NEW YORK – While Greek-Americans do not forget where they came from, many do not know they details of their ancestry and the details of their family’s journey to America.
Through their well-presented and informative titled “The First National American Genealogy Conference,” the Education and Culture Committee of the Hellenic American Chamber of Commerce (HACC) and HellenicGenealogyGeek.com helped open door to the past for many community members.
The guests who filled the Ballroom of Holy Trinity Cathedral in Manhattan on April 25 were welcomed by Lou Katsos, Executive Vice President of HACC and Chairman of the Committee.
The Conference is an example of how the community’s more dynamic and nimble organizations can take a grass roots impulse and turn it into something substantial.
“You created this event: the audience. This all happened on HellenicGenealogyGeek.com….the people who post there are a fantastic crowd…experts on history, sociology and other fields,” Katsos said during his introduction.
He added “I proffered the idea of having a conference where we can get together and there was a series of posts back and forth where everyone thought it was a great idea.”
The conference began with a background presentation of the Greek-American experience by Dr. Peter C. Moskos titled “The Greek experience in America, as documented in the Third Edition of the book ‘Greek Americans: Struggle and Success,’” his re-writing and expansion of his father Dr. Charles Moskos’ classic book.
Georgia Stryker Keilman, the founder of HellenicGenealogyGeek.com, spoke about “How U.S. Records Can Help You Prepare for Research in Greece. ” The guests learned “which documents provide pertinent information for Greek research, including Passenger Lists, Social Security Applications, Death Certificates, Obituaries and others including resources available online.”
George D. Tselos, Supervisory Archivist and Head of Reference Services at the Statue of Liberty National Monument and Ellis Island since 1999, presented “Passenger Ship and Ellis Island Records,”
focusing on how people can “Learn the resources available at the Ellis Island Immigration Museum to decipher the information found in Passenger Ship Records.”
Before the lunch break, which included musical entertainment by Fantasia, Katsos put Greek immigration to America in the context of Greek history with a “Brief History of Hellenic Lands.” He spoke about “The impact of Hellenic history, geography, boundary and village changes in genealogy research” using maps to show the dramatic changes undergone by the Greek world after the Fourth Crusade.
Dr. Marietta Minotos, Michael Kalavritinos, Keilman, and Katsos presented “Records Available from the General State Archives of Greece and other sources,” focusing on how to “Discover online and textual resources held at the Greek Archives and other sources.”
Peter Dickson then spoke about “Using DNA in Greek Family History Research,” and Debbie Petrides presented “A Case Study from Chios” to illustrate “how to use records from Greece to discover the history of your family.”
Historian and Genealogist Gregory Kontos spoke about the research he did for the Greek-American segment of the PBS program “Finding your Roots,” of Henry Louis Gates Jr. George Stephanopoulos was one of the people featured in the show and Katsos was pleased to be able to introduce him to Rev. Dr. Robert Stephanopoulos, who attended the conference.
The fascinating topic of Hellenic Genealogy Tourism was the closing topic. Carol Kostakos Petranek spoke about preparing for and “Planning a Research Trip,” followed by a Hellenic Genealogy Tourism Panel Discussion with Kalavritinos, Keilman, Petranek, and Petrides moderated by Katsos
Katsos was very impressed with the people who travelled from as far away as Washington state and Oregon, Florida and even Canada. He also found it interesting that so many third and fourth generation Greek-Americans attended.
“The need of people to people to find their roots,” is great he said, but the fascination with Greek roots is very strong.