Greece Emigration and Immigration

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Emigration and Immigration

Definition

Emigration and immigration sources list the names of people leaving (emigration) or coming into (immigration) Greece. These lists are usually found as *passenger lists

  • permissions to emigrate
  • records of passports issued
  • lists of prisoners deported, and so on.

The information in these records may include

  • the names of the emigrants,
  • ages,
  • occupations,
  • destinations,
  • and the place of origin or birthplace of the emigrant.

These sources can be valuable in helping you determine where in Greece your ancestor came from. If you don’t find your ancestor, you may find emigration information on neighbors of your ancestor. People who lived near each other in Greece often settled together in the country they emigrated to. Records were created when individuals emigrated from or immigrated into Greece. Other records document an ancestor’s arrival in his or her destination country.

History of Immigration and Emigration

Emigration from Greece

Sometimes the best sources for information about your immigrant ancestor are found in the country he or she immigrated to. These records sometimes provide the town of origin and other information. To learn about these records, use handbooks, manuals, and research guides for that country.

  • Until the 1820s Greeks emigrated to European countries mostly for political reasons. After the Greek nation was established, the reasons for emigration were economic. See, Outline: Why did they leave? Greek-emigration in the 1900's, by Dr. Margarita Dounia, handout
  • Most people leaving Greece in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries went to the United States, Egypt, Australia, South America, or South Africa. By 1910, an estimated one quarter to one fifth of the total labor force of Greece had left. In 1914 alone, 35,832 Greek emigrants went to the United States.
  • Emigration to the United States nearly stopped after 1924 when restrictive immigration quotas were applied. After that time most emigrant Greeks went to other countries such as Australia, Canada, or South Africa.
  • Today there are many Greeks in Australia, which is called by some the largest of the Greek islands. These Greek emigrants were not all from Greece. Many came from areas outside of Greece, mainly from the surrounding Turkish territory, the Balkan countries, or Egypt.
  • For most Greek emigrants, this was to be a temporary move–they intended to return to Greece with money they saved abroad. Almost half of the emigrants eventually did return to Greece.

Greek Immigrants to the United States

  • Although Greeks had been leaving their homelands for the New World since colonial times as sailors, merchants, or miners, it wasn’t until the 1890s that substantial Greek communities were established in the United States.
  • At the close of the Civil War, fewer than one hundred Greeks lived in the United States. Reports of job opportunities in America started a wave of emigration in the 1880s. The number of emigrants grew slowly until 1900, thereafter growing rapidly and reaching a peak about 1910.
  • The earliest emigration was from the Peloponnesus, then from central Greece, Crete, Turkey, Cyprus, and the Balkan countries.
  • Most Greek immigrants to the United States arrived at the port of New York.

Greek Boundary Changes Affect Immigrant Status

"When the formation of the modern Greek nation took place the boundaries of Greece were including only a small part of what today is Greece. With the years the boundaries were expanded. How these changes affect research and accessing records:

  • If your ancestor was born in Crete and emigrated to the U.S.A. in 1907 the Ship Manifest will state that he was born in Turkey.
  • Also if your ancestor moved from Crete to Athens before 1913, you may find information about him/her on records of “immigrants” to Greece!
  • Or if he was born in Athens and moved to Crete before 1913 you may find information about him/her on Passport Lists."

--Lica Catsakis, Geographic and Administrative Boundary Changes

Surname changes were made when an area of a different country became part of Greece, and the ethnic Greek citizens wanted to change their names to the Greek form.

Finding the Emigrant’s Town of Origin

The objective of immigration/emigration research is to determine the place of origin in Greece. Once you have traced your family back to your immigrant ancestor, you must determine the 'city or town the ancestor was from in order to continue any research. Greece has no nationwide index to birth, marriage, or death records. These records were kept locally. There are several sources, however, that may give your ancestor’s place of origin. Many research strategies for finding the origins of immigrant ancestors is given in Tracing Immigrant Origins.

Family Sources

You may be able to learn the town your ancestor came from by talking to older family members. Members of your family or a library may have some of the following documents that might name the city or town:

  • Birth, marriage, and death certificates
  • Obituaries
  • Journals
  • Photographs
  • Letters
  • Family Bible
  • Church certificates or records
  • Naturalization applications and petitions
  • Passenger lists
  • Passports
  • Family heirlooms

Types of Records

Church Records

Greeks established Greek Orthodox churches wherever they had sufficient numbers. Before they could establish a Greek parish, they often associated with other Eastern Orthodox churches such as the Russian Orthodox Church. Consult church records for these churches if you expected to find your ancestor’s records in the Greek Orthodox church and didn’t. The church was the cultural and social heart of the community. The church helped the Greek people maintain their cultural identity wherever they settled. In America, for instance, they even offered Greek language classes for American-born children.

Greek Passports

Records of passports and other such documents are located in Athens and Nauplion, the capital and former capital of Greece. Such records from the county of Argolidos have been microfilmed and can be searched through the Family History Library.

Passenger Arrival Lists

The two primary ports of departure from Greece were Piraeus and Patras. Although no passenger lists from Greece have been microfilmed, there are several other sources for tracking your immigrant ancestor’s place of origin. If the family came to the United States, the passenger arrival lists can be of great help in finding the town where the family last resided in Greece and an ancestor’s birthplace, especially in the records of the early twentieth century.

  • Links to many online records of New York passenger arrival lists can be found at United States Immigration Online Genealogy Records.
  • Notice on this New York passenger arrival list, the last permanent residence in Greece is listed plus the name, relationship, and address of the next of kin remaining in Greece.

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Books on Greek Immigration

  • Books specifically about Greek immigration are available at the Family History Library on this subject:
    • Fairchild, Henry P. Greek Immigration to the United States. Berkeley, California, USA: Yale University Press, 1911. (FHL film 1760249)
    • Burgess, Thomas. Greeks in America. Boston, Massachusetts, USA: Shermon, French, 1913. (FHL book 973 B4ai ser. 2 vol.2)
    • Voultsos, Mary. Greek Immigrant Passengers, 1885-1910. Privately published by (754 Pleasant St, Worcester, MA 01602), 1991, 4 volumes. These four volumes document the arrivals of approximately 15,000 Greek passengers at the ports of New York and Boston from 1885-1910.

Refugee Records

Significant numbers of ethnic Greek refugees were removed to Greece following World War I. Some of the registers of refugees, identification lists, and certificate records of those who moved to Greece have been microfilmed and are available at the Family History Library:

  • Register of Refugees from Marmara, Turkey. Halkis, Greece: General Archives of Greece, n.f. (FHL film 1792803 items 26–27)
  • Refugee Records, 1921–1984. Thessaloniki, Greece: Armenian Orthodox Archives, n.f. (FHL films 1038672 items 6–7 and 1038674 item 2) Includes census of Armenian refugees to Thessaloniki (1923) and other records of the refugees from 1921–1937, annotated through 1984.
  • Liste préparatoire pour le répatriation des Armeniens de Grèce, 1947 (List for the Repatriation of Armenians of Greece). Athens, Greece: Armenian Orthodox Archives, n.f. (FHL films 1038668 items 3–9, 1038669 items 1–2, 1038672 item 1).

Naturalization Records

Naturalization or citizenship records, particularly after 1906, give very detailed information about the emigrant and his town and date of birth. To find online naturalization records, see U.S. Naturalization Online Genealogy Records. To learn more about naturalization records, including finding records not online, see United States Naturalization and Citizenship.

Notice that the birthplace and last place of residence
are given in this "Declaration of Intent" to become a citizen.

Greek naturalization.png

Social Security Application

The U.S. Social Security program began in 1935 but most deaths recorded in the index happened after 1962. The Social Security Death index includes those who had a Social Security number and/or applied for benefits. The index entries give the person's full birth date, last known residence, and residence at the time they first enrolled. Women are listed under their married name at the time of their death. You can search these records online at United States Social Security Death Index. Also at Ancestry.com, ($), index. If you find your ancestor in the SSDI index, you can order a copy of their original Social Security application (SS-5). If you can prove the individual has died (by sending an obituary or copy of their cemetery headstone), the application will also give the deceased's parents' names, if listed.

The Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 picks up where the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) leaves off, by providing information filed in the application or claims process, including valuable details such as birth date, birth place, and parents’ names. Unless the deceased would be at least 75 years old today, the parents' names are not published. You will not find everybody who is listed in the SSDI, as criteria for inclusion differs.

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World War I and World War II Draft Cards

Some draft cards will be specific about birthpace, while some will just state "Greece" or a region of Greece.

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Cemetery Records and Gravestones

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Greek Immigration Records by Locality

Australia