Greece 2017. Archives Research: Kalamata

My research trips are super-intensive. This is due in part to my personality, and in part to the limited working hours at Greek repositories. Archives and libraries’ hours of operation are 8:00 a.m. until 2:30 p.m., and unlike shops, they do not reopen after 6:30. None are open on Saturdays, not even the Central Library of Sparta.

So, my weekday work schedule looks like this:
7:00 – wake up
8:00 – be at the repository
2:30 – leave (or get kicked out)
2:30-6:00 – go someplace that is open: a cemetery, an archaeological or historical site, or take a drive through a village. It’s beastly hot in mid-afternoon in July, but I won’t waste three precious hours.
6:00-midnight – change clothes, visit family or friends for dinner which usually begins around 9:00

Honestly, I came home more tired than when I left. But I also came home with tons of new information.

I was anxious to return to the Archives in Kalamata. During my visit of July 2016, the office was moving to a new location and everything was packed in boxes, which made research impossible. I was thrilled to see its new home: a stunning neoclassical building constructed in the 1880’s and rebuilt after the earthquake of 1986.

General Archives of Greece, Kalamata, Messinia

I am ever grateful for the help and kindness of my friend, Giota Siora, who met me in Kalamata and escorted me to the Archives. Giota knows the archivist, Anastasia Milioni, who was eager to assist us in any way possible. My goal was to search for information about two families with possible early ties to the Kalamata region: Eftaxias (prior to relocating to Mystras) and Zaharakis (prior to relocating to Theologos).

GAK, Kalamata: Giota Siora; Anastasia Milioni, Archivist; Carol Kostakos Petranek, July 2017

In 2016, Mrs. Milioni had given me a print-out of contracts with the Eftaxias name. There were three for Georgios Eftaxias who was in Kalamata in 1859.

Eftaxias contracts, 1859. General Archives of Greece, Kalamata, Messinia

After the contracts were retrieved, Giota amazed me with her ability to read the documents. They were not written in typical old Greek script, but in a specific type of calligraphy used by lawyers and high government officials in the 1800’s.

Below are page one and the signature page of Contract 727 for Georgios Eftaxias, along with a synopsis by Giota.

Eftaxias, Georgios; Contract 727 p.1. Kalamata, Messinia. July 2017

Eftaxias, Georgios; Contract 727 p.3 – signatures.. Kalamata, Messinia. July 2017

Contract 727 Georgios Eftaxias in Kalamata 1859
Final payment on land purchase
Georgios Eftaxias bought a field at Mavria (on the border of Messinia and Laconia). He paid 60 drachmas on the balance due. He bought the land from Michail Koumoutsas who was a lime maker. One of the owners of land bordering his is Haralambos Eftaxias.

With three contracts for Georgios Eftaxias, I now have proof that a family was in Kalamata. But is this my family? Possibly yes, possibly no.

  • I have an Eftaxias “DNA cousin,” Peter, who was born in a village adjacent to Mystras. His father said that their Eftaxias family came from Kalamata. This is definitely his family. Since we have a genetic connection, this is one point on the “yes” side.
  • The very name, Eftaxias, has ecclesiastical connotations. Gregory Kontos sent me this definition: the one that is in charge of the good order of the church:   good=ευ order=τάξη. So, this could be an example of families who had worked in a church and adopted the position title as a surname. This is one point on the “no” side.

Another twist:  the Election Lists of 1875 show a Michalis Eftaxias who was born around 1800, fought in the Revolution, and lived in Lagia. That is 117 km from Kalamata, a 39-hour walk! Is it possible these two families are related? Not impossible, but perhaps improbable. This could be an example of the second bullet–someone working in a church, taking the ευταξη title as a surname.

So, the definite answer to my question is, “I don’t know.”

Lagia to Kalamata is 117 kilometers

The Archives in Kalamata has a one-of-a-kind collection created by Μίμη Iλ. Φερέτος (Dimitris or Mimi Il. Feretos).  Giannis Michalakakos described Mr. Feretos as a journalist and writer who gathered information on fighters of the 1821 Revolution. In the early 1900’s, he interviewed people who had fought (or whose relatives fought) in the War of Independence. Mr. Feretos created a surname index which include brief notes and reference sources to find the original documentation. The GAK in Kalamata has a bookcase filled with Mr. Feretos’ notebooks. They are arranged in alphabetical order, and Giota easily found the Eftaxias and Zaharakis surnames.

This is a copy of one of the Feretos pages for Zaharakis. I found it fascinating to see how Mr. Feretos compiled and annotated information, long before the computer age.

Zaharakis surname, notes from the files of Mimis Il. Feretos, GAK Kalamata, July 2017

A simple translation of this document, with my thanks to Giannis: M. Zaharakis, born in Sitsova [now known as Alagonia on the border of Messinia and Laconia]. He fought in the Revolution under George Vasilakos, in the main battles until 1823. Afterwards, he fought in the war under the Giatrakos family. In some documents, he is referred to as Zaharopoulos.

This document reveals two important things: first, M. Zaharakis is not my family; he was born in a region far from Theologos at a time when my Zaharakis are found in documents in Theologos. Second, M. Zaharakis was also known as Zaharopoulos. This is a critical piece of information because there is a long-standing (and frustrating!) pattern of Greeks changing their names. Having written proof that Zaharakis and Zaharopoulos in Kalamata are the same family, saves years and tears for the serious researcher.

For anyone researching in Messinia, the Archives in Kalamata is an essential repository. The staff is actively digitizing as much of its collection as possible. They are friendly, helpful and supportive in every way.

Digitization underway at the Messinia Archives in Kalamata

Here are links to access the Archives website; its online digital collections; and its YouTube channel.This link is especially helpful, as it shows the collections in the Archives.

Was my research trip to Kalamata a success? Yes! I did not find the definitive information I was seeking to link my families in Laconia to the ones in Kalamata. However, I explored a new Archive, discovered the Feretos collection, found documentation to prove (and disprove) some of my theories. I visited the Kalamata Museum, filled with incredible antiquities and artifacts. Most importantly, I spent a delightful day with Giota, who inspires me with her continual desire to help and teach. Thank you, my friend!


Double Date

No, this is not a post about two couples going out for dinner or a movie date. It is, however, a description of something important that I learned this past weekend.

On Saturday, at the Greek Genealogy Conference held in Tarpon Springs, Florida, I taught a class entitled, “Using U.S. Records to Begin Greek Research.” In this presentation, I used numerous examples of records that may have information to help  find the original name of an ancestor (such as Papadopoulos, not just Pappas), and also the village of birth (very important, as records in Greece are cataloged by location).

I emphasized the importance of finding every record that could have possibly been created in the U.S. for an ancestor. The reason is that each document may have new or different information. When documents for a direct ancestor are hard to find, look for documents of siblings or other family members, and do your best to locate every piece of paper on which they could possibly be listed.

As an illustration, I used both civil and church marriage records for my maternal grandparents. This is the State of New York Certificate and Record of Marriage for Ilias Papagiannakos and Angelina Eftaxias; note that the date is May 10, 1914:

New York State Certificate and Record of Marriage, Ilias Papagianakos and Angelina Eftaxias

State of New York: Civil Marriage Record Louis Papagianakos and Angelina Eftaxia GROOM: age 32; occupation: oyster dealer; birthplace: Greece; father’s name: Panagiotis; mother’s maiden name: Caterina Eliopoulis BRIDE: age 20; birthplace: Greece; father: Constantinos; mother’s maiden name: Stafia Zaharopoulo. Joined in marriage at 358 West 44th Street, Manhattan on 10th of MAY 1914

This is the Greek Orthodox Marriage Certificate from Holy Trinity Church in New York for the same grandparents. Note that the date of marriage is:  27/10 April, 1914.


Greek Orthodox Marriage Record; Holy Trinity Church.   Of Agios Ioannis, Sparta, Ilias Panag. Papagiannakos and of Mistra Aggeliki Kon. Eftaxia married on 27/10 APRIL 1914 Best man: Christos Aridas FATHERS: Panagiotis Papagiannakos KON [Konstandinos] Eftaxias

As I described the differences between the civil and the church marriage records, I mentioned that I was puzzled by the “double date” on the church record. I did not understand the discrepancy between the two dates and what 27/10 April was referring to.

After the presentation, Adamantia Klotsa, Consul General of Greece, approached me and solved the mystery. She explained that the “double date” on the Greek certificate referred to the dates as they were calculated by both the Julian Calendar (27 April) and the Gregorian Calendar (May 10). There is a 13-day difference between the dates in these calendars, and the Greek record reflected both because Greece used the Julian calendar until 1922. With this marriage occurring in 1914, it now makes sense as to the correctness of the date as noted on the Greek Orthodox Marriage Record–the difference between April 27 and May 10 is exactly thirteen days.

Genealogy is never boring–there is always something new to learn!

Return to Greece, 2016. Part Six: It’s All About Family

This is the sixth 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.

Open arms with tight hugs. Kisses on both cheeks. Happy smiles and joyful reunions. This is how my family greets me when I return to Sparta. There are so many places to explore and discover; but for me this is the bottom line:  it’s all about family. Prior to my visits to Greece, the names and places on my pedigree chart were simply long names and dots on a map. Now, they are attached to real people who have become a vibrant and important part of my extended family.

Joy is sharing what you love with whom you love. For me, joy is introducing my family to their roots — touring our villages and meeting our relatives. Kathy’s paternal grandparents are Kallianes from Kastania (now Kastoreion) and Linardakis from Vordonia. Although we don’t know of family now living there, we so enjoyed exploring the towns, peering into shops, watching chickens, dogs and cats roam their yards, and looking at stone and stucco houses that have sheltered countless families through countless years.

Kastoreion, Laconia. July 2016

Kastoreion, Laconia. ancestral village of the Kallianes family, July 2016

Vordonia, Laconia, July 2016

Andrew, Ben and Kathy at the Linardakis village of Vordonia, Laconia, July 2016

I love the monuments erected in every town that memorialize those who died in military service. My heart skips whenever I find an ancestral name etched in marble. Even if I cannot connect that individual to my line, I know that in these small villages, people with the same surname are almost certain to be related. While driving in Vordonia, we turned into a back street and unexpectedly were confronted by the village monument. stopping to examine it, I became emotional when I showed Ben and Andrew several men with the Linardakis surname.

Finding the Linardakis surname; Vordonia, July 2016

Finding the Linardakis surname; Vordonia, July 2016

Visiting our Aridas and Kostakos familes in Agios Ioannis has endeared my grandchildren to their Spartan relatives and grounded them to the land of their ancestors. Bridging the Atlantic and meeting kin has widened their concept of family. Eating a meal in a house built by their ancestor in the mid-1800’s has brought them a sense of “rootedness” that is unparalleled. And best of all, they were warmly embraced and loved immediately by all who met them.

These are photos of my Kostakos and Aridas family in Agios Ioannis, Sparta. They are on my father’s side — my grandparents were John Andrew (Ioannis Andreas) Kostakos and Hariklia Aridas, both born in Agios Ioannis. On the Kostakos side, our common ancestor is Andreas Kostakos who was married twice: first to Anastasia, then to Poletimi Christakos. These two Kostakos families are descended from Andreas and Anastasia; I am descended from Andreas and Poletimi. On the Aridas line, our common ancestor is Michail Aridas and his wife, Stamatina.

Ioanna Kostakos Family, with Ben Soper, Andrew Soper, Kathy Lynard, Carol Kostakos Petranek, Peggy and Vassilis Vlachogiannis, Agios Ioannis, July 2016

Family of Ioanna Kostakos of Agios Ioannis. With Ben Soper, Andrew Soper, Kathy Lynard, Carol Kostakos Petranek, Peggy and Vassilis Vachaviolis, and Ioanna Kostakos, July 2016


Family of Eleni Kostakos of Agios Ioannis. Natasa, Panos, Eleni, Eleni, Panorea, Carol Kostakos Petranek, July 2016

Family of George Aridas, Agios Ioannis. George, Roula, Adamandia Aridas; George's sister, Afroditi. July 2016

Family of George Aridas, Agios Ioannis. George, Roula, Adamandia Aridas; George’s sister, Afroditi. July 2016

This is the Chelidonis Family of Athens. Nikos is my second cousin on my mother’s line. His mother was Tasia Eftaxia from Mystras; our common ancestor is Ioannis Eftaxias, born 1809. My grandmother, Angelina Eftaxias Papagiannakos, was Tasia’s aunt. Panagiotis found me on Facebook three years ago, and we met in person during my trip in 2014. We were so excited to connect our families, as neither of us knew that the other existed!

Family if Nikos Chelidonis, Athens. Viki, Nikos, Panagiotis. July 2016

Family if Nikos Chelidonis, Athens. Viki, Nikos, Panagiotis. July 2016

The Eftaxias family of Mystras has long roots in Mystras. My grandmother, Angelina Eftaxias is the aunt of Andreas (photo on left). Andreas’ son, Lewnidas, is a master stone mason and works on churches and other buildings throughout southern Laconia.

Andreas Eftaxias, his son. Lewnidas ad Afroditi. Mystras, July 2016

Andreas Eftaxias, his son. Lewnidas ad Afroditi. Mystras, July 2016

Lewnidas and Andreas told me that our first Eftaxias ancestor escaped from Constantinople during the Ottoman conquest in 1453! He and three friends fled together and settled in Mystras. Lewnidas showed me a bronze medallion that was brought by this ancestor and kept by the family for generations. I posted this photo on our HellenicGenealogyGeek Facebook page and knowledgeable friends there described the medallion: l-r: Christ on the cross; Byzantine cross with words, ” Ιησούς Χριστός Νικά”; the Holy Mother, Mary; and the Holy Trinity, possibly based on Rublev‘s painting of the same name.

Medallion dating to 1453, belonging to Eftaxias family; Mystras, July 2016

Medallion dating to 1453, belonging to Eftaxias family; Mystras, July 2016

I was so thrilled to extend my family further on this trip. My new-found cousin, Dimitrios Papagiannakos, and his wife, Georgia, own a beautiful home goods store in Sparta which sells a myriad of items from cooking utensils to beautiful crystal. I think I gave Dimitrios quite a shock when I walked into his store and introduced myself as his cousin from America! I had brought photos of his Pappas family in the U.S., including a group shot taken at our Pappas Cousin’s Reunion. Working around his customers, we managed to have a spirited and lovely conversation about our families. My only regret was that his parents were out of town and I was unable to meet them. Next trip!


Dimitrios and Georgia Papagiannakos in their lovely home goods store, Sparta, July 2016

I also traveled to Markopoulos, northeast of Athens, to meet Vassilis Papagiannakos, owner of the Papagiannakos Winery. The winery was started by his grandfather, also named Vassilis, in 1919. Now managed by the 3rd generation of Papagiannakos’, Vassilis and his wife, Antonia, have expanded the business, developed new and award-winning wines, and constructed a beautiful edifice where business events, weddings and other activities are held. Although Vassilis and I do not know how–or if– we are related, we are looking to explore our family roots together.


Vassilis and Antonia Papagiannakos and their daughter, Aggeliki. Papagiannakos Winery, Markopoulos, July 2016

Every trip to Greece strengthens my family ties. I love these cousins. They set an example of hard work, honesty and devotion to our family and our heritage. I am ever-grateful to have the means and the opportunity to introduce them to my own descendants. Together, we carry on traditions and relationships that honor our ancestors.

Surnames from the Mitroon Arrenon of Mystras, Laconia

I am researching several ancestral lines in Mystras, including that of my maternal grandmother, Aggeliki Eftaxias. During my visit to the General State Archives office in Sparta in July 2014, I digitized several pages of the Mitroon Arrenon (Male Register) for this city. The earliest year in these registers is 1824. Interestingly, this is right in the midst of the Greek War of Independence (1821-1829).

The surnames below are extracted from the pages that I obtained, which is not the complete record. Villages included in these records are: Mystras, Vlachohori, Varsinikos, Pikoulianika, Parori, Katochora, Diaselos.

The Sparta Archives office can assist you with further research. The email address is: Maria Stellakou, Michalis Sovolos, and Pepi Gavala are exceptional archivists and dear friends.

Surnames from Mitroon Arrenon of Mystras

Research & Remembrances, Part 4

Research in the General Archives of Greece, Sparta office

After months of preparation, I was so very excited to go in person to the General Archives of Greece office in Sparta! It located in a building on Vrasidou Street in the center of Sparta.

General Archives of Greece, Sparta office

The Archives has offices for staff and a spacious research room. It also has off-site storage areas where most of the books and records are kept. Some records for Sparta which are listed at the GAK website may also be available. The research room has a large table, perfect for reviewing the oversized books and taking notes.

Research room, Archives office, Sparta

Research room, Archives office, Sparta

In the lobby, there are several  display cases featuring historic photos and documents.

Display case, Archives office, Sparta

Precious documents and photos are on display at the Archives

Gregory Kontos and I were finally able to meet our new archivist friends with whom we had connected through Greek genealogy Facebook groups — Maria Stellakou and Mihalis Sovolis. I had sent Maria an email in advance, letting her know exactly when we would be arriving. These dear people had offered to assist us in every possible way, and that is exactly what they did. They asked us which locations we were researching and what types of records we were seeking. They told us that they would have the appropriate books ready for us when we arrived the following morning.

Maria Stellakou looks for a record.

Maria Stellakou looks for a record.

Can you imagine how thrilled I was to see the Dimotologion book for Agios Ioannis, the ancestral home of three of my grandparents? The Dimotologion is a register of families, listing husband, wife and children with their birth dates and other information. It is comparable to a U.S. census record.

Dimotologion for Agios Ioannis, Sparta

Dimotologion for Agios Ioannis, Sparta

When I opened that book and turn the pages, I found three Kostakos families. These records appear to have been created in the 1900’s, as that is when most of the children were born. Unfortunately, there are no similar family records for the 1800s.

Kostakos families, Dimotologion

Kostakos families, Dimotologion

I looked at Mitroon Arrenon, Male Registers, for Agios Ioannis, Mystras, and other nearby villages.

Mitroon Arrenon (Male Register) for Mystras, Sparta

Mitroon Arrenon (Male Register) for Mystras, Sparta

In the book for Mystras, I found an entry for my granduncle, Ioannis Eftaxias born in 1876. Konstandinos, my great-grandfather, is named as Ioannis’ father. Gregory and I were given permission to use our cameras to take photographs of any pages containing my family names.

Line 122: Eftaxias, Ioannis; father Konstandinos; born 1876 in Mystras.

Line 422: Eftaxias, Ioannis; father Konstandinos; born 1876 in Mystras.

Maria has begun to digitize some of these books herself. That is quite an ambitious project! She uses a scanner and then uploads the images to the office computers. With digitization, the old books can be preserved. They can also be easily accessed by computer.

Gregory and I spent all day on Tuesday (July 15) and Wednesday morning at the Archives. We were delighted to meet Pepi Gavala, the archivist, on Wednesday. Over the years, I have come to know Ms. Gavala by name, as she signs letters that I have written to the Archives when I was requesting information. She is a delightful woman, dedicated to her job and sincerely wanting to assist researchers in every possible way.

Here is an example: when we arrived on Wednesday morning, I asked if the books for Vordonia and Kastania were available. These are the ancestral villages of my first husband, Peter Lynard (Linardakis). Although I had not planned to research those areas, I had a strong impression that I should do so. Mihalis was at one of the offsite storage areas, and Maria called to ask him if he would go to the building where the Vordonia and Kastania books were kept. He stopped what he was doing, found the books, and brought them to us as quickly as he could.

I left the Archives, thrilled to have digital copies of civil records that are helping me piece together the various branches of my family. I also left behind new friends: Maria, Mihalis and Ms. Gavala. They made this visit both pleasant and productive. I am ever grateful for their cheerful help and their sincere desire for my success in finding the records I was seeking. I hope that someday I will be able to return their kindness and be of help to them.