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!

Φ.Ε.Κ. The Official Newspaper of the Government of Greece

Φ.Ε.Κ. or the Government Gazette, is the official newspaper of the Greek Government, and as such, is recognized as the only governmental form through which all laws, decrees, appointments and judgments are published. The first issue was printed on February 16, 1833 and was called the Newspaper of the Government of the Kingdom of Greece  (at that time, Greece was ruled by King Otto). Until June 1835 the paper was bilingual and each page contained two columns:  the left was written in Greek and the right in German. Some issues after 1835 are in Greek and French.

The website of the National Printing Office of Greece has uploaded official documents which have been digitized at http://www.et.gr. Digitized images of Φ.Ε.Κ., published weekly from 1833 to present, can be found at:  http://www.et.gr/index.php/anazitisi-fek 

Following are instructions to access this site. NOTE: I have used a Google Chrome browser extension to translate these pages into English. If you do not use a translating extension, the pages will be in Greek.

The URL http://www.et.gr/index.php/anazitisi-fek will take you to this page: A drop down box, which lists the years of the newspaper, begins with the current year of 2018. Clicking on the down arrow next to 2018 will reveal all years that the paper was published, going back to 1833.

The letters A, B, etc. designate various issues of the newspaper. From 1833-1930, there is only the letter “A.” After 1930, additional letters appear. Clicking on a letter, then clicking “search” will take you to .pdf versions of the paper for the year and letter you designate.

Example: how to find the first issue published in 1833.

  1.  Click on the down arrow next to 2018 and scroll to 1833.
  2. Click on the letter A
  3. Click Search, as shown below.

The following screen appears.  We see that this year has three pages with a total of 42 issues. Click the right arrow, or the next page number, to scroll through the list.

To read the papers, you must download them. Click on the pdf logo, then download and save to your computer. You may see the following screen which advises that Adobe Acrobat needs to be installed to view the files. If you have Acrobat installed, you can bypass this screen.

Your file will download. Be sure to save it to your folder of choice.

When you open the pdf file, the newspaper image will appear. This is page one of the first issue, dated February 16, 1833. There are four pages of this issue.

Start on page one and scroll through, to understand the layout of the issue. Also, notice that issues have different numbers of pages. Some have four; others may have many more.

I initially became interested in exploring Φ.Ε.Κ. when I found FamilySearch microfilms  which had  lists of men being called for military duty or appointed as jurors. These lists were printed by region, then prefecture, then village, then men’s names. The following image is an 1849 list of men from Sparta who were called as jurors.

FamilySearch microfilm #1038846, item 6, image 27: 2 November 1849 Sparta list of jurors

When I went to the Φ.Ε.Κ. website to look for this issue (2 November 1849), I could not understand why the online issue for that date did not contain this information. I asked my friend and historian, Giannis Mihalakakos, to help me. He explained that every issue of Φ.Ε.Κ. is different; that maybe for legal concerns, these lists may not be part of the normal newspaper but are published at later dates. These lists may also have been part of an entirely different series, perhaps an addendum to the weekly paper, which were published separately. Frustrating!

The Bavarian State Library has bound volumes of Φ.Ε.Κ. under the title Ephēmeris tēs Kybernēseōs tu Basileiu tēs Hellados. All of the issues of the newspaper for an individual year were bound into one volume for that year. In 2010, Google Books digitized these volumes. Click on this link for free access. I found volumes for the years 1826-1864. You will need to be logged into Google to add the books to your Google Play library and read them. I cannot read the old Greek, but I scroll through the volumes, looking for lists of names.

You never know what you are going to find in these books. Here is a page from the volume 1860, 1862 which has numerous charts for all the prefectures of Greece with a variety of data. This is a chart of marriages, births and deaths for Laconia.

Statistics of Hellas, 1860 (1862), page 8

This link is to a 1908 issue of the ΦΕΚ (official government newspaper) which provides population statistics on each area of Greece. It is arranged by Nomos, then Dimos, then Village. Statistics are of male, female and total population of each village. An index of Dimos starts on page 131; an index of individual villages starts on page 223. It is fascinating to see the population of our villages at the time of the beginning of mass emigration from Greece.

Mentioned previously is a reference to FamilySearch microfilms which have some issues of Φ.Ε.Κ. containing lists of men who served as jurors or were called into the military.  FamilySearch is currently the only website which has records from Greece. In the 1980’s, over 5,000 thousand rolls of microfilm were filmed with permission from the General State Archives of Greece (GAK).  A list is found in the FamilySearch Catalog under Greek microfilms. In addition, a pdf document listing all Greek films can be downloaded here.

I found Juror’s  lists from Laconia in film numbers:  1038847 and 1039000.
I found Military Lists for Laconia-Messinia in film number 1462001 and 1462002.

Please note that although these microfilms are now digitized, contractual restrictions do not allow them to be openly published on the internet. They can, however, be viewed at any Family History Center or affiliate library.

Searching through issues of Φ.Ε.Κ. can be tedious, but consider it a treasure hunt–finding your ancestor’s name is priceless!


Starting Anew: A New Citizen in a New Land

Becoming a citizen of a new country is an emotional and life-altering event. I saw this first hand on September 17, 2018 when I worked as a volunteer at a Naturalization Ceremony held at the National Archives in Washington. Thirty one new citizens from twenty-five countries renounced allegiance to their former homelands and pledged allegiance to the United States.

A new US citizen reviews the Oath of Allegiance she will recite

Prior to the ceremony, candidates met with officials of USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) to complete final paperwork and receive instructions on caring for their new Naturalization Certificate.

As we walked from the waiting room to the Archives Rotunda,  I sensed their anticipation as the end of a long process had finally arrived. I wondered what they were thinking–their thoughts for a new future here, their memories of their homeland and those left behind?

The Rotunda is ahead, and the end is near

The impressive Rotunda, home to our Charters of Freedom

Archivist David Ferreio and former ambassador to Japan, Caroline Kennedy, greet the new citizens

Throughout this ceremony, I kept thinking of my grandfather, John Andrew Kostakos, and many others in my family who strode the path of citizenship. Although 84 years has passed since my grandfather took the Oath of Allegiance, I imagine that his feelings and experiences were similar to these new citizens. I know my grandfather took great pride in his citizenship. He rose from being a peasant orphan to becoming a restauranteur, real estate owner, and successful businessman.

John Andrew Kostakos, Declaration of Intention, 1931

John Andrew Kostakos, Petition for Citizenship 1933

John Andrew Kostakos, Certificate of Arrival, 1930


John Andrew Kostakos, Oath of Allegiance, 1934

John Andrew Kostakos, proud citizen of the USA

We who are native citizens simply cannot comprehend the impact of this experience and all that preceded it:  saying goodbye to loved ones; leaving the village (often for the first time) and traveling to a port (by walking? donkey ride?); perhaps working for a few months at the port city to obtain funds for the journey and to have enough money to enter the U.S. (at least $50); the boat ride across the Atlantic; the Ellis Island arrival experience; connecting with friends and/or family in the U.S., finding work; deciding to become a citizen; going through the vigorous process of paperwork and exams; and finally raising the right hand to swear allegiance to a new land.

Whether then or now, the process requires grit and determination. Those who embark upon and complete this task exhibit strength and fortitude. They do this not only to  improve their own lives, but also to  ensure that their posterity will reap the blessings of their decision. Thank you, papou.

Family of John and Hariklia Aridas Kostakos, 1930. l-r standing: Frieda, Andrew, Pauline, Georgia. Seated: Hariklia, Alice, John


Upcoming Webinar

October is conference month! I have presented at Greek genealogy conferences in Baltimore and Philadelphia the last two Saturdays.

My next presentation will be a one-hour webinar on Friday, October 19 at 9:00 p.m. eastern time:  “It’s All Greek to Me: Genealogy Research in Greece.” This will be an abbreviated overview of civil and church records available in Greece.  You will see examples of records and the information they contain, and how to access them. Handouts will be available upon registration. I hope you can attend!

Information and registration is here:

Mitroon Arrenon, Agios Ioannis, Sparta: 1844-1847

Support Greek Archives

The severe financial crisis in Greece has resulted in extreme budget cuts to government agencies, and Greek archival repositories are currently significantly underfunded. In many cases, archivists have to purchase archival materials and cover needed expenses with their own funds.

This situation poses a significant threat to the preservation of historical documents and cultural ephemera under the purview of regional archive offices.

As one who has spent many hours researching at the Sparta Archives office, I see first-hand the impact of the budget crisis on regional archive offices. It truly saddens and even frightens me to know that precious historical and genealogical documents are being threatened by lack of funds. What will happen if our records are gone? These are the citadels of our Greek heritage! Realizing the threat that our history and cultural heritage face, action is being taken to contribute to the preservation of our archives

Thus, I am working with one of my colleagues, Gregory Kontos, in the Support Greek Archives initiative. To help these agencies, we must donate materials and not money, because Greek tax law hinders the donation of monetary funds to government agencies. However, the donation of supplies is acceptable. We are contacting regional archive offices to inquire which items are of greatest need. These may include archival boxes, paper, glue, gloves, tape etc. But there are other needs as well. One archive is in desperate need of a computer. Another needs the services of a conservator to help preserve their oldest records.

After speaking with the archivist, a GoFundMe page for that office will be initiated. All moneys collected will be used to purchase the items specifically requested by the archivist, thus ensuring that each office will receive what is most needed.  To repeat — a campaign starts ONLY if an Archives Office expresses its interest in our activities and informs us of the supplies needed. After raising the funds, we order the supplies and have them shipped to the office.

This week, we have started the following initiatives:

Soon, GoFundMe-Arcadia will be launched.

We have created a Support Greek Archives website where information and details will be posted and a Support Greek Archives Facebook page and Twitter feed.

Please follow us, and if you are able, help support the archive of your choice. Please send me an email if there is a specific archive that you would like us to contact.

Together, we can support the Regional Offices of the General State Archives of Greece as they continue their mission to preserve documents and assist researchers. Thank you.

Greek Genealogy Conferences – A Place for Learning

Nick Kampoulis with the Greek Reporter newspaper, interviewed me last week regarding the assistance that can be received at Greek genealogy conferences. The article begins:

More and more people from Greek Communities around the world are becoming increasingly interested in finding ways to explore their past, so that they will eventually be able to find their roots and their ancestors who left Greece to start a completely new life in the United States, Canada, Australia, the UK or elsewhere.

What was the main reason they left Greece? Was it war? Poverty? The hope of a better life? What were the living conditions in their villages back in late 1800’s and early 1900’s?

These are some of the questions the Hellenic Genealogy Conferences try to give answers to.

The full article can be read here.

Please join us in Philadelphia on October 13! A link to the conference registration is here.