Marriage: Andreas Kostakos & Politimi Christakos

Trying to read 1800’s Greek script is both exhilarating and frustrating. Recognizing a name gives me an adrenalin surge; struggling over a name sends me to chocolate.

Two nights ago, I got the surge of a lifetime. I found an entry in the 1860 Marriage Book of the Mitropolis of Sparta for my great-grandparents, Andreas Kostakos and Politimi Christakos. My friend, Giannis Michalakakos, confirmed that I read the record correctly.

Mitropolis of Sparta, Marriage Book, 1860 Page 1: Date: August 20, 1860; Number: 125; 1st column: Andreas ( Andrikos) Kostakos of Agios Ioannis. 2nd column: Poletimi, daughter of Nikolaos Christakos of Xirokambi, Faridos.

Mitropolis of Sparta, Marriage Book, 1860
Page 1: Date: August 20, 1860; Number: 125; 1st column: Andreas ( Andrikos) Kostakos of Agios Ioannis.  2nd column: Politimi, daughter of Nikolaos Christakos of Xirokambi, Faridos.

Page 2, Marriage of Andreas Kostakos and Poletimi Christakos

2nd page, 7th entry: 1st column: Church: Holy Trinity; second column: Priest’s name, Mitros Hlia Papadopoulos Witnesses: Ioannis Giannopoulos, Dimitris Skouriotis

After hours of struggling to read every name, I decided to try the tactic that my friend, Gregory Kontos, used when we were at the Mitropolis of Sparta in 2014. He looked in the column of the male’s name for the first name of someone I was seeking. If his eye caught that name, he then read the entire entry.

Interestingly, the name “Andreas” does not appear often in the villages of Sparta where I am researching:  the most common names are Panagiotis, Nikolaos, Georgios, Konstandinos. So…skimming down the left column of page one, looking for Andreas, made the search much easier and saved my eyes and my sanity.

As soon as I saw the capital “A,” I stopped. When the next name began with a “K,” my hopes soared. When I made out “Kostakos,” I rejoiced!

Enlarged image of Entry 125.

Enlarged image of Entry 125.

I knew that Andreas had two wives:  first, Anastasia; then Poletimi Christakos (my great-grandmother). Honestly, if I did not know Politimi’s name, I would have been stumped as I strained to read the female information in column 2. But, I could make out the letters, and then — a great bonus — I saw Poletimi’s father’s name, Nikolaos! This was a new and very exciting find, as I am now back one more generation!

This exhilarating discovery fostered a new mystery:  Andreas and Poletimi were married in 1860, but their first child, Antonia, was born in 1870. That’s 10 years — a very long time, especially in the pre-birth control era. Some hypothesis that Giannis and I mulled over:

  1. Politimi must have been raising Andreas’ children with Anastasia (my father had been told that they had 6 sons, but we only know of one, and his descendants are my cousins in Agios Ioannis today). Could the stress of raising a large family have affected Poletimi?
  2. There could have been stillborn children
  3. Children could have been born and died as infants
  4. There could have been female children born, who were not registered in any records

I am entering the area of lost information and the “great unknown;” and, speculation will not bring resolution. However, I am grateful beyond expression to have found this record.

I have been collecting information on the surnames in my villages, and from various sources, I now am able to structure the family of my great-great grandfather, Nikolaos and”wife” Christakos. Oh, happy day!

Christakos, Nikolaos FamGrpSheet

 

 

Easter in Heaven

My family often celebrated Greek Easter at the home of my parents or my mother’s sister (Bertha Pappas Pouletsos and her husband, Nick). It was always Dad’s job to carve the lamb.

Andrew Kostakos carving Easter lamb, 1992.

Andrew Kostakos carving Easter lamb, 1992, Kensington, Maryland

When Aunt Bertha and Uncle Nick traveled from Long Island to our house in Maryland, the celebration was even more special.

Catherine Kostakos, Carol Kostakos Petraek, Bertha Pappas Pouletsos, Mabel Mercer Wirth, 1981, Kensington, Maryland

Catherine Kostakos, Carol Kostakos Petraek, Bertha Pappas Pouletsos, Mabel Mercer Petranek Wirth, 1981, Kensington, Maryland

Andrew Kostakos, Bertha Pappas Pouletsos, Gary Petranek, 1978, Kensington, Maryland

Andrew Kostakos, Bertha Pappas Pouletsos, Gary Petranek, 1978, Kensington, Maryland

I grew up living close to Aunt Bertha and Uncle Nick in the small community of Hillsdale, New Jersey. My brother and I shared many special times with our cousins, John and Louis; and to this day, we refer to our mothers as “two peas in a pod.” Mom and Bertha were the best of sisters and the best of friends.

Bertha and Catherine Pappas, Hoboken, New Jersey, about 1945

Bertha and Catherine Pappas, about 1944-45, Hoboken, New Jersey

Old photos unleash a plethora of memories for me — a lifetime of family gatherings and activities. After the deaths of Mom, Dad, Aunt Bertha and Uncle Nick, my Easter table was bereft of these beloved people. However, I found consolation in knowing that my grandparents’ table was now complete — mother and father with their sons and daughters — a loving family on earth, now reunited in heaven.

My parents and their siblings traveled to be together on holidays, and now it is my turn. Yesterday, Gary and I drove to Lewes, Delaware, to have Greek Easter with cousin Louie Pouletsos, his wife, Debbie, and their children, Nikki and Maddison. We shared memories of our parents and even poked a little fun at our mothers. We missed them.

l-r: Louis, Maddison, Nicki, Debbie Pouletsos; Gary Petranek, Lewes, Delaware, 2016

l-r: Louis, Maddison, Nicki, Debbie Pouletsos; Gary Petranek, 2016, Lewes, Delaware

2016 Easter, Carol-Gary Petranek, Debbie-Lou Pouletsos

Carol and Gary Petranek, Debbie and Louie Pouletsos, 2016, Lewes, Delaware

As our parents celebrate in Easter heaven, we now carry on their traditions on earth. We cling to familial and cultural patterns as our anchor of tradition, and to the Savior as our anchor of faith.

  • Our traditional Easter dinner of roast lamb symbolizes the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ.
  • Our recitation of “Christos Anesti,” (Christ has Risen) attests to the reality of the resurrection.
  • Bright red eggs “kokkina avga” on the table symbolize the blood of Christ that was shed for each of us.
  • The breaking of eggs symbolizes Christ breaking the bands of death and coming forth from the tomb. Each person takes a red egg and cracks the ends with another person. This proceeds around the table until one individual is left with an unbroken egg, and he/she can expect to have good luck throughout the year.
  • Partaking of the “tsoureki,” or Easter bread, reminds us that Jesus Christ is the Bread of Life. (John 6:48: “I am that bread of life.”)

It is tempting to speculate how our departed families will celebrate Easter in heaven. One thing I know is that they will:  “Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him.” (Romans 6:8)

Christos anesti to you and your family!

My Grandmother on the S.S. Nea Hellas

Several members of my family traveled on the Nea Hellas when they returned to Greece to visit their family. In 1940, my paternal grandmother, Harikleia Aridas Kostakos and her daughter, Aphrodite, crossed the ocean on the Nea Hellas when they went to Sparta. Hariklia suffered from Parkinson’s disease and returned to her land of birth to access “healing waters.”

1948 Kostakos, Hariklia and granddaughter Carol Harriet Kostakos (now Petranek), Brooklyn, New York

1948 Kostakos, Hariklia and granddaughter Carol Harriet Kostakos (now Petranek), Brooklyn, New York

With World War II exploding, I can only imagine the anxiety on both sides of the Atlantic as Hitler’s forces threatened Greece. What was my grandfather feeling, knowing his invalid wife and young daughter were an ocean away? What thoughts crossed the minds of the Aridas family in Agios Ioannis, Sparta, as Hariklia and Aphrodite left the village for Piraeus? On March 16, 1940, mother and daughter departed Piraeus on the Nea Hellas  — one of the last boats to leave before the ports were closed! They arrived at Ellis Island on April 2, 1940.

This card as Nea Hellas was published by F.Cali of Genova. Source: http://www.simplonpc.co.uk/GreekLinePCs.html

Their ship manifest shows they traveled second class (lines 6 & 7).

1940 Kostakos, Hariklia-Aphrodite Pass Ship Apr 2 pg1

The handwriting on page 2 indicates my grandmother’s medical condition: partial paralysis, Parkinson’s syndrome.

1940 Kostakos, Hariklia-Aphrodite Pass Ship Apr 2 pg2

My grandmother was detained at the the Ellis Island medical facility while her case was reviewed by a Special Inquiry Board. The Cause of Detention was noted as:  Med. Cert. LPC & Phys. Def. LPC means “aliens likely to become public charges.” Hariklia was married with children, so she was certainly not likely become a “public charge;” however, her physical condition and protocol required her to be examined.

The manifest columns on the far right show that Hariklia and Aphrodite were detained for 2 days: their meals were 2 breakfasts, 4 dinners, and 2 suppers; and they were released on April 4.

1940 Kostakos, Hariklia-Aphrodite PassShip Apr 2 p3

 

This video of the Nea Hellas, posted today on Facebook, brought me to tears. The faces of hope and anticipation reflect the strength and resolve of our ancestor immigrants in looking forward to a new life, not only for themselves, but primarily for their posterity.

 

This website, Memories of the Nea Hellas, has a touching collection of many personal experiences.

This website, Greek Line ships, has a brief history and photos of the following boats that brought many thousands of Greeks to America:
Arkadia – Canberra – Columbia – Lakonia – Katoomba – Nea Hellas – Neptunia –
New York – Olympia – Queen Anna Maria

 

The new road from Athens to Sparta

During my first visit to Sparta years ago, the main road from Athens to Sparta was winding and narrow, making the trip long (over 4 hours) but picturesque as I drove over the Corinth Canal and through the many villages.

In 2014, a new road extended from Athens to Tripoli. It bypassed Corinth and the villages to Tripoli. It was a breeze to drive the smoothly paved, new superhighway; however, I had to exit onto local roads to continue from Tripoli to Sparta.

Now, the new highway is competed, cutting the travel time down to 2-1/2 hours. Today (April 8, 2016), Eleftharia online posted a video of the new road with this brief description (google translated):  Within the next ten days awaiting delivery motorway Lefktro – Sparta (A71), which will reduce the distance of laconic capital from Kalamata, Tripoli and Athens. The Eleftheriaonline.gr visited the motorway and publish shots of the new road, the statue of Leonidas, the municipal stadium, but also a panoramic view of Sparta …

Finished just in time for my next visit! I loved seeing the new road I will soon be traversing. Enjoy the view with me!

 

My Third Cousins, The Revelos Family of Middletown, Ohio

Several years ago, a Greek research friend put me in touch with George Nicholas Revelos whose mother, Effrosyni, was a Michalakakos/Aridas from Agios Ioannis (St. Johns, Sparta). Although we never met in person, we became great friends as we wove together the various threads of our extended families. George and I are third cousins. Our common ancestor is Michail Aridas and his wife, Stamatina, who were born in the early 1800’s in Agios Ioannis. We descend from two of Michail’s sons — George is from Christos, and I am from Georgios.

George N. Revelos, undated.

George N. Revelos, undated.

During my first trip to Sparta some years back, an archivist told me that Aridas was a very unusual name and not native to Laconia. That got me thinking (dangerous!) how the name came to be. When I received a Town Register for the Aridas family from the Archives in Sparta, I saw the name “Konstandinos Michalakakos” listed with the family. (see first family listed)

Dimotologion (Town Register) family of Michail and Eleni Aridas with Konstandinos Michalakakos; General Archives of Sparta

Dimotologion (Town Register) family of Michail Christos and Eleni Leakakos Aridas with Konstandinos Michalakakos; General Archives of Sparta

Thanks to George, I learned the origins of the Aridas name, which was Michalakakos. In an email dated 2009, George related, ” My uncle wrote my mother back in the late 1940’s that he had uncovered the real name for Aridas as Mihalakakos.  He said that one of the ancestors had long legs which is what Aridas translates to from arida (leg). It was a nickname (παρατσουκλι) that stuck.  So, there for a while we were saying that mom was a Mihalakakos.  It didn’t take long for that to disappear.”

George related many interesting stories about his family. His grandfather, Nicholas George Revelos, immigrated from Kosma in 1906 and with his brothers, opened a confectionery store in Middletown.

James, John, Nick, Charles Revelos, undated.

James, John, Nick, Charles Revelos, undated. Source: Greek Ancestry in Middletown, Ohio.

The store, Elite Ice Cream and Candy Company, was a huge success and one of the cornerstone businesses of Middletown. Businesses like this played an important role during the Depression of the 1930’s, as they were not only sources of tax revenue for ailing governments but also places of refuge for families seeking relief from the sadness and difficulties of life.

Elite Ice Cream Store, Middletown, Ohio. undated.

Elite Ice Cream Store, Middletown, Ohio. undated. Source: Greek Ancestry in Middletown, Ohio.

George’s brother, Mike Revelos, wrote a fascinating and extensive history of his family and the Elite Ice Cream Store, which can be accessed here: http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~ohgaim/EliteCandyCo.htm
More info about the business is here: http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~ohgaim/BusinessHistory.htm

A newspaper article in the Middletown Journal, October 9, 2010, gives a brief history of the business and relates how George rescued an eight foot sign with the store name: history: http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~ohgaim/images/EliteStory.pdf

Stories and photos about the Revelos family, and the many other Greek families in Middletown, can be found by scrolling through homepage of the website, Greek Ancestry in Middletown, Ohio:  http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~ohgaim/index.htm. This website is a treasure-trove of genealogical and historical information for anyone with Greek ancestry from Middletown and its surrounding area. Photos, histories, business information and even a link to Ohio death certificates for the city are included.

I was thrilled to come across this site which gave me new insights into my third cousins and their families. I miss George, but I can feel him cheering me on as I prepare for another trip to Sparta this summer to learn more about our Aridas family roots.