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.

abbreviation-name

 

 

 

 

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.

abbreviation-place

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.

paleologio

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).

abbreviation-name-1

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

kalamata-archives-giota-siora-anastasia-milioni-archivist-carol

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!

 

Ioannis Zaharakis, Hero from Theologos, Oinountos, Laconia

In a recent post, the Zaharakis/Zacharakis Family of Theologos, I mentioned that the earliest member of this family that I could find was Ioannis, born approximately 1798 in Theologos.

Ioannis is found on line 236 of the 1844 Election List for Theologos, where he is listed as being age 46.

1844 Election Lists Laconia, File 22, Image 1222 Theologos.

1844 Election Lists Laconia, File 22, Image 1222 Theologos; Line 236, Ioannis Zacharakis, age 46

I was thrilled when my friend, Giannis Michalakakos, sent me documentation that cites Ioannis as being the recipient of an Aristeia for his military service in the 1821 Revolution. Aristeia comes from the word άριστος (aristos) which is defined as “excellent.” In Greek warfare, an aristeia (αριστείο) is an award of great prestige and distinction. It is earned by a soldier for his exemplary actions in battle. In the eyes of his comrades, he is a hero and is recognized as such.

This is a copy of the Application of Ioannis for an Aristeia:
Document #261  – Application dated 1839
The request and application of Ioannis Zaharakis for certification of military service. The request was made to the Royal Secretary of Lacedaimon under the existing law 3028, to receive medals and certifications. I am making use of this law and I submit my certification for the Aristeia.

Aristeia Application 261 of Ioannis Zaharakis

Aristeia Application 261 of Ioannis Zaharakis

This document #266 contains the signature of Ioannis at the bottom.

Signature of Ioannis Zaharakis at bottom

Signature of Ioannis Zaharakis at bottom

Document #309  – Certificate, dated 1839
The man that is holding this paper certifies that Ioannis Zaharakis of Theologos of Sellasia, in the beginning of the war, with his fellow villagers, willingly fought under orders of my brother, the captain (Georgios Giatrakos).In the start of the revolution with other people of the government of Greece, Ioannis Karakasou or Kastasou; he participated in many battles: Valtetsi,  Doliana, the siege of Tripoli, the city of Naplion, city of Argos, city of New Kastorio Pylos during the invasion…. We certify and give this certification to Ioannis Zaharakis for any use. Date: Aug 4, 1840 in Mystra.
Signed by: George Giatrakos; Nikos Giatrakos; Dimitri Nikolopoulos; Ioannis Matalas; Georgios Sklavahoritis (possibly); last signature is the mayor of the area, unintelligible. (Link to document online at website of General State Archives of Greece: http://arxeiomnimon.gak.gr/search/resource.html?tab=tab02&id=561094)

Aristeia, Letter of Certification #309 for Ioannis Zaharakis

Aristeia, Letter of Certification #309 for Ioannis Zaharakis

 

I am always excited to find any document for any member of my family — it is a clue to who they are, where they were, and what they did.

Knowing that Ioannis received an Aristeia brings me a profound feeling of both joy and pride. His blood runs in my veins which makes me the descendant of a hero!

 

 

 

 

The Zaharakis / Zacharakis Families of Theologos, Oinountos, Laconia

The family of my great-grandmother, Stathoula Zaharakis, has been an elusive mystery to me. Her photo, which is on my desk, reminds me daily to think of her as well as all those who came before me.

Stathoula Zaharaki Eftaxias

Stathoula Zaharaki Eftaxias

Her face haunts me at times. How did she feel as she sent all three of her daughters to the U.S. so they could marry and have a better life? She had no sons; who took care of her as she aged? My mother said that she died as she was preparing to come to the U.S. to visit her daughters and their families in the mid-1950’s. How heartbreaking!

When Gregory Kontos and I were at the Greek Orthodox Mitropolis in Sparta in 2014, he found the marriage record for Stathoula and Konstandinos Ioannis Eftaxias.

Marriage Record, Konstandinos Ioannis Eftaxias and Stathoula Zaharaki, February 16, 1891, line 68. Translation of Marriage Record received from the Holy Diocese of Monemvasias & Spartis Certifies that: As it appears on the books of Marriages of the Office of the Holy Diocese Monemvasias & Spartis a licence -number 68 - was issued on 16 February 1891, for Konstantinos Eutaxiarhis, resident of Mystra - of the former municipality Spartis in second marriage, and for Stathoula Zaharaki daughter of Dimitrios, resident of Theologos -of the former municipality Sellasias in first marriage. The holy matrimony was officiated by the local priest S. Dimitrakopoulou.

Marriage Record, Konstandinos Ioannis Eftaxias and Stathoula Zaharaki, February 16, 1891, line 68. Received from the Holy Diocese of Monemvasias & Spartis.
Certifies that:
As it appears on the books of Marriages of the Office of the Holy Diocese Monemvasias & Spartis a licence -number 68 – was issued on 16 February 1891, for Konstantinos Eftaxias, resident of Mystra – of the former municipality Spartis in second marriage, and for Stathoula Zaharaki daughter of Dimitrios, resident of Theologos -of the former municipality Sellasias in first marriage. The holy matrimony was officiated by the local priest S. Dimitrakopoulou.

From this marriage record, I learned that Stathoula’s father was Dimitrios. I knew that the family lived in Theologos, Oinountos – just north of Sparta.

At the office of the General Archives of Greece in Sparta, Gregory and I digitized pages from the Dimotologion Koinothtos (Town Register) of Theologos which listed the Zaharakis families. I can’t believe that I overlooked the Male Register – a critical component to understand father/son relationships! Until I return to the Archives next summer, I have only the Dimotologia, Election Lists of 1872 & 1844, and information sent by family members to organize the structure of the Zaharakis family prior to 1940. I know the Male Registers will eventually provide missing information.

Zaharakis Families in Theologos, Pre-1940

Zaharakis Families in Theologos, Pre-1940. < symbolizes “before”

As I worked through the various resources, I learned an important detail about the 1844 Election Lists: there is an index at the beginning of each municipality. In the image below, notice two columns of numbers to the left of each name. The first number is the line number in the index; the second number is the line in the record itself. In this image on line 272 (right column, 3rd down) is Ioannis Zaharakis or Zaharakakis; the number 236 indicates the line in the record where his registration is recorded. (see next image)

1844 Election Lists, Laconia, File 22, image 1209 Index

1844 Election Lists, Laconia, File 22, image 1209, Theologos. Index.

This is an image of the voter registration page. Ioannis is found on line 236, which reads: Ioannis Zaharakis, age 46, farmer.

1844 Election Lists Laconia, File 22, Image 1222 Theologos.

1844 Election Lists Laconia, File 22, Image 1222 Theologos.

Also found on both of these pages are:
Index line 256/Record line 238 – Panagiotis Zaharakakis, age 34, farmer
Index line 273/Record line 239 – Theodoros Zaharakakis, age 32, farmer
Index line 267/Record line 250 – Georgios Zaharakis, age 42, farmer

Big important note: Thank you, Gregory Kontos, for finding these names for me. You have my undying gratitude forever! I can read records that are typewritten, but the handwritten ones are Greek to me.

I will update this post after my next trip to the Archives in Sparta in July 2016. This time I’ll have the Male Registers and I will be able to further corroborate and correct what I have documented.

If anyone has information that can shed further light on these families, or give a better translation of the handwritten Greek, I would be most grateful!

Now I can put this aside to enjoy the holidays. Merry Christmas!

 

Reading a Town Register and a Male Register

My friend and Greek genealogist, Gregory Kontos, prepared some excellent handouts for the Hellenic Genealogy Conference in Salt Lake City on September 26, 2015.

This is a sample of a Dimotologion Koinothtos, or Town Register. It is similar to a U.S. census record as it lists the families in the villages, with parents and children’s names, birthdates, birth places, and other relevant information. These records were created in the 1900’s. The oldest families will have parents born in the late 1800’s, with their children born in the early-mid 1900’s. To my knowledge, there is no such record collection dated earlier than this timeframe, which is unfortunate as we cannot go back to find a father or a mother in this record, when he/she is listed as a child in their parents’ family.

This is page 1 of 2.

Dimotologion 1st page description

 

Here is an example of the 1st page of the Dimotologion, with an entry translated into English.

Dimotologion extracted 1st page

This is page 2 of a Dimotologion. It gives additional information about each person in the family.

Dimotologion 2nd page description

This is a Mitroon Arrenon, or Male Register. It is a record of every male born in a village. It was kept by the government for military draft purposes, and is considered an official register of birth.

Mitroon Arrenon 1st page description

These two record sets are the backbone of genealogy research in Greece. The regional offices of the General State Archives of Greece (GAK) have books with these record collections for the villages over which they have jurisdiction.

A list of the Regional  GAK offices can be found here:  http://www.gak.gr/frontoffice/portal.asp?cpage=NODE&cnode=36. The page can be translated into English using Google translate. If you write for information, include whatever you know about the family you are searching. It is especially important to know the spelling of the original surname in Greek (e.g., Papagiannakos, not just Pappas). You must also know the exact village and its location because there are many villages with the same name (e.g., not just Agios Ioannis, but Agios Ioannis Sparta).