This is my maternal great-grandmother, Stathoula Zaharakis Eftaxias. Her photo sits on my desk and every day, she inspires me to keep going with my research.
Stathoula was born in the village of Theologos, Laconia which is 10 kilometers from Sparta and 6 kilometers up a mountain. Her parents were Dimitrios Zaharakis of Theologos, and Giannoula Zarafonitis of Amykles.
For the past two summers, we have had Zaharakis cousins’ reunions in the platea of Theologos. Last year, they asked me to bring their family tree. This year, I did.
Preparing this information sent me hunting for the Zaharakis name in: Male Registers (Mitroon Arrenon), Town Registers (Dimotologion), Election Lists of 1872, and school, church and marriage records at the village, town hall and metropolis levels. I think I have all the bases covered for vital records from Theologos. What I am missing, though, is a history book of the village. Librarians at the Central Library of Sparta said that one does not exist but I will keep looking.
I maintain all my data in a RootsMagic genealogy database and Excel spreadsheets, and I enter every name that I find, whether or not I can connect him/her to a specific line. For example, the 1872 Election Lists give a man’s name, birth year, father’s name and occupation. But if his father is Theodoros and there are several Theodoros’ in the village, I sometimes can’t determine which one he belongs to.
I especially ran into problems with the earliest generations. In this Election List, were Theodoros, Nikolaos and Dimitrios brothers or cousins? I spent hours staring at computer screens, flipping between spreadsheets and multiple family group sheets to determine what made sense. When I became utterly confused, I tried a different tactic: paper.
I began by writing on paper the men’s first names, fathers’ initials and birth years. Then using birth years, I sorted them into generations moving from youngest to oldest. The tactile experience of holding a pen, writing a name, and moving pieces of paper around until the families made sense helped everything “click” in my brain. After just a few minutes, the descendants were in place.
Using RootsMagic and lots of tape, I printed and put together the following trees:
- Dimitrios, born abt. 1760
- Ioannis, born abt. 1798 (no known descendants, but he received an Aristeia award for fighting in the 1821 Revolution; blogpost here)
- Georgios, born abt. 1802
- Panagiotis, born abt. 1805
- Nikolaos, born abt. 1814
- Konstandinos, born abt. 1842
- Dimitrios, born 1844 (my maternal great-great grandfather)
- Dimitrios, born c.1848
Certainly the three youngest are sons of the oldest, but who belongs to who? We won’t know in this life; the paper trail has stopped.
As the cousins looked for their names on the trees, I asked them to correct and add information.
It was interesting to see that everyone there, except three people including me, were descended from Panagiotis born 1805. That tree was on the longest table and had the most activity.
I am very grateful for the support of the village priest, Papa Panagiotis Kotsos, who was the host of the evening. He contacted family, shared information on the church Facebook page, and got people dancing. He is young and fun!
And of course there is food!
And a group photo 🙂
The large tree behind us has a plaque which reads: “The generation that lived in Theologos during the years 1879-1880 have planted this sycamore tree and watered it but God made it grow.”
My great-grandmother, Stathoula, was born in 1870. She was a child when her parents, Dimitrios and Giannoula, helped plant the tree. Now we, the descendants of the earliest Zaharakis’, can gather under it and share the joy of family.