About Spartan Roots

I am of Greek ancestry with roots in villages near Sparta. My paternal grandparents and maternal grandfather were born in Agios Ioannis (St. Johns), and my maternal grandmother was born in Mystras. I love family history research and have been tracing my roots for many years. I was born in Brooklyn, New York and was raised in a predominantly Greek neighborhood close to extended family. I live in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area and work as a volunteer Co-Director of the Washington, D.C. Family History Center and a genealogy aide/project aide at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. I am always updating and adding new information. Please contact me - I would love to hear from you!

Christakos Family of Koumousta/Xirokambi, Laconia. Part Two

Greeks embrace an expanded definition of the term “family” to include those who marry into one’s direct ancestral line, including koumbara (godparents). I take it one step further to include anyone whose origins are from the same clan. This second post (part one here) relates stories about the relatives of my great-great grandfather, Nikolaos Christakos, as written by Mr. Katsoulakos and Mr. Stoumbos in their book, Koumousta of Lacedaimonos.

One recurring theme is the importance of the local monastery of Gola.

Monastery of Gola

Monasteries were “rich” and were sources of life for the villagers. They provided steady employment for some and assistance to others. On March 1, 1828 the abbot of the monastery of Gola enumerated its holdings: vineyards and cultivated fields of berries, figs, and olive trees; cows, sheep and goats; and precious objects. People named in the Code of Gola were involved with the monastery. They may have worked as gardeners, keepers, or in the olive oil refineries, and they were paid for their labor. Monasteries often rented their land and sheep to villagers who did not have property or means to provide for themselves. The monastery also supported the local school in Koumousta; in fact, for a time during 1830, the school was located within the monastery. In the Code are these donations:  October 1829-33: 81, 150 and 114  grosia (Greek for qirsh, Ottoman currency). Vyssarion Tekosis (1827-1844), an abbot in the monastery, studied in this school.

Christakos Residents of Koumousta

Panagis is the oldest Christakos named in the book. He is not mentioned further, but we can estimate that, as the father of Kyriakos who was born about 1776, he was born in the early to mid-1700’s[1].

Kyriakos, the son of Panagis, was named in the first census taken in 1830. He was referenced in the Code of Gola in the year 1806, and additional documents indicate that his involvement with the monastery of Gola was ongoing:

  • On January 1, 1785, he signed a document as a witness that Christina Komni and her children sold a vineyard to the monastery for 38 grosia.
  • On April 25, 1796, he signed a letter requesting assistance from the Grigorakis family of Mani after Turks destroyed the monastery of Gola.
  • In 1806, he donated a field to the monastery in memory of his son, Panagis [this indicates that his son had died prior to 1806]

Thanasis is named in the Code of Gola as a laborer in the monastery, 1827-29.

Dimitris and other men from Koumousta fought in the Balkan Wars (1912-13). In the village of Koritsa (Albania) during a battle between Greeks and Turks, Dimitris was injured along with Vasilis Stoumbos, Mitsakis Mandrapilias and Christos Stoumbos. Dimitris, an artillery gun operator, totally lost his hearing and returned home, deaf. The state did not grant him a pension. His wife died, leaving him with six sons. He raised his sons and assumed the household chores of baking, cleaning, mending clothing. As the sons married and left the home, Dimitris remained alone until the end of his life.

St. B. (nickname: Kapodakis; St.B. most likely are initials for Stylianos Vasilios) died in an accident on July 21, 1943. At the end of the river Rasina is a small lake, Sgournitsa, where young men swam during hot summer days. The small cave of Komini, with green stalactites and impressive fossils, lured the bravest of them. It was there that St. B. lost his life.

Georgios is not mentioned by name but his three sons are listed in the Male Register (Mitroon Arrenon) of the Dimos (prefecture) Faridos. As such, we can estimate the birth year of Georgios as about 1845:

  • Aristomenis Georgios, born 1870
  • Dimitrios Georgios, born 1872
  • Grigorios Georgios, born 1876

The family of Dimitrios Georgios born 1872 is enumerated in the Town Register (Dimotologion):
Christakos, Dimitris G., born 1872
Christakos, Konstantinos Dimitriou, born 1915
Christakos, Antonios Dimitriou, born 1918
Christakos, Pantelis Dimitriou, born 1920
Christakos, Panagiotis Dimitriou, born 1923

These four sons of Dimitrios were among 28 young men from Koumousta who fought during World War II. The authors wrote:  The village at once became joyless [because the youth were gone.] The weather this morning was as if it was going to snow. The teacher left in the night. In the fields, no one went to work. A 10-year-old child, shocked by the events around him, listened to his mother’s voice, “Your sister is going to your uncle’s goats and you to ours” (children must now do the work since the men are off to war). From this time, the child was doomed to become a shepherd. He took bread and ran quickly to the point between the mountains. He wanted to see the men who had left to fight. He saw them when they reached Γλυστρωπές Πέτρες (slippery rocks). He shouted to tell them something he had heard early in his life, “come back victorious.” But they were far away and could not hear him.

The family of Konstandinos Dimitrios born 1915 (named above) is also in the Town Register:
Christakou, Antonia wife of Konstantinou 1922
Christakou, Pitsa (Panagiota) Konstantinou 1943
Christakos, Dimitrios Konstantinou 1946
Christakou, Stratigoula Konstantinou 1948
Christakou, Dimitra Konstantinou 1951
(Note: –ou ending denotes the feminine)

Konstandinos Dimitrios and Perikles D. are named in the School Register of 1921-22. The school archive was destroyed during the German occupation of WWII and the ensuing Civil War. Only two student lists were saved. The older list is from the school year 1921/22, indicating that there were 31 students in four classes, with the teacher Peter Dimitrakeas.

  • Konstandinos Dimitrios is referenced in an incident which occurred in Koumousta during the Greek Civil War (1946-49). A skirmish arose between rebels and paramilitary forces (Xites). The Xites accused Kosta of being a communist and threatened to execute him, but the situation dissipated and he was spared.
  • Konstandinos’ wife, Antonia Stavrogiannis Christakos, found the decapitated body of her brother, Dinakis, in the town square of Xirokambi (late 1940’s). There authors tell the story as follows: Dinakis Stavrogiannis lived in Paleochori. He was small in body but strong and quick. After some military operations of the army, a small stronghold of military police with help of local army men settled in the area. One night in Paliochori, Dinakis killed a military policeman who was guarding Sotiri Kakiousi and he fled. From this point, the future of Dinakis Stavrogiannis was written in black. The guards increased, and the control was extremely oppressive. In the middle of September below the Koumousta River , Dinakis fell into an ambush. Heavily injured, he tried to release a grenade but blew himself up. The next day the police cut off his head and took it into  Xirokambi where they put it on public view. Among the people of Koumousta who went there to collect nuts was his sister, Antonia Christakos who in front of this disgusting view screamed, “My brother.” However, she found the courage to go to and weep at the headless body of her brother.

  • Konstandinos Dimitrios and his family left Koumousta after World War II, but there is no additional information regarding their final destination. The authors explained: The war and misery that followed, along with many other social reasons, forced people from Koumousta to abandon their village and take the road abroad. 

Xirokambi, river bed, July 2016

The men of Koumousta were tough. As they left their village to defend their country, their eyes were as brutal as slayers. They gathered in Megali Vrysi and departed, singing an old klepht song:  How many mountains I passed, I will tell them. Mountains, don’t get snow–fields, don’t get dusty. The meaning is deep and poignant: as mean leave their village, they send a message to the mountains and the fields–may the winter not be harsh, may the fields be well watered and produce a good harvest. My family will be alone and I will not be there to take care of them.



[1]  Kyriakos was an adult, probably in his 30’s, when he is mentioned in the Code in 1806. Doing the math, his approximate birth year would be around 1776; if we use the estimation of 25 years to separate generations, then an approximate birth year for Panagis would be 1751 at the earliest.


Christakos Family of Koumousta/Xirokambi, Laconia. Part One

Is it possible that I have discovered the family of my great-great grandfather, Nikolaos Christakos, born about 1810 in Xirokambi? I think so!

My hunt into learning more about my Christakos family took a giant leap forward last summer when a “coincidental” series of events led me to the book, Koumousta of Lacedaimonos,  written by Theodore S. Katsoulakos and Panagiotis X. Stoumbos (“Koumousta book”).

I am grateful to my friend, Giannis Michalakakos, who has been translating sections of this book with me. Without his help, I would not have the information that is so vital in piecing together this family.

The Christakos family profile is slowly coming together. Politimi Christakos married my great-grandfather, Andreas Kostakos in 1860. Years of research into various records are pointing to this:












My previous post described how the Christakos family of Koumousta originated from one of the region’s earliest settlers, Christos Rizos, who is mentioned in 1761 in the Code of Gola (Gola is a monastery). When a son of Christos took his father’s name as a patronymic, he became Christakos (-akos = son of).

This first post about the Christakos family of Koumousta will explore what I have learned about the possible father of Nikolaos — Dimitrios Christakos — and some of the stories that illustrate the environment of Koumousta in the 1800’s. The next post will explore other members of the Christakos family.

Immediately after the conclusion of the Greek War of Independence of 1821, the first “census” was held in Greece in 1830. After 400 years of Turkish rule, the new central government was becoming established and formal local government organizations were not yet functional. Thus, this census was not complete. In the Koumousta book we read, “From the document written in 1830, which is ‘the families living in huts and bungalows in Nauplion and other villages in 1830’… we find the names of Dimitrios Christakos (1826) and Dimitrios Christakos (1830). [The number in parenthesis indicates a date that is written in the sources; the specifics of the dates are not given]

As indicated in this census, there are two men named Dimitrios. To ease the confusion, I will name one “Dimitrios” and the other “Dimitris.”

Some passages in the book make it difficult to distinguish which Dimitrios is being referenced. On February 26, 1826, a Dimitrios Christakos signs an interesting document which reads in part:
“With this document we report that our ex-captain of the village, Antonis (Koumoustiotis) was disbanded because he did damages daily in our village and this is already known to everyone and we cannot write down how many bad things he did to us. It was not enough that he kept 20,000 grosia, the spoils from the seige of Tripoli, but gave us only the outside of an egg” [this is the exact translation]. Among other scandalous behavior, Antonis is accused of making an alliance with a Maniot family that was causing much fear among the villagers.

Born 1805, the name Dimitrios Christakos is found in a catalog of 450 fighters of Laconia (men who fought in the 1821 Revolution) that was signed by P. Giatrakos on September 26, 1845 and the minister of defense, K. Rodio, on October 16, 1845. Among those named who are “the people who have the right to take certification”  is Dimitrios Christakos, age 40 years. Dimitrios was honored for his participation in the Revolution by receiving an Aristeia award, bronze level. There are three levels of Aristeia:  highest: silver medal — αργυρό μετάλιο; 2nd: bronze medal — χάλκινο μετάλιο; 3rd: iron medal — σιδήρου μετάλλιο.

We can estimate that Dimitris was born about 1794, as he is referenced in the election list of 1844 (known as the first official elections in Greece) as Dimitrios Christakos, age 50 years. At this time, the election process was still unorganized. Voting occurred in the capital of every province, but some areas did not receive enough voting boxes for its population. The election dates varied in different areas, which was further complicated because the duration of voting was over two months. The voting procedure in the municipality of Faridos took place in the church of Agia Triada in Xirokambi on April 12, 1844. This election list, signed by the Mayor N. T. Liakakos, survived. The Koumousta book lists the men who voted in Koumousta; some may have lived in Xirokambi and Arkasa but they are included in the Koumousta record. Among those listed are Dimitrios Christakos, age 50.

The 1830 census list (discussed above) reveals a pattern which may help us determine the children of Dimitris (the older of the two Dimitrios’). As census takers in the U.S. went door-to-door, that procedure may have been followed in 1830 as the census taker walked the geographical area of Koumousta, going from one household to the next. If so, then the list becomes even more interesting as it references:
1: Dimitrios Christakos (for our purposes, Dimitris)
2:  Thanasis and Nikolaos Christakia
1: Michalakis Christakos (listed as the fourth name below Thanasis and Nikolaos)

Note the suffix, -akia after the names of Thanasis and Nikolaos. –akia is a diminutive term, indicating children or minors. We may assume then, that Thanasis and Nikolaos, listed immediately after Dimitris, are his sons. They may be living with their father. Michalakis may also be the son of Dimitris, but he is living in his own household.

So…the big question:  is my great-great grandfather, Nikolaos Christakos, the son of Dimitris? The answer: most possibly, but not conclusively. Additional information is needed. I realize that the following analysis is based on many assumptions; but, we can only work with what we have:

  1.  Looking at the Family Group chart at the beginning of this post, I had estimated the birth of Nikolaos as 1815 as follows: Ilias was born about 1835 (source: 1872 Election List). If we estimate that a father was about 25 years old at the time of the birth of his eldest child (a standard estimating measurement for Greek records) that gives us an approximate birthdate for Nikolaos of 1810.
  2. Looking at the 1830 census, Nikolaos and his-likely brother, Thanasis, are living either in the household of Dimitris or immediately adjacent. The boys are named, thus they may be older, possibly late teens. With this assumption, their birthdates could range from 1812 (if age 18) to 1809 (if age 21). If this supposition holds, then Nikolaos would be in the correct age range to be the father of Politimi.
  3. There is no other man named Nikolaos Christakos that is mentioned in the Koumousta book.

To prove or disprove this theory, I will ask Mr. Katsoulakos for suggestions as to where I should look for additional documentation about the Christakos family in the 1800’s. When I return to Greece this summer, I will follow up on his recommendations. If the “genealogy gods” are with me, I may have success and be able to determine conclusively that I have (or have not) found my family!

Part Two of this post will describe Mr. Katsoulakos’ and Mr. Stoumbos’ research about additional members of the Christakos family.














In this post, we will explore some of the earliest members of the Christakos family of Koumousta. I have not yet been able to link my Nikolaos to the people mentioned in this book, but I trust that further information will come forth.



The Rizos Clan of Koumousta, Laconia: Christakos, Koumoustiotis, Kyriakakos

Part One: History


July 11, 2016, was a hot but fateful day in Athens. My friend, Giannis Michalakakos, had rearranged his work schedule to take me to the National Library to research my Iliopoulos ancestors who had received Aristeia awards for their valiant service in the 1821 Revolution. To our dismay, the Library was closed for a staff meeting. We deliberated briefly, devised a Plan B, and headed to a university library to find what would become a research bonanza, the book, Koumousta of Lakedaimonos, written by Theodore S. Katsoulakos and Panagiotis X. Stoumbos:

Koumasta of Lakedaimonos, Theodore E. Katsoulakos and Panagiotis X. Stoumbos, published 2012

Koumousta of Lakedaimonos, Theodore S. Katsoulakos and Panagiotis X. Stoumbos, published 2012

The geographical area of Koumousta, 24 km south of Sparta, is comprised of many villages, both large and small. In modern Greece, the biggest village is Xirokambi with a population of about 1,000 people. The region has four monasteries: Gola and Zerbitsa; and slightly north of Koumousta,  Koubari and Katafigiotissa.  Xirokambi is the birthplace of my paternal great-grandmother, Poletimi Christakos, (father, Nikolaos) who married Andreas Kostakos. In this book is found the history of her family!

It all began with Christos Rizos. On page 202, we read:

Koumousta of Lakedaimonos, page 203. Used with permission from Dimitris Katsoulakos.

Koumousta of Lakedaimonos, page 203. Used with permission from Dimitris Katsoulakos.

“The family Christakou is old. The first name was Rizos. Christos Rizos is referenced in the Code of Gola in 1761.  From this emerged the Christakos surname, while the real name as a nickname survived as Rizeas, which name is old.1

On the following page, 203, we read:  “The families Koumoustiotis and Kyriakakos are branches of the family Christakos2.”

Following the references, we are led to articles in the journal, Faris, Issue 9 (1994), page 9, and the following excerpt from Issue 39 (2005), page 10.

Faris, Issue 39, July 2005, page 10.

Faris, Issue 39, July 2005, page 10.

Origin of the families (I),  by D. V. Christakos

“My family originally comes from Koumousta. My oldest ancestor was Christos Rizos who is referenced in the Code of Gola in 1761. ‘He donated two fields, one in Kofinidou and the other in Itia in order that Giorgakis, Panagiotis, Christos and Margarita will be remembered.’ From the first name Christos comes the surname Christakos and the name Rizos remains as a nickname. It is sure that chieftain Antonios Koumoustiotis comes from the same family [Rizos] like the family Kyriakakos.”

It took Mr. Katsoulakos and Mr. Stoumbos twenty years of research to write this book. They accessed documents in the monasteries, archives and local sources. The Stoumbos family was among the first in Koumousta, and because of oral tradition, Mr. Stoumbos knew the long histories of the earliest settlers. Because of their dedicated efforts, I now know this part of my history:  from Christos & Margarita Rizos and their children, Giorgios and Panagiotis evolved three branches: Christakos, Koumoustiotis and Kyriakakos. My great-great grandfather, Nikolaos Christakos, is among those descendants — so am I.

Giannis has been translating sections of this book that pertain to my family, and I am assisting as his scribe. With our work as a basis, I will be writing posts about the stories of this area and its indefatigable people. They faced Turkish occupation, wars, and unimaginable hardships of life. They endured and triumphed over it all. With their blood coursing through my veins, so can I.

I am most grateful to Dimitris Katsoulakos for permission to cite passages from this book, and to Giannis Michalakakos for his tireless work of translation.

Abbreviations in Handwritten Records

This week, I came across a few abbreviations while extracting family names from the Dimotologion Koinothtos (Town Records) of Amykles and Agios Ioannis, Sparta. With limited space and long, complicated names, it is obvious why clerks would use abbreviations. To the uninitiated, it is not obvious as to what these abbreviations are. However, we can learn to recognize certain patterns.

It is important to know the most common first names and surnames of the areas you are researching. This will help you spot an abbreviation, rather than struggling to decide if it is a full name.

This is an example of an abbreviation for the male name, Konstandinos / Konstantinos (Κώνστανδινος / Κώνσταντινος) Georgios Zarafonitis. Konstandinos is a 4-syllable word. Note the slash / that separates the first syllable (Konst) from the last syllable (nos). If I did not know that Konstandinos is a name used frequently in my area, I might mistranslate this as:  Konstnos, Konslnos, or something else that doesn’t make sense.






Abbreviations of places are also common. Again, it is critical to know the area you are researching, and all of the villages and hamlets in the surrounding area. The red arrow points to two village abbreviations:  on the first line is Agios Ioannis (Αγ. Ιώαννης); on the second line is Paleologio (Παλεολόγιο). Agios Ioannis has a period between Ag. and Ioannis. Paleologio is a 5-syllable word, and it has a slash to separate the first and last syllables.


This is a record from the Dimotologion of Agios Ioannis, Sparta, for the family of Dimitrios Geroulakos (father: Panagiotis; mother: Garifalia), born 1875 in Agios Ioannis; and Polyxeni, daughter of Aristedis Smyrnios born 1902 in Paleologio.

Again, I would have been stumped if I did not know that Paleologio is a small village just north of Agios Ioannis.


The last example is another place name abbreviation. This one is trickier, as it is for an area outside of mainland Greece — Anatolia, Thrace (in present-day Turkey). It  is abbreviated as Anat. Thraki (Ανατ. Θράκη).


At first, I was puzzled as I did not recognize the Greek words as being an area near Sklavachori (the name in the next column). Studying the words, I guessed that  Θράκη was Thrace. My friend, Giannis Michalakakos, verified that was correct, and also identified Ανατ. as Anatoli.

Learning to read old handwritten records in any foreign language is challenging, but do-able. Eventually, your eyes begin to discern how the letters are formed. If you do your homework and learn the names and places of your area, your mind will recognize what has now become familiar, and you will have success!

There is a new publication, The Genealogist’s Dictionary, written by my friend Gregory Kontos, that is of significant value in learning the basic vocabulary of old Greek records.

No success is possible without the help of resources such as Gregory’s book, friends like Gregory and Giannis who know the language, and our terrific research support group, HellenicGenealogyGeek. Join us and take a plunge into the exciting, challenging, and rewarding world of Hellenic genealogy research.

Two Perspectives: One Heritage


“It’s not the same here,” is a phrase that I frequently hear from Greek natives. “Genealogy research may be a priority for immigrants, but not for us.”  As a third generation American and the descendant of immigrant grandparents, I was surprised and somewhat bemused to find that people in Greece regard my research as interesting, but not necessarily relevant or important. Why?

My friend, Giannis Michalakakos, a Greek native, has patiently discussed this topic with me for hours. We recognize that there is a sharp difference between the two groups: an immigrant descendant is motivated by a quest for knowledge and identity; a native Greek is motivated by curiosity and a desire to delve more deeply into local history and culture.

Giannis placed genealogy in a broader historical context. He likened it to a pyramid where history builds upon itself—broadest at the base, to singular at the pinnacle. I scribbled a rough drawing as he spoke, and came up with this.


General historians begin at the bottom of the pyramid and move up. They study the basic foundation—global or world history—then progress into regional and local histories. The focus becomes narrower until the story of the family and its individuals are reached at the top. How does each category in the pyramid relate to the one below and above? What part did a village play in the history of the country? Or a family in the history of its village? Sometimes, individual leaders may rise in power to exert influence far beyond their locality—perhaps to lead a country to military victory or become a national leader who, in turn, influences world events.

Genealogical historians, in contrast, begin at the top of the pyramid and move down. The pattern is the same regardless of ethnicity or country of origin:  start with oneself, then gather information about parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and beyond. Learning about the village, and its relation to the larger region and country, usually comes as the researcher discovers the part his ancestor played within the community. At times, the researcher may study a local history to glean information about its families. The process is fluid and depends on the goals and interest of the researcher.

So, how does the pyramid relate to the differing views of genealogy by Greek natives and Immigrant descendants? To quote Giannis, “It all comes down to knowledge.”

A Greek native has knowledge about his family; therefore, his motivation may be one of curiosity, not identity. He has been raised with oral histories and can often recite his lineage back several generations. He or his parents/siblings may be living in a family home built by a great-great-grandparent. He may own land in his village of origin. He may interact regularly with second, third, and fourth cousins from both sides of his family. There is no need for genealogical research–he knows his identity. Rather, genealogy could be a tool to better understand local society, customs and history. Many small Greek villages are populated by just a few clans; thus, a study of  local history necessitates knowing the genealogy of the residents as well as their traditions.  Perhaps he is curious as to how his family fits into the larger historical context of the region and country. He may be motivated to learn if his ancestor received an aristea (award) for fighting in the Greek Revolution of 1821. He may be interested in studying the history of his village if it had been the headquarters of a bey (Turkish ruler) during the 1700’s. Perhaps his family started a business that provided financial security for people in his community.

Raised with strong traditions and steeped in culture, the Greek native is living his history.

In contrast, a typical third or fourth generation immigrant descendant is seeking identity. The farther removed from his immigrant ancestor, the dimmer his knowledge. He may not know the original family name as many newcomers shortened or entirely changed their names (Poulos – from Papadapoulos? Or Stathopoulos?). He may not know the exact village of origin (Arcadia? which village – there are hundreds!) He may have heard family stories whose details were lost in translation; or, perhaps, only parts of the story were passed down. His Greek language skills are waning or non-existent (despite attending Greek school as a youth).

At some point–usually in adulthood when the elders pass on–the descendant realizes that a part of him is gone. There is no parent/grandparent/great-grandparent to ground him to the ancestral land. It is now his duty to pass on family stories and traditions; but to his shock, they are unknown or unclear to him. At this point, he has been thoroughly assimilated into American, or Canadian, or Australian culture. His spouse may not be Greek, and this may have accelerated a drift away from his native religion, culture and traditions.

That’s when something new rises within–the gnawing desire to relearn who he is. The past suddenly becomes present; he feels an urgency to reconnect with his roots and to reconstruct his family lineage. If he has children, his drive to pass on the family heritage may become acute. His search for knowledge begins. Of necessity, it starts with himself–the individual at the top of the pyramid–and filters down as discussed earlier.

Although Greek natives and immigrant descendants share families, genetics and bloodlines, it is understandable why and how they differ in genealogical perspective. To the Greek native, genealogy is irrelevant to identity but essential in the study of local history and culture. To immigrant descendants with dual heritage, genealogy is essential to identity and relevant to understanding ethnic tradition and culture.

Thankfully, the roots that unite us are stronger than the perspectives that divide us.