The Giakoumelos line

In the previous entry I talked about my mother’s maternal line. In this entry, I’ll go over my father’s maternal line, the Giakoumelos or Γιακουμέλος family of Zakynthos (Zante) or Ζάκυνθος.

The Giakoumelos surname is fairly common on the island and upon visiting, one sees the name everywhere. Unfortunately, I am not aware of the meaning of the name though I will share as much as I can from the family’s tradition.

My grandmother, Athena Giakoumelos or Αθηνά Γιακουμέλου, was born in the village of Gyri or Γύρι in 1899 and her family was one of the founding families of the village. The village is located in the municipality of Artemisia, just north of the town of Macherado and about 30 kilometers from the island’s capital of Zakynthos. The village dates back to 15th century is has always been a small town. According to the latest census, it has 58 permanent residents and the Giakoumelos of today are related to my grandmother – probably cousins of some sort.

The family tradition is that the townsfolk of Gyri were originally from the Mani region of Greece that left the area due to the very harsh conditions there. Adding to the difficult living conditions caused by the aridity and lack or arable land, Mani was a center of clashes with the Ottoman and Venetian forces.

The story continues with the family returning at some point to Mani believing the conditions have become better in the homeland. However, after staying in Mani for a few years, the family returns to Gyri.

It is unclear if this is the story of the family or of the population of the town. It appears that the village has always been sparsely populated and never was even moderately sized.

I have only visited the village once where my family met cousins of my father that still live there. We got a tour of the small village and saw a monument to my great-grandfather, my grandmother’s father, for his contributions. Apparently, he was a person of some importance in the village and was who founded the school there.

I’d like to visit the village again and try to get accurate information about the family’s history and perhaps corroborate some of the family histories.

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