FamilySearch.org 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.
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.
- Click on this link to go to the FamilySearch catalog
- Click on “Search for Film/Fiche”, then type in: 1038847 (the film number)
- Click on the blue button, Search.
- 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.
- When you click on the camera image, you will get this message:
- 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.
- 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.