International Greek Ancestry Conference

Jan. 29th-31st, 2021

Καλωσήρθες! Welcome! This is the official website of the International Greek Ancestry Conference, organized by Greek Ancestry and the Hellenic Genealogy Geek, from Jan. 29th through Jan. 31st, 2021. The conference was virtual, free and live-streamed on Greek Ancestry’s Youtube channel. Below you can watch all three days of the conference, and find details about our panels & guests!

Friday, Jan. 29th, 2020

7:45pm – 8pm: Opening Remarks

8pm – 9pm EST, Session I: Getting Started

At 8pm, Carol Kostakos Petranek and Georgia Stryker Keilman present: “Records and Repositories in Greece”!

This presentation focuses on the two key elements of getting started with your Greek ancestry research: How to find your ancestor’s village of origin and the correct spelling of their surname? Tools to help you use that information to find your ancestors in Greek records.

Carol Kostakos Petranek serves as an Assistant Director of the Washington, D.C. Family History Center where she coordinates classes, conferences and community outreach projects. She is an active member of the Greek genealogy community and teaches at local and national conferences. Her ancestors are from Sparta, with three of her four grandparents born in Agios Ioannis and the fourth in Mystras; her great-grandparents are all from neighboring Spartan villages. Her passion for family history has prompted her to volunteer to digitize and preserve historic records in Greece, beginning with work at the Metropolis of Sparta and expanding from there. Carol blogs at, and writes personal and family histories. She is a volunteer at the Maryland Archives and the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

Georgia Stryker Keilman is the founder of the Hellenic Genealogy Geek blog and Facebook group. All four of her grandparents were born in Greece. Georgia’s interest in collecting books and documentation on Greek immigrants began in the mid-1990s while working and living in Australia where there was an abundance of recently published materials on the subject. Upon her return to the U.S., Georgia continued to collect books, articles, and data on the worldwide Greek diaspora. In the year 2010 Georgia formed the Hellenic Genealogy Geek Facebook group and blog to share all that she had collected with those interested in researching their own family history. The group has grown to over 27,500 members as of January 2021. Georgia strives to encourage people to contribute by helping others and share information. Georgia’s goal for the year 2021 is to create an associated website to compliment the Hellenic Genealogy Geek Facebook group that will list and categorize thousands of links to websites, databases, articles, books, etc. of interest to people doing Hellenic genealogy research.

Sam Williams presents: “Why Orthodox Christians Should Do Their Genealogy”, at 8:45pm!

The majority of Greeks have ancestors who were Orthodox Christians.  This presentation describes the relationship between family history and the Church: the God of our fathers; attitude of gratitude; relationships matter; memory eternal.

Sam Williams is a professional genealogist with a focus on Central Virginia, African American, and Greek American research. He received a BA in International Affairs and Spanish from James Madison University, and a Master of Divinity from Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. Sam works as the Pastoral Assistant at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

9:10pm – 10pm EST, Session II: Under the Village Tree

“Reconstructing a Village Using Family Trees—You Can Do It, Too!”: A panel discussion with Carol Kostakos Petranek, Chris Zervas, Dimitris Katsampis, Stelios Chagias and Tom Frangoulis, at 9:10pm EST

Countless Greek villages have no written history books, but there are discoverable records for their families. Learn how ordinary people are doing extraordinary things as they build their family trees and, consequently, reconstruct their ancestral villages. Each of the panelists have created family trees that encompass their ancestral village and beyond! They will discuss why they did it, how they did it and what they have learned along the way.

For a bio of Carol Kostakos Petranek, please see above.

Chris Zervas, born in Prosimna, Argolida, came to the U.S. at age 13. He holds a degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Washington and an MBA in Technology Engineering Management. His 41-year career with the Boeing Company included working with enterprise design groups to incorporate environmental, health, safety and ergonomic aspects in product designs. Chris has been a dedicated family historian and has compiled a tree going back to the late 1700’s with nearly 65,000 people in over 25 villages. Chris is a board member of the “Greeks in Washington” group and supports the Hellenes in the Northwest (U.S.). He is also on the board of the Greater Seattle Soccer League, manages several soccer teams and enjoys traveling, theater, cooking and gardening. 

Dimitri Katsambis, Greek-born and Australian-raised, is a retired school teacher with a keen interest in local history, genealogy, tavli, and gymnastics.  He has researched in depth the history of his birthplace, Karitsa of Lakonia, and is the editor of the blog Karitsiótika Néa, a medium aiming to maintain contact with Karitsa folk the world over. Dimitri is also a longstanding member of the research team of Family Trees of Southern Parnon. To relax, he enjoys nothing more than a game of tavli and is the secretary of the Tavli Association of South Australia. In 2001 Dimitri was awarded an Australian Sporting Medal for his services to Australian gymnastics.

Stelios Hagias was born in Adelaide, South Australia, to a Greek family from Karitsa, Lakonia. He graduated with BSc Hons (polymer chemistry) in 1980 from Adelaide University and worked as a research chemist for many years. His current interests include running a two acre olive grove on the outskirts of the northern suburbs of Adelaide, acting as treasurer for the Pan Lakonian Club “Leonidas” in Adelaide and, since 2002, has been the coordinator for the website “Family Trees of Southern Parnon”. This website is a project that has documented the family history of Greeks from a multitude of villages, mainly from north east Lakonia and southern Kynouria, and their immigration in other countries.

Tom Frangoulis was born in Lefkada, Greece. He holds a BS in Mathematics and a MS in Statistics, and has worked as a teacher and a computer and marketing expert. Since 2010, Tom has been working on his family tree. All these years, he has been collecting stories and information, and has written many relevant books, with the aim to preserve his village’s history and archives, some of which date back to 1775!

Saturday, Jan. 30th, 2021

12:15pm – 1pm EST, Session ΙΙΙ: Freedom or Death (Ελευθερία ή Θάνατος) – The 1821 Revolution

Professor Emeritus Roderick Beaton discusses: “The 1821 Revolution as Experienced by Your Ancestors”

Gregory Kontos of Greek Ancestry will interview Professor Beaton and discuss his recent book Greece:  A Biography of a Nation with special focus on the 1821 Revolution and its impact on our ancestors’ lives.

Roderick Beaton holds a PhD in Modern Greek from the University of Cambridge. After a three-year postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Birmingham he embarked on a long career at King’s College London, first as Lecturer in Modern Greek Language and Literature (1981-88), later as Koraes Professor of Modern Greek and Byzantine History, Language and Literature (1988-2018), and since then as Emeritus. From 2012 to 2018 he also served as Director of the Centre for Hellenic Studies at King’s. Roderick is the author of many books and articles about aspects of the Greek-speaking world from the twelfth century to the present day, including An Introduction to Modern Greek Literature (1994); George Seferis: Waiting for the Angel. A Biography (2003); Byron’s War: Romantic Rebellion, Greek Revolution (2013), all three of which won the prestigious Runciman Award for best book on the Hellenic world, and Greece: Biography of a Modern Nation (2019, now a Penguin paperback). His latest book, an overview of Greek history from the Bronze Age to the 200th anniversary of the Greek Revolution in 2021, is expected to be published in autumn 2021 with the title The Greeks: A Global History. He is a Fellow of the British Academy (FBA, 2013), a Fellow of King’s College (FKC, 2018), Commander of the Order of Honour of the Hellenic Republic (2019) and, from September to December 2021, has been appointed A.G. Leventis Visiting Professor in Greek at the University of Edinburgh.

1:15pm – 2pm EST, Session IV: 19th-Century Village Life

How was life like for your ancestors? Ioannis Michalakakos presents: “Family Life, Customs and Economy” at 1:15pm EST

Ioannis Michalakakos will talk about everyday life in 19th-century Greece: the traditional Greek family, the role of women, traditional occupations and economy, religion, customs, and domestic migration.

Ioannis Michalakakos was born in Athens in 1985 to a Maniot family. He holds a BA in House Economy and Ecology from Charokopeio University (Athens) and a MSc in Cultural Management from the Hellenic Open University. He studies the history of Mani and Lakonia and has published various articles. He is an active member of the Greek genealogical community and has participated in major intiatives. Ioannis also administrates Maniatika, a blog dedicated to Maniot history and genealogy.

2:15pm – 3pm EST, Session V: Leaving the Homeland

“Early Migration, Settlement in a New Land, Adoptions”: A panel discussion with Prof. Alexander Kitroeff, Prof. Gonda van Steen and PhD (c) Gregory Kontos at 2:15pm EST!

Why did they leave? What challenges did they face in new countries? What about the children who were adopted? The panelists will review the factors leading to Greek emigration from the mid-1800s to mid-1900s and discuss the challenges facing those who settled in a new land. The discussion will include  the plight of adopted children and their quest to reunite with biological families.

Alexander Kitroeff was born in Athens and educated in the United Kingdom where he received his doctorate degree in modern history from the University of Oxford. He is currently Professor of History at Haverford College in Pennsylvania and has taught at several other institutions including the Center for Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies at Queens College CUNY, the Onassis Center for Hellenic Studies at New York University, The American College of Greece and College Year in Athens. He served on the editorial board of the Journal of the Hellenic Diaspora from 1980 through 2013 when the journal ceased publication. His research focuses on identity in Greece and its diaspora on in a broad range from politics and sports, on which he has published extensively. His most recent books are The Greeks and the Making of Modern Egypt (2019) and Greek Orthodoxy in America: a modern history (2020.) He has also collaborated with film director Maria Iliou as historical consultant in several documentary films including “The Journey: the Greek Dream in America”; “Smyrna 1922: The Destruction of a Cosmopolitan City” and “Athens Between East & West, 1821-1896” which is the first of a 5-part series on the city’s modern history. Kitroeff is currently working on two book projects, a history of AHEPA, the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association to mark the organization’s centenary in 2022, and a history of Greek-owned diner restaurants in America.

Gonda Van Steen earned a PhD degree in Classics and Hellenic Studies from Princeton University and holds the position of Koraes Chair in the Centre for Hellenic Studies and the Department of Classics at King’s College London. Her first book, Venom in Verse: Aristophanes in Modern Greece (PUP, 2000) was awarded the John D. Criticos Prize from the London Hellenic Society. In her 2010 book, Liberating Hellenism from the Ottoman Empire, revolutionary uses of Aeschylus’ Persians (1820s) and the Venus de Milo take center stage. Her 2011 book, entitled Theatre of the Condemned: Classical Tragedy on Greek Prison Islands (OUP), discusses the ancient tragedies that were produced by the political prisoners of the Greek Civil War. Her 2015 book, Stage of Emergency: Theater and Public Performance under the Greek Military Dictatorship of 1967-1974 (OUP), analyzes theater life, performance, and censorship under the Greek junta. Her latest book, Adoption, Memory and Cold War Greece: Kid pro quo? (University of Michigan Press, 2019), takes the reader into the uncharted terrain of Greek adoption stories that become paradigmatic of Cold War history and politics.

Gregory Kontos was born to a Greek family in Brussels, Belgium, in 1996. In 2018, he received his BA in History from the University of Athens, and in 2020 he completed a ResMA with a specialization in migration at the University of Leiden, The Netherlands. His MA thesis was titled “Religio-national symbiosis in Orthodox New Orleans in the second half of the nineteenth century”. Gregory is currently a history PhD candidate at the University of Athens.

From a young age, Gregory showed an interest in family history and genealogy. In 2014, he was the head researcher of the Greek episode of the PBS show “Finding Yours Roots”. From 2017 to 2019, Gregory worked as the Greek content projects manager for MyHeritage, and in 2020 he founded his own genealogy business, Greek Ancestry, aspiring to make Greek records available and searchable online, and create a culture and educational background around Greek family hstory resarch.

Sunday, Jan. 31st, 2021

2pm – 3.30pm EST, Session VI: Greeks on and across the border

Discover the Greeks of the Marmara Sea! Dr. Ioannis Papachristou presents: “Insular Genealogy: The Marmara Islands Case” at 2pm EST

The presentation focuses on the genealogical traces of the Rums (Orthodox Greeks) of Marmara Islands (Marmara, Koutali, Aloni, Afisia) located in between the straits of Hellespont and Bosporus. Dr. Papachristou will address the issue of Rum insularity and identity based on the history of the islands.

Ioannis Papachristou was born in Athens in 1980 to families hailing from Eastern Thrace and Marmara Island. He studied Philosophy at the University of Patras (BA) and the University of Athens (MPhil) and received his PhD in Ancient Philosophy from Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. He has been a postdoctoral researcher with teaching duties at various universities (Humboldt, Paris IV-Sorbonne, Genève and Athens). Currently he is working on the research program ‘Sourcebook of Byzantine Philosophy’ (University of Athens). He studies the history of the area of ​​Propontis and published various articles on Marmara islands. In 2015 he edited the Anagraphē tēs Kyzikou (A Description of Cyzicus, 1825), a 19th-century historical treatise on Artakē and the Peninsula of Cyzicus (Kyzikos Publications — awarded by the Hestia of Nea Smyrnē). In 2019 he published the traveler’s book The Marble Island: Travels in Marmara Island (Baltas Publications, 2019). In 2019-2020 he participated in the Research Project ‘The Islands of Marmara: Documentation and Risk Assessment of Architectural Heritage’ (Association for the Protection of Cultural Heritage, Turkey) publishing a bilingual volume on the cultural heritage at risk of the Marmara islands. He co-administrates the page ‘Marmara Island (History and Genealogy)’ in Facebook and runs the website a page presenting his travels in Greece and Turkey.

A fascinating project! PhD (c) George Topalidis presents: “The Ottoman Greeks of the United States Project (OGUS)” at 2:20pm EST

The presentation focuses on an overview of the project which includes oral histories, immigration maps, and over 50,000 images that include photographs, documents and objects brought by immigrants from the Ottoman Empire to the United States between 1900-1930.

George Topalidis holds degrees from Southern Connecticut State University in History and from the University of Connecticut in Microbiology. His research interests are framed within the field of Historical Sociology and include contested racial identities, U.S. immigration law, and social memory. He is currently a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Sociology and Criminology & Law at the University of Florida and is the founder and project coordinator of the Ottoman Greeks of the US Project at the University of Florida’s Samuel Proctor Oral History Program. 

One place study – The island of Ikaria! Anastasia (Topsy) Douris presents: “Insights into Ikarian genealogy” at 2:40pm EST

This presentation includes information about the Ikarian family tree project and corresponding DNA testing initiatives. Ms. Douris has authored the book, Ikarian Tales, and she will discuss stories and folklore passed down from previous generations.

Anastasia (Topsy) Douris was born in the U.K. of Greek parents and is passionate about history and genealogy. Her interests have led her to compile her family tree with branches in Ikaria, the U.K. and the U.S. She enjoys assisting others, and she was the driving force behind the Ikarian DNA and family tree initiatives, as well as an Ikarian Genealogy Conference planned for May 2020 and now rescheduled. 

On the outskirts! Gregory Kontos presents: “Research on Greece’s Borderlands”, at 3pm!

This presentation focuses on research methodologies and the availability of records for Greek refugees from Asia Minor, Greeks in Epirus, Macedonia, Chios and Samos.

For a bio of Gregory Kontos, please see above.

3:45pm – 4.45pm EST, Session VII: New Research Methodologies

Unexpected Discoveries! Gregory Kontos presents: “Analyzing “Big Data” in Greek Genealogy”, at 3:45pm!

This presentation focuses on what records can reveal, not just about our family, but about a region or an entire country. With new records coming forth regularly, new information can be gleaned about communities and their people, such as occupations, ages, naming conventions and more.

For a bio of Gregory Kontos, please see above.

It’s DNA time! Sam Williams presents: “Applying DNA to Greek Genealogy” at 4pm EST.

Have you taken a DNA test only to be shocked by your ethnicity results? Discover common ethnicity estimates for Greeks from different regions, why they’re different, and why your results are perfectly normal!

For a bio of Sam Williams, please see above.

At 4:45pm, Alexandra Kiritsy presents… a surprise!

Alexandra Kiritsy is an undergraduate student in her senior year at Wellesley College. She has been researching her personal genealogy for four years and has been interning with Greek Ancestry since April 2020. Creator of Greek Ancestry’s Yiayia & Me blog, Alexandra is passionate about engaging young people in Greek genealogy and exploring different perspectives of family history.

5pm – 5:30pm: Greek Genealogy – What’s Next?

“The Future of Greek Genealogy”: A panel discussion with Carol Kostakos Petranek, Georgia Stryker Keilman, Gregory Kontos and Paul Pavlakos.

This panel discussion will address what we believe is needed in the field, what is missing and how can the gap be filled, how the genealogy community can be more open to diaspora organizations!

For bios of Carol Kostakos Petranek, Georgia Stryker Keilman and Gregory Kontos, please see above.

Paul Pavlakos is co-chair of Greece 200, a Past Supreme President of the Sons of Pericles, and the AHEPA Sons of Pericles Advisor for New York. He has worked for several years to empower the youth of the Hellenic Diaspora, establishing initiatives and creating processes which allow for the promotion of Hellenism, service to the community, and strengthening of ethnic bonds. In his professional life, Paul is a Tax Associate for International Tax at KPMG in Manhattan, New York. He obtained an LLM in Taxation from New York University  and a Juris Doctor and Bachelor’s in International Affairs from Florida State University.

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