Dowry Contracts: Pictures of the Past

We have pictures of the past, but not the full image. When I first heard Giannis Michalakakos make this comment, I accepted its veracity–but with reluctance. I want the full image of my ancestors’ lives! A Male Register, Town Register, or Election List may provide a birth year and an occupation. But a Contract reveals so much more. Who purchased land, and from whom and where? Who borrowed money, and from whom and why? Who was the bride, and whom did she marry? What did her family provide for her dowry?

On 11 July 1864, four men gathered at the office of Konstandinos Dimopoulos, notary of Sparta, to execute a dowry contract: Nikolaos Athanasios Kanakakos of Sikaraki (groom), Panagiotis Kavvouris of Agios Ioannis (father of Marigo, the bride), Georgios Stathopoulos of Magoula (witness) and Ilias Kalogerakos of Parori (witness). These men were engaging in an honored tradition that was instituted in ancient times and not officially rescinded in Greece until 1983.

My maternal grandparents, Ilias Papagiannakos and Aggeliki Eftaxias, 1914, New York

A  marriage dowry (prika) was a custom adapted from Eastern cultures. Created by economic need, it was prevalent an era when the roles of men and women were defined by a patriarchal society. Especially in mainland Greece, families generally were poor. Men were farmers, landowners, shepherds; or worked in handcrafts such making baskets, ropes, or leather items. Women were homemakers.

When a new union was formed, both were expected to contribute items needed to establish the home. The bride’s dowry provided household or clothing items, property or animals. The groom provided a house and income for the family. Thus, both bequeathed what they could to secure a foundation for their new marriage.

The Kavvouris-Kanakakos contract is translated below. It is a fascinating picture which helps us better understand the image of life in mid-1800’s Sparta. Commentary and historical information is added with footnotes or brackets, and photographs are representations of the types of items the dowry contains.

Page 1 of 4, Dowry Contract 463. Panagiotis Kavvouris and Nikolaos Athanasios Kanakakos, Sparta, Greece. July 11, 1864. Source: General Archives of Greece: http://arxeiomnimon.gak.gr/browse/resource.html?tab=tab02&id=197332

Contract 463, 11.7.1864, Dowry and Notary Deed
On this day, 11 July, Saturday, at 12:00 noon of year 1864, came before me, Konstandinos Dimopoulos, notary and citizen of Sparta, to my home and office, being east of the Church of Evangelismo of Theotokos,1  Panagiotis Kavvouris, estate owner and farmer of Agios Ioannis of Sparta on one hand, and on the other Nikolaos Athanasiou Kanakakos, farmer and citizen of the neighborhood, Sikaraki, of Agios Ioannis of the municipality of Sparta; both are familiar to me and of legal status. In my presence and the witnesses, they sign this dowry contract after my explanation of the laws.

Panagioti Kavvouris makes an agreement with Nikolaos Athanasios Kanakakos to give Nikolaos his daughter, Marigo, as his legal wife according to the holy rules of the Orthodox Church. The groom takes from the maternal and paternal legacy: 

1.  Two tall fezes (kind of traditional hat)
2.  Gemenia – women’s head cover
3.  
Three basinas – a bowl for cooking
4.  
Three sets of kreponia – women’s clothing, dark in color
5.  
Twelve madilia – women’s head cover
6.  
One pair of vergetes– earrings, expensive
7.  
One silver cross
8.  
Three silver rings
9.  
One pair of crystal dessert plates
10. 
Six dessert spoons
11. 
One serving dish
12.  
Two men’s vests, decorated with fur

Man’s vest with fur

13. Ten women’s skirts
14. 
Two dresses
15. 
Twenty-five shirts
16. 
Twelve sets of underwear
17. 
Two men’s fustanella 

Traditional fustanella; Flickr Creative Commons

18. Two disakia (small packages to hold items)
19.  Two paploma, bed comforters
20.  
Ten soaps
21.  
Two makatia. decorative sofa covers
22.  
Eleven big pillows
23.  
Four small pillows
24.  
Two andromedes (unknown)
25.  
One peskidi (a nice throw cover for the sofa)
26.  T
wo table scarfs/covers for the dining room table
27.  
Two nice scarfs/covers for chair backs and arm rests
28.  
Six fakiolia, small women’s head covers
29.  
Eight mpoiles, a kind of towel
30.  
Twelve spoons, knives and forks
31.  
Twelve plates
32.  
Seven mpouxades, wool cloth which hold liquids when making cheese
33.  
Eight vrakozones, traditional men’s clothing worn below the waist
34.  T
wo casellas, similar to a hope chest which hold clothing and linens
35.  
Two kapaki, cooking pots with covers

Kapaki, cooking pans with covers


36.  One 
tapsi, circular metal roasting pan used in ovens

Woman holding a circular tapsi; on the right is a vethoura

37. One harani – metal bucket that can hold one okres (a unit of measure)
38. Two siderostia – iron tripods to hang pots over an open fire
39. One pan

Kitchen items, mid-1800’s, Greece

40. One stremma [unit of measure] with 14 olive trees located in the borders of Agios Ioannis, Sparta. The land is bordered:  on the east with a national estate [land which belongs to the municipality], on the west with Panagioti Kamarados, on the north with Giannis Giannos, in the south with Georgios Bakopoulos.

41. One individual estate, a small field, two stremmata with all it contains [perhaps a small hut] and 7 small trees located in the location Sourakaki of Agios Ioannis, Sparta; it borders:  on the east with a road, on the west with church fields, on the north with the national estate, and on the south with Pangiotis Pachigiannis.

42. Some trees that were planted in the national field in the location Kefalari of Agios Ioannis, Sparta; and borders on the east with Saltafilda [probably a neighborhood or other location], on the west with the road, on the north with Panagiotis Kavvouris and on the south with a road.8

43. Twenty barrels containing orange trees that the groom took a few days ago to replant them in his own land.

The total of the dowry and property (moved and unmoveable) is 1,463 drachmas.4

The groom, Nikolaos Athanasios Kanakakos,5 expresses that he accepts Marigo as his legal wife and the dowry given by her father. He understands exactly the dowry that was previously reported and offered to him by Marigo. He also offers Marigo 500 drachmas [bridewealth].6

The two sides additionally, with me the contract maker, evaluate the total value of all things as 1,963 drachmas plus the postcard [the notary’s fee].

To verify this contract and this dowry, the two sides listened to the dowry spoken aloud and clearly, and agreed to it.

Called as witnesses: Georgios Stathopoulos, estate owner and citizen of Magoula and Ilia Kalogerakos, farmer and citizen of Parori of the municipality of Sparta. They are familiar to me, they are Greek citizens without any legal exceptions, and they verify this contact because because neither of the two sides can sign their names.7

Maniate men in Sparta. Many people from the Mani region, like the Kanakakos family, moved north to Sparta after the Revolution.

I initially became acquainted–and fascinated–with contracts during my first trip to the Sparta Archives in 2014, when I went with Gregory Kontos. This 2015 post describes a contract, translated by Gregory, for the purchase of land by Panagiotis Iliopoulos of Machmoutbei. Each succeeding research trip has yielded new information, as documented recently in Research in the Archives of Sparta.

Contracts are challenging: not many are digitized or online, paper copies are difficult for Archivists to obtain, and the handwriting is akin to hieroglyphics. But with good luck and good friends, they can be accessed and interpreted, enlightening our understanding and giving us a fuller (albeit not full) picture of our ancestors’ lives.

Important note: This post would not have been possible without the assistance of Giannis Michalakakos, teacher, historian, and author of Maniatika blog. Giannis completed all translations, found the photos, and provided the historical content to explain the customs of this era. I am grateful for his friendship and expertise.

____________

1  This exact description of the location of the Dimopoulos home and office is given because Sparta in the mid-1800s had few roads and no street addresses.

Many of descriptive words come from the Ottoman period and are unrecognizable in today’s language; they may be a hybrid mix of Greek, Ottoman and Venetian vocabulary and are no longer in use.

When a meal is prepared using a tapsi, it is also served from it; the family would sit around and eat out of it together. A vethoura, the double pot on the right, is where sheeps’ milk is stored.

This is a sizeable dowry, indicating that the bride’s family had financial means.

5Kanakakos is a big family in Mani; members were officers in the Army and heroes in the Revolution of 1821.

6 As a bride brings a dowry, sometimes, a groom will offer a sum of money or property to the bride’s parents to help establish the new home.

7 Normally, there would be five signatures: the groom, the bride’s father, the two witnesses and the notary. In this contract, only the witnesses and notary signed as the groom and bride’s father were unable to write their names.

8 After marriage, land named in the dowry belongs to the bride’s husband. The property was given by her father to establish her new home. In 1800s Sparta, divorce was unheard of; and men were responsible for providing and maintaining financial security of the family.

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Greece 2017. Archives Research: Sparta

Sparta–the nexus of my family. Wouldn’t you think that three weeks would be ample for research? I worked hard, but I ran out of time. And my “next trip” list continues to grow.

My home base was the General Archives of Greece, Sparta office. Pepi Gavala, Archivist, and her staff, Michalis and Electra, are friends. They welcomed me with much hospitality, patiently answered endless questions and fulfilled requests for many records.

Sparta office of the General Archives of Greece, July 2017

While searching Dimotologion (Town Records), I worked at a computer as these records have been digitized (accessibility is strictly at the Archives, not online). While searching books and documents, I piled records onto the conference room table and spread out as needed.

Sparta office, General Archives of Greece

After three visits (2014, 2016, 2017), how much more can I find there? A lot–and I’m not finished.

As my research expands into collateral lines, I desire to learn about the families that merged with mine. Some days, I spent a full 6-hours finding “new” families in the same Town Registers that I had searched in previous years. My work has expanded into School Records, which are critical in finding the names of girls which may not be found in other records.

And this year, I branched into Contracts. These were written and certified by notaries and include dowries, powers of attorney, deeds, debts and other legal matters. Michalis explained that there are 60 files of contracts, but only two have been digitized and uploaded to the Archives of Laconia page of the GAK website. The others must be pulled from paper files.

The staff have painstakingly compiled name indexes of some of the notary files. These  indexes are kept in notebooks, organized by the name of the notary. Here is a sample page from the notebook for the notary, Konstandinos Dimopoulos.

How to Access Dimopoulos Notarial Records Online

Let’s use the page above as an example.  Note: each step below is hyperlinked (blue text) to the corresponding page on the website.

  1. Find the name of interest: surname, first name, middle initial.  I found Zarafonitis, Ilias of Sklavachori, 2nd from the bottom (red arrow on left)
  2. Look at the reference number (green arrow on right). Write down that number, which is 362/2.5.1864. This means:  the contract number is #362; and the date is 2 March 1864.
  3. Click on this link
  4. This is the page that will appear. The red arrow points to the name of Konstandinos Dimopoulos, so you are on the correct webpage.

Web page for the records of notary, Konstandinos Dimopoulos

Click on the Contents tab.

The following page will appear. Within the red box, we see that there are 26 Files. This screen shot shows Files #001-005.

The Dimopoulos web page contains 26 files

Each of the 26 files has between 200-300 contracts within. There is a total of 7,611 contracts in this collection This is a list of the contract numbers within each file:
File #:   Contract #
File 1: 1-350
File 2: 351-550
File 3: 551-850
File 4: 851-1150
File 5: 1151-1450
File 6: 1451-1760
File 7: 1761-2060
File 8: 2061-2360
File 9: 2361-2650
File 10: 2651-2950
File 11: 2951-3280
File 12: 3281- 3580
File 13: 3581- 3900
File 14: 3901-4200
File 15: 4201-4550
File 16: 4551-4850
File 17: 4851-5150
File 18: 5151-5400
File 19: 5401-5700
File 20: 5701-6000
File 21: 6001-6300
File 22: 6301-6600
File 23: 6601-6900
File 24: 6901-7200
File 25: 7201-7400
File 26: 7401-7611

Now, let’s navigate the website to find documents for the example of Ilias Zarafonitis, reference number 362/2.5.1864. The list above shows that contract number 362 is found under File 2.

On the website, first click on File 2, then click the tab, Contents. This is the page that appears. The Item numbers are the contracts found under File 2 (#351 – #550):

File 2 includes contract numbers 351-550

Scroll down to Item #362; click on the words Item #362, then the tab, Contents. The page below appears. Next, click on the Reproductions tab that is highlighted by the red box.

Description of Item 2, Contract #362

It is under this Reproductions tab that the digitized documents appear: Take_001 is page one, and Take_002 is page two of the Ilias Zarafonitis contract #362/2.5.1864. To view the images, click on each one; they can be downloaded.

Pages 1 and 2 of Contract #362 for Ilias Zarafonitis

Contract: Ilias Zarafonitis and Spyros Economidis, page 1

Contract: Ilias Zarafonitis and Spyros Economidis, page 2

 

This is a contract between Ilias Zarafonitis of Sklavachori and Spyros Economidis of Sklavachori. Ilias has purchased 1/3 of a dwelling and 1/3 of its field from Spyros, for the amount of 362 drachmas. The witnesses are Ioannis Athanasopoulos of Sklavachori and Anagnostis Ilias Zografos of Sparta. The contract is dated 2 March 1864.

This document places these four men in their respective villages in 1864, an era with minimal documents. It also raises some questions: why would Ilias purchase only 1/3 of a dwelling and field? What relationship does he have with Spyros, if Spyros owns the remaining 2/3? How much is 362 drachmas worth in today’s money?

I am excited to step into the world of Contracts, but I cannot do so alone. My language skills are minimal, and my ability to read these documents is impossible. When I reach this impasse, I call upon Giannis Michalakakos (who translated this document) and Gregory Kontos. Their friendship is precious and their help is immeasurable.

Future posts will explore some of the Contracts I am accessing.

Previous posts have explained what I have learned about Male Registers, Town Registers, and School Registers in the Sparta Archives:

Archives of Sparta: Mitroon Arrenon (Male Registers)

Archives of Sparta: Dimotologion (Town Register) Records

School Records from Sparta: Finding Your Ancestors as Children

 

Greek Microfilms at FamilySearch Now Digitized

Background
FamilySearch.org is the only genealogical website that has records from Greece. During the mid-1980’s, permission was received from the General Archives of Greece to microfilm some records. During that time, Lica Catsakis was working as a volunteer at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. She reviewed the microfilms as they arrived and compiled a comprehensive list which can be downloaded as a pdf file here.

Until recently, to access a microfilm of interest, one had to pay a small fee to order the film. It would be sent to the Family History Center (FHC) requested by the patron, where it could be viewed on a microfilm reader for about six weeks before it had to be returned. Alternately, one could travel to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. As digital technology advanced, FamilySearch embarked on an ambitious project to convert all of its microfilm (2.5 million rolls!) to digital images. This enables a researcher to easily access images online and with mobile devices, free of charge. To accomplish this, FamilySearch has renegotiated every contract with every repository which had previously given permission to microfilm its documents.

New Policy
As of today, the legal review of the new contracts for Greek microfilms has been completed. Permission has been granted for 75% of the films for Greece to be viewed in a digital format. The contractual arrangement made with Greek authorities states that the images are to be viewed at Family History Centers and affiliate libraries only; they are not available for viewing on personal computers or mobile devices. There are 4,900 Family History Centers worldwide; to find one close to you, click here.

The remaining 25% of the films are categorized as “restricted” because of privacy constraints; meaning that there is information on them for people who may still be living. The privacy rule is that records are not made public if they contain information from the current date back 100 years for birth, 75 years for marriages and 0 for death. For example, if a record has information about a person who was born in 1920, that record cannot be made public until 2020–100 years after the person’s birth. Restricted films must remain in microfilm format, and they can be viewed only at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.

The good news is that researchers no long have to pay to order a microfilm nor is the viewing period limited. The 75% of Greek films digitized are now free of charge and available online permanently.

Yes, one does have to go to a local FHC or affiliate library to access the digital images, but that had to be done previously to view a microfilm that had been ordered.

Does FamilySearch have images for your area of research in Greece and if so, how can they be accessed?

As mentioned in the first paragraph, Lica Catsakis has compiled a comprehensive list: GREEK MICROFILMS, A List of Microfilms by Counties. This 157-page document enumerates and describes every microfilm in the Greek collection, and it is arranged in alphabetical order by Nomos (County). Please download this document here.

The first four pages are the Table of Contents. Scan this to find your county or collection of interest, then go to the page indicated.

Important note: When records were microfilmed in the 1980’s, only limited records in some areas in Greece were captured. If you do not see records from the Nomos you are researching, look at the category, “Greece, All Counties” which are on pages 6-11.

Greek Microfilms, Table of Contents

Let’s look at the collections found in “Greece, all counties” on pages 6-11. On page 8, I see a collection, “Jurors List,” film #1038847. I want to see if this is available in digital format.

  1. Click on this link to go to the FamilySearch catalog
  2. Click on “Search for Film/Fiche”, then type in: 1038847 (the film number)
  3. Click on the blue button, Search.
    1. This is the page that you will see. We will look at Items 6-8, Juror’s Lists.
      This page gives us a more detailed description of the film. Notice the camera icon on the lower right. There is a key above it. The camera indicates that this microfilm is in digital format; and the key indicates that it is only available at a Family History Center or affiliate library.
    2. When you click on the camera image, you will get this message:
    3. Clicking on either of those links will produce a worldwide map where you can search for a Center or Library near you. There are 4,900 Family History Centers worldwide, and many affiliate libraries.
    4. Click on the green tree icon for a pop-up message with location name, address, hours, and contact information.

FamilySearch has a Help Desk which is manned 24/7. Call 1-866-406-1830 to speak with a representative, or you can live chat or send a message from the Contact Page.

Let’s hope that in coming months, Greek authorities will allow genealogy companies to digitize more records, ensuring that they are preserved and made available to the worldwide diaspora. Digitization by large genealogy companies is done at no cost to the repository; the contract expressly states that the work will be done free of charge and the repository receives a hard disk with the digital images. In exchange, the repository gives the company permission to make the digital images available.

It’s a win-win for everyone.

Archives of Sparta: Mitroon Arrenon (Male Registers)

After the Revolution of 1821 when the land of Hellas victoriously overthrew 400 years of Ottoman Rule, the “new” country of Greece began to form a central government. As a means of enumerating males who would pay taxes and serve in the military, the Mitroon Arrenon or Male Register was instituted. Every village was required to maintain a list of male births, the year and place of birth, father’s name and father’s occupation. Over time, these official government registers have also substituted as official birth records.

They are a most valuable and very important genealogical resource.

Mitroon Arrenon, Agios Ioannis, Sparta: 1844-1847

 

Mitroon Arrenon can be found in the Dimarheion (Town Hall) of the municipality in which the village is located. Some regional offices of the General Archives of Greece may also have copies for villages in their area of jurisdiction. If you are taking a research trip, you must locate these records because, except for rare cases, they are not digitized or found online in the regional Archive offices mentioned above, or at the Dimarheion websites.

My previous post, Reading a Town Register and a Male Register, gives further information on how to read a Male Register.

The Sparta office of the General Archives of Greece has some Mitroon Arrenon in their collection. They can be contacted at:  mail@gak.lak.sch.gr. The staff can read and speak English. Be sure that you include an approximate birth year of your male ancestor, along with his original surname and exact village of birth. Remember that records are created in specific villages, as shown by the list below.

Mitroon Arrenon Records in the Sparta Archive Office
(Note: smaller villages, hamlets and neighborhoods will be found in the record of the larger, closest town)
Anavryti:  1839-1923
Agios Ioannis: 1835-1930
Alepochori, Geronthon: 1830-1950
Alikon, Messi: 1845-1915
Ano Volarion: 1865-early 1900’s
Aeropoli: 1837-1915
Archontikou, Melitinis: 1844-1915
Vatheia, Messi: 1836-1914
Vachou, Laconia: 1839-1915
Vresthena: 1831-1924 and 1925-1939
Geraki, Geronthron: 1826-1914
Germas, Teos: 1836-1915
Gerolimenos, Teos: 1845-1914
Gytheio: 1836-1915
Dafni: 1837-1935
Exo Nyfi: 1841-1915
Karitsa, Geronthron: 1841-1914
Karvela, Teos: 1814-1913
Kelefas, Teos: 1830-1915
Konakion, Teos: 1829-1914
Kotronos: 1831-1914
Kittas, Messi: 1845-1913
Kounou, Teos: 1831-1915
Kryoneriou, Oitylo: 1846-1913
Mystra: 1824-1915
Pyrgos, Oitylo: 1845-1914
Lymperdou, Malevriou: 1842-1915
Minas, Oitylo: 1845-1915
Neo Oitylo: 1834-1915
Neohori, Gytheio: 1840-1915
Dritsis: 1865-1901
Oitylo: 1840-1915
Sidokastron: 1845-1915
Skamnaki: 1825-1915
Sparta: currently not available
Trachilas: 1830-1915
Tzerovas: 1839-1912

If you need a village that is not on this list, or a different year range for a village that is on this list, you will need to visit the Dimarheion (Town Hall) that houses the records for that village.

 

Archives of Sparta: Dimotologion (Town Register) Records

I have returned from month-long productive (and exhausting!) research trip to Sparta and there are many posts to write about the resources I have consulted and the records I have obtained.

However, I am starting with the Dimotologion (Town Register) Records that are found at the General Archives of Greece, Sparta office.

Sparta Office, General Archives of Greece

One of the most helpful record collections to help identify families are these Town Registers. They are similar to a U.S. Census record, as they list the husband, wife, and children of each family in a village, the parents’ names of the husband and wife; years and places of birth, occupation, citizenship and other information. These records were created in the mid-1950’s. I find that the birth years of the parents were in the late 1800’s, and the children’s births were in the early-mid 1900’s. If you can find your grand or great-grandparents in a Dimotologion, you will have much information to proceed on your research.

My previous post which gives examples of Dimotologion records, and explains how to read and interpret them, can be found here.

During the two week period that I spent in the Sparta Archives, I made a list of all of the Town Registers that are available in their office. These records are created and kept by village. Therefore, you must know the original name of your family and the exact village of origin.  Researchers can send a request to the Archive Office (mail@gak.lak.sch.gr) to ask if their family is found in the Dimotologion; however, do not submit a request unless you have this specific information. Oftentimes, immigrants would give the nearest large city as their place of origin when in actuality they were from a small village near the city. If you see “Sparta” as the place of origin, keep digging until you have the exact village and original surname! The list  below will help you further understand the importance of knowing the village name.

Village List of Dimotologion (Town Registers) in the Sparta Archives Office
(Note: smaller villages, hamlets and neighborhoods will be found in the record of the larger, closest town)
Aggelona
Agias Eirinis
Agios Vasileios
Agios Georgios
Agios DImitrios
Agios Ioannis Monemvasia
Agios Ioannis Sparta
Agios Konstantinos
Agios Nikolaos
Agios Anavrgiron
Agios Apostolon
Agorianis
Agrianos
Agia (Chania Koutoumous)
Alepochori
Aleirous
Alikon
Ampelochorio
Amykles
Anavryti
Ano Kastanias Voion
Ano Boularion
Anogeion
Apidias
Areopoli
Arna
Archontiko
Asteriou
Asopou
Afissiou
Chrisafo
Chosiari
Daimonias
Dafnis – Kaminion
Dafniou
Drosopigis
Drialou
Drimou
Elaias
Ellinikou Koulentia
Exo Nyfi
Foinikiou
Geraki
Germas
Gerolimena
Georgitsi
Gkoritsa
Glikorvisis
Gorani
Gouvon
Gytheion
Kareas
Karitsa
Kastoriou
Kelefas
Kefala
Kozi-Kokkinorrachi-Riviotissa, Sykaraki, Charision
Konakion
Koniditsa
Kounou
Kremasti
Krinis
Krokeion
Lagia
Lagiou
Lachiou Voion
Leimona
Leikochomatos
Logkaniko
Logkastra
Magoula
Melissas
Melitinis (Zelinas)
Metamorfosis
Minas
Molaoi
Monembasia
Myrteas
Mystras
Neapolis
Neo Oitylo
Neochori
Niaton
Nomion
Oitylo
Pakia
Palaiopanagia
Paliovrisis
Panitsas (Myrsini)
Pantanassas
Papadianiko
Parori
Pellana
Perivolion
Peristeriou (Tsasi)
Perpainis (Kaloni)
Petrina
Platana
Potamia
Prosilio
Pyrgos Dirou
Selegoudiou
Sellasias
Skamnaki
Skouras
Skoutari
Soustiani
Sparta
Spartias
Tsikalion
Vatheia
Vamvakou
Varvitsa
Vasilakiou
Vassara
Vachou
Velanidion
Velion
Vlachioti
Vordonia
Voutiani
Vresthena
Vrontama
Xirokambi