Six Dots to Marriage

Do you have a family tree that looks like this?

If you were in Greece and planning to marry a person who had the same last name and  who was from the same village, this diagram might be on your marriage license. It represents the abbreviated pedigree charts of the engaged couple and would indicate whether their marriage could be performed by the Orthodox Church.

Marriages are not permitted between people who are closer than  six dots to each other (approximately third cousins). To simplify understanding the relationship, the village priest could create this chart which would show the couple’s connection to each other, back to their common ancestor.

This is how we would read the chart:  count the number of dots between the groom and the bride, including their common ancestor. If the groom was the second generation dot and the bride was the second generation dot, the 5-dot connection meant that no marriage could occur.

If the groom was the second generation dot and the bride was the third generation dot, a marriage could occur because the couple has a 6-dot connection.

This is the document which revealed this interesting and important rule.

Sparta Marriage Record #199, year 1930

In this letter requesting permission for marriage, the bride, Anastasia, is a 4th generation dot (left side) and the groom, Vaselios, is a 3rd generation dot (right side). Counting up the triangle to the common ancestor and down, there is a 7 dot connection. This meets the minimum of 6 and the marriage can be performed.

I love that the priest put an arched row of tiny dots to ensure that the chart could not be misread. Documents like this are a reason why I love digging into old records!


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:

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
Three basinas – a bowl for cooking
Three sets of kreponia – women’s clothing, dark in color
Twelve madilia – women’s head cover
One pair of vergetes– earrings, expensive
One silver cross
Three silver rings
One pair of crystal dessert plates
Six dessert spoons
One serving dish
Two men’s vests, decorated with fur

Man’s vest with fur

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

Traditional fustanella; Flickr Creative Commons

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

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!

Marriage: Andreas Kostakos & Politimi Christakos

Trying to read 1800’s Greek script is both exhilarating and frustrating. Recognizing a name gives me an adrenalin surge; struggling over a name sends me to chocolate.

Two nights ago, I got the surge of a lifetime. I found an entry in the 1860 Marriage Book of the Mitropolis of Sparta for my great-grandparents, Andreas Kostakos and Politimi Christakos. My friend, Giannis Michalakakos, confirmed that I read the record correctly.

Mitropolis of Sparta, Marriage Book, 1860 Page 1: Date: August 20, 1860; Number: 125; 1st column: Andreas ( Andrikos) Kostakos of Agios Ioannis. 2nd column: Poletimi, daughter of Nikolaos Christakos of Xirokambi, Faridos.

Mitropolis of Sparta, Marriage Book, 1860
Page 1: Date: August 20, 1860; Number: 125; 1st column: Andreas ( Andrikos) Kostakos of Agios Ioannis.  2nd column: Politimi, daughter of Nikolaos Christakos of Xirokambi, Faridos.

Page 2, Marriage of Andreas Kostakos and Poletimi Christakos

2nd page, 7th entry: 1st column: Church: Holy Trinity; second column: Priest’s name, Mitros Hlia Papadopoulos Witnesses: Ioannis Giannopoulos, Dimitris Skouriotis

After hours of struggling to read every name, I decided to try the tactic that my friend, Gregory Kontos, used when we were at the Mitropolis of Sparta in 2014. He looked in the column of the male’s name for the first name of someone I was seeking. If his eye caught that name, he then read the entire entry.

Interestingly, the name “Andreas” does not appear often in the villages of Sparta where I am researching:  the most common names are Panagiotis, Nikolaos, Georgios, Konstandinos. So…skimming down the left column of page one, looking for Andreas, made the search much easier and saved my eyes and my sanity.

As soon as I saw the capital “A,” I stopped. When the next name began with a “K,” my hopes soared. When I made out “Kostakos,” I rejoiced!

Enlarged image of Entry 125.

Enlarged image of Entry 125.

I knew that Andreas had two wives:  first, Anastasia; then Poletimi Christakos (my great-grandmother). Honestly, if I did not know Politimi’s name, I would have been stumped as I strained to read the female information in column 2. But, I could make out the letters, and then — a great bonus — I saw Poletimi’s father’s name, Nikolaos! This was a new and very exciting find, as I am now back one more generation!

This exhilarating discovery fostered a new mystery:  Andreas and Poletimi were married in 1860, but their first child, Antonia, was born in 1870. That’s 10 years — a very long time, especially in the pre-birth control era. Some hypothesis that Giannis and I mulled over:

  1. Politimi must have been raising Andreas’ children with Anastasia (my father had been told that they had 6 sons, but we only know of one, and his descendants are my cousins in Agios Ioannis today). Could the stress of raising a large family have affected Poletimi?
  2. There could have been stillborn children
  3. Children could have been born and died as infants
  4. There could have been female children born, who were not registered in any records

I am entering the area of lost information and the “great unknown;” and, speculation will not bring resolution. However, I am grateful beyond expression to have found this record.

I have been collecting information on the surnames in my villages, and from various sources, I now am able to structure the family of my great-great grandfather, Nikolaos and”wife” Christakos. Oh, happy day!

Christakos, Nikolaos FamGrpSheet