Posts tagged ‘Giakoumelos’


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.

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

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.

Juan Martínez de Vergara

As a segue from the previous entry on my maternal arms of the Martínez de Vergara line and a departure from heraldry, I decided to spend some time discussing my genealogical research.

In the hispanic world, people are known by two surnames, that of the father and that of the mother. In the rest of the western world, only the father’s surname is used. Therefore, my surname would be “Andreou Vergara”.

Additionally, in the hispanic world, people are also known by their four surnames. The father’s surname, the mother’s, the paternal grandmother’s and the maternal grandmother’s. This is a boon to genealogists as they can get more information on a given individual and open up new avenues.

My four surnames are: Andreou, Vergara, Giakoumelos and Edwards.
My mother’s four surnames are: Vergara, Edwards, Ortúzar and Hurtado.
Unfortunately, I don’t have the same information, yet, for my father as the multiple surname custom is not part of Greek culture.
I’ll start with my mother’s side of the family. My mother’s surname is Vergara Edwards and follows the hispanic tradition of using the father’s paternal name and the mother’s paternal name. My maternal grandmother’s name was Edwards Hurtado and my maternal grandfather’s name was Vergara Ortúzar.

I’ll focus on the “Vergara” side. My mother’s paternal line is specifically, Martínez de Vergara” descending from the founder of the line in Chile named Juan Martínez de Vergara who travelled to Chile from Spain to participate in the Arauco War against the Mapuche indians.

He was born in Gibraleón, Huelva to Juan Martínez de Vergara and Isabel Alonso Márquez. The senior Juan Martínez de Vergara was a hidalgo originally from Guipúzcoa.

He married Magdalena de Leiva Sepúlveda in 1634 and had 4 children: Mariana Vergara Leiva Sepúlveda, Francisca Vergara Leiva Sepúlveda, Isabel Vergara Leiva Sepúlveda and Juan Martínez de Vergara Leiva Sepúlveda.

This is the quote from the book “Nobleza Colonial de Chile” by Juan Mujica, pages 444-445:

Partió a las Indias destinado a la guerra de Chile en los campos de Arauco en 1601. Vino enrolado en la tropa que acompaño al gobernador Alonso de Ribera, considerado el organizador del ejército reino de Chile. Formo en la compañía que mandaba el capitán Gines de Lillo y asistió con sus armas en los fuertes de Santa Fe y Talcahuano. En 1628 ya figuraba en grado de capitán.

Establecido en Chillan, donde fue maestre de campo y alcalde en 1640, fundo su hogar y perteneció a la cofradía de Nuestra Señora de los Remedios. Realizada la destrucción de esa urbe por los rebeldes araucanos, tuvo que abandonarla junto con su familia. Su esposa aporto al matrimonio una caudalosa dote con casa solar en la ciudad citada y una estancia de feraces tierras. Vergara con su mujer e hijos busco refugio en zona más segura y obtuvo rica merced de tierras en Colchagua. Se le cuenta entre los benefactores del convento que los mercedarios tenían en Chimbarongo. Consta que en 1658 realizo un viaje al Perú, otorgando antes su testamento en Valparaíso. Cuatro anos mas tarde volvió a disponer otro testamento en su estancia de Chimbarongo y fundo una capellania de misas. Por sus servicios militares obtuvo encomienda de indios en Colchagua y murió en 1672. El sabio Medina anota que la Real Audiencia le recomendó al rey como persona ilustre y benemérita en 1626.


He left for the Indies with a destination of the war in Chile on the fields of Arauco in 1601. He arrived enrolled in the troop that accomanied the governor Alonso de Ribera, considered the organizer of the royal army in Chile. He was part of the company under the leadership of Captain Gines de Lillo and assisted in the battles of Santa Fe and Tlcahuano. By 1628, he had already attained the rank of Captain.

Settling in Chillan, where he was Field Marshal and Mayor in 1640, he created his home and was part of the cofraternity of Nuestra Señora de los Remedios. He had to abandon the town with his family after its destruction of the town by the rebel Araucos. His wife contributed to the marriage with a significant dowry including an estate and land. Vergara, with his wife and children, sought refuge in a safer area and obtained a rich portion of land in Colchagua. He was one of the benefactors of the convent of the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy in Chimbarongo. In 1658 he traveled to Peru after completing his will in Valparaiso. Four years later, he authored another will at his estate in Chimbarongo and founded a chapel there. For his military service he received an encomienda of indians in Colchagua and died in 1672. Media notes that the Real Audiencia recommended he be recognized by the king in 1626.

Source: from data entered by me

Source: from data entered by me