Double Date

No, this is not a post about two couples going out for dinner or a movie date. It is, however, a description of something important that I learned this past weekend.

On Saturday, at the Greek Genealogy Conference held in Tarpon Springs, Florida, I taught a class entitled, “Using U.S. Records to Begin Greek Research.” In this presentation, I used numerous examples of records that may have information to help  find the original name of an ancestor (such as Papadopoulos, not just Pappas), and also the village of birth (very important, as records in Greece are cataloged by location).

I emphasized the importance of finding every record that could have possibly been created in the U.S. for an ancestor. The reason is that each document may have new or different information. When documents for a direct ancestor are hard to find, look for documents of siblings or other family members, and do your best to locate every piece of paper on which they could possibly be listed.

As an illustration, I used both civil and church marriage records for my maternal grandparents. This is the State of New York Certificate and Record of Marriage for Ilias Papagiannakos and Angelina Eftaxias; note that the date is May 10, 1914:

New York State Certificate and Record of Marriage, Ilias Papagianakos and Angelina Eftaxias

State of New York: Civil Marriage Record Louis Papagianakos and Angelina Eftaxia GROOM: age 32; occupation: oyster dealer; birthplace: Greece; father’s name: Panagiotis; mother’s maiden name: Caterina Eliopoulis BRIDE: age 20; birthplace: Greece; father: Constantinos; mother’s maiden name: Stafia Zaharopoulo. Joined in marriage at 358 West 44th Street, Manhattan on 10th of MAY 1914

This is the Greek Orthodox Marriage Certificate from Holy Trinity Church in New York for the same grandparents. Note that the date of marriage is:  27/10 April, 1914.


Greek Orthodox Marriage Record; Holy Trinity Church.   Of Agios Ioannis, Sparta, Ilias Panag. Papagiannakos and of Mistra Aggeliki Kon. Eftaxia married on 27/10 APRIL 1914 Best man: Christos Aridas FATHERS: Panagiotis Papagiannakos KON [Konstandinos] Eftaxias

As I described the differences between the civil and the church marriage records, I mentioned that I was puzzled by the “double date” on the church record. I did not understand the discrepancy between the two dates and what 27/10 April was referring to.

After the presentation, Adamantia Klotsa, Consul General of Greece, approached me and solved the mystery. She explained that the “double date” on the Greek certificate referred to the dates as they were calculated by both the Julian Calendar (27 April) and the Gregorian Calendar (May 10). There is a 13-day difference between the dates in these calendars, and the Greek record reflected both because Greece used the Julian calendar until 1922. With this marriage occurring in 1914, it now makes sense as to the correctness of the date as noted on the Greek Orthodox Marriage Record–the difference between April 27 and May 10 is exactly thirteen days.

Genealogy is never boring–there is always something new to learn!


Andreas Kostakos: Hiding in Plain Sight

How many years does one search to find a record–any record–that proves the existence of a great-grandfather? At what point does a  “reasonable” researcher give up?

As a researcher (the reasonable part is questionable) and an eternal optimist, my answer is: never! Never, never, never give up. Newly found and newly digitized records are becoming available continuously; social media is bringing together people who collaborate and help each other; DNA is expanding the “cousin” pool.

All of these stars aligned in the sky to bring forth documentation for my great-grandfather, Andreas Kostakos.

Andreas, I have now learned, was born in 1809 in Agios Ioannis (St. Johns), Sparta, Laconia, Greece. Andreas had two wives, Anastasia–by which he had perhaps six sons, only one of whose descendants we know; and Poletimi Christakos–by which he had five additional children including my grandfather, Ioannis (John). This is the only family photo of my grandfather, Ioannis with my grandmother, Hariklia Aridas Kostakos and their children. My father, Andrew, was the oldest.

l-r standing: Frieda, Andrew, Pauline, Georgia. Seated: Hariklia, Alice, John

Family of Ioannis Andreas Kostakos, about 1930, Brooklyn, New York. l-r standing: Frieda, Andrew (my father), Pauline, Georgia. Seated: Hariklia, Alice, Ioannis.

For years, I have looked for records for Andreas in Agios Ioannis and surrounding villages of Sparta. I sent letters to the Archives in Sparta (excellent support but no Andreas Kostakos found) and the Mayor’s office (no response). Three years ago, my friend and research companion, Gregory Kontos, introduced me to the Election Registers online at the Digital Collection of the Greek Archives. These Registers were created in every village to record the names of men who were at least 21 years old and eligible to vote. The Registers from 1872 are typewritten and easy to read. The older ones, which can date back to 1844, are handwritten and almost indecipherable to a non-native reader.

That collection was my first initiation into trying to read old Greek handwriting. This is not for the faint-hearted, but it is possible. Over the years, I have learned to read some modern Greek writing but the older script is downright intimidating. I never went back to look at the Ladas collection. Until yesterday.

My friend and historian/researcher, Giannis Michalakakos, was working on a genealogy case for a client whose roots were from a village near Sparta. While reviewing the Lada Election Lists for 1844, he saw an entry that he knew was my family. Imagine my shock – joy – disbelief when he called and said that he found the name “Kostakos, And” in Agios Ioannis! My hands were actually trembling when I clicked on this link that took me to the page for file 22, image 99, line 1205:

General Archives of Greece, Election Material from the Collection of Lada (1844), File 22 - village of Agios Ioannis File 22, Image 99; Line 1205, Year of Record: 1844, Last name: Kostakos; First name: And.; Male; Age 35; How long lived in the village/resident: αυτόχθων aftochon (indigenous) is from Agios Ioannis; Has money or property? Yes; Occupation: landowner.

General Archives of Greece, Election Material from the Collection of Lada (1844), File 22 – village of Agios Ioannis.  File 22, Image 99; Line 1205, Year of Record: 1844, Last name: Kostakos; First name: And.; Male; Age 35; How long lived in the village/resident: αυτόχθων aftochon (indigenous) is from Agios Ioannis; Has money or property? Yes; Occupation: landowner.

On line 1205 is the entry for “And. Kostakos,” age 35:

File 22, Image 99, Line 1205

File 22, Image 99, Line 1205

Giannis and I agreed that “And” was the abbreviation for “Andrew.” His age is listed as 35 in 1844, which puts his birth year at 1809–within two years of a “guess-timate” I had calculated years ago. The 6th column records the length of time the individual was a resident of the village. Andreas is listed as being αυτόχθοω (aftochon) which means “indigenous.” Giannis explained that Andreas, as indigenous, was in Agios Ioannis from the beginning of the existence of the state, i.e., since Greece became an independent nation after the Revolution of 1821.

During my trip to Sparta in 2014, Gregory and I had visited the Greek Orthodox Church Mitropolis of Sparta to research in marriage records. Amazingly, we found, in the Index Book of Marriages, the entry for Andreas and Poletimi who were married on August 20, 1860. This was the first “official” document that proved Andreas actually existed. Unfortunately, it did not give the ages of the couple; thus, the newly-found Election Register has provided definitive information on Andreas’ birth year and birth place.

Mitropolis of Sparta, Index of Marriages, Number 125, Date: August 20, 1860; Andreas Kostakos of Agios Ioannis and Poletimi, daughter of Nikolaos Christakos of Xirokambi, Faridos.

Mitropolis of Sparta, Index of Marriages, Number 125, Date: August 20, 1860; Andreas Kostakos of Agios Ioannis and Poletimi, daughter of Nikolaos Christakos of Xirokambi, Faridos.

But this new record raises a new research challenge:  years ago, my elderly aunt, a descendant of Andreas and Anastasia, told me that Andreas came to the Sparta region from “Pyrgos over the mountains” after the 1821 Revolution to find work (see prior post). That comment had shifted my research focus from Laconia to Messinia, the location of Pyrgos Lefktro–a village which is literally over the Taygetos mountains. My hunt so far has not yielded a Kostakos family; yet, even if I find one I cannot know if the Kostakos is related to me.  Kostakos is a patronymic name (Kost-akos literally means son of Kostas); many surnames evolved from patronymics; and there are untold numbers of men named Kostas/Konstandinos in the southern Peloponnese. I hope that DNA will be the next link to connect me with “lost” branches of my family.

Research results? Many years, many efforts.

Without the help of Giannis and Gregory, my research would remain stalled.

Without the digitization of the Election Lists, my research would remain stalled.

Without social media and DNA connections, my research would remain stalled.

Whenever I become frustrated in this quest, I take a step back and look at the totality of the situation: there was no “Greece” during 400 years of Turkish occupation; in the late 1800’s, a new government was being created; life was predominantly rural; people were largely illiterate; recordkeeping was, at best, rudimentary. In retrospect, it is quite amazing that any records have survived. It is encouraging that some have been digitized and are now online.

I continue to have faith that, if there is a written document to prove the existence of of one of my ancestors, at some point in time–with the help of a friend, with the discovery of a new record collection, through a DNA connection–it will find its way to me.


Louis Pappas & Angelina Eftaxias – A Brief History

October 2, 2016. This brief history is compiled by Carol Kostakos Petranek. It is based on a conversation of November 29, 1985, between Carol Kostakos Petranek and her parents (Catherine Pappas Kostakos & Andrew Kostakos) and her aunt and uncle (Bertha Pappas Pouletsos and Nick Pouletsos).

Around 1900, Ilias Papagiannakos (Louis Pappas) left his village of Agios Ioannis (St. Johns) Sparta, and came to America to begin a new life.  He was also seeking to avoid the draft in Greece which was mandatory for all young men who turned 18. Louis would have traveled steerage class on a steamship, a journey that would have taken about four weeks. He arrived at Ellis Island and migrated to Pennsylvania, finding work in a meat factory that made hot dogs. Louis eventually left Pennsylvania to find better employment opportunities, although it is not known why he chose to settle in Hoboken, New Jersey. He opened a small steak and seafood restaurant with a partner, John.

Although Louis worked hard—7 days a week, 18 hours a day—he never complained. The early 1900’s were a time of depression in Greece and young men left by the thousands to find work overseas.  Life in small villages held no promise for the future.  It was rare for children to go to school. Families were very poor. They owned a little acreage and grew mostly olives which they sold to make olive oil. The only financial help they would receive was if a son in America sent money so the family could purchase more land. Many of the early immigrants were very hard working because they knew what hunger was, and they were motivated to help themselves and their families.

Louis’ wife, Angelina, was born in Mystras, a village in the Taygetos mountains that tower over Sparta and Agios Ioannis. Her father, Konstandinos, was a shepherd and owned an olive grove. He was married twice: first to Anastasia Pavlakos, then to Angelina’s mother, Stathoula Zaharakis. He lived to be almost 100 years old. Angelina’s  mother was from the village of Theologos, Oinountos, Laconia. Sadly, she died in the mid 1950’s while preparing to come to America to visit her daughters.

It was customary for a son who had emigrated to America to work hard, live frugally and save money to bring his sisters over, one by one, to be married.  Greek custom dictated that woman could not marry unless she had a dowry of either livestock, land or money.  This was a burden on the poor families who could not afford dowries. The girls were sent to America, the oldest first, to be married and start a new life.  Angelina’s stepbrother, John Eftaxias, had emigrated to Manhattan in 1907.  He worked and saved money, then sent for his sisters:  Kanela came first, then Katina, then Angelina, and Vasiliki.  Angelina traveled on the S.S. Oceania, sailing from Patras on March 11, 1912 and arriving at Ellis Island on March 29, 1912.

In New York, Angelina worked in a factory, making batteries. She first lived with her sister, Katina, but she was not happy there.  When Angelina came home from work she would do all the wash, housework and child-care.  She complained to her brother, and he arranged for her to live with her other sister, Kanela.


Louis and Angelina were brought together through a “match.” One evening, Angelina came home from the factory. She was tired and dirty, and when she was asked to come and meet someone, she ran into the bedroom to wash and clean up.  That was the first time she met her future husband.  Angelina’s brother, John, thought that Louis would be a suitable husband for her and he agreed to the marriage.  In those days, girls didn’t have much influence over their lives. Marriages were arranged for men and women to survive and raise a family.

After they married on April 27, 1914, Louis and Angelina  moved to Court Street in Hoboken, N.J. where their five children were born:  Peter (1915-1916), Catherine 1917-2011, Panagiota (Bertha) 1918-2007, Nicholas 1919-1995, and Bill 1921-1998 [Angelina’s first child was an unnamed stillborn son]. While Louis worked, Angelina stayed at home to keep house and raise her family. When the children were small they were not allowed inside the restaurant but occasionally, Angelina would take them there for a special treat. Louis would greet them by scooping a handful of oysterettes (crackers) into his apron corner and giving them to his children.  Because Louis worked 18-hour days with no holidays or days off, there was little time for him to interact with his family.  He would see his young children in the mornings; later, when they were older, in the afternoons when they came to the restaurant for dinner. Louis would check his children’s report cards and encourage them to do well in school.  Very rarely did he ever discipline his children—that task was left to Angelina.

During the depression years, times were so hard that Louis had to make a choice:  either close the restaurant and work for someone else or have his wife come and work with him.  Angelina wouldn’t hear of the first alternative — she decided to work with Louis. They fired the cook and she took the cook’s place. It was during this time that the children came to the restaurant every afternoon after school and ate dinner with their parents.  As Bill and Nick grew older, they worked in the restaurant, washing dishes, peeling potatoes and waiting on tables.  In those days, it was unheard of for girls to do such work, so Catherine and Bertha ever worked in the restaurant.  However, they were expected to help out in the home. As the eldest daughter, Catherine became responsible for the house and the children.  The sisters and brothers got along well.  They did not fight but helped each other with school work and housework.

Louis had to sell his first restaurant on Court Street because a movie theater was being built on the property, so he purchased another restaurant on First Street.  The restaurant was long and narrow with tables on one side, and it seated approximately 50 people.  There were no meal “checks” where customers’ orders were written down; rather, Louis would remember what each customer ordered. –he even remembered carry-out orders.  That was one of Louis’ talents — his incredible memory.  During slow times at the restaurant, Angelina would do all her crocheting and embroidery.  She made dozens of tablecloths, blankets and scarves.

During their school years, the Pappas children were kept very busy; they did not know the word “boredom.”  Bertha said, “They [the parents] were smart people in those days.  They kept their children very busy and there was no time to roam around.  No extra time on your hands.”  When the children were about eight years old, they were enrolled in Greek school and attended both American school and Greek school every day.  There were the four Pappas children and five Greek neighbors who rode the ferry from Hoboken into New York City every afternoon to attend Greek school.  The children found the double-decked ferry boats exciting to ride. The first month of their commute, Angelina or another mother would take the children into the city, but then the nine youth were on their own.  They would occasionally run around and be mischievous on the boat, but they would never do anything troublesome for they knew that someone would “snitch” on them.

When they got home from Greek school, the children had homework from both schools. By the time they finished, it was bedtime. On Saturday and Sunday they cleaned the house and washed clothes on a scrub board. There was no extra time for hanging out with friends or roaming the streets; in fact, going out with friends was forbidden. The children would go to movies on Tuesdays (if there was no school) or on Saturdays. There was no dating or social life until the children were in their late teens and early 20’s.  Even when the girls graduated from high school and were working, they were not allowed to date.

During the summers, the children would read and play outside in the streets — baseball, or kick the can.  Sometimes Angelina would take them to Coney Island to go swimming which was always a wonderful and welcomed excusion.  They would also take day trips on the Hudson Day Line ferry to upper New York.  The children were taught to share and had but a few toys — Catherine and Bertha shared one doll and one carriage and the boys had one or two cars each. No one owned a bicycle.  One Christmas when the children were in their teens, their parents purchased a pool table. Even though the parents had very little money, to the best of their ability they provided activities and fun times for their children.

When the children were older, Louis would close the restaurant two days a year — Christmas and New Year’s Day.  On New Year’s Eve, the family would play cards and go to the movies on New Year’s Day.

Louis became ill when the boys were drafted into the Army.  He loved his children so much that he brooded over them constantly.  Nick was drafted first and that caused him much grief, but when Bill was drafted it became his “downfall.”  He had plans for his boys — he wanted to open a big restaurant and have the two boys as partners, then he could gradually ease into retirement.  The draft shattered these plans, and he fell into a deep sadness and depression; his entire outlook changed and he stopped eating.  Within a year, his sickness progressed to the point where he could not work.  Angelina wanted to sell the restaurant, but Louis refused and, instead, gave it away to a young family.  His reasoning was that he successfully raised four children in the restaurant, and when he saw a young father with two children struggling and looking for work, he simply offered the business to him.  Louis contracted pneumonia and went into the hospital.  One week later, he died on May 12, 1944.

Nick came back from the Army to be at the funeral, but Bill, also in the Army, was overseas in England.  The girls were working and living at home with their mother while the boys continued their military service.  The girls supported the household by giving all their salary to their mother, who in turn would give them enough money for lunch and cab fares.  There was no resentment or animosity on the girls’ parts — in fact, there was no question that they would work to support their mother.

Angelina’s daily routine changed after the death of her husband, but she still kept extremely busy.  She would clean house, shop daily (since there were only small iceboxes in the apartments, wash clothes by scrub board and make dinner for the children. Angelina spent visited friends and relatives in Hoboken and went into New York to shop.  After her children married, Angelina found a job cleaning doctor’s dormitories in a hospital in Hackensack, N.J.  Angelina, Bill and Pauline purchased a home in Westwood, N.J. where they lived together for many years. In her later years, Angelina rotated living with her children in Long Island, Maryland and California. She died on October 28, 1972.

Angelina was a very headstrong and independent woman. Her daughters said that she was born ahead of her time.  “If she could read and write and was alive today, she’d certainly be President of something or the head of the ERA movement,” Bertha said.

Bertha and Catherine agree that even though they grew up with a very simple life, they were happy and contented.  Bertha said, “I grew up laughing through everything.”  Catherine said, “Looking back on it now, I believe my mother was l00% right the way she brought us up.  Maybe when we were growing up and especially when we started to work we would gripe, thinking we were held back so strictly because we couldn’t date, but I can now see her reasons for all she did.”

Top: l-r: William Pappas, Catherine Pappas Kostakos with Carol; Bertha Pappas Pouletsos; Angelina; Nick Pappas with John Pouletsos and John Kostakos. Left: Angelina Pappas, 1947. Right: Louis Pappas, about 1943

Top: l-r: William Pappas, Catherine Pappas Kostakos with Carol; Bertha Pappas Pouletsos; Angelina; Nick Pappas with John Pouletsos and John Kostakos. Left: Angelina Pappas, 1947. Right: Louis Pappas, about 1943










Top: l-r: William Pappas, Catherine Pappas Kostakos with Carol; Bertha Pappas Pouletsos; Angelina; Nick Pappas with John Pouletsos and John Kostakos. Left: Angelina Pappas, 1947. Right: Louis Pappas, about 1943