The end of a paper trail will bring a halt to even the greatest of genealogists. There eventually comes a point in time for all of our family lines when the records simply aren’t there. Unfortunately, when an ancestor we know is the immigrant ancestor, this may happen before we even begin. It is at times like these when the only thing we can do is ask relatives for more information.
My maternal grandfather was an immigrant from the village of Mytilinoi on the Greek island of Samos. In 1960, he immigrated to Freeport, Illinois. The Greek ancestry of my Papou (Grandpa in Greek) has always been one of the most interesting to me; up there with my direct paternal German-Bohemian line. The problem I faced was that there are virtually no genealogy records available online to trace Greek genealogy (Or so I thought when writing this back in 2014, but that is a story for another time).
What was the problem? How did I solve it? What did I discover?
- The Problem:
The problem here was simply a lack of records. With the exception of British Isles genealogy (which still comes with its difficulties); tracing back ancestors in their country of origin can be a very tricky task, and almost impossible for those new to genealogy. Many of these records are not easy to find online, if they are even available at all. In the event that some of these records are discovered, keep in mind that they will be written in the respective country’s language.
In the case with Greece, there are virtually no genealogical records available online whatsoever. To make matters worse, the records for the island of Samos were destroyed. Oh yeah Sam from 2014?? Sam from 2015 proved all that to be wrong 😉 Again, story for another time. I digress…
- How I Solved It:
While there was no to way to fully solve this problem for the time being; the only thing I could do was attempt to gather all the information I could find.
My Big Fat Greek Family: Had it not been for family, I wouldn’t have been able to find anything past my Papou. Fortunately, my mom’s side is a stereotypically large Greek family. With many of my other lines I search for distant unknown cousins; but with this line I have known several 3rd and 4th cousins my whole life. My mom even has pictures of my great grandparents and one 2nd great grandparent framed in the hallway at her house.
Samos: I have been to Samos twice. The first time was in 2002 when I was 10. My mom and uncle’s families went with my Papou to visit his sister and her family from Athens who still have a summer home in Samos. My Papou passed in 2006, and his sister would be one of the only people who still knew this information. When I went a second time in 2012, I was able to ask her some questions with the help of her daughter, who provided assistance in translating our conversation between English and Greek.
- What I Discovered:
While I was not able to get any names past my 2nd great grandparents at the time being, this was still much more information than I would have found otherwise. In 2015, I did in fact find a Greek website with vital records pertaining to Samos which led to further discoveries. Also led to me spending countless hours learning how to read Greek cursive writing from the 1800s. It was all Greek to me! Just kidding, I did actually pick some of it up and translate it on my own. Anyways, here is some information on what I would eventually discover:
- Philoctitis Kazakos: My great grandfather was born in Mytilinoi, Samos. Back when he was born, Samos was actually its own country, random fun fact. He was the son of Demetrios Kazakos and Penelope Moshonas. Demetrios and Penelope had 4 other children; John, Despina, Kospanitos, and Dorothea. John also immigrated to Freeport, Illinois years before my Papou.
- AiKaterina Hatjigiorgio: My great grandmother was born in Mytilinoi, Samos. She was the daughter of Stamatios Hatjigiorgio (try saying that 10 times fast!) and Maria Koutsou.
- Demetrios Kazakos: My 2nd great grandfather was born in Mytilinoi, Samos. He was the son of Anagnostis Kazakos and Irini.
- Penelope Moshonas: My 2nd great grandmother was born in Mytilinoi, Samos. She was the daughter of Ioannis Moshonas and Eleni. I have some 3rd and 4th cousins who are close to my Kazakos family with the surname Moshonas, and our common ancestors are most likely Ioannis and Eleni.
My advice for those who are having a difficult time tracing back their immigrant ancestors or relatives is to never give up! Family is always a great place to turn to for initial advice. With the information that my Greek relatives were able to provide me about my Papou’s ancestry at the beginning, I would soon be showing them how I was able to trace back our family tree even further!
My great grandfather, Philoctitis Kazakos
My great grandmother, AiKaterina Hatjigiorgio
My 2nd great grandfather, Demetrios Kazakos
My 2nd great grandfather, Stamatios Hatjigiorgio