Beyond the Basics: 1831 Shepherds’ Tax Registration

In Spartan villages of the 1800’s, the predominant occupations were shepherds, landowners and farmers. A quick look at the Voter Lists of 1872corroborate that the majority of men spent their days planting and harvesting fields, and tending sheep and goats. This is certainly true for my great-grandparents.

One of my favorite genealogy treasures is a contract between my 2nd great grandfather, Ioannis Eftaxias of Mystras, and Panagiotis Sampatis. Dated December 23, 1863, it documents this transaction:

Panagiotis Sampatis declared that from this day he gives Ioannis Eftaxias 30 valued and already given to him sheep worth of 240 drachmas. They all have the following age: a sheep, two sheep 10 months old, four sheep 8 months old, four sheep 6 months old, three sheep 4 months old, four sheep, seven female sheep,  and a big ram: in total thirty (30). Ioannis Eftaxias will have them and will be taking care of them and will be protecting and using them as of his own from today until three years later, when the agreement will be annulled.  Ioannis Eftaxias has to give Panagiotis Sampatis fifty (50) okas from the cheese producted, ten (10) okas of wool and two (2) sheep from his pasture until year 1864. In the other two following years, 1865 and 1866, [Ioannis Eftaxias has to give Panagiotis] sixty (60) okas of cheese, ten (10) okas of wool and three (3) sheep per year. Also, if Ioannis Eftaxias fails to give Panagiotis the above mentioned in time, he will have to reimburse Panagiotis for the current pasture at the marketplace of Sparta. At the end of the agreement, in December 1866, he (Ioannis) has to return the mentioned sheep in the same quality and at the same age he was given them unless a great godsend catastrophe happens. And if Ioannis Eftaxias fails to return all the sheep he was given, he’ll have to pay eight (8) drachmas for each one of them, in total 240 drachmas; also, at the same time, he’ll pay Panagiotis for the deficit created by the sheep’s delayed return. Ioannis Eftaxias stated that he accepts the agreement above, after getting the mentioned sheep today, and promises to give Panagiotis Sampatis his share[ in time and to fully satisfy his obligations without any excuses.2

Contract, page one:  Panagiotis Sampatis and Ioannis Eftaxias of Mystras, 12/23/1863. Source: General State Archives of Greece, Sparta Office, accessed and translated by Gregory Kontos, July 2014.

(The full contract and translation can be accessed here.)

Knowing that my ancestors were shepherds, I was especially interested in exploring the Shepherd’s Registration dated 1831. I learned of this collection through researcher Konstandinos Koutsodontis, Greek Genealogist, who described the purpose of this census:
Shepherds’ registrations were conducted by the Kapodistrian government for tax purposes and for the boundary delimitation of animal grazing lands. After liberation from Ottoman rule, one of the major concerns of the new government was the reconstruction of finance (Greece had taken huge loans to conduct the War of Independence and had to repay Britain, France and Russia). Taxes were a great source especially when the majority (~80%) of the Greek citizens were farmers and shepherds. Similar shepherd tax censuses were conducted some years later (1834-1840) by the king Othon.
Konstandinos conducted a search for me in 1831 Shepherd’s Registration. Although not all of my villages had these records, they did exist for three, and my ancestral family owned:
  • Theologos:  Georgakis, Nikolis and Giannis Zaharakis each owned one horse
  • Sklavohori:  Lambros Zarafonitis owned three cows
  • Machmoutbei:  Dimitrios Zarafonitis owned five cows

Zaharakis in 1831 Shepherd’s Registration: Georgakis, Nikolis, Giannis. Source: General State Archives of Greece, Archive of the Financial Committee; accessed and translated by Konstandinos Koutsodontis, March 2020

Konstandinos explained that having a horse or a large number of goats or sheep was an indication of relative financial status. This helps me further understand and respect the standing of my family within their communities.

Because I had assembled the Zaharakis family tree (see post here), I knew exactly who these three men were in 1831. Understanding that most 1800’s villages were small in size, it is not difficult to construct family trees if you have the basic resources:  Voter Lists, Male Registers (Mitroon Arrenon), Town Registers (Dimotologion), Church birth, marriage, death records, school records.

Finding additional “beyond the basics” records entails hiring a professional who can locate and translate the documents. (Even if I knew where to find these documents, there’s no way I could have ever read the Zaharakis names above!) To me, it is well worth the small expense. These additional records add more details to my people and make these long-ago ancestors more “real” to me.

1My sincere gratitude to Georgia Stryker Keilman for translating many 1872 voter lists and posting them on her blog, Hellenic Genealogy Geek.  Lists for Sparta and other villages of Lakedaimona can be found by scrolling to File #25 here.

2My deepest appreciation to Gregory Kontos of for finding this document at the Sparta GAK in 2014, and translating it for me.

Greece 2019 – Putting Together the Zaharakis Family Tree

Stathoula Zaharaki Eftaxias

This is my maternal great-grandmother, Stathoula Zaharakis Eftaxias. Her photo sits on my desk and every day, she inspires me to keep going with my research.

Stathoula was born in the village of Theologos, Laconia which is 10 kilometers from Sparta and 6 kilometers up a mountain. Her parents were Dimitrios Zaharakis of Theologos, and Giannoula Zarafonitis of Amykles.

For the past two summers, we have had Zaharakis cousins’ reunions in the platea of Theologos. Last year, they asked me to bring their family tree. This year, I did.

Pavlos, John and Joanna discuss their family tree

Preparing this information sent me hunting for the Zaharakis name in:  Male Registers (Mitroon Arrenon), Town Registers (Dimotologion), Election Lists of 1872, and school, church and marriage records at the village, town hall and metropolis levels. I think I have all the bases covered for vital records from Theologos. What I am missing, though, is a history book of the village. Librarians at the Central Library of Sparta said that one does not exist but I will keep looking.

I maintain all my data in a RootsMagic genealogy database and Excel spreadsheets, and I enter every name that I find, whether or not I can connect him/her to a specific line. For example, the 1872 Election Lists give a man’s name, birth year, father’s name and occupation. But if his father is Theodoros and there are several Theodoros’ in the village, I sometimes can’t determine which one he belongs to.

1872 Election List for  Theologos. Zaharakis family:  line 460: Anastasios, age 34, son of Theodoros; line 472: Georgios, age 33, son of Nikolaos; line 480: Dimitrios, age 45, son of Georgios.

I especially ran into problems with the earliest generations. In this Election List, were Theodoros, Nikolaos and Dimitrios brothers or cousins? I spent hours staring at computer screens, flipping between spreadsheets and multiple family group sheets to determine what made sense. When I became utterly confused, I tried a different tactic:  paper.

Sorting out the Zaharakis generations–on paper!

I began by writing on paper the men’s first names, fathers’ initials and birth years. Then using birth years, I sorted them into generations moving from youngest to oldest. The tactile experience of holding a pen, writing a name, and moving pieces of paper around until the families made sense helped everything “click” in my brain. After just a few minutes, the descendants were in place.

Example of one chart using Dimitrios born c. 1760

Using RootsMagic and lots of tape, I printed and put together the following trees:

  • Dimitrios, born abt. 1760
  • Ioannis, born abt. 1798 (no known descendants, but he received an Aristeia award for fighting in the 1821 Revolution; blogpost here)
  • Georgios, born abt. 1802
  • Panagiotis, born abt. 1805
  • Nikolaos, born abt. 1814
  • Konstandinos, born abt. 1842
  • Dimitrios, born 1844 (my maternal great-great grandfather)
  • Dimitrios, born c.1848

Certainly the three youngest are sons of the oldest, but who belongs to who? We won’t know in this life; the paper trail has stopped.

As the cousins looked for their names on the trees, I asked them to correct and add information.

Pavlos and his son, Thanassis, examine their tree

It was interesting to see that everyone there, except three people including me, were descended from Panagiotis born 1805. That tree was on the longest table and had the most activity.

The largest tree was for the descendants of Panagiotis Zaharakis, born abt. 1805

I am very grateful for the support of the village priest, Papa Panagiotis Kotsos, who was the host of the evening. He contacted family, shared information on the church Facebook page, and got people dancing. He is young and fun!

Papa Panagiotis Kotsos, host of the evening

Papa Panagiotis leads the Greek dancing

And of course there is food!

Waiting for dinner

And a group photo 🙂

Zaharakis Reunion in Theologos, July 2019

The large tree behind us has a plaque which reads:  “The generation that lived in Theologos during the years 1879-1880 have planted this sycamore tree and watered it but God made it grow.”

Plaque on the sycamore tree in the platea of Theologos

My great-grandmother, Stathoula, was born in 1870. She was a child when her parents, Dimitrios and Giannoula, helped plant the tree. Now we, the descendants of the earliest Zaharakis’, can gather under it and share the joy of family.


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!


Greece 2017. Part Six: Theologos

This is my maternal great-grandmother, Stathoula Zaharakis, of Theologos. How I wish I could have met her. Her eyes pierce my soul and her look of strength and determination inspire me.

I have written previously in this blog about my search for her and the Zaharakis family of Theologos. One of my biggest research “to do” items this summer was to visit Theologos and learn more about the family. Much to my delight, this has happened in a way that was beyond my wildest dreams.

The seeds for success began with Facebook. I had found a Zaharakis family in the U.S. with roots in Theologos. Georgia Zaharakis of Sparta actively commented on the posts, and I “friended” her. The moment we met in Sparta, there was an instant connection.

Within 48 hours of meeting face-to-face, I was driving with Georgia and her mother to Theologos to celebrate the saint day of Agia Paraskevi. To reach the village, we drove for five kilometers up a narrow one-lane road with hairpin turns until we arrived at the very top of the mountain, a breathtaking sight overlooking the village.

View from the mountain top, overlooking Theologos. July 2017

The church of Agia Paraskevi was built in the late 1800’s at the pinnacle of the mountain. It is very small but the interior is beautiful. Liturgies are chanted there only once a year for the festival of its patron saint, or at the request of a family. The original church bell hangs on a nearby tree. Its clapper is missing and to hear it ring, children hit it with pine cones.

Agia Paraskevi icon and church; church bell. Theologos, Laconia. July 2017

After the liturgy, villagers gathered for coffee and sweets outside the church. As I walked the grounds, my mind wandered back 150 years and I envisioned Stathoula also celebrating this feast day at this very place. At that moment, I felt so very close to her.

Coffee time, Agia Paraskevi Church, Theologos, July 2017

Georgia had told me that there were many members of the Zaharakis family living in Theologos. Imagine my thrill when she began introducing me to new cousins!

l-r: me, Georgia Zaharakis, Kanella Zaharaki Koutrobi, Pavlos Zaharakis

As one cousin introduced me to another, I was embraced with the warmth and affection that permeates Greek families. Georgia proposed having a Zaharakis family reunion, and all agreed to meet at the platea the following Monday evening. I arrived early to visit the cemetery and the Zaharakis gravestones. The sign indicated that the cemetery was dated 1893. It is likely that Stathoula’s parents would have been buried there, but by now, any old graves are long gone.

Cemetery, Theologos, Laconia. July 2017

The Zaharakis family reunion was a joy beyond description. Young and old arrived at the platea, chatting animatedly and excited to be together. I had printed out Family Group Sheets in Greek, and people clustered around Georgia to relate their family information. We have yet to sort out all the information, but for a family historian, this was a thrilling sight to behold.

Capturing the Zaharakis family history, Theologos, July 2017

The family told me that not only was this the first time all the Zaharakis’ met together, but it was also the very first reunion of any family held in the village! A restaurant on the platea provided endless food and drinks, and the festivities lasted into the night.

One of the tables of the Zaharakis family of Theologos, July 2017

Many Greek villages have organizations known as syllogos , which work to preserve the history and culture of the village. A new women’s syllogos for Theologos was recently formed with Georgia as the organizer and president. One of their goals is to convert an old stone schoolhouse, no longer in use, into a museum. As a descendant from this village, I joined immediately and offered to be of help to them. In this day and age, being across the ocean does not hamper collaboration!

l-r: Georgia Dounia, Georgia Zaharakis, me; Women’s Syllogos of Theologos, July 2017

Logo: Syllogos Women, Agios Ioannis Theologos, Love.

All that happened in Theologos was as a dream to me. I am now connected with the descendants of the Zaharakis family and I have many new “sisters” in the Syllogos. Online research has its place, but so many blessings come when we can visit our ancestral homeland.

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!