought permission from the bishop to get these records preserved. Bishop Efstathios has given his consent and his blessing to this project. Years ago, he himself organized these documents, carefully sorting them into boxes categorized by year. He is pleased that his work will be preserved. He is a meticulous archivist and is proud of his record collections.

I will post regularly about this trip, my work and experiences. It is my hope that others who are researching in Greece will be encouraged in knowing that things are happening in Greece to bring records out of the Archives and churches and onto the internet for the benefit of those who are seeking to learn about their family.

This is a selfie taken at Dulles Airport outside Washington DC where my journey begins. Thank you for being with me on this adventure!


Portland, Oregon Greek Genealogy Conference

On Saturday, April 21, 2018, I was excited to be the speaker at an all-day Greek Genealogy conference in Portland, Oregon. Sponsored by the Hellenic-American Cultural Center and Museum of Portland, this was held at the Holy Trinity Cathedral, Fr. Elias Stephanopoulos Center. For those in the U.S. who know of the broadcast journalist, George Stephanopoulos, his uncle is the one for whom this Hellenic Center is named. In the early 1900’s, Greeks traveled across the U.S. and settled in Portland to work on the railroad. The present-day community is strong and closely knit. Many are descendants of the early Greek immigrants.

The hall was filled with about 80 enthusiastic people who were ready to dive into the “how-to’s” of research. From 9:00-5:00, we studied five major topics:

Session 1 – Getting Started
Session 2 – Using US Records to Prepare for Research in Greece
Session 3 – Passenger Ship, Naturalization, Alien Registrations
Session 4 – Civil Records in Greece, online
Session 5 – Church and Civil Repositories in Greece; Researching in Greece

The handouts for this conference can be found at the Hellenic Genealogy Conferences website here: Portland.  I uploaded many supplementary documents — please download and use all of these materials, and email me if I can be of help (spartanroots1 at

Portland Greek Genealogy Conference, April 21, 2018

I was so pleased when several people approached me to share what they were doing as researchers. Their stories were fascinating, and I invited them to share with the group.

l-r: Gus Chamales, Carol Kostakos Petranek, Chris Zervas, Portland, April 21 2018

Gus Chamales had become interested in the World War II military service of one of his church parishioners, and has expanded that to research the history not only of this person, but of his entire company. This interest is growing to conducting research on many more Greek-Americans who have served in the military.

Chris Zervas began researching his family in a small village outside of Corinth. He soon found his work expanding to include neighboring villages. Chris is engaged in what professionals call a “one-place study” as his research now includes every resident in his village and neighboring ones. His family tree currently contains 24,000 names and continues to grow!

The Hellenic Museum occupies a large room in the upper level of the Stephanopoulos Center. Its holdings are true treasures of the quality one would see in a museum in Athens. I could have spent several hours reading the inscriptions and examining every artifact, but I had to rush through during a 30-minute lunch break. I was told that the Archbishop said this was the most beautiful Greek museum in America. Here are just a few of the many photos I took.

No Greek event is complete without dinner and Greek dancing! I now have many new friends in Portland.

If your community would like to sponsor a Hellenic genealogy conference, let me know. It is fun to learn together — and, you may meet a new cousin!


Greek Genealogy Webinar, April 11 & 18

I am honored to have presented a two-part webinar on Greek Genealogy, hosted by professional genealogist and my friend, DearMYRTLE. Please join me as we explore ways to further your family history research in Greece.

Session 1 was held on Wednesday, April 11, 2018
Topic: Finding Your Original Surname & Village of Origin
The link to the archived webinar can be accessed on YouTube here.

Session 2 was held on Wednesday, April 18, 2018
Topic: Church and Civil Records in Greece.
The link to the archived webinar and supplementary links can be accessed here.

There are handouts and supplementary materials for both sessions which are captured on a Google spreadsheet. That link can be found here. I suggest that you download the spreadsheet so you can have access to the many resources contained therein.

I hope these webinars will be of help to you!


In Memorium: John N. Pouletsos

John Nicholas Pouletsos, 1950-2018

My cousin, John Pouletsos, was laid to rest on April 3, 2018 in a manner befitting an Ex-Chief of the Terryville, New York Fire Department. Felled by an apparent heart attack last Thursday morning, his family and colleagues gathered by the hundreds to honor his life and his service to the community of Port Jefferson.

John had served the Fire Department for nearly 50 years in Companies One, Two and Three, and as Fire Chief during 1988-1989. He also served as a Commissioner. After retirement, John continued as a member of Company Five.

John was eulogized by the Terryville fire chief as a man whose gregarious laugh, jovial personality and almost 50 years of service in the Fire Department brightened the day of all who associated with him. As we met and spoke with his colleagues and citizens, we knew that he was dearly loved by them as he was by us.

John’s funeral was held with dignity and sobriety. Every possible courtesy and mark of respect was evident:  the fire truck parked outside the funeral home, the honor guard at the viewing, his casket transported on the back of a fire truck, the fire and police escort through the town, the solemn honor displayed at the Terryville Fire Department. These photos depict the distinction and tribute accorded to John as a person, and to his legacy.

Honor guard at the funeral home

Draped in black and purple bunting, the hook and ladder stands guard at the funeral home

Waiting to honor their fallen ex-chief at the Terryville Fire Department

The casket, carried by a fire truck, arrives at the fire department

Hook and ladder trucks hoist a huge flag. The entire town is alerted to John’s passing.

Police block intersections for the funeral procession as official vehicles lead the motorcade.

Standing watch over the casket of their ex-chief, these firemen ride in the open truck throughout the procession

A special platform is used to lower the casket at the cemetery

One last salute; one final goodbye

For John’s wife, Cheryl, and his daughter, Cara, life is now unalterably and devastatingly changed. This is Cara’s high school graduation year–a time of great anticipation and new beginnings. And a new chapter of life was opening for Cheryl and John as they launched their daughter into adulthood.

A sweet memory from Cara’s communion, 2008.

For John’s brother, Louie and sister in law, Debbie, a hole of sadness and emptiness has now opened in their immediate family circle. Louie and John were extraordinarily close–building homes one block apart from each other and seeing each other daily before Louie’s relocation to Delaware five years ago.

John and Cheryl’s home, built by the Pouletsos family, 1991

The proud couple in front of their completed home

For my cousins and me, the shock of the first loss of our generation is overwhelming. I am speechless and cannot find the words to express my emptiness and sadness. Since the passing of all of our parents, we cousins have gathered yearly to stay close and to remember and honor our family. While we will continue this special tradition, it will be now marked with sadness.

2017 Pappas Cousins’ Reunion held at the home of John and Cheryl

John and I are first cousins — his mother Bertha, and my mother Catherine, were sisters. We grew up together in Hillsdale, New Jersey and have shared a lifetime of happy memories. Although John is now with our family in heaven, we will treasure the time we had with him and know that he will be waiting for us “on the other side” and will greet us with his hearty laugh and with arms of love.

Easter, 1954. John Poulesos, Carol Kostakos, John Kostakos. Hillsdale, New Jersey

John, I love you and will miss you. Till we meet again.

Dear Cousin, With Love

A Greek at RootsTech

RootsTech–the largest genealogy conference in the world–provides researchers with a myriad of classes and resources to enhance their skills, and four full days to connect within the genea-universe. It is exhilarating, energizing and exhausting!  Over 13,000 attendees overran the Salt Palace Convention Center.

Exterior of the Salt Palace Convention Center, with quirky ying-and-yang signs

Salt Lake City is the center of the genea-universe, with the massive Family History Library just one block from the Salt Palace Convention Center. I spent several hours at the International Floor, where I digitized some Greek reference books and microfilms. The Library is in the process of digitizing all of its 2.5 million microfilms and hundreds of thousands of books, and millions of these images are uploaded weekly to the FamilySearch website.

The International Floor of the Family History Library in Salt Lake City

With over 300 genealogy-related classes, there was something for everyone…but, many of the sessions were geared towards beginners. I opted for intermediate-advanced classes to improve my research and writing skills, such as:  DNA Chromosome Mapping (I was lost); Netherlands Research (it’s always good to learn research skills in other countries and see what types of records are available); Tips and Tricks for International Research; Choosing Details: The Secret to Compelling Stories (a fabulous session); Town Hall meetings with FamilySearch executives; Battlefield Stories: Writing About Your World War II Ancestors, and others.

The halls were overrun with eager participants; at times it was almost impossible to walk against the crowd.

Jammed in the Salt Palace — over 13,000 attendees!

Several hundred vendors filled the Expo Hall. Attendees could talk with company reps, get hands-on assistance with software, take mini-classes, and browse the newest offerings of techie-tools. I was delighted to see booths featuring Chinese, Ukrainian, African-American, Jewish, German, Canadian and other ethnic groups. Someday there will be a Greek genealogy booth! ❤

RootsTech 2018 Expo Hall

Who Is My Relative?
People were huddled around apps on their phones, not only to keep up with RootsTech tweets and comments, or to decide on the next class to attend, but also to find relatives at the conference. But…these were relatives that they did not know. The FamilySearch Tree app, “Relatives Around Me,” was utilized by attendees to discover how many new cousins were lurking in the same classroom, ballroom, or hallway. Even the keynote speakers had fun with this app, offering a prize to the first cousin who found him/her on the app. One of my genea-blogger friends had 361 cousins in one session!

I had none. Not one. Any Greeks who attended RootsTech were not related to me 😦

A fellow genea-blogger, originally from New Zealand, also had 0 on his app, so we designated ourselves as conference cousins. No one wants to feel left out!

MyHeritage is Rocking!
Executives at MyHeritage made a major announcements which could be life-changing for adoptees. They launched a new website,, with the goal of helping adoptees reunite with their biological families. As a pro-bono initiative, MyHeritage is giving away 15,000 DNA kits to those who qualify, through April 30, 2018. Further information is on the DNAQuest website.

New record collections have been added, and a new feature for users of the FamilySearch FamilyTree allows synchronization with MyHeritage to find hints for new records.

And…there is the annual party, held on Friday evening when everyone needs cerebral “RnR.” A band, food, games and prizes make this event fun-fun-fun!

MyHeritage RootsTech Party, 2018

Did I learn anything pertinent to Greek genealogy research? No.

Did I meet any new Greek friends? Yes–one, whose grandfather is from Crete. We are now in touch and hopefully I can get her connected with people who can help her.

Do Greeks belong at RootsTech? Yes! Absolutely! Acquiring sound research skills, understanding DNA and its place in genealogy, learning about new software and websites are all critical components of starting off on solid ground. A large portion of our research begins in the U.S. or our home country, searching records to document our family units in their “new country,” organizing our findings, and determining our original ancestral surname and village of origin. This search begins in U.S. records and must be complete and accurate before we can access records in Greece.

Will I attend RootsTech next year? Of course–please join me!