Sunday, October 20, 2019

Greek Genealogy Conference in Virginia Beach

Each community has its own unique genealogical challenges. But genealogists love challenges, don't we? There seems to be something ingrained in the genealogist that makes us a glutton for punishment! Genealogy gold always seems to show up at 12:30am, for example. It's just one of those things!

The Greek community has various challenges relating to access to records, to their relatively small DNA sample database, and diverse ethnicity estimates. Over the years - in my time working with the Greek Orthodox Church - I've had the pleasure of researching several Greek families and have had first-hand experience maneuvering U.S. records relating to Greek families and the challenges of Greek naming conventions.

I have wanted to do a genealogy project to serve the Greek community in my area, to rouse some excitement about family history, and to inspire them to dig deeper into their family roots. Enter the lovely Carol Kostakos Petranek of the blog Spartan Roots. Together we planned a Greek Genealogy Conference here in Virginia Beach on Saturday, October 19, 2019. Carol was even able to bring in a researcher named Matt Ellsworth to share his expertise in Cypriot research.

Over the course of the day, we had 30 participants from as close as Virginia Beach and Norfolk, to as far away as Michigan, and even Ottawa, Canada! There was a beautiful moment where one of our parishioners from Constantinople - modern-day Istanbul, Turkey - was able to translate Turkish documents written in Greek script! These are the sort of things that can only happen through collaboration! This is the beauty of conferences and the hospitality that comes from Greek filotimo!

Despina translated several documents for Denise from Michigan

Knowing that not everyone was able to attend in person, we made all of our talks available through Facebook Live on our St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church Facebook page. These talks will be available for you to view for one week, free of charge, through Sunday, October 27, 2019.

Below is the full schedule from our Greek Genealogy Conference along with the links to the Facebook Live videos from each of the talks. I hope you will take the time to watch or re-watch these videos in the week that they'll be available!

Please note that unfortunately some of the videos did not share properly. Matt Ellsworth's presentation stopped after only a minute or two, and two others (Carol's talk on Greek Civil Records, and mine on U.S. Church Records) shared to Facebook Live only as audio. The slides do not change on the versions shared through Facebook Live. Oh the joys of technology!

Virginia Beach Greek Genealogy Conference

We had to take a selfie with our participants!

Presenters: Sam Williams, Carol Kostakos Petranek, Matt Ellsworth

Introduction to the Conference

Why Orthodox Christians Should Do Their Genealogy - Sam

Greek Genealogy Toolbox & Making connections: Internet resources - Carol

Using U. S. Records to Prepare for Research in Greece – Carol

Using DNA in Greek Genealogy – Sam

Research in Cyprus – Matt Ellsworth (Zoom meeting)
- Unfortunately, Matt's presentation did not properly share to Facebook Live.

Greek Civil Records in Archives and Town Halls - Carol
- The presentation audio is all present, but the slides do not change on Facebook Live.

Orthodox Church Records in Greece - Carol

Orthodox Church Records in the U.S. – Sam
- The presentation audio is present, but as with the Civil Records presentation, the slides do not move in the Facebook Live video.
- If you would like to view the notes from this presentation, please contact me at and I can send you a PDF of them!


We hope that all of the participants left feeling filled with not only new information on records available, but also with the hope that Greek genealogy - though challenging - is not impossible for their families! It was a blessed day!

If you have any questions regarding the content, I'd love to hear from you!

My ancestors - and your ancestors - deserve the best researcher, the most passionate story-teller, and the dignity of being remembered. So let's keep encountering our ancestors through family history and remembering the past made present today!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, Sam, for organizing this and for bringing people together to learn some research skills. It was a terrific day!


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