Greece Church Records

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Greece Church Records

Definition

Records of births or christenings, marriages, and burials or deaths are commonly called vital records. Church records are vital records made by priests. Church records are crucial for genealogical research in Greece. The Eastern Orthodox faith is the official religion of Greece, although other religions are tolerated. Fully 97 percent of the population of Greece belongs to the Greek Orthodox Church.Greek Orthodox church records are excellent sources for accurate information on names, dates, and places of births, marriages, and deaths. Most people who lived in Greece were recorded in a church record.

Time Coverage

Greek Orthodox churches have made records for several centuries. Some church records in Greece begin in the sixteenth century, although most registers begin in the late 1600s and early 1700s. For birth, marriage, and death records after about 1840, there may also be a civil record (see Greece Civil Registration- Vital Records).

Information Recorded in Church Registers

The information recorded in church books varied over time. The later records generally give more complete information than the earlier ones. The most important church records for genealogical research are christening, marriage, and burial registers. In addition, church records may include account books, list of clergy, and lists of members. Greek Orthodox church records were written in Greek. Catholic Church registers are in Latin and Italian. Armenian church registers are in Armenian.

Baptisms

In early years, children were generally christened a few days after their birth. Christening registers usually give the infant’s and parents’ names (sometimes giving the grandfather’s name), status of legitimacy, names of godparents, and the birth and christening date. The patronymic name is given for each male person mentioned in the entry and husband’s name for the females. You may also find the date, father’s occupation, and the family’s place of residence.

  • Click here to see a visual example of a baptism record and its translation.

Marriages

Marriage registers give the date of the marriage, the names of the bride and groom, and the names of the parents of the bride and groom. They may also list the names of witnesses and list the ages and birthplaces of the bride and groom.

Diocese Marriage Records

In Greece, persons who wanted to marry had to talk to the local priest. The prospective couple submitted certificates giving their birth, parentage, and other information to the local priest, who forwarded it to the diocese (mitropolis). Clerks there would check to make sure neither party was currently married to someone else, nor too closely related to the intended spouse. If no problems were found, the diocese would issue the permission for marriage. Upon receiving the diocese’s approval, the local priest performed the marriage. Often, the only permanent record of the marriage is the information recorded by the diocese. If the marriage did not actually take place, that fact is usually noted in the diocese’s records. These records generally give the same information as the parish marriage record and may also list the date the certificate was issued, the birthplaces of the bride and groom, their residence, parents’ names, and whether this was the first or a subsequent marriage. Other information varies. The original certificates that were provided by the bride and groom appear to be on file in the diocese.

Diocese Divorce Records

Divorces before the mid-twentieth century were uncommon. Records of divorces may contain information on family members, their marital history, their property, residences, and dates of other important events such as the children’s births. Records of divorce are found either in court records or in diocese records.

Deaths

Deaths were recorded by the priest who performed the funeral and burial. Burial usually took place within 24 hours of death, either in the parish where the person died, or in the cemetery of the town where the person died. Death registers give the name of the deceased person, the father’s name, the date of death, age, marital status (widow or widower), and sometimes the cause of death.

Locating Church Records

Greece has no single repository of church records. The present location of records depends on several factors of nationality, government regulations, and local history. Records are available from several locations.

Greek Orthodox Records

  • In earlier years, each priest had a book where he recorded the ordinances he performed. A priest may have served more than one local village, or he may have served with other priests in one parish.
  • Birth entries from his books were copied by the civil authorities in order to construct the male register.
  • When a priest retired or died, the book had to be turned in to the diocese. You must determine the diocese that your ancestor’s town belonged to so that you will know where the records are kept.
  • In large cities, where there may be many parishes, the FamilySearch Catalog uses the parish name (such as St. John) to distinguish the records of different parishes.

Although church records originated on the parish level, the records may be located at various places today.

  • Local parishes. Most church registers are still maintained by the parish.* Most older records, however, have often been turned in to diocese or state repositories.
  • GAK archives (Genika Archeia tou Kratous). Many pre-1900 records from many parishes are in the GAK. Some of these records have been microfilmed and are available at the Family History Library. However, for more recent records and for those not yet microfilmed, write to the Genika Archeia tou Kratous and request searches of the records. See Greece Archives and Libraries.
  • Some very old records are kept in monasteries.
  • Diocese archives. Current parish registers are located at the parish, but older records of the 1800s and 1900s may be kept in diocese archives. Marriage records especially are generally kept in the diocese offices. You can write to the diocese office for marriage information.

Also,for this time period, you can usually obtain birth, death, and sometimes marriage information, from civil registration rather than the church, by writing to or visiting the local mayors’ offices.

Records at the Family History Library

The Family History Library has some church records on microfilm from Greece. This collection continues to grow as new records are microfilmed. Earlier church records have been filmed from GAK (Genika Archeia tou Kratous) in the counties (nomos) of Kerkyras (1700s–1844), Kefallinias (1700s–early 1900s), Leukados (1700s, 1823–1860), and the district (eparhia) of Kythiron (1660s and 1700s–1865). Church records from the diocese of Halkidos, Thivon and Levadias, and Rethymni have also been filmed. Diocese boundaries do not always correlate with county boundaries.

The specific holdings of the Family History Library are listed in the FamilySearch Catalog. You can determine whether the library has records for the locality your ancestor came from by checking the locality section of the FamilySearch Catalog. Of course, if a record has been destroyed, was never kept, has not been microfilmed, or is restricted from public access by the laws of the country, the Family History Library will not have a copy.

In the FamilySearch Catalog, look under the name of the town, district, or county where the your ancestor lived:

GREECE, [COUNTY], [TOWN] - CHURCH RECORDS GREECE, [COUNTY], [DISTRICT] - CHURCH RECORDS GREECE, [COUNTY] - CHURCH RECORDS

Minority Religions and Records

The minority religions include about 1.3 percent of the population. There are Muslims of Western Thrace, with additional small communities of Roman Catholics (remnants from Venetian times), Protestants (from 19th century missionary activity), Armenian Monophysites, and Jews.

Church records kept by the Roman Catholic church are similar in content to the Orthodox church records. Roman Catholic church records from various parts of Greece have been filmed. For example, many of the records from the 1700s–1930s have been filmed from the county of Kykladon.

Writing for Records

Include the following in your request:

  • Full name of the person sought
  • Names of the parents, if known
  • Approximate date and place of the event
  • Your relationship to the person
  • Reason for the request (family history)
  • Request for a photocopy of the complete original record
  • International Reply Coupon, available from your local post office
  • Agreement concerning payment of any fees incurred

Form Letter

Information on addressing the letter, enclosing money, and a form letter in Greek, with its English translation are found in this .pdf:

Finding Diocese and Local Church Addresses

Diocese Addresses
  • For addresses of the diocese you need for mainland Greece, see The Official Website of the Church of Greece. Click on the Diocese tab and select your municipality from the drop down list. Its canonical territory is confined to the borders of Greece prior to the Balkan Wars of 1912–1913 ("Old Greece"), with the rest of Greece (the "New Lands", Crete, and the Dodecanese) being subject to the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.
  • For addresses of diocese in the Church of Crete, go to Church of Crete. Right click on the page and choose "Translate to English". Each "Metropolis" in the right sidebar is a diocese. Click on the Metropolis and then on "Communication" for contact information.
  • You can learn from the diocese which records have not been turned over from the local parish and the contact information of the local parish.
Parish Addresses
Church Directories

Church directories list the various places where the Orthodox church has congregations and addresses. They often give additional information such as church beliefs, diocese office addresses, and calendar items. A yearly church directory for the Greek Orthodox Church includes information on Eastern Orthodox churches in other countries of eastern Europe. The Family History Library listings for the 1976 and 1995 editions are:

  • Imerologion tis Ekklisias tis Ellados - Almanac of the Churches of Greece. (s.l.): Apostoliki Diakonia tis Ellados, 1976. (FHL book 949.5 K22e; )
  • Diptyha tis Ekklisias tis Ellados, 1995 - Diptych of the Church of Greece, 1995).


Search Strategies

Use the following strategies to search church records effectively:

  1. Search for the relative or ancestor you selected.
  2. When you find the birth record, search for the births of his or her brothers and sisters.
  3. Search for the marriage of your ancestor’s parents.
  4. The marriage record will often lead to the birth records of the parents. You can estimate the ages of the parents and search for their birth records.
  5. Repeat the process for both the father and the mother.
  6. Search the death registers for all known family members.
  7. If earlier generations are not in the record, search records of neighboring towns.