Greece Church Records

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For information about records for non-Christian religions in Greece, go to the Religious Records page.

Introduction[edit | edit source]

Records of births or christenings, marriages, and deaths or burials by the church can be used with or in the absence of vital records (birth, marriage, and death records created by the state). The parish priests church records for the diocese. In many cases, these records were kept on a civil district (eparhia) level. Because there was not separate of church and state, it is sometimes difficult to clearly define where church registers end and civil registration begins. Church records are crucial for genealogical research in Greece. The Eastern Orthodox faith is the official religion of Greece, although other religions are tolerated. About 98% 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, deaths, and relationships. During the time of Turkish rule, the Orthodox church was given control of the Christian population (millet). Priests controlled marriage, divorce, and inheritance proceedings and even collected taxes for the state.[1] Most people who lived in Greece can be found in church records.

Take note: any record of birth, marriage, or death can be called vital records (lixiarcheion). Do not confuse this with records of civil registration and the local buildings that house them (Lixiarcheion).

Time Coverage[edit | edit source]

Greek Orthodox churches have made records for several centuries. Some church records in Greece begin in the 16th 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). Church registers are available until about 1940.[2]

Information Recorded in Church Registers[edit | edit source]

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[edit | edit source]

In early years, children were generally christened a few days after their birth. Christening registers usually give the infant’s and parents’ names (including mother's maiden name), often the grandfathers' names, 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[edit | edit source]

Marriage registers give the date and place of marriage, the names of the bride and groom, and the names of the fathers of the bride and groom. They may also list the names of witnesses and the ages and birthplaces of the bride and groom. After the early 1800s there may also be marriage permission registers with copies of documents required for approval of the marriage.

  • Example of a Marriage Record from the Metropolis of Sparta

Greece marriage record.png

© Greg Kontos 2015

Diocese Marriage Records[edit | edit source]

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 (metropolis). 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[edit | edit source]

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.

Burials[edit | edit source]

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 dates and places of death and burial, age, marital status (widow or widower), spouse, and sometimes the cause of death. For men and single women, they may also list the parents.

Membership Lists[edit | edit source]

Parish membership lists (katalogos enoriton) list the residents of each parish, organized by family. These usually include all members of the family with birth dates and places. In many towns they may include 100% of the local population.

Locating Church Records[edit | edit source]

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

Greek Orthodox Records[edit | edit source]

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. Some older records, however, may have been turned in to diocese or state archives.
  • Diocese (Metropolis) archives. Current parish registers are located at the parish, but older records of the 1800s and 1900s are often kept in diocese archives. Marriage records especially are generally kept in the diocese (Metropolis) offices. You can write to the diocese (Metropolis) office for marriage information.
  • GAK archives (Genika Archeia tou Kratous). Some pre-1900 records may be 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.

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 Agios Ioannis - Αγίος Ιώαννης - St. Johns) to distinguish the records of different parishes.

From 1925 to present, you can usually obtain birth, death, and (sometimes) marriage information from civil registration rather than the church. Write to or visit the local mayors’ offices to obtain these records.

Records at the Family History Library[edit | edit source]

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. Look in the FamilySearch Catalog to find these microfilms.

Minority Religions and Records[edit | edit source]

The minority religions include about 1.3% 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[edit | edit source]

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
  • Agreement concerning payment of any fees incurred

Form Letter[edit | edit source]

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

Finding Diocese (Metropolis) and Local/Village Church Addresses[edit | edit source]

Diocese Addresses[edit | edit source]
  • 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[edit | edit source]
Church Directories[edit | edit source]

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[edit | edit source]

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.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. The Family History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Family History Records Profile: Greece,” Word document, private files of the FamilySearch Content Strategy Team, 1999.
  2. The Family History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Family History Records Profile: Greece,” Word document, private files of the FamilySearch Content Strategy Team, 1999.