Research in the General Archives of Greece, Sparta office
After months of preparation, I was so very excited to go in person to the General Archives of Greece office in Sparta! It located in a building on Vrasidou Street in the center of Sparta.
The Archives has offices for staff and a spacious research room. It also has off-site storage areas where most of the books and records are kept. Some records for Sparta which are listed at the GAK website may also be available. The research room has a large table, perfect for reviewing the oversized books and taking notes.
In the lobby, there are several display cases featuring historic photos and documents.
Gregory Kontos and I were finally able to meet our new archivist friends with whom we had connected through Greek genealogy Facebook groups — Maria Stellakou and Mihalis Sovolis. I had sent Maria an email in advance, letting her know exactly when we would be arriving. These dear people had offered to assist us in every possible way, and that is exactly what they did. They asked us which locations we were researching and what types of records we were seeking. They told us that they would have the appropriate books ready for us when we arrived the following morning.
Can you imagine how thrilled I was to see the Dimotologion book for Agios Ioannis, the ancestral home of three of my grandparents? The Dimotologion is a register of families, listing husband, wife and children with their birth dates and other information. It is comparable to a U.S. census record.
When I opened that book and turn the pages, I found three Kostakos families. These records appear to have been created in the 1900’s, as that is when most of the children were born. Unfortunately, there are no similar family records for the 1800s.
I looked at Mitroon Arrenon, Male Registers, for Agios Ioannis, Mystras, and other nearby villages.
In the book for Mystras, I found an entry for my granduncle, Ioannis Eftaxias born in 1876. Konstandinos, my great-grandfather, is named as Ioannis’ father. Gregory and I were given permission to use our cameras to take photographs of any pages containing my family names.
Maria has begun to digitize some of these books herself. That is quite an ambitious project! She uses a scanner and then uploads the images to the office computers. With digitization, the old books can be preserved. They can also be easily accessed by computer.
Gregory and I spent all day on Tuesday (July 15) and Wednesday morning at the Archives. We were delighted to meet Pepi Gavala, the archivist, on Wednesday. Over the years, I have come to know Ms. Gavala by name, as she signs letters that I have written to the Archives when I was requesting information. She is a delightful woman, dedicated to her job and sincerely wanting to assist researchers in every possible way.
Here is an example: when we arrived on Wednesday morning, I asked if the books for Vordonia and Kastania were available. These are the ancestral villages of my first husband, Peter Lynard (Linardakis). Although I had not planned to research those areas, I had a strong impression that I should do so. Mihalis was at one of the offsite storage areas, and Maria called to ask him if he would go to the building where the Vordonia and Kastania books were kept. He stopped what he was doing, found the books, and brought them to us as quickly as he could.
I left the Archives, thrilled to have digital copies of civil records that are helping me piece together the various branches of my family. I also left behind new friends: Maria, Mihalis and Ms. Gavala. They made this visit both pleasant and productive. I am ever grateful for their cheerful help and their sincere desire for my success in finding the records I was seeking. I hope that someday I will be able to return their kindness and be of help to them.