Hellenic Genealogy Conference, NYC

There was a lot of excitement at the Holy Trinity Cathedral annex on Saturday, April 25, as people gathered for the first Hellenic Genealogy Conference. I met attendees who came from Ontario, Portland, Florida and other far-flung places. All came to learn and they eagerly absorbed the information presented.

The event was organized by Ilias Katsos and members of the Education Committee of the Hellenic Chamber of Conference, in association with my friend, Georgia Stryker Keilman of HellenicGenealogyGeek. Probably the most-oft question asked was “which village are your people from?” Everyone was trying to make a new connection and find a new lead to help them learn more about their ancestral lines.

Since my roots are in Spartan villages and Mani, I was especially intrigued to meet people with roots from the mountain village of Anavriti outside Sparta. Many of my connections, DNA and family, have roots there; yet I can’t pinpoint a direct line ancestor from that village. I will at some point, for sure!

One of the highlights of the conference came when Ilias Katsos introduced Reverend Robert George Stephanopoulos to Gregory Kontos (who participated via Skype). Gregory had just completed his presentation on the methods he used to research the Stephanopoulos family for the PBS show, “Finding Your Roots,” which aired last fall. It was exciting for all of us to watch Father Stephanopoulos express his deep appreciation to Gregory for his work.

Gregory Kontos-Rev. Stephanopoulos

Ilias Katsos introduces Rev. Stephanopoulos to Gregory Kontos, via Skype


Conference Agenda and Participants
9:00-9:15 am
       Opening Remarks
 9:15-9:45 am        Dr. Peter C. Moskos. Sociology Professor and Author  Greek Americans: Struggle and Success
Topic:  The Greek experience in America, as documented in the Third  Edition of the book
 9:45 -10:30 am     Georgia Stryker Keilman, Founder HellenicGenealogyGeek.com
“How U.S. Records Can Help You Prepare for Research in Greece”
Topic:  Learn which documents provide pertinent information for Greek  research, including Passenger Lists, Social Security Applications, Death Certificates, Obituaries and others including resources available online
10:45-11:45 am    George D. Tselos, Chief Archivist of Ellis Island
“Passenger Ship and Ellis Island Records.”
Topic:  Learn the resources available at the Ellis Island Immigration Museum to decipher the information found in Passenger Ship Records
 11:45-12:15 pm    Professor Louis Katsos, Chairman Education and Culture Committee, HACC; “Brief History of Hellenic Lands”
Topic:  The impact of Hellenic history, geography, boundary and village changes in genealogy research
1:15-2:15 pm Michael Kalavritinos, “Records Available from the General State Archives of Greece
Topic:  Discover online and textual resources held at the Greek Archives
2:15-2:45pm     Peter Dickson, “Using DNA in Greek Family History Research”
Topic:  Understand the potential of DNA testing for positive family identification
 2:45-3:15pm     Debbie Petrides, “A Case Study from Chios”
Topic:  How to use records from Greece to discover the history of your family
 3:45-4:00pm     Gregory Kontos, Historian and Genealogists
Topic: Research for PBS Gates program “Finding your Roots”
 4:00-4:15pm     Carol Kostakos Petranek, “To Your Ancestral Home”
Topic:  How to prepare for a research trip

Hellenic Conf NYC Apr 2015 Collage w caption

I was honored to participate in this event, as I am passionate about research and teaching and helping others to learn. I created a handout for my presentation that will help people get ready for a successful trip. Please read and download it here.

I am now working on a committee to prepare for the next Hellenic Genealogy Conference which will be on September 26, 2015 at Holy Trinity Cathedral in Salt Lake City, Utah. The website is here, and the Facebook page is here.

So many exciting events for Greek genealogists! It’s a great time to engage in research – join us!

An update to this post:  A YouTube video of some of the conference presentations can be found at this link:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4n70gTlBMxM

The full conference can be accessed in these six YouTube videos:

Part 1:  https://youtu.be/aX1FhZdAw68

Part 2:  https://youtu.be/dh6P_-isG2o

Part 3:  https://youtu.be/NDJgt9eBZt8

Part 4:  https://youtu.be/nxYOiG_IE2E

Part 5:  https://youtu.be/aZP7slDwRb8

Part 6:  https://youtu.be/jILSMY-5Bq4


Lakonia Studies

Last summer when I was in Greece, my friend Giannis Michalakakos gave me a copy of Book of Lakonia Studies which contain excerpts of letters and documents from the Venetian conquest of the Peloponnese in the late 1600’s. Specifically, there are transcripts of letters of Francesco Morosini, Doge of Venice 1688-1694, pertaining to Mystras and its surrounding region. The book is in Greek, of course, and my language skills are elementary at best. But, with the help of my teacher, Theodore Papaloizos, Google Translation tools and a Greek-English dictionary, I have begun to read this fascinating history.

I will write posts as I go through this book so others can learn and join me on this journey into the past. Please understand that my translations may not be accurate.

Lakonia Studies

Because this is a transcript of original documents, I am immersed in the first-hand accounts of Morosini, admiral of the Venetian fleet, as he writes to his superiors regarding the state of affairs in the Peloponnese.

The goal of the Venetians and the Turks is to conquer Mani. Both want control of Mystras. The Turks are losing control, and the Venetians don’t want Muslims in Mystras. An agreement is made between the Turks and the Venetians to subdue the Maniates.

12 July 1687. Fleet Admiral Morosini is on board a ship in the sea of Patras. He writes to the Doge of Venice about a new attack made against Mystras. The Venetians and Turks were fighting for Mystras, and the Venetians needed help from the Maniates. Mystras was being guarded by 600 men from Mani and the town of Koroni, in addition to 100 soldiers of the guard. When the Greeks heard the name of the Turk, they threw their axes, swords and their stolen spoils on the ground and fled from the mountain in desperate escape. They were shamed into retreat by 70-80 Turks. Morosini closes his letter by writing that this is a sad report.

20 August 1687.  Morosini writes to the Doge from the Gulf of Lepanto.

Gulf of Lepanto map

The Maniotes, Captain Bollani and others went to Mystras with a raised white flag and a plan for the mutual exchange of hostages. The Maniates were greedy about the spoils they obtained by looting and stealing, and negotiations had to be done with utmost care. Morosini cautions against not exercising the utmost possibly leniency to the Mystriotes until the Venetians occupied the entire province. He recommends that robust men could be useful as slaves as rowers on boats, and the women, children and the elderly over 50 years could go back to their villages.

Morosini writes a letter to Pasha stating his terms which are dictated by his desire for the common good and to emphasize the decision taken by the Council: Turks are to pay a ransom; a deposit of 200,000 rialia in gold and silver. This money will increase the treasury and operations of the armies. If they do not accept the terms, they will receive notice of a general slaughter.

With other successes, the war will end gloriously. However, the Venetians must not abandon any attempt to ensure the fall of Monemvasia. Efforts will be made in this region as in others, so as not to leave even one Muslim in Mystra.

(Link about the Venetian conquest: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morean_War)