Family: Joyful Reunions and New Connections
Going to my ancestral village of Agios Ioannis felt like going home. My last visit was in 1996 (too long ago!) and seeing familiar places and extended family was both heartwarming and joyous. Having my daughter and granddaughters along made it even more meaningful. It was fun watching the girls’ faces when they met family that lived half a world away! I was especially elated to meet, for the first time, four “new” sets of cousins!
We were smothered with love and the famous Greek hospitality that is accompanied by food, food, food! As we made our way from one house to the next, the girls said “do we have to eat again?”
Ioanna Ladis Kostakos is the wife of Grigorios Georgios Kostakos (now deceased). Grigorios and I are 2nd cousins. Our common ancestor is my great-grandfather, Andreas Kostakos. Ioanna has two children, Peggy, an attorney who lives in the family home, and Georgios, a business consultant who lives in Brussels.
My second Kostakos family in Agios Ioannis — Eleni and her children and grandchildren.
Eleni’s husband was Grigorios Panagiotis Kostakos, now deceased, who is also my second cousin. Our common ancestor is my great-grandfather, Andreas Kostakos. Eleni’s daughter, Panorea, lives in the family home, along with Panos (Eleni’s son) and his wife, Natasa, and sweet daughter, Eleni. During my last visit to Agios Ioannis, we had a delightful family gathering in a taverna that had been owned by the family at that time.
On this trip, our family gatherings were in a local taverna in town. Dinner started at 10:00 p.m. and ended with watermelon served after midnight!
The Aridas and Kostakos families are related through the marriage of my paternal grandmother, Hariklia Aridas, to my grandfather, Ioannis Andreas Kostakos.
George Aridas is my first cousin, once removed. Our common ancestor is Georgios Mihail Aridas. There is an interesting story about the Aridas name. At one time, an ancestor had big feet or long legs and was given the nickname “arida” (big foot). The Michalakakos name is connected with this family — we haven’t quite figured out if Michalakakos was the original name and Aridas was a nickname spinoff, or if Aridas was the original name and Michalakakos was adopted by an ancestor, Konstandinos, who did not want to keep the Aridas name. There is always a mystery to solve in family history research!
I was overjoyed to meet another Aridas family — Anastasia and Mihail are my third cousins. Pigi, their mother, was married to Anastasios Mihail Aridas, who was my second cousin once removed. Our common ancestor was Mihail Aridas (my paternal grandmother’s line). I met this family when my friend and genealogy partner, Gregory Kontos, returned with me to Sparta to do research at the Archives. Gregory and I stayed at a hotel in Anavriti owned by George Kannellopoulos and his wife, who are friends of his parents. The surprising element here is that George is friends Mihail and his family, and when he heard about my connection with the Aridas family, he offered to introduce us! What an amazing coincidence that led to finding another cousin!
This was the first time I met Eugenia Papagiannakos Kyriakoulias, who lives across the street from Ioanna Kostakos. I was so happy to meet her! She and I are related somehow through the Papagiannakos family of Agios Ioannis (my maternal grandfather’s line), but we cannot go back far enough to find our common ancestor. My friend, Gregory, is showing her my family tree and asking about her knowledge of the Papagiannakos family.
Nikolaos Chelidonis and I are second cousins. Our common ancestor is my great-grandfather, Konstandinos Eftaxias from Mystras (my maternal grandmother’s line). I was able to meet this family because Panagiotis and I connected online through the Mystras Facebook page! We met in Athens. Nikolaos told me that he had grown up never knowing that he had family in America. That fact made this meeting even more meaningful for all of us!
Andreas Eftaxias lives in Mystras. He was in the hospital for a procedure, and his son, John (whom I met on this trip through the Chelidonis family) was kind enough to take me to visit him. Andreas and I are first cousins, once removed; John and I are second cousins. Our common ancestor is my great-grandfather, Konstandinos Eftaxias (my maternal grandmother’s line). I had met Andreas and his late wife, Nikki, during my last trip to Mystras. When I walked into his hospital room, his face lit up and we had an emotional reunion.
Spending time with these wonderful family members — good, honest, hardworking people with strong values and dedication to family — brought me a renewed appreciation for my great-grandparents. I know they were people of high moral character who were resilient to challenges and devoted to family, because their descendants are the most wonderful people I have met! I am honored to be born into this family. We may not have a royal pedigree, but we have royal spirits.