Monday, November 06, 2006

A Formal Gathering Of Greeks

Around 1930, 13 proud members of my Greek family gathered for what was obviously a formal photo shoot. It was a few short years before my mom would be born, getting this whole crazy party kick-started. Right smack dab in the middle is my mother's father (standing in the back row with the old-school pompadour) and, seated, her mother -- holding my future Aunt Melba. Let me give you the rest of the front row, from L-R: Rose Stephanopoulus, my great aunt, holding baby Frances; Evangelina Vrakipedis, my mother's grandmother and namesake, holding onto baby John; then Mary Eleftheriou, my Yaya (who would pass away at age 48 in 1961, when I was just a year old); then my Aunts Esther and Helen. In the back row, L-R, it's Stephan Stephanopoulus; George Leon; George Eleftheriou (my Papou); William Vrakipedis; and John Vrakipedis.
Four or five years ago, me and Larry Freund, a proofreader at the Wall Street Transcript, really got into the whole genealogy thing at the same time, spending a lot of time doing research on Websites like and

I made copies of the New York City census from 1920 and 1930, as well as the ship manifesto from when my great grandfather came over to America from Greece in 1906, and when my great grandmother sailed over in 1912. In 1920 eight people lived in an apartment at 1301 Avenue A in Manhattan, which is now around 70th Street & York Avenue: 37-year-old Athanaslios, his wife Evangelina, 35; then their kids Rose, 17, George, 14, Mary (my grandmother), 7 years old; then Esther, Billy and John, all 5 years old and younger.

Ten years later I see the 1930 census lists five people living in the apartment, with the rent listed at $28 per month, including my 27-year-old Aunt Rose, whose occupation is listed as packer/cigarette factory.

According to one document, my great-grandfather Athanaslios Vrakipedes arrived at Ellis Island on August 29, 1906, a passenger on the Giulia. The ship would later become a cargo ship, where it would hit a mine in 1918 and be abandoned in the Atlantic Ocean in 1923. My great-grandfather would meet a different but also tragic fate, becoming a clarinet player and then committing suicide by jumping off the Brooklyn Bridge sometime in the 1920s...

In 1912 my 25-year-old great-grandmother Evangelina Vrachipedis and her young sons Georgios and Triantafilos came over on the S.S. Makedonia, sailing from the port of Piraeus, leaving on June 21 and reaching New York Harbor on July 8. On the ship List or Manifest of Alien Passengers for the United States Immigration Officer at Port of Arrival, she declares that her destination is 102 Orchard Street in lower Manhattan, where she will join her husband Athanaslios. Her father is also listed, Aristidis Voimanis, my great-great grandfather, who remained behind with the rest of the family in what was then Carlovasi, Turkey.

On the manifest, my great-grandmother's occupation is listed as Housekeeper, her complexion as Dark, and her boys have the word Scolar (student) next to their names. There are also boxes asking whether each passenger is a Polygamist or Anarchist, and whether the passenger is in possession of $50, and if less, how much, with the amount of $28 entered. My grandmother Mary was still about a year away from being born, making her the first true Greek-American in our family. Her marriage was likely arranged shortly thereafter, and in due time she will marry George Eleftheriou, from the same village in Samos, Greece, and they will eventually move to Astoria, Queens, and have four kids in the 1930s: Melba, Thomas, Victoria and, my mother, Evangelina. Yasou!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It is surprising, my name is
Vrachipedis Emilios and it seems that there is a blood relation
with your family!
Pls be in touch!
My e-mail is: