Monday, December 7, 2015

Building (and Circulating) Family Trees...

Packaging genealogical research is a literary project in many ways. Family Trees may be about facts, but which facts? What did you find?  How is it organized? What do you include? What do you hide? By what name is each branch called. How do you spell it? Will relatives agree? Aman!

Obsessed with details, I have spent hours recently adding more dates and fine-tuning names, knowing that there is still more work to be done.  What are my relatives actual/correct Greek names? Is your name Vasiliki -- or Bessie or Betty or Bella? I'd like to get my hands on whoever turned the name Kostantinos into Gus! (That names were changed on Ellis Island is pure myth. The staff of many languages did their best to preserve the original names listed on ship manifests. Many names were changed and obscured later by the need to blend in.)

Finishing up organizing what I have so far for the main branches of our Family Tree(Skopos, Naousa, Kyparissi, and Koroni) and wanting publish it somehow. Not on the Internet, someone warned -- even though that's how families find each other on or  But publish them I will, primarily in hard copies...because this information should be circulated, savored, and then saved right along with other important family documents. 

There is no end actually, but I am hitting the pause button for now
-- at least until I go back to Greece in February to continue unraveling the story of my Papou Xanthoulis Xanthopoulos. ‎Will I ever know when exactly he left Eastern Macedonia (then Ottoman Empire/now Turkey) and with whom, just before his town of Skopos got caught up in the "Armenian Genocide" circa 1915 that spared no Christians? 

Yiayia Pauline's cousin Elisavoudha Lala Milona
and her daughter Kostanza ("Dina")
I know a lot more now than I did 3 years ago before 2 trips to Greece and several more to Stockton...Yes, I was thrilled to be found by Eleni Xanthopoulou and receive a rare picture of my great-grandmother Kokony. But I have also been thrilled to recently meet many more relatives in Naousa -- as only one branch of that side of our family (3 Koutsoukis siblings: Antonios "Tony Gust" Koutsoukis, my Yiayia Pauline Xanttopulos, and Eleni Huntalas) actually immigrated to the USA/Stockton. Their father Kostantinos died in a Thessaloniki Ottoman prison around 1904 for aiding freedom fighters. Their sister Maria Koutsouki stayed in Naousa and her husband, Nikos Theofilos, was the mayor assassinated during the Civil War as reported in Time magazine (1-31-49). Maria relocated with her children to Athens. Her daughter Soula -- who lived in the USA for 8 years -- is my original Naousa Connection!

My mission/responsibility now is to make sure that all family members have their section of the Family Tree, and, if so inclined, they can help me fill in any gaps -- to help ensure that the info is passed on to future generations, so they don't have to start from Square One like I did. And some of us won't be here to answer the many questions. 

Family Trees will soon be arriving in designated mailboxes, maybe yours. Kali Hronia!

(Published in The Greek American Herald, December 2015)