Greek Microfilms at FamilySearch Now Digitized

Background 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: 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 ( 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)
Agias Eirinis
Agios Vasileios
Agios Georgios
Agios DImitrios
Agios Ioannis Monemvasia
Agios Ioannis Sparta
Agios Konstantinos
Agios Nikolaos
Agios Anavrgiron
Agios Apostolon
Agia (Chania Koutoumous)
Ano Kastanias Voion
Ano Boularion
Dafnis – Kaminion
Ellinikou Koulentia
Exo Nyfi
Kozi-Kokkinorrachi-Riviotissa, Sykaraki, Charision
Lachiou Voion
Melitinis (Zelinas)
Neo Oitylo
Panitsas (Myrsini)
Peristeriou (Tsasi)
Perpainis (Kaloni)
Pyrgos Dirou



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.

Return to Greece, 2016. Part Seven: Digging Deeper

This is the seventh post in a series about my trip to Greece, June 30-July 20, 2016 — an amazing journey of history, family and discovery. Previous posts can be found here.

The most important lesson I learned when traveling in Greece is:  never arrive anywhere between 1:00 and 4:00 in the afternoon. That rule makes scheduling easy — repositories in the morning; solo time in the afternoon; family time in the evening; dinner at 9 or 10:00 p.m. I had to tweak this a bit to squeeze in all I needed to do.

General Archives of Greece, Sparta office, July 2016

General Archives of Greece, Sparta office, July 2016

Archives in the mornings — there’s no better way to start the day! The Sparta Office is a treasure chest filled with nuggets of genealogical gems:  documents, books, records. When I arrive, I learn that my archivist friends are on overload: Mrs. Pepi Gavala and her assistants, Michail Sovolos and Maria Stellakou. They explained that many government offices are now closing or consolidating, and sending their records to the Archives. Boxes lined the hallway, waiting for these good people to catalog and store them. Mindful of their workload, I settled in the main room and begin to dig for gold.

Research room, Sparta Office of the General Archives of Greece, July 2016

Research room, Sparta Office of the General Archives of Greece, July 2016

During my visit in 2014, I had obtained digital copies of the basic records for my family:  Male Registers (Mitroon Arrenon) and Family Registers (Dimotologion). I dug into these collections again for my newly-found surnames, and then for a few friends who had requested lookups. I asked Michalis for School Records from Agios Ioannis, and he brought me several books. I was very surprised to see that some of them had only girls’ names! As a Greek researcher quickly learns, there are few official records naming women. These truly are a treasure, as I can now begin to construct entire families, not just males. The school records for Agios Ioannis range from around 1900-1940; the exact tmeframe I need for my grandparents’ era. I stayed until 3:00 closing time, digitizing pages that listed my surnames. What a great find!

School Record Books, Agios Ioannis, Sparta Archives office, July 2016

School Record Books, Sparta Archives office, July 2016

Example of a School Record for Agios Ioannis, GAK Sparta Office, July 2016

Example of a School Record for Agios Ioannis, GAK Sparta Office, July 2016

Gregory Kontos arrived in the early afternoon to join me for three days of research. It was hot, hot, hot! And every repository was closed, closed, closed. So we filled the empty 1:00-4:00 p.m. timeframe by going to a place that never closes — the cemetery. Up and down the rows we walked, Gregory reading surnames off the headstones while I snapped photos of the ones that were a “yes.” The sun was scorching this July mid-day and there was no breeze, but we persevered until every name on every grave was read. Then it was time to enter the osteofilakio (οστεοφυλάκιο), the ossuary building.

One of two cemeteries in Agios Ioannis, Sparta, July 2016

One of two cemeteries in Agios Ioannis, Sparta, July 2016

There is limited cemetery space in Greece; therefore, families “rent” a burial plot for three years after which the bones are exhumed and placed in an ossuary. Walking into the osteofilakio is an almost sacred experience. Boxes on shelves line the walls; each inscribed with a family name and holding the bones of the deceased. Icons, photos, flowers, candles and small bottles of oil are carefully arranged around the boxes. A spirit of peace permeates the building. This is holy ground.

Ossuary house, Agios Ioannis Cemetery, July 2016

Ossuary house, Agios Ioannis Cemetery, July 2016

It was not until we left the cemetery and began driving towards town that we realized there are two cemeteries in Agios Ioannis. We returned the following afternoon and searched the second one. Next time I make a research plan, I have to make sure that I thoroughly vet all locations of potential resources.

Gregory and I had a full schedule for 1-1/2 days in Sparta: the Archives, two cemeteries, the Mitropolis, the Central Library, Amykles, and the Dimarheion (Town Hall). And of course, dinners with my family who have embraced him as one of us.

Prior to leaving for this trip, I had spotted a Facebook post about a newly published book about families from the village of Amykles. Since this is the birthplace of my Eliopoulos and Zarafonetis great-grandparents, I was very excited to meet Kaliopi Zarafonetis, the driving force behind this project. amykles-book-2 Gregory and I connected with Kaliopi in Amykles where she described the book’s genesis. There had been a village event which featured a display of old photographs. Everyone was surprised at the extent of the collection, but Kaliopi had the foresight to realize that these treasures would be lost if they were not preserved. Thus began her initiative to create the book. I was thrilled to see page after page of Eliopoulos and Zarafonetis families, most of which are most likely connected to mine. One of my great surprises was to learn that my cousin in Agios Ioannis had married a woman whose grandmother was a Zarafonetis from Amykles – a double connection!

Carol Kostakos Petranek and Kaliopi Zarafonetis, Amykles, July 2016

Carol Kostakos Petranek and Kaliopi Zarafonetis, Amykles, July 2016

On to the repositories. I was on the hunt for death records for specific members of my family. My cousin, an attorney for the government in Sparta, had contacted a colleague in the Town Hall and we obtained the certificate for a member of the Linardakis family of Vordonia. I was surprised to learn that death records for Agios Ioannis are in the Town Hall of Magoula, not Sparta! Unfortunately, I did not make it there but it is the first item on Plan A for the next trip.

The Sparta Dimarheion has books of Male Registers and Town or Family Registers, as seen on the shelves in the photo below. However, clerks are busy handling daily government functions and research requests are often put aside. I did pick up a form to use for future mail-in requests.

Sparta Dimarheion (Town Hall), July 2016

Sparta Dimarheion (Town Hall), July 2016

Record Request Form, Sparta Dimarheion, July 2016

Record Request Form, Sparta Dimarheion, July 2016

Our task at the Mitropolis in Sparta was to obtain specific pages of the Marriage Books for a friend. Although Gregory and I had been there in 2014, I was unsure if we would be granted access to the books again. My concerns were  unfounded. We were warmly greeted by a priest who brought us whatever we requested. When Gregory mentioned that the books were fragile and should be preserved, the priest replied that there had been discussions with the European Union about digitizing the records, but the talks had not come to fruition.

We were warmly greeted by a kind priest at the Mitropolis; Gregory Kontos and Carol Kostakos Petranek, Sparta, July 2016

A kind priest helped us at the Mitropolis; Gregory Kontos and Carol Kostakos Petranek, Sparta, July 2016

Then it was on to the Central Library of Sparta, located around the corner from the Mitropolis. This time our search was for history books of villages in Laconia, usually written by teachers during summer months. Giannis Michalakakos gave me the name of his colleague, Konstandinos Tzanetakos, who is a librarian there. We found Konstandinos in the section for Laconian history and he showed us the shelves that held many village histories.

The Laconia History section of the Central Library of Sparta; with Konstandinos Tzanetakos and Gregory Kontos; July 2016

The Laconia History section of the Central Library of Sparta; with Konstandinos Tzanetakos and Gregory Kontos; July 2016

There were books for lots of Laconian villages, but none for Agios Ioannis. Giannis explained this was because Agios Ioannis had begun as a settlement beneath the towering Mystras castle, and that any noteworthy event had occurred in Mystras and not in its valley. I had harbored a secret hope that I would find something, but my friend was right. Anyone looking for a history book can call or email the library to see if there is a book for their village and if so, obtain the name, author and publisher. Most likely, our friends at the Laconia bookstores, Laconia Odos in Skala and Adouloti in Aeropolis, can then locate the book for purchase.

Our tasks in Sparta were completed, so Gregory and I headed to the west coast of Laconia to visit the Archives in Kalamata. Why there? I was hoping to find a clue — any clue — as to whether my Kostakos or Eftaxias family may have been in the Kalamata region before they headed northeast to Spartan villages. I had been told that my great-grandfather, Andreas Kostakos, could have come from Pyrgos (see previous post).

This was my first visit to Kalamata, a charming city by the sea.

The city of Kalamata, Messinia, July 2016

The city of Kalamata, Messinia, July 2016

Waterfront, Kalamata, July 2016

Waterfront, Kalamata, July 2016

However, traffic in the city is a nightmare! The streets are one-way, very narrow, and very crowded. And horror of horrors — this is where I had my first car accident in Greece. It was a fender-bender at an intersection, and because we were moving so slowly, damage was minimal and no one was injured. But, I quickly realized the complexities of such a situation in a country where my language skills are not optimal. Calling the police and the car-rental agency, and talking with the other drivers could have been truly awful. Luckily, a passenger in the other car spoke perfect English and handled everything with grace and good humor. I was so grateful! Somehow I found my way back to the hotel and parked my car. I refused to let this mishap unnerve me, and I also refused to move the car until the day I left!

Accident! This is the car that hit mine in Kalamata, July 2016

Accident! This is the car that hit mine in Kalamata, July 2016

Gregory and I were very happy to meet in person our friend, Giota Siora. Giota is a Facebook friend on HellenicGenealogyGeek. Despite working full-time, she spends many hours online helping people with their research. For her devotion, she is greatly appreciated and respected.  Giota met us at the Kalamata Archives and introduced us to the Archivist, Anastasia Milioni, who also happens to be the wife of the mayor. This Archive has an extensive record collection for the Messinia Prefecture, including records of churches, land, houses, elementary schools, newspapers, military. The collection was greatly enhanced when Mrs. Milioni responded to a request from the GAK Central Office to ask local services to send their records to the Archives. Unfortunately, we were unable to do any research as the Archives is in the process of moving to a new location. Books were packed in boxes, and the office was essentially empty.

The Kalamata Archives is headed for a new home, July 2016

The Kalamata Archives is headed for a new home, July 2016


Giota Siora, Anastasia Milioni, Carol Kostakos Petranek, Kalamata Archives, July 216

When I inquired about possible records for the Eftaxias and Kostakos names, Mrs. Milioni did a computer search and found a few documents which look very promising. Two especially stood out:  a contract naming a Kostakos family in Anavriti, which could confirm oral tradition that the family had lived there prior to Agios Ioannis; and a contract for an Eftaxias family in Kalamata. After the office move, I will contact Mrs. Milioni and ask her to access these for me. I continue to be impressed with the kindness and professionalism of the Archivists in both Laconia and Messinia. They truly desire to be of help and will set aside whatever they are doing to be of assistance to researchers.

Giota suggested that we walk to the Dimarheion, or Town Hall, on the chance that we kalamata-dimarheion-signmight access records there. Visiting this municipal office, I was again reminded that clerks are extremely busy handling daily matters. Someone walking in and asking for records that are 150 years old are, at best, a distraction and at worst, an annoyance. This is especially true when there are six people standing in line, vying for a clerk’s attention. I was also reminded that the municipality has records only for its specific area of jurisdiction (unlike the Archives which has records for the entire prefecture).  Since I was looking for Pyrgos, a village not in the Kalamata jurisdiction, the clerk was not able to be of assistance. The lesson of that day was:  location is everything!

Dimarheion, Kalamata, July 2016

Town people waiting patiently for help on a Friday afternoon at the Dimarheion. The line stretched outside the door. Kalamata, July 2016

Every hour of my research trips are filled to the max. Sometimes “the force” is with me and I have amazing success; sometimes not, and the disappointment becomes a “learning experience.”  Nothing is lost; everything is gained. I love the ride!