Honoring My Cousin, Father Eugene Pappas

There’s nothing that compares to a Brooklyn, New York gala — live band, gourmet food, beautiful venue — everything needed for a first-class celebration. On December 2, my cousin, The Very Reverend Father Eugene Pappas, Archimandrite, was honored at an elaborate and festive gala held in commemoration of his 50 years of service as a Greek Orthodox priest, and 35 years as priest at Three Hierarchs Church in Brooklyn. To say that I was delighted to be there is an understatement; this was an event to be long-remembered and I was thrilled to be part of it.


Father Eugene Pappas

Nicholas Leon Pappas (Father Eugene) is the son of Pauline Drivas and Leon Pappas (Papagiannakos). He and his siblings, Konstandinos and Georgeanne, were born and raised in the Sheepshead Bay area of Brooklyn, in the center of a thriving Greek-American community. Although he studied law, Father Eugene had deep desires to become a priest. The family name “Papagiannakos” indicates that in the past, a man in the Giannakos family became a priest (παππάς – papa) — thus, forever changing the surname to indicate this honor. Father Eugene told me that he felt, from childhood, that he was destined to be a priest and to carry on the tradition initiated by our ancestor. He was ordained into the priesthood in 1965.

Father Eugene began his ministry in South Korea as the First Foreign Missionary of the Holy Archdiocese of Archbishop Iakovos. In 1969, he opened an orphanage and worked in a boys’ home. His service in South Korea helped pave the way for the Orthodox Christian Mission Center of the USA. Along with South Korea, Father Eugene served in many foreign posts including Japan, the Philippines, Switzerland and Greece. Upon returning to the United States, he became pastor in the faith community where he was baptized, raised and educated.


Father Eugene preaching the gospel at Three Hierarchs Church, Brooklyn, NY

Father Eugene’s service is not confined to either religious causes or his parish. He is a renowned civic activist and public speaker and is esteemed by civic and faith leaders of all political affiliations and religions. As scholar educator, he has taught Orthodox Theology in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn/Queens, and a special commemoration was held for him by the Catholic community. He is lauded for his leadership and participation in public causes and numerous community initiatives. The walls of his office are lined with plaques, degrees, and honorary citations.

As a man of the times, Father Eugene uses today’s media to exhort and educate audiences far beyond Brooklyn. For the past 18 years, he has hosted a radio program, “Matters of Conscience” on COSMOS FM every Saturday from 1 to 2 P.M.

Father Eugene broadcasting at Cosmos-FM studios. His radio program, Matters of Conscience, has aired for 18 years.

Father Eugene broadcasting at Cosmos-FM studios. His radio program, Matters of Conscience, has aired for 18 years.

He also has a presence on YouTube. This interview gives a brief perspective of his influence in the community:

Despite a schedule that would wilt an ordinary man his age, Father Eugene takes time for the individual. During a recent visit to his office, he paused our discussion to minister to a stranger who walked in off the street and asked for a blessing. His love of family has broadened to a passion for learning about his family history. We have shared many stories, photos, and discussions of our ancestry–much to our mutual delight.

This Saturday, I will be Father Eugene’s guest on Cosmos FM, and we will be discussing Hellenic genealogy–the rewards, the challenges, and how to get started. The radio show will be broadcast at this link, beginning at 1:10 PM Eastern time:  http://www.cosmosfm.org/podcast/.

Along with the many religious and civic dignitaries who have honored this man, I add my voice–thank you, Father, for your faith, your service, and the honor you have brought to our Papagiannakos/Pappas family.

A few photos from Father Eugene’s 50th Gala Celebration.

Father Eugene and his family, Brooklyn, NY, December 2, 2016

Father Eugene and his family, Brooklyn, NY, December 2, 2016

Georgeanne Conis, Carol Kostakos Petranek, Father Eugene Pappas; Brooklyn, NY, December 2, 2016

Georgeanne Conis, Carol Kostakos Petranek, Father Eugene Pappas; Brooklyn, NY, December 2, 2016

Father Eugene and his siblings: Konstandinos (Dino) and Georgeanne Pappas Conis; Brooklyn, NY, December 2, 2016

Father Eugene and his siblings: Konstandinos (Dino) and Georgeanne Pappas Conis; Brooklyn, NY, December 2, 2016

Father Eugene receives a gift from the parishioners of Three Hierarchs Church -- a trip to anyplace in the world he wants to go! Brooklyn, NY, December 2, 2016

Father Eugene receives a gift from the parishioners of Three Hierarchs Church — a trip to anyplace in the world he wants to go! Brooklyn, NY, December 2, 2016

The Genealogist’s Dictionary

At some point in the research process, most of us will have to leave the comfort of our native language and enter the new world of a foreign vocabulary. For those whose plunge is into a language which uses non-Roman letters, this can be intimidating and even scary. Because I spoke Greek before English and spent many restless childhood hours in Greek school, I thought my ultra-rudimentary grasp of the language would give me a good base to jump into Greek records. I was right–and I was wrong!

Reading old Greek handwriting and learning more sophisticated genealogical terminology was difficult. I continue to struggle. But, now there is a new and extremely useful booklet, The Genealogist’s Dictionary, which has been developed by my friend and fellow researcher, Gregory Kontos. The description reads:

One of the hardest aspects of Greek genealogy is reading and translating the old Greek records. Based on our team’s research experience, this dictionary was created to help English-speaking researchers translate and understand basic lines of an old Greek document. Using a wide variety of 19th century records, we managed to create a wide database of more than 400 words, which, expanding geographically and socially, wishes to cover the most crucial translational needs of a Hellenic genealogist.

This 24-page guide will help both the new and experienced Hellenic researcher. It is divided into two sections:

Part 1:  The Greek Alphabet, typed and handwritten; Numbers, cardinal and ordinal; Units of Time, days, months

Part 2:  Words and phrases for general records; school records; and professions/occupations

A sample page:


The Genealogist’s Dictionary is priced at $12.00 and is a pdf download from Lulu.com. The URL is: http://www.lulu.com/shop/gkfamilytrees/the-genealogists-dictionary/ebook/product-22958289.html

Gregory Kontos can be reached at: gkfamilytrees.wordpress.com, or on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/Gkfamilytrees.

I trust that this guide will be as great a help to researchers as it is to me.

Laconian Studies: Documenting and Preserving Our Heritage

Just imagine that there is an eminent group of academics who gather to write, share, debate and publish scholarly works focused on the region of your ancestral home. Their focus is simple:  to promote continuing scientificresearch about the region with the ultimate goal of creating a written archive that chronicles and preserves the area’s rich history. If you have roots in the southern Peloponnese, you will be enthused to know that the Laconian Studies organization has undertaken this task with dedicated fervor.

Laconia Studies logo

Laconia Studies logo

Formed in Athens in 1966 under the initiative of Δικαίου Β. Βαγιακάκου (Dikaiou V. Vagiakakou), this group of about 130 has met continuously through the years. Members research and write about a myriad of subjects such as: history, archaeology, linguistics, folklore, philosophy, law, art, anthropology, and architecture.  Papers are presented at conferences, where time for debate and dialog is incorporated into the agenda.

This year, a Laconian Studies Conference will be held at the Cultural Hall in the Central Library of Sparta, Greece on November 10, 11, 12. There will be 35 speakers presenting diverse topics such as: The Lighthouse of Gytheio on the isle of Kranai Island; The Perennial Presence of the Komninos family in Xirokambi / Koumasta; Social Welfare in Laconia during the German Occupation; Geraki, Laconia during the Byzantine Period; Information about Mani from a Rare Brochure of the 19th Century.

All of the papers will be published in the Journal of Laconian Studies. There are 21 Volumes and 19 Annex Editions, which contain hundreds of articles about Laconia and Mani. A list of Journal publications is found here. As you browse through the various journal editions, be sure to click on titles of interest. Many titles are linked to pdf files with additional information on the topic.


The Laconian Studies website has downloadable publications in pdf format, which can be found here. Titles are:  Notebooks on the History of Mani; Mani in the Second Turkish Period (1715-1821) and The Mantineies of Mani. Included in the Notebooks on the History of Mani are ten sub-volumes, one of which is transcribed names of Election Lists from the late 1800’s. Of course, all publications are in Greek, but can be deciphered with the help of a good dictionary and Google Translate.

The Journals and Annex Editions can be purchased by contacting the Laconia Studies office as provided on the website here. The Laconian Studies Library and Office is located at Trikoupi 63, 4th floor, 104 81 Athens. Office hours: Monday – Wednesday – Friday 11:30 a.m. – 1.00 pm; telephone: 210-3304422. To visit the library, make an appointment in advance by sending an e-mail to: etlasp@gmail.com.

Volumes of the Journal of Laconian Studies can also be lakonia-odos-logo-2016purchased through the newly-opened Laconia Odos bookstore in Skala, which can be contacted at lakoniaodos@gmail.com. The bookstore has a Facebook page which features posts about its publications and other items of interest.

Laconia Odos Bookstore, Skala, Greece

Laconia Odos Bookstore, Skala, Greece

I am very pleased to have these resources to help me study and learn about my heritage.

Addendum: I was delighted to see this Facebook comment from the owners of Laconia Odos:

November 4 at 11:20am ·

·Οι Σπαρτιατικές ρίζες (SPARTAN ROOTS) κοντά μας! Με ιδιαίτερη χαρά και ικανοποίηση είδαμε τη δημοσίευση του Αμερικανικού site που ασχολείται με Λακωνική γενεαλογία. Η ικανότατη και ταλαντούχα υπεύθυνη κυρία Carol Kostakos Petranek, συμπατριώτισσά μας Λάκαινα, βοηθά στο να μεταλαμπαδεύεται το ιλαρό φως της γνώσης στους συμπατριώτες μας στην Αμερική, εκεί όπου ζουν πολλές γενιές Λακώνων, με τη θύμηση της μητέρας Πατρίδας. Carol σ’ ευχαριστούμε πολύ για την όμορφη ανάρτηση και τα πάντα καλά σου λόγια!

The Spartan Roots near us! With great joy and satisfaction we saw the publication of the American site that deals with Laconia genealogy. The very talented and responsible lady Carol Kostakos Petranek, our compatriot Laconian, helps disseminate the cheerful light of knowledge to our compatriots in America, where many generations of Laconians live with the remembrance of the motherland. Carol thank you so much for the beautiful post and all of your good words!

1 the state of knowing :  knowledge as distinguished from ignorance or misunderstanding.
(Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary)

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!

Andreas Kostakos: Hiding in Plain Sight

How many years does one search to find a record–any record–that proves the existence of a great-grandfather? At what point does a  “reasonable” researcher give up?

As a researcher (the reasonable part is questionable) and an eternal optimist, my answer is: never! Never, never, never give up. Newly found and newly digitized records are becoming available continuously; social media is bringing together people who collaborate and help each other; DNA is expanding the “cousin” pool.

All of these stars aligned in the sky to bring forth documentation for my great-grandfather, Andreas Kostakos.

Andreas, I have now learned, was born in 1809 in Agios Ioannis (St. Johns), Sparta, Laconia, Greece. Andreas had two wives, Anastasia–by which he had perhaps six sons, only one of whose descendants we know; and Poletimi Christakos–by which he had five additional children including my grandfather, Ioannis (John). This is the only family photo of my grandfather, Ioannis with my grandmother, Hariklia Aridas Kostakos and their children. My father, Andrew, was the oldest.

l-r standing: Frieda, Andrew, Pauline, Georgia. Seated: Hariklia, Alice, John

Family of Ioannis Andreas Kostakos, about 1930, Brooklyn, New York. l-r standing: Frieda, Andrew (my father), Pauline, Georgia. Seated: Hariklia, Alice, Ioannis.

For years, I have looked for records for Andreas in Agios Ioannis and surrounding villages of Sparta. I sent letters to the Archives in Sparta (excellent support but no Andreas Kostakos found) and the Mayor’s office (no response). Three years ago, my friend and research companion, Gregory Kontos, introduced me to the Election Registers online at the Digital Collection of the Greek Archives. These Registers were created in every village to record the names of men who were at least 21 years old and eligible to vote. The Registers from 1872 are typewritten and easy to read. The older ones, which can date back to 1844, are handwritten and almost indecipherable to a non-native reader.

That collection was my first initiation into trying to read old Greek handwriting. This is not for the faint-hearted, but it is possible. Over the years, I have learned to read some modern Greek writing but the older script is downright intimidating. I never went back to look at the Ladas collection. Until yesterday.

My friend and historian/researcher, Giannis Michalakakos, was working on a genealogy case for a client whose roots were from a village near Sparta. While reviewing the Lada Election Lists for 1844, he saw an entry that he knew was my family. Imagine my shock – joy – disbelief when he called and said that he found the name “Kostakos, And” in Agios Ioannis! My hands were actually trembling when I clicked on this link that took me to the page for file 22, image 99, line 1205: http://arxeiomnimon.gak.gr/browse/resource.html?tab=tab02&id=13499&start=80

General Archives of Greece, Election Material from the Collection of Lada (1844), File 22 - village of Agios Ioannis File 22, Image 99; Line 1205, Year of Record: 1844, Last name: Kostakos; First name: And.; Male; Age 35; How long lived in the village/resident: αυτόχθων aftochon (indigenous) is from Agios Ioannis; Has money or property? Yes; Occupation: landowner.

General Archives of Greece, Election Material from the Collection of Lada (1844), File 22 – village of Agios Ioannis.  File 22, Image 99; Line 1205, Year of Record: 1844, Last name: Kostakos; First name: And.; Male; Age 35; How long lived in the village/resident: αυτόχθων aftochon (indigenous) is from Agios Ioannis; Has money or property? Yes; Occupation: landowner.

On line 1205 is the entry for “And. Kostakos,” age 35:

File 22, Image 99, Line 1205

File 22, Image 99, Line 1205

Giannis and I agreed that “And” was the abbreviation for “Andrew.” His age is listed as 35 in 1844, which puts his birth year at 1809–within two years of a “guess-timate” I had calculated years ago. The 6th column records the length of time the individual was a resident of the village. Andreas is listed as being αυτόχθοω (aftochon) which means “indigenous.” Giannis explained that Andreas, as indigenous, was in Agios Ioannis from the beginning of the existence of the state, i.e., since Greece became an independent nation after the Revolution of 1821.

During my trip to Sparta in 2014, Gregory and I had visited the Greek Orthodox Church Mitropolis of Sparta to research in marriage records. Amazingly, we found, in the Index Book of Marriages, the entry for Andreas and Poletimi who were married on August 20, 1860. This was the first “official” document that proved Andreas actually existed. Unfortunately, it did not give the ages of the couple; thus, the newly-found Election Register has provided definitive information on Andreas’ birth year and birth place.

Mitropolis of Sparta, Index of Marriages, Number 125, Date: August 20, 1860; Andreas Kostakos of Agios Ioannis and Poletimi, daughter of Nikolaos Christakos of Xirokambi, Faridos.

Mitropolis of Sparta, Index of Marriages, Number 125, Date: August 20, 1860; Andreas Kostakos of Agios Ioannis and Poletimi, daughter of Nikolaos Christakos of Xirokambi, Faridos.

But this new record raises a new research challenge:  years ago, my elderly aunt, a descendant of Andreas and Anastasia, told me that Andreas came to the Sparta region from “Pyrgos over the mountains” after the 1821 Revolution to find work (see prior post). That comment had shifted my research focus from Laconia to Messinia, the location of Pyrgos Lefktro–a village which is literally over the Taygetos mountains. My hunt so far has not yielded a Kostakos family; yet, even if I find one I cannot know if the Kostakos is related to me.  Kostakos is a patronymic name (Kost-akos literally means son of Kostas); many surnames evolved from patronymics; and there are untold numbers of men named Kostas/Konstandinos in the southern Peloponnese. I hope that DNA will be the next link to connect me with “lost” branches of my family.

Research results? Many years, many efforts.

Without the help of Giannis and Gregory, my research would remain stalled.

Without the digitization of the Election Lists, my research would remain stalled.

Without social media and DNA connections, my research would remain stalled.

Whenever I become frustrated in this quest, I take a step back and look at the totality of the situation: there was no “Greece” during 400 years of Turkish occupation; in the late 1800’s, a new government was being created; life was predominantly rural; people were largely illiterate; recordkeeping was, at best, rudimentary. In retrospect, it is quite amazing that any records have survived. It is encouraging that some have been digitized and are now online.

I continue to have faith that, if there is a written document to prove the existence of of one of my ancestors, at some point in time–with the help of a friend, with the discovery of a new record collection, through a DNA connection–it will find its way to me.