Posts tagged ‘andreou’

Designing your own coat of arms – Canting arms

In this entry of the series on designing your own coat of arms, we’ll explore canting arms, i.e. arms that play on the name of the armiger.

One of the most popular ways of coming up with ideas for a new coat of arms, and my favorite, is to come up with canting arms. The word “canting” comes from the word “cantar(e)” in Spanish/Italian that means “to sing”. In other words, the arms are a play or pun on one’s name. Canting arms are also known, in French, as “armes parlantes” or “speaking arms”.

What does this mean to you? Well, it’s simple. Think of your surname or the nickname your family has had. Does it mean anything? Is it a combination of words? Or is it a toponym?

Martyrdom of Andrewimage courtesy of Wikipedia

Let’s take for example my own surname of “Andreou”. As I mention in my post on my arms, my surname is the ancient Greek form of the name “Andrew”. I used the saltire (X like cross) as a cant of my surname as this symbolizes St. Andrew the Apostle.

Every name has a cant. The question is really whether someone wants to use it or not.

Many times it’s not easy to find out what the surname means. This is usually because the name derives either from a non-English language or from some archaic version of the word.

Taking some examples from Boutell’s Heraldry (1983 ed) we find the following examples: the De Lucy shield bearing three pikefish (at the time called “lucies”); the Burdon shield being Gules, three pilgrims staves Argent (a pilgrim’s stave used to be called a “bourdon”);  etc.

Canting arms are not new and are very common in early heraldry and, also according to Boutell’s Heraldry, the arms sometimes were a cant of the armiger’s first name.

Now that canting arms have been explained comes the difficult part. How do you find out what your surname means? It’s not always easy. Not everyone is named “Smith” where they can use, for example, an anvil. Also, it’s not always supposed to be very clear. One of the joys in heraldry is trying to solve the mystery of the arms and figure out how the charges came about.

For example, let’s take a friend of mine named “Karagiannis”. This surname can be split into two:  “karas” and “giannis”. “Karas” means “black” in Turkish and was very commonly given by the Ottomans as a prefix to a Greek’s name. “Giannis” is the Greek form of “John”. In other words, one could translate “Karagiannis” to “Blackjohn”. Taking it a step further, it could be “Blackjack”.  As we all know, the key numbers in the card game of blackjack are 14 and 21. Therefore, a nice cant would be a field of 21 charges. Without knowing the story, the observer would have to wonder how the shield came about.

Previous: Ancestral or familial symbols Next: Career


Andreou breakthrough!

With the instrumental help of the Very Reverend Father Patriarchal Vicar Archimandrite Nikodimos Priangelos of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria, of the Greek Orthodox church in Cairo, Egypt I was able to get information about my paternal grandfather’s baptism and birth.

According to the entry in the church’s records:

Kimon Andreou, son of Evangelos Andreou of Volos and Orthodoxia Stavrinou of Cyprus, born on June 22 1887 in Cairo and baptised in the holy church of St. Nicholas in Cairo on December 16, 1887 by the Reverend Father David and with Maria Stavrinou as the godmother

Code: 1 Page: 77 Number: 220

Coincidentally, my father got some information and it appears that Orthodoxia Stavrinou was from Larnaca, Cyprus. However, I do not know more about her such as her birth year or her parents.

It appears that the Stavrinou family migrated to Greece at some point as cousins of my father still live in Athens though contact is very sparse these days.

If and when I receive copies of any documents I’ll get them posted here.

In addition to the above, there is a document from the municipality of Athens listing information about my grandparents and specifically about my grandfather’s important life events. Unfortunately, his birth date differs from what is in the records of the church in Cairo.

As mentioned above, the church in Cairo states that my grandfather was born in 1887 but the document from the municipality of Athens states 1889. A difference of two years, which is larger than the 13 days of the Julian vs. Gregorian calendars (the latter being adopted in Greece in 1927). I tend to trust the church records more (as it regards the birth date), as they were contemporary, rather than the Athenian ones as those were recorded at a much later date. Also going against the city of Athens is the total lack of any information on his parents or place of birth. However, I do trust those records for the other dates as they all occured in Athens.

According to the records of the city of Athens:

  • My grandmother, Athena Giakoumelos, was born in 1899.
  • My grandmother’s parents were Spyridon and Maria Giakoumelos.
  • My grandparents were married on August 25, 1913.
  • My grandfather died in Athens on February 15, 1944

Difficulties of researching the Andreou family

As opposed to the bounty of information that is available for my maternal lines of the Martínez de Vergara, Edwards, Hurtado de Mendoza, Ortúzar, etc. I have very little information on any of my paternal lines. All I know about the family’s history prior to my father’s generation is from second and third hand accounts from my family’s oral history.

My paternal grandfather was born in 1889 in Cairo, Egypt. I have contacted the Bishop of the Greek Orthodox Church in Cairo requesting information but have not heard back from him. Originally, the information I had was that my grandfather was from Alexandria and I had received considerable assistance from the office of the Patriarch there. However, it was proven that my grandfather was actually born in Cairo.

Milies on map of Greece

Milies on map of Greece

The Egyptian difficulties notwithstanding, I do have some information. I have his birth year of 1889 but, not the full date. I have his parents’ first names: Evangelos and Orthodoxia. I also know that my great-grandfather was from the village of Milies in North-Central Greece. But, that’s about it.

Unfortunately, Greece has had a very tumultuous history and the records keeping has been sparse and those have been destroyed. Adding to the difficulty, my Greek lineage is not one of nobility or major historical importance; at least as far as I know….

During the recent history of Greece, from the Middle Ages to today, whatever records were kept by a central authority were destroyed by either the Ottomans or the Nazis or one of the opposing parties during the Civil War. Any records that may be surviving are those kept in personal collections or hidden in monasteries or churches.

The family’s oral tradition has it that in the 1930’s my grandfather had a filed suit to evict his cousins from property in his name located in his paternal village of Milies. According to the story, my grandfather won the case and had agreed to give his cousins some additional time to vacate the premises before taking possession. However, WW2 started and he never pursued the matter further. My grandfather died in 1942 and the rest of the family didn’t know or have the records to follow through with the matter.

My hope is that records of this court case survived the Nazi purge, who manipulated the official records to their own benefit as it concerned land ownership. If the records have indeed survived, I hope to find more about my grandfather, the location of the property and names from my grandfather’s family. Though I don’t have any plans of asserting my grandfather’s claims to the properties, I would like to contact those family members for more information.

Another difficulty is with the surname. Surname forms change depending on the region of Greece. For example, those from the Peloponnese have their surnames ending in -poulos, except for the region of Mani where they share the same ending as those from Crete of -akis. My surname form of -ou, which is the possessive of the name Andrew (in Greek, names are conjugated as well), is found in various areas of Greece but is most common in Cyprus. However, there is no indication of a Cypriot connection in any of the family traditions. Another interesting fact is the apparent repetition of the first name “Kimon” (also known as “Cimon” in classical western literature) in the family; Kimon has historically been a very popular name on the island. So, I may find some connection, at some point in time, with Cyprus… who knows?

In any case, I hope my research into the Andreou family pans out and allow me to extend my family tree in that direction.

Constantine Andreou

Today we’ll cover a great artist, my uncle Constantine Andreou recipient of the Légion d’Honneur and the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.

My uncle was born in São Paulo, Brazil on March 24, 1917 died on October 8, 2008 in Athens, Greece. He had a very successful career that lasted over six decades gaining fame around the world and especially in France and Greece.

His career started in Greece just a couple of years before World War 2 reached Greece and by 1939 he was participating in national competitions of art.

He first tried participating at the Panellinio (Πανελλήνιο) in 1939 but was disqualified. In 1942, he tried again with the same artwork and the judges accused him of cheating as the art was so lifelike. Fortunately, to his defense came three of the major artists of the time in Greece: Memos Makris, John Miliades, and Nikos Nikolaou. The latter becoming his lifelong friend.

What’s also impressive is that he was drafted into the Hellenic Army in 1940, with Italy’s invasion of Greece, and later participated actively in the Greek Resistance while at the same pursuing his art career.

Right after the war, in 1945, he won an art scholarship to go to France. This was to be his country for residence for the next 57 years.

During his long career, he worked with some of the major intellectuals of his time such as Le Corbusier and Picasso. He was also part of Jean-Paul Sartre inner circle in Saint-Germain-des-Prés. Sartre wrote about my uncle several times in his periodical Les Temps Modernes, liking him as equal to Picasso, Mondrian and Gastaud. In 1999, he was honored by La Ville-du-Bois, the village where he lived, by having their library named after him.

He returned permanently to Athens in 2002 and in 2004 he founded the “Costas Andreou Foundation”, that is currently being chaired by my brother Arys Andreou.

In his career he won many awards for his work:

  • Gran Prix d’Antoine Pevsner, 1998
  • Croix de Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur, 2000
  • Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, 2005

There is an extensive write up on my uncle on Wikipedia under Constantine Andreou

Andreou family

In the last entry I spoke of the founder of my mother’s paternal lineage in Chile, Juan Martínez de Vergara. I’ll get back to that lineage in future posts but today will move to my father’s side, the Andreou line.

Though I don’t have much information on this line what I do have tells a very interesting story.

My father was born in 1929 in the neighborhood of Colonos in Athens, Greece. He was the seventh of eight children of whom the four eldest and the most youngest were born in São Paolo, Brazil. The first child was born in 1916 and the youngest in 1935.

Just this, is an interesting story. Take a look at the map to see where the two countries are in relation to each other and think about the time period.

Among these children, a great artist arose that was honored with the French Legion of Honor and the Order of Arts and Letters, Constantine Andreou.

My grandfather was named Kimon Andreou, just like me, and was born in Cairo, Egypt in 1889 to a Greek couple who had recently emigrated there from central Greece.

The story, as it has been related to me, is that my grandfather first traveled to Brazil sometime in around 1910. He returned briefly to Greece where, through an arranged marriage, he wed my grandmother and sailed back to Brazil settling with his young bride in São Paolo.

After about a decade in Brazil, the family of now six returns to Greece. The last four children were now born in Greece.

If anybody’s keeping track, that’s 6 transatlantic trips and 6 moves with an ever growing family in the period of 1910 to 1937, a time when most never left their village.

Why all this back and forth half way across the world in such a short period of time? I don’t know but, I intend to find out….

The family that was fortunate enough to watch the Great War (or WW1) from Brazil and out of the theatre of war was not so lucky with the second world war. The family at this time was in the Kypriadou neighborhood of Athens and survived through the Nazi occupation of Greece.

The stories told of German atrocities, the famine and illnesses, the people dying in the streets and what they had to do to survive are enthralling and hair raising.

In 1944, my grandfather dies leaving my grandmother a widow with a seven year old daughter and a couple of teenage sons. Luckily, the oldest children were adults and were able to contribute to the survivival of the family.

During the Nazi occupation, all the boys in the family joined the Greek resistance and contributed in any way they could. My father was in his early teens and was already a talented sapper rigging railroads and bridges with explosives to sever the Nazi supply routes.

After the war, the family split with different children migrating to different countries to escape war torn Greece and try to start a new life. The eldest male, Constantine, went to France on an art scholarship to begin a long and illustrious career attaining worldwide fame. Others returned to Brazil once again while others stayed in Greece for a few more years until those too went to Brazil.

The Andreou family managed to avoid the Greek civil war and by 1950 were all, minus Constantine, in Brazil.

The 1950’s were great for the Andreou family in Brazil, though one of the men returned to Greece to start his career in jewelry. The others had their own businesses in Brazil and my father had started his own career in jewlery.

One of the highlights of my father’s career was his selection in 1963 by the government of Rio de Janeiro to create the bejeweled Key to City that was to be presented to US President John F. Kennedy, scheduled to visit the city after a brief visit to Dallas, TX. Unfortunately, that was not to be…..

By the mid to late 1960s my father moves to New York City at the urging of his best friend and my godfather, George Papadopoulos (no relation to the Greek Colonel of the same name). By 1980, he was a US citizen, married and with two children. In 1984, my family of Andreou Vergara moves back to Athens, Greece and now my parents are happily retired and enjoying their life.

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