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Searchable database for Births, Deaths and Marriages from the 1700s to 1865

Updated: Mar 6

It gives us great pride and pleasure to announce we have now added three new English searchable databases to our resources page, which collectively contain information from about 15,000 images with well over 50,000 individual entries of translated birth, death and marriage church registry records of Kythera. While some churches start in the late 1600s, most span from the mid-1700s to 1865. These have taken us nearly ten years to read and translate, and these databases will be updated with the remaining churches in the next month or so. We believe this to be the first and largest undertaking to translate Greek archival church registry records into English, thus unlocking family history otherwise hidden to the worldwide Kytherian population and their descendants.  

In 2013 whilst holidaying in Kythera, I was alerted that the Greek State Archives had painstakingly digitised the surviving church registry books held in the Kytherian Archives, book by book, page by page and uploaded the images to their website, as part of a nationwide digitisation project. Whilst trolling through these digital images searching for our own ancestors, Amalia and I decided to systematically read through and translate the entries and document data of the births, deaths and marriages into spreadsheets.

A typical example of a page from a church register dated before 1841 found in the Drymonas Agia Marina church registers. Image found on GAK.
A typical example of a page from a church register dated after 1841 that is much more descriptive. This one is found in the Kousounari church registers. Image found on GAK.

The task was difficult in the beginning, and although I have a good command of reading and speaking Greek and Amalia can read the language, these handwritten entries took many months to decipher and master, due to the state of the book pages, some faded and worm eaten, but especially due to the bad handwriting where most entries were prepared by priests or scribes with only basic education. Often there are no word breaks and words continue from one line to the next, even around holes or damage sustained over 100 years ago. We researched many other sources which assisted us to decipher the handwriting, the use of date codes, words and abbreviations which are no longer used in modern Greek. In addition, we gained an understanding as to why the records changed in style over time, from short three to four lined entries which only document limited information, to the more descriptive entries, which provide a great deal more information including ages, occupations and other interesting facts.  

This example found in a Karvounades Agios Georgios church register shows damage by worms. This damage would be in the same location for multiple pages. Image from GAK.
This is a particularly damaged page from an Alexandrades Agia Trida church register that shows the difficulty faced in reading these documents. Image from GAK.

We have referenced each entry to the digitised image number and the position on the page. We have extracted information which we deem to be of importance for compiling family histories. You will notice that entries dated after 1841 have more information, so be sure to scroll all the way across to the right-hand side to see notes of interest and if signatures of the father, mother, groom or bride appear in the entry. As Greek is a phonetic language, we have endeavoured to translate the sounds into English, with some minor differences between Amalia and I. The spelling of names are representative of how they were recorded. Although we have taken every care to translate the entries to the best of our knowledge, there are many cases where question marks appear as information is not clear, smudged or even missing, and encourage you to read the entries yourselves and make your own judgment.

This very faded page from the Milopotamos Sosti church is not the most faded page we encountered but it is a great example of how hard some of these pages were to read. Image from GAK.

Also amongst these church registers we found many entries made by the priests that we have not included in these databases, but we have made notes of these as they relate to the church building, maintenance, donations, as well as priest entries about political views and capturing historical events. One entry in particular made in the 1830s by the priest of Illiariotissa Church in Potamos, Father Stavrianos Levounis, states he decided to rewrite the entries contained in the old church register books as they were hard to read and he wanted the information preserved for future generations. His foresight secured records that otherwise would have been lost. It is that same sentiment that drives us to undertake our research and share it in our databases for future generations.

We would like to thank the Nicholas Anthony Aroney Trust and our families for their support of this database project.

The Aloizianika church register has a wonderful example of the difficul writing with no breaks between words and the old style of numbers that are actually letters and not numerals. Image from GAK.

This page from Estavromens church in Chora is one of the oldest and is dated 1674. The second listing has the old style numbers (the fourth letter is an obsolete character and is the number 6) while the others have numerals.
This page from Estavromenos church in Chora is one of the oldest and is dated 1674. The second listing has the old style numbers (the fourth letter is an obsolete character and is the number 6) while the others have numerals. Image from GAK

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