Friday, November 20, 2015

Remembering the Ottoman Past in the Eastern Mediterranean

Published by the on November 20, 2015

The Connsulate General of Greece in Istanbul is holding a series of monthly lectures entitled "Remembering the Ottoman Past in the Eastern Mediterranean", at the Sismanoglio Mansion.

The series, which began last month, will run until May 2016.  The lectures are organized by Dr. Evangelia Balta, Research Director at the National Hellenic Research Foundation (Ottoman Studies Programme) and Richard Wittmann from the Orient-Institut Istanbul.

The lectures will introduce the work of international researchers from different academic disciplines who study the rich ethnic and cultural diversity of the Eastern Mediterranean region.  They will discuss how the memory of an Ottoman past is portrayed in an enormously wide range of sources.  . . . 

Dr. Balta, a historian and descendant of Greek refugees of the Turkish-Greek population exchange, is the author of numerous books on Ottoman-Greek culture and language, especially on the Karamanlis population of Anatolia.


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Greek Emigration to Latin America: 1900-1950 by Alexander Kitroeff

By Alexander Kitroeff

Published in the Journal of the Hellenic Diaspora, Vol 26/1 - Year 2000


ALEXANDER KITROEFF teaches European History at Haverford College.. 


From the article:

There are currently about 50,000 Greeks living throughout Latin America, most of whom emigrated after the Second World War (Agapitidis, 1964; Katsomalos 1972). Earlier, emigration from Greece to Latin America, during the first half of the twentieth century, was so small it hardly seems worth the trouble examining. Only a few thousand people left Greece, or the Greekinhabited regions of the Ottoman empire, and settled in Latin America. By comparison, over the same period almost half a million Greeks emigrated to the United States. Between 1900 and 1945, even Canada witnessed the arrival of many more Greeks than any single Latin American country. Nonetheless, Greek emigration to Latin America, despite its small proportions, offers researchers a chance to test theories about emigration, during the first half of the twentieth century, that have been developed on the basis of the North American experience. For if one is going to come up with an overall understanding of this phenomenon, in this particular era, one does have to take into account the entire spectrum of Greek emigration. Thus, despite its small proportions, Greek movement toward Latin America, before the Second World War, cannot be ignored. The generally accepted conclusions drawn from studying emigration to the United States in the early twentieth century, can be summed up as follows: the persons emigrating were not the poorest, most were seeking to make money as quickly as possible, and, connected to this, most of them were initially planning on a short stay. The wave of Greek emigration to the United States, which involved roughly 400,000 persons between the 1890s and the early 1920s, was prompted by the collapse of the price of currants, which had become a major export. A blight on French vines was a boon to Greek production, centered mainly in Peloponessos, but when French vines recovered, the price of Greek currants dropped precipitously. Research has shown that the emigrants, primarily from Peloponessos, left Greece in an attempt to find ways to preserve the new, higher standard of living they had achieved during the currant boom of the 1870s-1880s. Several studies have suggested that family-based interests, including keeping up with the high price of dowries, that was a result of the economic boom, propelled many Greeks to emigrate. At any rate, there is a great deal of evidence that shows it was the relatively wealthier inhabitants of rural Greece who were the first to emigrate (Kitroeff, 1999).

Their motivation made the emigrants choose mostly urban occupations that would guarantee high wages, either in manufacturing or in the service sector. Virtually none of them chose to settle in rural areas and pursue farming, which entailed a more long-term commitment in the New World and a much longer wait for financial gains. By the same token, they did not plan to stay longer than a few years in the United States. Although easy and quick profit was not something all could achieve, the high incidence of return migration, more than 25 percent of the total arrivals in the early twentieth century, confirms that many did not plan to settle permanently across the Atlantic.

READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE - Click on 26-1-2000.pdf

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Foot Soldiers to Statesmen: Greeks in the US Civil War


Published in The National Herald, October 17-23, 2015 Issue
Authored by Steve Frangos
TNH Staff Writer


We are excited to announce that The National Herald has given Hellenic Genealogy Geek the right to reprint articles that may be of interest to our group. 


CHICAGO - Official records documenting the direct and considerable involvement of Greeks in the American Civil War 1861-1865 continue to appear, in ever increasing numbers, with each passing year.  These records outline the manner in which specific Greeks took an active role in both the Union and the Confederate forces.

The names and actions of these Hellenes are found in the ranks of the average foot soldier onward to a cadre of government statesmen in both the union and confederate governments.  Beyond even these two points of the spectrum yet another group of Hellenes (comprised of both immigrants and the children of Greek immigrants) were notably for their contributions to the legal and ideological positions of both the north and the south.

While it is true that Greeks in the United States have long recognized that various specific individual Hellenes had participated in this war it is only recently that the full scope of this involvement is now being recognized.  The identities of Greeks found in the source documents report upon not just lone individuals but entire families as well.  Given that new data appears on almost a daily basis unfortunately these new accounts are not now coordinated.  What now exists is a vast mixed collection of data.  In these various accounts digesting and integrating the available material has largely taken backseat to simply noting the names of individuals and the military units in which they served.

Why it has taken so long to even begin to see the outline of this considerable participation is due to an array of factors.  First, we have the old prejudicial position (held by Greeks as well as non-Greek academics) that Greeks have never contributed in any really significant way to the development of the United States.  This basic tenet saw expression in first what academics of this period labeled the "race" literature and later the "immigration" literature.  According to both, these areas of study given that Greeks were latecomers to this nation and of low overall demographic numbers they could only hope to be mere bit-players on the stage of the nation's history.  In point of fact, Greeks were engaged as abolitionists, soldiers, government leaders and influential intellectuals before, during and long after this bloody conflict.

For Greek-American studies, the importance of these individuals carries special significance.  The arrival of the massive waves of Greek workers to this nation did not taken place until the 1880s.  By focusing exclusively on demographics scholars have largely ignored any and all Greeks before this specific decade.  Symbolism typically trumps demographics.  From the 1830s onward Greeks began arriving in North America.  These scattered individuals quickly learned that classical studies along with the personal memories of the average American's recollections and involvement in the Grecian Fever (e.g. American philhellenic efforts sparked by the Greek War of Independence 1821-1829) informed the general public's response to each and every living Hellene who arrived on American shores.

It is an undeniable fundamental of Greek-American history that Greek veterans of the American Civil War, confederates as well as those who fought on the side of the union, were later leading figures in the establishment of Eastern Orthodox churches in New Orleans and Chicago.  Just as George Dilboy (1896-1918), Greek immigrant and recipient of the medal of honor recipient, was used by later Greek immigrants to argue for exceptionalism so too did the Greek civil war veterans come forward to publicly endorse the establishment of these two churches.

Now let us be clear, early historians on Greeks in the United States such as Seraphim Canoutas, Thomas Burgess, George P. Perros and others have long acknowledged the existence of Greek involvement in the American Civil War.  It is with the contemporary generation of academics that the roles of Greek veterans in the American Civil War utterly disappear.  This being the case we hear nothing of their efforts to establish churches by invoking their status as loyal veterans of the American Civil War.  That Greek-Americans, at the end of World War I, would remember the efforts of this earlier generation of veterans and so rally around the glory of Dilboy's valiant death is equally impossible for these ideologies to comprehend.  Fortunately, while the current class of academics continue to ignore such individuals independent scholars and writers have vigorously continued to explore this forgotten, or should I say forbidden, zone of Greek-American Studies.  When this new data is considered we find new collectives as well as individual Greeks involved in virtually every aspect of this decisive American war.  The blog spot Hellenic Genealogy Geek has drawn upon newly available public sources to find the names of 39 Civil War participants who identified Greece as their place of birth (  All the dates of birth are approximate and as one can see these men were forced to anglicize their names.  These veterans were:  Alex Agelasto (b.1831), William H. Allen (b.1823), Francis Allison (b.1832), Mathew Ashland (b.1819), Delos Balch (b.1835), Stephen Blasko (b.1823), Dominic Carra (b.1823), A. Charles (b.1838), Seon Charles (b.1839), A.M. Crisson (b.1831), Antonia Cutis (b.1829), Hypolite Demor (b.1843), Peter Dennis (b.1831), Constanti Desilia (b.1827), John Effmon (b.1826), George Ellis (b.1823), Phocius Fiske (b.1819), Peter Loraine (b.1832), Horace Love (b.1839), Roger Love (b. 1842), Samuel Mellichansky (b.1843), Lucas M. Miller (b.1826), John Mitchell (b. 1827), William Moloy (b.1841), Peter Mounell (b.1833), Frank Nichols (b.1835), George Pearce (b.1819), George Peirce (b.1823), Anistus Petracki (b.1843), Leuncolus Pismucle (b.1829), Stretus Ralli (b. about 1834), Constantine Reily (b.1823), William Scoffield (b.1826), Hanford Squires (b. 1828) Otto Stezene (b. 1826), John Williams (b.1824), Augustina Zara (b.1828), William Zeigler (b.1822), James G. T. Zeigler (b.1826) and Peter Zenos (b.1841).  To the best of my knowledge only Fisk and Miller have seen mention in previous studies of role of Hellenes in this war.

That said, this very same blog site has posted the photograph of John Christy, credited as an American Civil War veteran as seen in Seraphim Canoutas' 1918 book Hellenism in America - who as you can see is not on this list.  While identifying as many Hellenes as participated in this war is essential what is now emerging with the flood of new data are the wider patterns of involvement and influence these persons exerted on the world around them.

Greeks can be found among abolitionists and secessionists even before the war.  Prominent among those advocating state's rights we find Robert James Turnbull (1774-1833) son of Dr. Andrew Turnbull (1718-1792) and his Greek wife, Maria Gracia Dura Bin.  Dr. Turnbull was the driving force behind the ill-fated New Smyrna colony in Florida that brought the first Greek born settlers to North America in 1768.  Florida born, Robert Turnbull, became an intrepid and successful asserter of the right of the States.  Turnbull was author of the CRISIS, an address made at the Convention to the people of South Carolina and other able productions in support of Constitutional Liberty.

Another defender of the south was Reverend George Patterson (born Papathakes 1828-1901).  Patterson became such a devotee of the South and of the institution of slavery he wrote (and we must suspect, at least, that he also preached) in support of the institution of slavery on Biblical grounds.  Patterson's views on slavery are revealed in a pamphlet, entitled, 'The Scripture Doctrine with Regard to Slavery,' which he published anonymously in Pennsylvania in 1856.  In the pamphlet, Patterson asked "Is slavery a sin?" and attempted to argue in the negative by citing dozens of passages from the Old and the New Testament that seemed to provide at least Scriptural approval of the practice.  The piece became one of the most prominently known defenses of slavery.

Two especially notable Northern Greek-born abolitionists were Professor John C. Zachos (1820-1893) and Reverend Photios Fisk.  Zachos was the first superintendent of the Port Royal Experiment.  In the mid-1800s, it was believed by many White Anglo-Saxon Protestants that Negroes could not learn to read and write.  Zachos was among the Northern abolitionists and freed Negro slaves who proved this "belief" a lie.  After the end of the war Zachos was to go on to have a stellar career as an educator, inventor and much published author.

Photios Fisk (originally Anastasius Karavelles), a Greek immigrant, became a Protestant minister in the United States Navy.  Fisk's report to Congress on flogging in the American navy brought about an end to that practice as well as Fisk's career.  Many abolitionists had literally given everything to their cause and so died as paupers, Fisk took it upon himself to pay for the burial of many of these individual always providing an expensive and imposing tombstone.

George Brown and Constantine Mitchell, veterans of the American Civil War, along with three other Greek-born veterans who stood up in Chicago to publicly defend the establishment of an Eastern Orthodox Church in their city.  That they did so as American citizens and war veterans may have kept them from Greek school books but they are venerated in the historical accounts of the establishment of the Greek community in Chicago.  We must learn more about those Greeks who fought in the American Civil War.  Their contributions to the establishment of Greek communities in North America as well as to the American nation itself, must not be forgotten.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Book - CAMERA OTTOMANA: Photography and Modernity in the Ottoman Empire 1840-1914

This book was written in Turkey, by people with Turkish sentiments.  Many in the group will find some things in the text and photographs offensive.  I am posting information about this book as a sometimes shocking look at the Ottoman Empire, which is of historical interest to those of us researching our Hellenic family history.


CAMERA OTTOMANA:  Photography and Modernity in the Ottoman Empire 1840-1914

Edited by Zeynep Celik and Edhem Eldem
Texts by Zeynep Celik, Edhem Eldem, Bahattin Ozstuncay, Frances Terpak & Peter Louis Bopnfitto

Copyright 2015 by Koc University Publications, Istanbul.

FREE ebook available online through



Note on Spelling, Transliteration, and Dates



Frances Terpak & Peter Bonfitto Transferring Antiquity to Ink - Ruins from the Americas to Asia Minor and the Development of Photolithography

Bahattin Öztuncay The Origins and Development of Photography in Istanbul 

Edhem Eldem Powerful Images - The Dissemination and Impact of Photography in the Ottoman Empire, 1870–1914

Zeynep Çelik Photographing Mundane Modernity

- Political Change
- Abdülhamid as Paterfamilias
- Ottoman Exoticism
- Bookish Portraits
- Amateur Photographers
- Bad Boys
- Formal Order
- Photography at the Service of Art
- Foreign Dignitaries in the Empire
- A Taste for Folklore
- Appropriating Antiquities
- Orientalist Reality
- Serving Science and Scholarship
- Personalized Photo Cards
- Abidin the Snitch
- Private Albums, Public Spaces
- Forbidden Kitsch
- Unity in Diversity




Friday, November 6, 2015

Eritrea, Africa - GREEKS IN ASMARA: Guardians of Continuity, Agents of Change (previously part of Ethiopia)

By Marina Petronoti

Published in the Journal of the Hellenic Diaspora, Vol 26/1 - Year 2000


MARINA PETRONOTI, Social Anthropologist, is Senior Researcher at the National Centre for Social Research, Athens. She is researching immigration flows to Greece with emphasis on the impact immigrants' presence has on collective representations about cultural heterogeneity as well as their social and symbolic interaction with the indigenous population. 


From the article:

The Greek Community in Asmara

. . . .  this community was by no means socially or economically homogeneous. Despite its members' efforts to present it as stable, solid, and attached to traditional values, they often disagreed on vital issues and were stratified in terms of geographical origin (those who came from Egypt or mainland Greece were thought of as superior to islanders), occupational status (self-employed/employees), status of social acquaintances and friends, material wealth, and consumption practices. Such variations reflected on the size of their houses, the location of their shops (most of which were on a road connecting the outskirts with the commercial center of Asmara), their education (some had only secondary school education while others transformed their wealth to educational capital by sending their sons to universities in Chartoum or Cairo). Furthermore, those who run their own business travelled abroad, increased their "knowledge of the world," were elected as members of the community board (Papamichail 1950) and occasionally made generous donations to the town (e.g., a small hospital).

The intimate bond between Greeks' welfare and the guarantees given by colonial powers manifest themselves in the fact that they left Asmara as soon as Ethiopians invaded Eritrea (Prokopiou 1931). In 1972 and 1987, respectively, the Greek community had about 300 and 60 members, 12 while today it has about 10 (mainly aged men). 13 In addition to the insecurity they felt, small firm owners could not overcome the impact of nationalization on their plans and activities. Having lost their property, economic and political protection, and the right to export money, they had no incentive to remain in the country and left for Greece (only a handful went to Italy). Photographs of their houses, the items they brought with them (silver, ivory, pieces of furniture) together with the ways in which they speak of the past ("I never made my bed myself," "we went hunting for days and had servants who did everything for us," "we lived like kings," "our children went to the Greek and Italian school, we had a driver, and avoided the dirt on streets, we had beautiful clothes from Milano, opera, and cinema at a time Athens had nothing"), depict the luxuries and comfort they enjoyed as well as the symbolic distance they put between "here" and "there." The issue of settlement is further associated with the territorial base of social status and advancement. Topos, according to them, implies spacial concentration, i.e. the fact that several parts of Asmara were exclusively inhabited by Eritreans and others by Europeans (Nadel 1944: 85). Although exceptional in their decision not to leave Eritrea, those who stayed highlight this issue by saying: "I knew nobody in Greece, this was my home." Certainly, their decision was also based on the hope that the Eritrean government would eventually return their nationalized property to them.

READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE - Click on 26-1-2000.pdf

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Book - Tales, Rituals, and Songs: Exploring the Unknown Popular Culture of a Greek Mountain Village - Tsamantas, Epirus, Northern Greece

TALES, RITUALS AND SONGS:  Exploring the Unknown Popular Culture of a Greek Mountain Village
by Nikolaos Nitsos

This book is about the village of Tsamantas, Epirus, Northern Greece.  Originally published 1926 in Greek.  Translated into English by Panagiotis League, Instructor of Modern Greek Studies at Hellenic College.

Being sold by Holy Cross Bookstore and the Hellenic Press.


"After the liberation of Epirus, I desired to return for a visit to my birthplace... and arrived in Tsamantas in the middle of 1914... The more I collected and studied, the more interested I became. I started to systematically analyze the relatively rich material having to do with the customs of the inhabitants, previous generations' way of life, the language and expressions, and in general to develop a tremendous interest in the folklore and history of our people"
 —Nikolaos Nitsos, Dec. 1, 1925
This translation into English by Panayotis League of a long-forgotten but fascinating monograph by the late Nikolaos Nitsos, a scholar from a small village in what is now northwestern Greece, is an impressive achievement, not least because the task was made more challenging by the complexity of the original text and the antiquated form of Greek in which it was written. Its publication is a momentous event, bringing back to life a work of enormous interest and fine literary qualities.
—from the foreword by Dr. Dimitrios Konstadakopoulos
Translated by Panayotis League

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Greek Immigrant became Chicago Gyros Pioneer

Obituary for Chris Tomaras 1937-2015

by Graydon Megan

Published Sunday, November 1, 2015 in the Chicago Tribune 


Chris Tomaras was a poor Greek immigrant who founded Kronos Foods, which became a leader in supplying equipment and ingredients for the now-ubiquitous gyros sandwich.

"He had a lot of failures along the way, went bankrupt many times," said longtime friend Tom Sotos. "He just kept fighting. His drive and motivation were just unmatched. There was no chance he wasn't going to succeed."
Tomaras established the PanHellenic Scholarship Foundation to provide college scholarships to students of Greek heritage.
"He wanted people to expand their intellectual horizons," Sotos said. . . . .
Tomaras was born in Piraeus, Greece. He was 8 during the Greek Civil War when his mother was killed by stray gunfire. Tomaras grew up near Athens and studied for a time at what is now Athens University of Economics and Business.
But he saw little opportunity in post-war Greece and in 1957 came to New York on a student visa to begin studies at Columbia University.
After both his money and his visa ran out, he moved to Birmingham, Ala., thinking it was a place where he might escape notice by immigration authorities. According to his stepson, Michael Winstead, he and a buddy lived first in a closed hotel, without electricity, water or heat.
He found a job in a steakhouse, learning the food business from the bottom up. It was there he met Nancy Winstead, who had two children he raised as his own. They got married and worked together in a number of businesses. She died in 2007.
In Birmingham, he used the money he saved to lease spaces for a string of businesses, his stepson said. He was first able to lease a parking lot. That led to a hot dog stand, where he had one employee to help him as he worked 14-hour days seven days a week. Next was a lounge and hamburger place and finally a franchise pizza place he and Nancy worked together. Except for the hot dog stand, most of the businesses struggled, but Tomaras kept trying new ideas.
"Nothing held him down," Winstead said. "He'd come up against a wall, he'd just climb it."
By 1960, Tomaras was a permanent U.S. resident and not long after became a citizen. Two years later, the family moved to Chicago.
Winstead said Tomaras started in Chicago with another hot dog stand on the South Side and eventually got a sports bar near Wrigley Field. It was there he started working on ideas for gyros meat and the equipment to cook it.
He noticed that the meats used in gyros sandwiches weren't uniform from one place to the next and that the equipment used to cook the meat in front of customers was often unsightly. Tomaras decided to start designing equipment and the result was the Kronomatic vertical rotisserie, still used to make gyros in many restaurants today.
Sales of the rotisserie provided money for a processing plant for the gyros meat. Tomaras founded Kronos Foods in 1975. By the time he sold the company in 1994, it was selling hundreds of thousands of pounds of gyros meat per week, along with pita bread, sauces and other specialty foods.