Archive for the ‘Genealogy’ Category.

Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!


What makes genealogy fascinating is not just finding out who your ancestors were but also making discoveries that make you take step back and really think about the times and lives they lived. I made one such discovery not too long ago while expanding the tree on my mother’s side of the family.

What I discovered was that the younger sister Ines of my 8th great grandfather Miguel de la Peña Lillo y Estrada was prosecuted and convicted by the Spanish Inquisition in Lima, Peru! This was totally unexpected.

On Page 56, Article 4 of the “Anales de la Inquisición de Lima” by Ricardo Ricardo Palma we find the following text:

Ines de la Peñalillo, limeña, de 40 años y dueña de una mazamorrería. Era una mujer blanca y que poseía una decente fortuna. Sus criadas la acusaron de hechicera y de que meneaba la mazamorra con una canilla de muerto. La infeliz dió un paseo á medio vestir y pasó á condimentar mazamorras á Valdivia. Abjuró de leví y fueron confiscados sus bienes.

Not much more is known of this 9th great-aunt of mine but, using today’s understanding of the human mind, it appears that she was probably suffering of some sort of mental illness. I am also convinced that there were some in her environs that probably wanted to get hold of her material assets so, why not use the Office of the Holy Inquisition to help? Naturally, all this is pure conjecture on my part.

In any case, let’s focus on some of the interesting tidbits we see in the text above.

I won’t go into the description of the Spanish Inquisition because all of that can be easily found by looking at online resources like Wikipedia or any number of encyclopedias. Just be aware to separate fact from fiction.

Something that will be hard to find, I know it was for me, are the different types of outcomes for those convicted:


The rarest of all outcomes because as opposed to what we are all accustomed to in 21st century modern societies, those taken before the Inquisition were presumed guilty until found innocent.

Suspended process

This was the case when the guilt of the accused could not be unquestionably supported yet the person remained under suspicion. At any time the Inquisition can resume the tribunal against him or her with an eventual conviction. In practice, this was a great loophole for the authorities to get out of prosecuting someone innocent while not admitting error.


This required the convicted to publicly denounce (abjure of) his or her crimes. There were three types:

  1. Abjuración de levi: This was a sentence meted out to those that were convicted of “minor” crimes such as bigamists, blasphemers, or those that under a “light” suspicion of heresy. The typical penalties here would be a fine, forced pilgrimage to a holy site, isolation in a convent, or forced fasting of all solids and rarely of even liquids for a period of time.
  2. Abjuración de vehementi: This was for those for whom there were serious suspicions of guilt or there were only two accusing witnesses or the person refused to confess. Typical penalties here would be exile, public flagellation, become a galley slave, or imprisonment.
  3. Abjuración “en forma”: This was in those cases where guilt was proven and the person had confessed their crimes. This was the typical result for those practicing Judaism, especially those that had made a public conversion to Roman Catholicism but continued being practicing Jews in secret. Like with the type above, the typical penalties here would be exile, public flagellation, becoming a galley slave, or imprisonment.

Subsequent convictions of the first type (levi) did not carry extra penalties. Subsequent convictions of the second and third types would mark the person as having relapsed and may even be condemned to death. If the person confessed his or her sins, then they would be strangled before being burned. If they did not confess, they would be burned alive. It should be noted that the actual execution was not carried out by the Church but by the State’s secular authorities to whom the convict would be transferred over after the sentenced was pronounced.

As one can see, the death penalty was reserved for repeat offenders and only in extreme cases, at least in the American Colonies. Contrary to popular belief, the Spanish Inquisition did not automatically burn at the stake everyone that came before it but rather had a range of penalties. Having said that, torture was commonplace and for the non Roman Catholics in Spain, it was a terrifying time with thousands being burnt at the stake during the Inquisition’s existence. Interestingly, as violent as it was at time (at least by today’s standards), torture was not as frequently applied as in the rest of contemporary Europe since even they were of the opinion that confessions brought about during torture are not dependable.

It should also be noted that the Inquisition in the colonies was not as severe as in Spain.

Links of interest:


Agustin Edwards Eastman. Una Biografia Desclasificada

cover of book on agustin edwards

Earlier this year a book was published titled “Agustín Edwards Eastman. Una biografía desclasificada del dueño de El Mercurio” by Víctor Herrero, a Chilean journalist with an international background. For those that don’t know, Agustín Edwards Eastman is arguably one of the most powerful men in Chile and has been that for the better part of a century. He is the current owner of the media conglomerate of “El Mercurio” and it is alleged that he was the driving force behind the coup that overthrew President Salvador Allende and installed General Augusto Pinochet as the Head of State of Chile.

Normally, I wouldn’t write about a book published that writes about such a public figure. However, this is an exception because (a) Agustín Edwards Eastman is a relative (3rd degree cousin of my maternal grandmother) (b) I was contacted by the author last year while he was doing his research and my name is listed in the book.

The book was the #1 best seller in the non-fiction category in Chile for several weeks and, as of this writing, it is still in the top 10 after 7 weeks. It has had a mixed reception in the country with a broad range of reactions on either side of the political divide. I know that the reception among the Edwards family members hasn’t been entirely positive.

I won’t go into the “meat” of the book which is the actual life of the man but just the genealogy listed. I have not had the pleasure of meeting him though I think my grandmother probably did. In any case, let’s move on.

I have written several articles about the Edwards family of chile:

On pages 102-113 of the first edition of the book, the author goes over the origins in Chile and the family legends that are prevalent in the Edwards family. As the author says, though the founder George Edwards was humble about his origin, his descendants created many stories about a noble past and an exotic origin.

Herrero starts with the story of how George Edwards arrived in Chile in the beginning of the 19th century and then goes into several of the myths that exist. The principle of which is the claim that George Edwards was really the 4th son of Lord Hugh Mostyn, Baron de Vaux and of Elizabeth O’Higgins and not the humble son of the working class George Edwards and Elizabeth Brown.

One of the tantalizing details written in the book is how the first Agustín Edwards in Chile (George Edwards’ 6th born child) married his niece Juana Ross Edwards who was his elder sister’s daughter. It caused a huge scandal at the time considering that the Edwards family was one of the richest in the country and Agustín the richest man. Because they were to marry in the Roman Catholic Church, they needed to get a special dispensation to be allowed to marry. Even though they were very rich, it was not easy (and it shouldn’t be) but they were eventually successful. Juana Ross Edwards, was a very religious woman and there have been many books written about this extremely interesting woman.

Herrero accurately recounts the conversation I had with him regarding the origins of George Edwards, at least according to the available documentation and my 4th great-grandfather’s own words. George Edwards was of humble origin, the son of a carpenter, and grew up in a working class family. He was a barber/surgeon (they were the same thing in the 18th century) and sailed with various ships serving the Crown against the Spanish. There are various stories of how he ended up in Chile, most very romantic speaking of love at first sight, etc. Whichever the truth he deserted his shipmates and chose to stay in “enemy” territory and after spending some time in a Chilean prison, he ended up marrying the daughter of one of the wealthiest men in the area and becoming a very successful businessman himself. However, he never forgot his enmity towards the Spanish Crown and when the Chilean Revolution broke out, George Edwards was one of the principle financiers of Bernardo O’Higgins’ enterprise and because of that was granted citizenship in the new republic.

He also summarizes well my refutation of the Mostyn de Vaux myth where I demonstrate that not only is the legend false, it’s also a really bad story that has all facts going against it. As the author states, the particular branch of the Edwards family was among the richest and its scions studied at Eton and Oxford, their members were regulars in the highest aristocratic circles of London and socialized with members of the Royal Family there. The author speculates that they felt they needed a backstory to make them fit in better and, considering it was the late 19th century/early 20th, it may or may not be true. What is true is that when a professional genealogist was hired to research the family, the findings were discarded and never spoken of again because, presumably, the findings were not liked.

What was news to me and pleasantly surprised me was that the famous writer Joaquín Edwards Bello (1st degree cousin to my grandmother’s father) shared the same opinion as I. If someone like him reached the same conclusion as I did, I know I am on the right track!

Now to the disappointing part…

Section from page 104 of the book “Agustín Edwards Eastman. Una Biografia Desclasificada”


However exciting it was that my name was in such a popular book, it was a bit of let down to see that my name was written incorrectly (my name is “Kimon Andreou” and not “Kim Andreou”), had my nationality wrong (I am not English but an American of Greco-Chilean parentage), and I am not a distant relative of the Edwards.

However, the citation in the bibliography has my name correct.

To the author’s credit, when I reached out to him he did commit to working with his publisher to correct the mistakes in the next edition. Hopefully, the edits were submitted in time.

Again, as mentioned at the top of this article I am only discussing the sections relevant to the subject area of the blog and not the rest of it. I leave that criticism to others more qualified than I and I will keep my own personal opinions to myself, though my family is aware.

In any case, I would recommend to anyone that is interested in the subject matter to pick up a copy regardless of one’s personal political affiliation and opinion on Agustin Edwards Eastman.

Links of interest:




On my paternal grandmother’s side I descend from one of the older families in the Hellenic region, that of the Giakoumelos (Γιακουμέλος) of the island of Zakynthos also known as Zante (Ζάκυνθος). According to the definitive book on the families of the island, Λεξικόν Iστορικόν και Λαογραφικόν Zακύνθου (Historical & Folkloric Dictionary of Zakynthos) volume 1 by Λ.Χ. Ζώης, the family has been on the island since before 1478. However, the family was not listed in the Golden Book (Libro d’Oro) of the island, maintained during the Venetian rule.

The family were the founders of the village of Gyri (Γύρι), located at the highest point on the island. For centuries, the family has led the village in a form similar to a señorío in Spain. Over the centuries, the family broke out into branches each with its own nickname but maintaining the surname:

  • Camberi (Καμπέρη)
  • Colovieni (Κωλοβιένη)
  • Cousoula (Κουσουλα)
  • Dairis (Νταΐρης)
  • Darios (Νταρίος)
  • Gialia (Γιαλιά)
  • Malouchos (Μαλούχος)
  • Roros (Ρωρός)
  • Roupa (Ρούπα)
  • Vardakastani (Βαρδακαστάνη)

The above are those I know about and there may very well be several more. In any case, of the ones listed above the Dairis and the Roros branches seem to have risen to the headship of the seignure and to have maintained that over the centuries. For example, the Roros were treated as the aristocracy of the village of Gyri. What is fascinating is that to this day, the family leads the small village and has a leadership role in the regional administration.

It should be noted that Gyri has always been a tiny village, out of the limelight and there back in the day it was very much isolated from the hustle and bustle of the islands capital, let alone the rest of the world. Marriages were usually with families in the neighboring, also tiny, villages such as the case of my paternal maternal great-grandmother who was a Moraitis.

Now, there is ample documentation about the Giakoumelos going to the mid 15th century but, what about before that? The family didn’t spring from out of nowhere so we need to see what was going on at that time on the island.

After the 4th Crusade of 1204 what was once the Eastern Roman Empire, better known as the Byzantine Empire, got split into a number of small kingdoms under the rule of the Western European Crusaders. As the Crusaders were all Roman Catholic and the general name for them in the Eastern Orthodox lands they conquered was “Latins” or “Franks”, the period during which these kingdoms existed is known as Francocracy or Frankokratia (Φραγκοκρατία). The rule ended truly in the 20th Century when Italy returned the Dodecanese to Greece after World War 2 though most would put the end in the early 19th Century when the Napoleonic controlled Republic of Venice ceded its Greek territories to the British Crown. To complete the story, the British gave those same lands to the new Kingdom of Greece with the coronation of King George I of Greece.

So, where does Zakynthos fit in this whole mix? Zakynthos was always treated as a package deal with Cephalonia (Κεφαλονιά), the latter usually having more noble families. This pair of islands has a particular history that starts diverging from their Greek Orthodox brothers in 1185 when the King of Sicily created the County Palatine of Cephalonia and Zakynthos for the services rendered to the Crown by Margaritus of Brindisi. After the first Count Palatine, the title went to the Orsini family in 1195. In 1325 it goes to the House of Anjou-Sicily and in 1357 to the Tocco family who kept it until 1479. This year was the first time that the two islands split rulers: Cephalonia was occupied by the Ottomans while Zakynthos went to the Republic of Venice. I should point out that 21 years later, Cephalonia joined Zakynthos and also came under the Venetians.

Notice the year that the Republic of Venice took over the island of Zakynthos and the year the Dictionary above uses as a mark for the family. This means that the Giakoumelos were on the island, with the name “Giakoumelos” before the Venetians took possession of the island. Unfortunately, there isn’t much about Zakynthos on the pre-Venice years, especially regarding its minor nobility or other genealogical records.

So, where does this leave us regarding the origins of the family? This is what we know:

  1. The family were the leaders of their village and treated like aristocracy however, they were not listed in the Golden Book (Libro d’Oro) of the island maintained by the Venetians
  2. They have been on the island for over 5 centuries and we don’t know much from before the mid 15th century
  3. Greeks of “Frankish” descent hellenized their names. For example, Capo d’Istria became Kapodistrias (Καποδίστριας).

Now that we have some background let’s try to take each item, one at a time.

The family was the equivalent to medieval seignures or señores (in the Spanish sense) or, to anglicize it, like a feudal Lord of the Manor. Not only that, they were of a village in the middle of the island and effectively, the middle of nowhere. So far removed they were from the center of power in city of Zakynthos (capital of the island) that many had never even been there! If one examines the Golden Book of the island one finds all the major players in the capital but none of these families were from the hinterland representing the less cosmopolitan parts. Therefore, it is not surprising that the Giakoumelos are not listed there as I’m sure dozens of other families of similar stature aren’t.

 So, where did they come from? The bibliography doesn’t say that they are native to the island nor does it say where they are from. This is where we can come up with hypotheses based on some circumstantial evidence.

As the island was under “Frankish” rule for 300 years prior to Venice taking over and the bibliography is silent about any families from Constantinople with a similar name migrating there, we can assume then that the family has a Western European origin. It’s the only alternative. Where, though, did these people come from? Considering that the Orsini and the Tocco were of Italian descent and that their County was under the protection of the Sicilian or Neapolitan Crowns, the most likely case is that the Giakoumelos come from what is today Italy. This prompted me to do a simple Google search restricted to Italy with the search word of “giakoumelos”. What I found was amazing!

I discovered that there is an ancient Italian family with the name of Giacomello that has had a long history in their region of origin. What is their region? Venice! It’s all now coming together. A family with a notably Italian sounding name, without any mention of them in the Greek lands other than on Zakynthos, an island under Venice’s control for 450 years, is probably related to a quintessentially Venetian family with almost the exact same name. It is self evident that Giakoumelos is an hellenization of Giacomello, following the pattern of so many other hellenized surnames.

The hypothesis is a good one but, can it be proven? This is the hard part. This is a research project that must be attacked from both ends: the Giakoumelos end and the Giacomello end. Is there documentation proving descent of the Giakoumelos from the Giacomello? Did the Giacomello go to Zakynthos and if so, when? If they were notable in Venice why do they not appear in the Golden Book of the island? Why did they decide to live in the most remote part of the island?

So many questions but, not many answers.

Searching backwards, from the Giakoumelos to Venice may prove to be the most difficult since there are sparse records today about the island. Unfortunately, as per the curator of the archives of the island told me, almost all the records were destroyed in a fire caused by the major earthquake of 1953 that ruined most of the island. I hope one day to find a definitive answer.

Advice on genealogical research

I am frequently asked by people how to go about their genealogical research. Many have not started at all while others have some bits and pieces of data but, not at all organized and mostly in their head.

With this blog post, I’m going to try to share the same advice I’ve given friends and others that have contacted me with this same question. It may be of value to you or not but, I have found it works for me.

Write down everything you know or think you know
This is very important. Be as detailed as possible. It will give you a good idea of what it is that you know about your family tree, relations, legends, stories, etc. This will allow you to identify gaps in your knowledge and will help create a road map of what you need to tackle. You may discover that you don’t know the birthdays of any of your cousins or that you don’t have the names of your mother’s cousins.

Attempt to put it in the form of a tree, what do you get?

After you’ve analyzed what you already know, you will be able to start asking the right questions

Don’t discount family stories/legends

We all have that family story of the great-great-grandad who was the King or Prince or was the richest person in town or owned all the land in a region or something like that. More often than not, this is complete hogwash. However, within these stories are grains of truth. It may be that great-great-grandad was not a prince but he was an officer that worked for him or worked at the prince’s favorite bar. Examine the story and see what can be discovered. You will ultimately prove or disprove the story, which is an achievement in itself, but you will also find the truth and some fascinating stories about your family.

Talk to senior family members

The only certainties in life are death and taxes. This is why it is important to make the most of the time we have with the eldest members of our family. They can be parents, uncles, grandparents, cousins, whatever they all have a story to tell. Spend some time with them and just have a conversation about the family. Don’t make it an interview or an interrogation, just let them talk. You’ll find that all they need is a reason to tell their stories and off they go!

I would recommend having a recorder handy to record the conversation, this way you won’t be worried about committing it memory or keeping notes and can focus on the actual story, asking questions when needed and steering them away from tangents.

Don’t worry about inconsistencies or contradictions. Have them go back to the same event from a different path and see if they say the same thing. You will also, hopefully, have the chance to compare with other elder family members.

Document, document, document

Did I say document already? Everything you do or find should be documented. Try to find proofs of whatever it is you are examining. These proofs can be birth/baptismal certificates, death certificates, marriage certs, wills, court decisions, video, pictures, anything. Pretend that your genealogical research will have to be presented in court, that should give you a good feel of how well to prepare.

If you ever plan on petitioning to join any sort of hereditary society, you will need at least a birth/baptismal, marriage, and death certificate for every person in every generation in the line in question, going back as far as possible.

Use good software

If you are doing it all in pen and paper, more power to you. For the rest of us that live in the current century, we like computers. I won’t go into the benefit of using a computer for this as it should be self evident but I will go into the importance of using the right software.

Some may prefer to use Word or Excel and some may have even gotten creative and are tracking things in an Access database you’ve built yourselves. Great! But, it’s not good enough. You need specialized software that can handle all the aspects of genealogical research, handles backups efficiently, is easy to use, can generate reports, perform searches, organize sources, and can support the standard data interchange formats that have been developed specifically for genealogical research.

There are a lot of options out there ranging from desktop only solutions to iPad apps to web based ones. Some are completely free while others are paid for and still others are in between. The choice is yours. I do strongly suggest that you try before you buy, to make sure it does what you need.
Supporting the standard data interchange, called GEDCOM, is crucial. Especially if you’re going to transfer your data from one application to another or what to share with another researcher/family member. Re-entering 10-20 people is a pain but doable. Re-entering 10,000 is reason enough to crawl into a corner and start crying.

Use online sources cautiously

Sites such as and are amazing resources. However, one must exercise caution when using them and really examine the source information. If there are scanned images associated with the text, examine them. Never take anything at face value because mistakes can and do happen. This is more prevalent on sites such as and since individuals may basically enter whatever they want. For example, according to I am a direct descendant of Poseidon, the Greek God of the sea!

Also, Google is a great tool. You never know what you may find simply searching on a name. Give it a try!


All the other stuff is important but, perhaps the most important thing to have when embarking on the journey of genealogical discovery is patience. This is a lifelong project and probably even longer. Disappointment abounds as do brick walls. However, patience and perseverance will help you push forward and make the discoveries that will make you feel it is all worth it. It IS worth it!

I hope this helps and I am open to discussing your own experiences. Feel free to post below in the comments section or shoot me an email.


Genealogy and Oral History Department – Foundation of the Hellenic World

The “Ίδρυμα Μείζονος Ελληνισμού” or “Foundation of the Hellenic World” is an international organization trying to maintain and support the Hellenic traditions alive wherever Greeks are found, anywhere in the world.

Greeks have set forth and populated lands far and wide, away from the tiny peninsula that is Greece, following a tradition of immigration that started thousands of years ago. Most of the Mediterranean coast as well as that of the Black Sea was first colonized by Greek settlers and the Greek spirit remained vibrant, through religious and political upheavals for over 2500 years and well into the 20th century!

Greeks spread out far beyond the confines of the Mediterranean and into the New World, settling in the Americas, as well as all the other continents.

Considering the very tumultuous history of the region Greece is in, it is not surprising that there has been so much movement throughout the centuries. However, Greeks have always tried to maintain the Hellenic spirit alive, through the generations, regardless of distance from Greece.

There have been three major migrations of Greeks to foreign lands:

  • In antiquity, when the Greek city-states would colonize the Mediterranean and the Black Sea
  • Around the time of the fall of Constantinople in 1453
  • After the end of World War 2

As a result of all this movement, about half of the total world population that identifies itself as “Greek” (without counting those that are of Greek descent but identify themselves otherwise) resides outside of Greece.

The table below is a demonstration of the distribution of Greeks around the world. This table was taken from the Wikipedia article on Greeks and though it is fully referenced, the usual Wikipedia caveats apply.

Total population
at least. 14 – 17 million
Regions with significant populations


10,280,000 (2001 census)

 United States

1,390,439-3,000,000a (2009 est.)


792,604 (July 2008 Est.)

 United Kingdom

400,000 (estimate)


365,120 (2006 census)-700,000a


294,891 (2007 est.)


242,685b (2006 census)


approx. 200,000




91,500 (2001 census)


90,000c (estimate)

 South Africa

55,000 (2008 estimate)




35,000(2009 est.)


30,000 (2008 estimate)


15,742 (2007)




13,000 (est)


11,000 estimated


9,500 estimate


6,500 2002 census









By the way, notice how few Greeks are left in modern day Turkey: 2500. Whoever is familiar with the region’s history would realize what this means.

In recognition of this wide distribution around the world, the “Foundation of the Hellenic World” was created as a central organization to bring all these communities together and make sure contact with Greece is not lost.

As part of the work this foundation has undertaken is to record the oral histories of Greeks in their senior years and try to create some sort of genealogical reference database to assist those who are trying to find their roots. By making copies of documents, journals, periodicals and, most importantly, oral records of the senior most (in age) a database can be developed to be referenced by future generations.

As I have mentioned before, in my own genealogical research, finding records for Greek ancestors is a herculean task. Some of the highlights, in reverse chronological order:

  • Turkish invasion of Cyprus of 1974: All records of the norther half of the island are lost
  • Greek Civil War of 1945-1950: Government and Communist forces were destroying records to either take land or to hide family ties
  • Nazi Occupation of 1940-1944: Nazi forces and Nazi collaborators were destroying records so as to steal lands legally owned by others
  • The Greek Genocide of 1914-1923 by the Turks in modern day Turkey: Destroyed all remnants of Hellenism there (also check the table above to see how successful they were)
  • Ottoman rule 1400’s to early 1900’s: Destroyed records of Christians, had a formal plan of Islamization and also violently suppressed any attempts to teach Greek or Greek history in an organized matter.

This is why it is so important for organizations such as these to continue their work and get all the support they need both from individuals and the Greek government.

The link to the Foundation’s home page is:

The link to the Genealogy and Oral History department is: