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.
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!
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:
- 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?
- There could have been stillborn children
- Children could have been born and died as infants
- 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!