Archive for the ‘History’ Category.

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:



de Lesseps

One of the things my wife enjoys a great deal (and I suffer through) is the reality show on the Bravo channel called “The Real Housewives of New York City”.

One of the participants on the show called LuAnn de Lesseps (née Nadeau) and uses the title of “Countess”. The title comes from her now ex-husband, the current Count de Lesseps, Alexandre. The title was inherited through his paternal line from Ferdinand de Lesseps, the Frenchman who designed the Suez Canal and who presented the Statue of Liberty to the United States.

Let’s start with the Coat of Arms of the de Lesseps family displayed above. The image comes from Wikipedia and the blazon can be found in Jean-Baptiste Rietstap “Armorial général” as

D’argent, à un cep de vigne de sinople, fruité de deux grappes de raisin de sable, le pied accosté de deux champignons de sinople, le tout soutenu d’une terrasse du même et acc. d’un soleil rayonnant de gueules, mouv. du canton senestre du chef.

Or, in English:

Argent, a vine Vert fructed of two bunches of grapes Sable, between in base two mushrooms Vert all supported by a terrace of the same, in sinister canton a sun rayonny Gules.

A very interesting Coat of Arms, though I would’ve expected something less “agricultural” from a family known for their diplomats and engineers all the way back to the 16th century. However, I admit I know nothing of the de Lesseps family ancestral origins.

Since we’re talking about the de Lesseps and we touched upon LuAnn from the show “The Real Housewives of New York City”, this would be a good opportunity to answer the two big questions everyone has about her status as “Countess”:

1. How could she be a Countess since France has abolished the nobility?

The answer to this is very simple: The title is a courtesy title that is used only in social circles but has no legal standing whatsoever. In other words, the Count de Lesseps cannot and does not call himself “Count” in any formal legal documents in his home country of France, or anywhere else for that matter. The rule applies to all who claim a title of nobility from a country that no longer recognizes them legally. It is only in social circumstances such as social events, when making dinner reservations, etc. that the title is used and only in those cases. The only exception to the rule is when another country recognizes the title and this is not the case with the de Lesseps title.

2. How could she still be called Countess if she’s divorced from the actual Count?

Ms. LuAnn de Lesseps is not a Countess in her own right (i.e. the title is not hers) but had received it by virtue of marrying the Count, just like Kate Middleton is not The Duchess of Cambridge in her own right but is so because she’s married to The Duke of Cambridge. One would think that upon divorcing the Count, she would lose the title as well but, it is not the case. The former wife of a title-bearer usually retains the right to continue using the courtesy title of her ex-husband, if the ex-husband or Sovereign allows it. Since there isn’t a King of France anymore and titles are not recognized in the Republic of France, it is up to the actual title holder. Furthermore, the mother of the heir to the title also tends to keep the title.

Ms LuAnn would be able to continue the use of the title even if Count Alexandre de Lesseps remarries and the new wife will also be called Countess! However, here comes the key difference: LuAnn would be known as “Countess de Lesseps” whereas the new wife of the Count would be known as “The Countess de Lesseps”. The “The” makes all the difference in the world. In the case of royalty (royalty and nobility are not the same), we find occasions where the former wife of a Prince is called “Dowager Princess X”. This would’ve been the case in the event Princess Diana (note I did not use HRH as she lost that in the divorce) had survived to this day where HRH The Prince of Wales is remarried and she would be known as “The Dowager Princess of Wales”.

See also:

Note: Image from Wikipedia

Some blogs of interest

Along the right hand side of this blog, I have a pretty long list of recommended sites to visit. A section of particular interest is that where I list certain blogs that I highly recommend everyone to take a look at.

  • Blog de Heráldica (in Spanish) Perhaps the best, hands down, blog on heraldry out there – in any language! If there is one blog on heraldry to follow, this is it. Maintained by the Royal Air Force Major José Juan Carrión Rangel.
  • Cheshire Heraldry Web Journal An excellent blog maintained by the highly respected heraldist Martin Goldstraw that has done some amazing work.
  • Derecho Heraldico (in Spanish) For those who are interested in heraldry at a much deeper level and really wants to dig in to the topic, this will really satisfy you. Maintained by the Chilean Carlos Ceda Acevedo.
  • Genealogía Blog (in Spanish) A very highly recommended blog that is dedicated to Hispanic genealogy.
  • Georgian Heraldry (in English and Georgian) A blog maintained by Alexander Mikaberidze with a particular focus on Georgia that also touches upon genealogy. Some very beautiful art displayed here.
  • Hellenic Genealogy Geek A blog maintained by Georgia Keilman nee Stryker (Stratigakos) dedicated for those outside of Greece that need help in finding their Hellenic roots.
  • Heráldica Catalana (in Spanish and Catalan) Dedicated to the Catalonia region of Spain covering not just heraldry but also, genealogy, nobiliary topics, etc. Very well written by Javier de Cruïlles.
  • Heráldica de Chile (in Spanish) The only, to my knowledge, blog dedicated to heraldry in the Republic of Chile and maintained by Walter Gallegos.
  • Heráldica en la Argentina (in Spanish) Like the one above, the only blog to my knowledge dedicated to the heraldry in the Republic of Argentina. Maintained by Alejandro Pomar.
  • Heraldry Online Blog A fascinating blog with some unique findings in heraldry. Maintained by Stephen Plowman.
  • Heraldry: Musings on an esoteric topic A very well written and interesting blog maintained by the well known American heraldist David Appleton.
  • México Heráldico (in Spanish) Like the other blogs with a localized focus, this is the only one that I know of dedicated to the heraldry of the Republic of Mexico. Maintained by Jesús Ávila.
  • Salón del Trono (in Spanish) Truly fascinating blog on chivalric orders with articles on topics that have been rarely published before.
  • The armorial blog Excellent blog on heraldry in general but, particularly great because of the amazing artwork displayed. Maintained by Fredrik Brodin.
  • The Genetic Genealogist A different twist to genealogy. We all typically focus on documentation like certificates or books. This blog, as its subheading says, “adds DNA to the genealogist’s toolbox”.
  • Títulos Nobiliarios (in Spanish) This is a blog of very particular interest to those of us who care about what goes on in Spain. It is maintained by Jose Luis Muño who happens to work with the board that decides on the concessions of titles in the Ministry of Justice. Fascinating read always and excellent links.

Count of Quinta Alegre

Today, I have the distinct pleasure and honor publish an article written by the current Count of Quinta Alegre, don Fernando Molina Alcalde, who also happens to be a distant cousin of mine.

So, without more from me, here is the Count’s article:

Several years ago, when I joined the Asociación de Hidalgos a Fuero de España, I proved my nobility and also my ancestral paternal arms for Molina. It was an easy claim since two years earlier my relative Luis Molina Wood had joined the very same noble corporation and his file included the Molina heraldic arms. In my petition I mentioned that I had the very same arms.1

Ancestral arms of Molina: Azure a castle between in base a half millstone Argent and in chief three fleurs de lis Or, all within a bordure Gules charged with eight saltorels Or

These are the same arms that are found in the house of Diego de Molina “el Viejo” (the Elder) in the town of Almagro, today in the province of Ciudad Real, Spain. Diego de Molina “el Viejo,” who was an archpriest, lived between the end of the 15th century through the first half of the 16th century. He founded a very wealthy entail (mayorazgo) and his nephew Diego de Molina “el Joven” (the Younger) was called the first to enjoy it and then his descendants through the male lines, in order of
primogeniture. In case of extinction of his line -it never happened, the Molina Herrera family, also nephews of the founder, were called to it. Among these last ones, Jerónimo de Molina y Herrera, one of the founders of one of the Molina families in Chile in the XVI century, was a common ancestor of Luis Molina Wood and this author.

As Almagro was the seat of the ancient Order of Calatrava, there was a large concentration of noble families.

In 1995 HM King Juan Carlos I of Spain graciously rehabilitated in my favor the title of Count of Quinta Alegre. This Castillian nobiliary title was originally created by HM King Charles III by Royal Decree signed in San Lorenzo on October 22, 1767 for Juan Alcalde y Gutiérrez of Santiago, Chile and born in 1707 in Durón, Guadalajara, Spain. According to the laws of the time, Juan Alcalde’s previously granted title of Viscount of Rivera (Vizcondado previo de Rivera) was canceled upon the creation of this last one.

Arms of the first Count of Quinta Alegre: Quarterly 1 & 4 Argent a castle Gules over a base wavy Azure and Argent; 2 & 3: Argent a lion rampant Proper

A few months later, King Charles III granted a coat of arms to the new Count in Letters Patent dated December 4, 1767 that would be the familial arms of the count and his descendants.2

While in Madrid right after the Royal Decree rehabilitating the title in my favor, I consulted with an expert in heraldry regarding how I should compose my arms that had already been registered and now with my comital title. What was clear was that I could not place the comital coronet above my paternal arms of Molina because the title was not a Molina title but, rather, an Alcalde one. Although, I descend twice from the first Count of Quinta Alegre via my paternal line and once via my maternal.

In any case, the solution was simple: dimidiate the two shields and place the coronet of rank above it. Luckily, my two surnames are Molina Alcalde.

Arms of the current Count of Quinta Alegre, don Fernando Molina Alcalde

Ever since, I have been using these arms as my own and was admitted with these in the Casa Troncal de los Doce Linajes de Soria as a Caballero hijodalgo, Linaje Salvadores (Knight Hijodalgo, Lineage of the Salvadores) in early January 2011. It was an opportunity to officially register my marshalled arms of Molina y Alcalde with this historic nobiliary corporation. A blog entry in the official blog of the corporation displayed these arms along with a short article on January 11, 2011 and again the next day on January 12.

Fernando Joaquín Molina Alcalde, Conde de Quinta Alegre
New York, January 20, 2011


  1. Asociación de Hidalgos a Fuero de España, Padrón de Estado, Madrid, 1967, v. 3, p.134-135, expediente Nº 1840 de don Luis Molina Wood, natural de Santiago, Chile; incluye armas de varonía. Azur, con un castillo de plata, acompañado de tres flores de lis de oro en jefe, y en punta una media rueda de molino, de plata; bordura de gules, cargada de ocho aspas de oro.
    Asociación de Hidalgos a Fuero de España, Padrón de Estado, Madrid, 1970, v.5, p.142-143, expediente Nº 3435 de don Fernando Joaquín Molina Alcalde, natural de Santiago, Chile, menciona como armas las del expediente Nº 1840.
  2. Juan Espejo, Nobiliario de la Capitanía General de Chile, Santiago, 2ª edición, 1967, p.51 (ilustrado) y p.54 n.1; y Ampelio Alonso de Cadenas y López, y Vicente de Cadenas y Vicent, Heraldario español, europeo y americano, vol. 5, Madrid, 1998, p.259 (ilustrado). Cuartelado: 1º y 4º de plata con un castillo de gules puesto sobre ondas de plata y azur; 2º y 3º de plata, con un león rampante de su color.
    Juan Mujica, Linajes españoles. Nobleza colonial de Chile, Santiago, 1927, ilustración sin número, entre las páginas 11 y 12, incluye las armas de los Alcalde con un error en los cuarteles 2º y 3º, los leones rampantes de gules cuando son de su color como queda dicho más arriba.

Hasekura Tsunenaga

Hasekura Rokuemon Tsunenaga was the first official Japanese ambassador to the Americas and Europe, having traveled there in the early 17th century.

He was a Samurai whose mission from Japan to the Christian west spanned from 1613 through 1620 and it was the last one until 1862!

Mon of the daimyo Date Masamune

The objective was to establish a close relationship with the West and increase trade to the benefit of the Japanese. Hasekura was sent by the daimyo (regional powerful lord) Date Masamune of Sendai who had plans to become the Shogun.

In the correspondence that the daimyo sent with Hasekura, it was said that he was planning to convert to Christianity and offered to accept Catholic mercenaries.

This came at a time when Christianity had started taking root in Japan and a number of them were converting, though not all feudal lords welcomed the new religion. Hasekura and his entourage were among those who were at least friendly towards the religion and the majority converted during their trip.

Hasekura himself converted in Spain in 1615 and on February 17th was baptized by King Philip III’s personal chaplain and had as his godfather the Duke of Lerma. His Christian name was Felipe Francisco Hasekura.

Of interest is that on Hasekura’s way to Rome to meet with the Pope, he had to spend a few days in Saint Tropez due to bad weather. While there, he met with French nobles marking the first official contact between France and Japan in history.

There are some funny stories from the French side about their “exotic” visitors:

“They never touch food with their fingers, but instead use two small sticks that they hold with three fingers.”
“They blow their noses in soft silky papers the size of a hand, which they never use twice, so that they throw them on the ground after usage, and they were delighted to see our people around them precipitate themselves to pick them up.”
“Their swords cut so well that they can cut a soft paper just by putting it on the edge and by blowing on it.”

(Marcouin, Francis and Keiko Omoto. Quand le Japon s’ouvrit au monde. Paris: Découvertes Gallimard, 1990. ISBN 2-07-053118-X. Pages 114–116)

In Rome, he got to meet the Pope and made many high level contacts with members of the Church. The people of Rome, to whom he became endeared, even made him a Citizen of Rome.

On the return trip to Japan, several of Hasekura’s men decided to stay behind in Spain where their descendants still carry the surname “(Hasekura de) Japon”.

To continue the story of this mission, when Hasekura returned all those years later to Japan, his home country was a very different place.

Almost immediately after giving his report to the daimyo, Christianity became an outlaw religion. All Christians had to change their religion otherwise they would either face exile (for nobles) or death (for everyone else).

Hasekura remained faithful to the end and among his remains a rosary, a cross and other items were found.

During his years in Europe, he acquired a Coat of Arms and they are depicted above. The blazon is: Argent a two arrows in saltire overall a swastika Sable.