Amykles Book, Excerpt: Sklavohori

In 1982, Sarantos P. Antonakos published Amykles, a history book about his native village. Amykles is one of my ancestral villages, too–the birthplace of my 3rd great grandfather, Panagiotis Zarafonitis. I am beyond excited to have found this book in the Central Library of Sparta, and I copied some of the pages relevant to my family. With sincere thanks to Giannis Michalakakos for his translations and history lessons, I am learning much about this beautiful village and the lives of my ancestors. This is the first posts of several, with excerpts from the book.

Prophet Ilias Church, built in the late 13th century, Amykles.

In the Preface, Mr. Antonakos writes: Amykles was the salt and the pepper for  the Spartans and for the whole Laconian peninsula, a religious, cultural and commercial center. The people lived here hundreds of years in the middle of a very fertile plain through which the Evrotas River passed and it was from then, until today, the subject of study of hundreds of scientists and researchers.

Among several profiles of prominent men in Amykles is a paragraph about Georgios Dimitrios Zarafonitis, a soldier who fought with distinction in the Revolution of 1821.

Antonakos, Sarantos P., Amykles, pp. 250-215; 1982; Athens. Repository: Central Library of Sparta Greece

The translation reads: στ. Zarafonitis George.

          Soldier of the sacred struggle was Georgios Zarafonitis, who, immediately after the start of the revolution took up arms, and after he entered became the head of relatives who fought all the battles in Morea.
During the invasion of Ibrahim Pasha, the house of Zarafonitis was burned to the ground by the Arabs, like many of his fellow countrymen. Zarafonitis sent an application to the state to recognize his services on 19 May 1846 [
he is applying for an Aristeia award]. The application included a certificate from the chieftains G. Sklavohoriti, P. Matalo, etc.
In this certificate, the chieftains of Lacedaimon referred among others “… Mr. George Dimitriou Zarafonitis, citizen of Sklavohori of the municipality Amykles of this province (Lacedaemon) from the beginning of the Holy Fight, in charge of his relatives, put himself under the direction of the chief Panagiotis Giatrakos, and he was with us in different battles like the seige of Tripolis, the battle of Fragoviso, Kerasis, Ververa, Valtezi, Doliana, even in the siege of the fortress Nafplion, Corinth, Patra and when Dramali Pascha came in Argos, Vervenakia and after his disaster in Messinia, fought against Arabs in Coroni, Methoni, and Neokastro, also in Kalamata in Verga of Almyro and in the horrible battle of Polyaravo.
This Greek during all the time of the revolution served military and did his duty with passion and extreme obedience to his superior officers. from his certificate I can assume that he was a very good soldier.”

Unfortunately, a paper trail between this hero of the Revolution and my Panagiotis does not exist. But using “educated deduction” and knowing that families of the same name from the same village are related, I can claim Georgios as part of my ancestral clan.

Another reference to Georgios is found in a list of men from Sklavohori who served as Jurors. This was published on 2 November 1894 in ΦΕΚ, the official newspaper of the Government of Greece. In the page below, he is enumerated on line 12; he is age 50 and a resident of Sklavohori (click on image to enlarge).

General Archives of Greece
List of Jurors – 1849
FEK: Official Government Newspaper of Greece
2 November 1894
Line 112 , Georgios Zarafonitis, age 50, of Sklavohori, farmer
FHL: Film #1038847, section-6, image 28; Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah

Sklavohori, the home of Panagiotis and Georgios, is the same village as Amykles. As is common in areas of foreign dominion, name changes occurred over the centuries. It is an unusual word, certainly not of Greek origin, and Mr. Antonakos addresses this on page 201, Sklavohori. It is a fascinating study.

a.  Some researchers opine that the name was given when Slavs occupied the area. However, Slavic tribes resided in the region known as Amykles in 750 A.D;  and the name “Sklavohori” is not mentioned in any documentation until 1432 — 700 years after the Slavs departed.

b.  When St. Nikon resided in Lacedaimon from 968 to 998, the village was called Amykles and Amyklion. When the life story of St. Nikon was written in 1142, the region still was known as Amykles; proving that the name change occurred later.

c.  All of the Slavic toponyms in Laconia, which are many, were given when the Slavic tribes settled; this did not happen in Sklavohori.

d.  No villages in the plains of Evrotas (where Amykles is located) have Slavic names. Slavic place names are found in mountain villages, where the Slavic tribes retreated so as to remain inaccessible from those determined to evict them (the Franks, the Byzantines, etc.).

These facts support the theory that the name Sklavohori was given much later than the Slavic occupation of the region. Thus, Mr. Antonakos proposes two other, more plausible, explanations:

a.  The name comes from the word, “slave” or “slavery.”  Feudal rulers enslaved Greek citizens, and gave them land to farm, which was located in the fertile plains of Sparta. A literal translation of the name, Sklav-ohori, would be “village of slaves.”

b.  In the island of Tinos in the Aegean Sea, there a a village named Sklavohori. However, there was never a Slavic presence there. The village was given its name because its citizens had been enslaved.

As I wandered through Amykles/Sklavohori in July, I could not imagine this village of my ancestors once being a den of enslavement. The land is a beautiful and abundant valley nestled under the Taygetos mountains; its citizens are hospitable, filled with the spirit of φιλότιμο (filotimo).

The beautiful cemetery belies the hardships and tragedies that the heroes and citizens of Amykles overcame. My family is among them.

Amykles cemetery, July 2017

 

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Mini-Classes at a Festival!

Greek festivals are all about food, dancing, and fun–not the usual venue for genealogy lectures. But, during its Festival last weekend, the Annunciation Cathedral in Baltimore, Maryland offered its visitors and parishioners something different–mini-classes (20-30 minutes) about beginning Greek genealogy. I was honored to be invited to give these presentations.

This idea came from the directors of the Hellenic Heritage Museum and Archives of Maryland, an organization working to document and preserve the rich Greek heritage in Baltimore.

Part of the Museum’s exhibit for the Festival included photos of early Baltimore Greek families; and a brief talk about “Finding Your Yiayia” fit perfectly with the theme. Joining me was Antigoni Ladd of Westminster, Maryland, who spearheaded a project to document the founding families of Westminster:

I had a lot to cover in 30 minutes: U.S. documents that may reveal a family’s original surname and village of origin; what types of documents are found in Greek Archives and Town Halls and how to access them; Orthodox Church records; planning a research trip. During conferences, each of these topics take a full hour. But I talked fast and provided attendees with a two-page handout with links to the most relevant websites. This handout can be downloaded here.

I gave five presentations over three days; about 50 people attended in total. They ranged in age and area of origin. Several had families from Asia Minor; some from the Peloponnese; some from the islands. But all were surprised and delighted to learn that records do exist and are accessible.

These are some of the family photos brought by parishioners to honor their ancestors.

Nicholas Prevas, who has been the official historian of the Annunciation Cathedral since he was 20 years old, wrote two extensive histories of the Cathedral and has been lauded as setting the standard for such works.

Nicholas Prevas with a display featuring his book, House of God…Gateway to Heaven

Every year, Nicholas creates an outstanding display of photos and documents to honor Baltimore Greek families. This display is replaced annually with new items and a new theme. These beautiful cases line the hallway leading to the chapel where they are enjoyed by thousands of people throughout the year.

Greek festivals are a source of enjoyment for the entire community. I stood in a food line behind a young man from the neighborhood who said that he waits all year for the food and music. Churches depend on festivals to bring in revenue and to enhance regional relationships. This year, Panos from kantyli.com traveled from Chicago to set up a vendor table with items that were popular and fun.

Greek road signs, created by Panos at kantyli.com

Of course, I had to get one from Sparta! In the box on the table are keychains with names written in Greek.

And what is a festival without dancing and music? These brightly costumed children stole the show.

I hope that the idea of holding mini-classes during Festivals catches on. It’s a low-key and easy way to introduce people to the basics, and to broaden their perspectives on family history. The jovial environment and ethnic surroundings provide the perfect backdrop for enhancing a desire to learn more about our heritage.

Dowry Contracts: Pictures of the Past

We have pictures of the past, but not the full image. When I first heard Giannis Michalakakos make this comment, I accepted its veracity–but with reluctance. I want the full image of my ancestors’ lives! A Male Register, Town Register, or Election List may provide a birth year and an occupation. But a Contract reveals so much more. Who purchased land, and from whom and where? Who borrowed money, and from whom and why? Who was the bride, and whom did she marry? What did her family provide for her dowry?

On 11 July 1864, four men gathered at the office of Konstandinos Dimopoulos, notary of Sparta, to execute a dowry contract: Nikolaos Athanasios Kanakakos of Sikaraki (groom), Panagiotis Kavvouris of Agios Ioannis (father of Marigo, the bride), Georgios Stathopoulos of Magoula (witness) and Ilias Kalogerakos of Parori (witness). These men were engaging in an honored tradition that was instituted in ancient times and not officially rescinded in Greece until 1983.

My maternal grandparents, Ilias Papagiannakos and Aggeliki Eftaxias, 1914, New York

A  marriage dowry (prika) was a custom adapted from Eastern cultures. Created by economic need, it was prevalent an era when the roles of men and women were defined by a patriarchal society. Especially in mainland Greece, families generally were poor. Men were farmers, landowners, shepherds; or worked in handcrafts such making baskets, ropes, or leather items. Women were homemakers.

When a new union was formed, both were expected to contribute items needed to establish the home. The bride’s dowry provided household or clothing items, property or animals. The groom provided a house and income for the family. Thus, both bequeathed what they could to secure a foundation for their new marriage.

The Kavvouris-Kanakakos contract is translated below. It is a fascinating picture which helps us better understand the image of life in mid-1800’s Sparta. Commentary and historical information is added with footnotes or brackets, and photographs are representations of the types of items the dowry contains.

Page 1 of 4, Dowry Contract 463. Panagiotis Kavvouris and Nikolaos Athanasios Kanakakos, Sparta, Greece. July 11, 1864. Source: General Archives of Greece: http://arxeiomnimon.gak.gr/browse/resource.html?tab=tab02&id=197332

Contract 463, 11.7.1864, Dowry and Notary Deed
On this day, 11 July, Saturday, at 12:00 noon of year 1864, came before me, Konstandinos Dimopoulos, notary and citizen of Sparta, to my home and office, being east of the Church of Evangelismo of Theotokos,1  Panagiotis Kavvouris, estate owner and farmer of Agios Ioannis of Sparta on one hand, and on the other Nikolaos Athanasiou Kanakakos, farmer and citizen of the neighborhood, Sikaraki, of Agios Ioannis of the municipality of Sparta; both are familiar to me and of legal status. In my presence and the witnesses, they sign this dowry contract after my explanation of the laws.

Panagioti Kavvouris makes an agreement with Nikolaos Athanasios Kanakakos to give Nikolaos his daughter, Marigo, as his legal wife according to the holy rules of the Orthodox Church. The groom takes from the maternal and paternal legacy: 

1.  Two tall fezes (kind of traditional hat)
2.  Gemenia – women’s head cover
3.  
Three basinas – a bowl for cooking
4.  
Three sets of kreponia – women’s clothing, dark in color
5.  
Twelve madilia – women’s head cover
6.  
One pair of vergetes– earrings, expensive
7.  
One silver cross
8.  
Three silver rings
9.  
One pair of crystal dessert plates
10. 
Six dessert spoons
11. 
One serving dish
12.  
Two men’s vests, decorated with fur

Man’s vest with fur

13. Ten women’s skirts
14. 
Two dresses
15. 
Twenty-five shirts
16. 
Twelve sets of underwear
17. 
Two men’s fustanella 

Traditional fustanella; Flickr Creative Commons

18. Two disakia (small packages to hold items)
19.  Two paploma, bed comforters
20.  
Ten soaps
21.  
Two makatia. decorative sofa covers
22.  
Eleven big pillows
23.  
Four small pillows
24.  
Two andromedes (unknown)
25.  
One peskidi (a nice throw cover for the sofa)
26.  T
wo table scarfs/covers for the dining room table
27.  
Two nice scarfs/covers for chair backs and arm rests
28.  
Six fakiolia, small women’s head covers
29.  
Eight mpoiles, a kind of towel
30.  
Twelve spoons, knives and forks
31.  
Twelve plates
32.  
Seven mpouxades, wool cloth which hold liquids when making cheese
33.  
Eight vrakozones, traditional men’s clothing worn below the waist
34.  T
wo casellas, similar to a hope chest which hold clothing and linens
35.  
Two kapaki, cooking pots with covers

Kapaki, cooking pans with covers


36.  One 
tapsi, circular metal roasting pan used in ovens

Woman holding a circular tapsi; on the right is a vethoura

37. One harani – metal bucket that can hold one okres (a unit of measure)
38. Two siderostia – iron tripods to hang pots over an open fire
39. One pan

Kitchen items, mid-1800’s, Greece

40. One stremma [unit of measure] with 14 olive trees located in the borders of Agios Ioannis, Sparta. The land is bordered:  on the east with a national estate [land which belongs to the municipality], on the west with Panagioti Kamarados, on the north with Giannis Giannos, in the south with Georgios Bakopoulos.

41. One individual estate, a small field, two stremmata with all it contains [perhaps a small hut] and 7 small trees located in the location Sourakaki of Agios Ioannis, Sparta; it borders:  on the east with a road, on the west with church fields, on the north with the national estate, and on the south with Pangiotis Pachigiannis.

42. Some trees that were planted in the national field in the location Kefalari of Agios Ioannis, Sparta; and borders on the east with Saltafilda [probably a neighborhood or other location], on the west with the road, on the north with Panagiotis Kavvouris and on the south with a road.8

43. Twenty barrels containing orange trees that the groom took a few days ago to replant them in his own land.

The total of the dowry and property (moved and unmoveable) is 1,463 drachmas.4

The groom, Nikolaos Athanasios Kanakakos,5 expresses that he accepts Marigo as his legal wife and the dowry given by her father. He understands exactly the dowry that was previously reported and offered to him by Marigo. He also offers Marigo 500 drachmas [bridewealth].6

The two sides additionally, with me the contract maker, evaluate the total value of all things as 1,963 drachmas plus the postcard [the notary’s fee].

To verify this contract and this dowry, the two sides listened to the dowry spoken aloud and clearly, and agreed to it.

Called as witnesses: Georgios Stathopoulos, estate owner and citizen of Magoula and Ilia Kalogerakos, farmer and citizen of Parori of the municipality of Sparta. They are familiar to me, they are Greek citizens without any legal exceptions, and they verify this contact because because neither of the two sides can sign their names.7

Maniate men in Sparta. Many people from the Mani region, like the Kanakakos family, moved north to Sparta after the Revolution.

I initially became acquainted–and fascinated–with contracts during my first trip to the Sparta Archives in 2014, when I went with Gregory Kontos. This 2015 post describes a contract, translated by Gregory, for the purchase of land by Panagiotis Iliopoulos of Machmoutbei. Each succeeding research trip has yielded new information, as documented recently in Research in the Archives of Sparta.

Contracts are challenging: not many are digitized or online, paper copies are difficult for Archivists to obtain, and the handwriting is akin to hieroglyphics. But with good luck and good friends, they can be accessed and interpreted, enlightening our understanding and giving us a fuller (albeit not full) picture of our ancestors’ lives.

Important note: This post would not have been possible without the assistance of Giannis Michalakakos, teacher, historian, and author of Maniatika blog. Giannis completed all translations, found the photos, and provided the historical content to explain the customs of this era. I am grateful for his friendship and expertise.

____________

1  This exact description of the location of the Dimopoulos home and office is given because Sparta in the mid-1800s had few roads and no street addresses.

Many of descriptive words come from the Ottoman period and are unrecognizable in today’s language; they may be a hybrid mix of Greek, Ottoman and Venetian vocabulary and are no longer in use.

When a meal is prepared using a tapsi, it is also served from it; the family would sit around and eat out of it together. A vethoura, the double pot on the right, is where sheeps’ milk is stored.

This is a sizeable dowry, indicating that the bride’s family had financial means.

5Kanakakos is a big family in Mani; members were officers in the Army and heroes in the Revolution of 1821.

6 As a bride brings a dowry, sometimes, a groom will offer a sum of money or property to the bride’s parents to help establish the new home.

7 Normally, there would be five signatures: the groom, the bride’s father, the two witnesses and the notary. In this contract, only the witnesses and notary signed as the groom and bride’s father were unable to write their names.

8 After marriage, land named in the dowry belongs to the bride’s husband. The property was given by her father to establish her new home. In 1800s Sparta, divorce was unheard of; and men were responsible for providing and maintaining financial security of the family.

Greece 2017. Archives Research: Sparta

Sparta–the nexus of my family. Wouldn’t you think that three weeks would be ample for research? I worked hard, but I ran out of time. And my “next trip” list continues to grow.

My home base was the General Archives of Greece, Sparta office. Pepi Gavala, Archivist, and her staff, Michalis and Electra, are friends. They welcomed me with much hospitality, patiently answered endless questions and fulfilled requests for many records.

Sparta office of the General Archives of Greece, July 2017

While searching Dimotologion (Town Records), I worked at a computer as these records have been digitized (accessibility is strictly at the Archives, not online). While searching books and documents, I piled records onto the conference room table and spread out as needed.

Sparta office, General Archives of Greece

After three visits (2014, 2016, 2017), how much more can I find there? A lot–and I’m not finished.

As my research expands into collateral lines, I desire to learn about the families that merged with mine. Some days, I spent a full 6-hours finding “new” families in the same Town Registers that I had searched in previous years. My work has expanded into School Records, which are critical in finding the names of girls which may not be found in other records.

And this year, I branched into Contracts. These were written and certified by notaries and include dowries, powers of attorney, deeds, debts and other legal matters. Michalis explained that there are 60 files of contracts, but only two have been digitized and uploaded to the Archives of Laconia page of the GAK website. The others must be pulled from paper files.

The staff have painstakingly compiled name indexes of some of the notary files. These  indexes are kept in notebooks, organized by the name of the notary. Here is a sample page from the notebook for the notary, Konstandinos Dimopoulos.

How to Access Dimopoulos Notarial Records Online

Let’s use the page above as an example.  Note: each step below is hyperlinked (blue text) to the corresponding page on the website.

  1. Find the name of interest: surname, first name, middle initial.  I found Zarafonitis, Ilias of Sklavachori, 2nd from the bottom (red arrow on left)
  2. Look at the reference number (green arrow on right). Write down that number, which is 362/2.5.1864. This means:  the contract number is #362; and the date is 2 March 1864.
  3. Click on this link
  4. This is the page that will appear. The red arrow points to the name of Konstandinos Dimopoulos, so you are on the correct webpage.

Web page for the records of notary, Konstandinos Dimopoulos

Click on the Contents tab.

The following page will appear. Within the red box, we see that there are 26 Files. This screen shot shows Files #001-005.

The Dimopoulos web page contains 26 files

Each of the 26 files has between 200-300 contracts within. There is a total of 7,611 contracts in this collection This is a list of the contract numbers within each file:
File #:   Contract #
File 1: 1-350
File 2: 351-550
File 3: 551-850
File 4: 851-1150
File 5: 1151-1450
File 6: 1451-1760
File 7: 1761-2060
File 8: 2061-2360
File 9: 2361-2650
File 10: 2651-2950
File 11: 2951-3280
File 12: 3281- 3580
File 13: 3581- 3900
File 14: 3901-4200
File 15: 4201-4550
File 16: 4551-4850
File 17: 4851-5150
File 18: 5151-5400
File 19: 5401-5700
File 20: 5701-6000
File 21: 6001-6300
File 22: 6301-6600
File 23: 6601-6900
File 24: 6901-7200
File 25: 7201-7400
File 26: 7401-7611

Now, let’s navigate the website to find documents for the example of Ilias Zarafonitis, reference number 362/2.5.1864. The list above shows that contract number 362 is found under File 2.

On the website, first click on File 2, then click the tab, Contents. This is the page that appears. The Item numbers are the contracts found under File 2 (#351 – #550):

File 2 includes contract numbers 351-550

Scroll down to Item #362; click on the words Item #362, then the tab, Contents. The page below appears. Next, click on the Reproductions tab that is highlighted by the red box.

Description of Item 2, Contract #362

It is under this Reproductions tab that the digitized documents appear: Take_001 is page one, and Take_002 is page two of the Ilias Zarafonitis contract #362/2.5.1864. To view the images, click on each one; they can be downloaded.

Pages 1 and 2 of Contract #362 for Ilias Zarafonitis

Contract: Ilias Zarafonitis and Spyros Economidis, page 1

Contract: Ilias Zarafonitis and Spyros Economidis, page 2

 

This is a contract between Ilias Zarafonitis of Sklavachori and Spyros Economidis of Sklavachori. Ilias has purchased 1/3 of a dwelling and 1/3 of its field from Spyros, for the amount of 362 drachmas. The witnesses are Ioannis Athanasopoulos of Sklavachori and Anagnostis Ilias Zografos of Sparta. The contract is dated 2 March 1864.

This document places these four men in their respective villages in 1864, an era with minimal documents. It also raises some questions: why would Ilias purchase only 1/3 of a dwelling and field? What relationship does he have with Spyros, if Spyros owns the remaining 2/3? How much is 362 drachmas worth in today’s money?

I am excited to step into the world of Contracts, but I cannot do so alone. My language skills are minimal, and my ability to read these documents is impossible. When I reach this impasse, I call upon Giannis Michalakakos (who translated this document) and Gregory Kontos. Their friendship is precious and their help is immeasurable.

Future posts will explore some of the Contracts I am accessing.

Previous posts have explained what I have learned about Male Registers, Town Registers, and School Registers in the Sparta Archives:

Archives of Sparta: Mitroon Arrenon (Male Registers)

Archives of Sparta: Dimotologion (Town Register) Records

School Records from Sparta: Finding Your Ancestors as Children

 

Greece 2017. Archives Research: Kalamata

My research trips are super-intensive. This is due in part to my personality, and in part to the limited working hours at Greek repositories. Archives and libraries’ hours of operation are 8:00 a.m. until 2:30 p.m., and unlike shops, they do not reopen after 6:30. None are open on Saturdays, not even the Central Library of Sparta.

So, my weekday work schedule looks like this:
7:00 – wake up
8:00 – be at the repository
2:30 – leave (or get kicked out)
2:30-6:00 – go someplace that is open: a cemetery, an archaeological or historical site, or take a drive through a village. It’s beastly hot in mid-afternoon in July, but I won’t waste three precious hours.
6:00-midnight – change clothes, visit family or friends for dinner which usually begins around 9:00

Honestly, I came home more tired than when I left. But I also came home with tons of new information.

I was anxious to return to the Archives in Kalamata. During my visit of July 2016, the office was moving to a new location and everything was packed in boxes, which made research impossible. I was thrilled to see its new home: a stunning neoclassical building constructed in the 1880’s and rebuilt after the earthquake of 1986.

General Archives of Greece, Kalamata, Messinia

I am ever grateful for the help and kindness of my friend, Giota Siora, who met me in Kalamata and escorted me to the Archives. Giota knows the archivist, Anastasia Milioni, who was eager to assist us in any way possible. My goal was to search for information about two families with possible early ties to the Kalamata region: Eftaxias (prior to relocating to Mystras) and Zaharakis (prior to relocating to Theologos).

GAK, Kalamata: Giota Siora; Anastasia Milioni, Archivist; Carol Kostakos Petranek, July 2017

In 2016, Mrs. Milioni had given me a print-out of contracts with the Eftaxias name. There were three for Georgios Eftaxias who was in Kalamata in 1859.

Eftaxias contracts, 1859. General Archives of Greece, Kalamata, Messinia

After the contracts were retrieved, Giota amazed me with her ability to read the documents. They were not written in typical old Greek script, but in a specific type of calligraphy used by lawyers and high government officials in the 1800’s.

Below are page one and the signature page of Contract 727 for Georgios Eftaxias, along with a synopsis by Giota.

Eftaxias, Georgios; Contract 727 p.1. Kalamata, Messinia. July 2017

Eftaxias, Georgios; Contract 727 p.3 – signatures.. Kalamata, Messinia. July 2017

Contract 727 Georgios Eftaxias in Kalamata 1859
Final payment on land purchase
Georgios Eftaxias bought a field at Mavria (on the border of Messinia and Laconia). He paid 60 drachmas on the balance due. He bought the land from Michail Koumoutsas who was a lime maker. One of the owners of land bordering his is Haralambos Eftaxias.

With three contracts for Georgios Eftaxias, I now have proof that a family was in Kalamata. But is this my family? Possibly yes, possibly no.

  • I have an Eftaxias “DNA cousin,” Peter, who was born in a village adjacent to Mystras. His father said that their Eftaxias family came from Kalamata. This is definitely his family. Since we have a genetic connection, this is one point on the “yes” side.
  • The very name, Eftaxias, has ecclesiastical connotations. Gregory Kontos sent me this definition: the one that is in charge of the good order of the church:   good=ευ order=τάξη. So, this could be an example of families who had worked in a church and adopted the position title as a surname. This is one point on the “no” side.

Another twist:  the Election Lists of 1875 show a Michalis Eftaxias who was born around 1800, fought in the Revolution, and lived in Lagia. That is 117 km from Kalamata, a 39-hour walk! Is it possible these two families are related? Not impossible, but perhaps improbable. This could be an example of the second bullet–someone working in a church, taking the ευταξη title as a surname.

So, the definite answer to my question is, “I don’t know.”

Lagia to Kalamata is 117 kilometers

The Archives in Kalamata has a one-of-a-kind collection created by Μίμη Iλ. Φερέτος (Dimitris or Mimi Il. Feretos).  Giannis Michalakakos described Mr. Feretos as a journalist and writer who gathered information on fighters of the 1821 Revolution. In the early 1900’s, he interviewed people who had fought (or whose relatives fought) in the War of Independence. Mr. Feretos created a surname index which include brief notes and reference sources to find the original documentation. The GAK in Kalamata has a bookcase filled with Mr. Feretos’ notebooks. They are arranged in alphabetical order, and Giota easily found the Eftaxias and Zaharakis surnames.

This is a copy of one of the Feretos pages for Zaharakis. I found it fascinating to see how Mr. Feretos compiled and annotated information, long before the computer age.

Zaharakis surname, notes from the files of Mimis Il. Feretos, GAK Kalamata, July 2017

A simple translation of this document, with my thanks to Giannis: M. Zaharakis, born in Sitsova [now known as Alagonia on the border of Messinia and Laconia]. He fought in the Revolution under George Vasilakos, in the main battles until 1823. Afterwards, he fought in the war under the Giatrakos family. In some documents, he is referred to as Zaharopoulos.

This document reveals two important things: first, M. Zaharakis is not my family; he was born in a region far from Theologos at a time when my Zaharakis are found in documents in Theologos. Second, M. Zaharakis was also known as Zaharopoulos. This is a critical piece of information because there is a long-standing (and frustrating!) pattern of Greeks changing their names. Having written proof that Zaharakis and Zaharopoulos in Kalamata are the same family, saves years and tears for the serious researcher.

For anyone researching in Messinia, the Archives in Kalamata is an essential repository. The staff is actively digitizing as much of its collection as possible. They are friendly, helpful and supportive in every way.

Digitization underway at the Messinia Archives in Kalamata

Here are links to access the Archives website; its online digital collections; and its YouTube channel.This link is especially helpful, as it shows the collections in the Archives.

Was my research trip to Kalamata a success? Yes! I did not find the definitive information I was seeking to link my families in Laconia to the ones in Kalamata. However, I explored a new Archive, discovered the Feretos collection, found documentation to prove (and disprove) some of my theories. I visited the Kalamata Museum, filled with incredible antiquities and artifacts. Most importantly, I spent a delightful day with Giota, who inspires me with her continual desire to help and teach. Thank you, my friend!