Vasilios Demetrio Halvangis (1891-1937) is my great grandfather and the current focus of my genealogy research efforts. He was born on the island of Samos, Greece. He came to the United States as a young man, about 20 years old.
I am certain that some photographs of him exist, but I have not yet been successful in tracking them down. Stay tuned!
You learned about Vasilios and his marriage to my great grandmother, Maria (Chardoulias) Halvangis (1894-1951), in “Greek Couple Weds in Waterloo.”
One place you can learn a great deal about ancestors is from their travel and immigration records. I wrote about Maria’s here: Maria Chardoulias and her Travel Records. An excellent resource is The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island Foundation website.
Below is a photo of the Martha Washington, the ship I believe my great grandfather came to America on. It departed from Patras, Greece on February 27, 1911. It arrived at the port of New York on March 11 that same year.
Here are some of the stories and challenges I came across while searching for this information.
First, we have to deal with the Greek language itself. The Greek alphabet is quite different from the one I am used to. It can present a challenge when researching your Greek immigrant relatives. Translation and interpretation errors often occur.
For example, "Halvangis" was my great grandfather’s legal surname in the U.S. It is an uncommon name here. I have run across several variants and shorten versions of Halvangis including: Halvas, Halvis, Halvatzis, Halvatyis, Halvanges, and a few others.
Also, the Greek letter “B” (or Beta) is pronounced like a “V” in English. When I became aware of this I started searching for "Basil***" in the immigration databases and that helped.
To explore the entire passenger manifest that I found and go here (you will have to register, but it is free). Here are some of the highlights.
On line 26 you'll see an entry for a 22 year old man by the name of Basillis Halvatzis, a carpenter. His "race of people" is listed as Ottoman Greek.
Including information that is found on the second page of the passenger manifest you'll see that Basillis is described as 5 feet 4 inches tall with a fair complexion, brown skin, and brown eyes. His city is Samos, Turkey (present day Greece). His father, also from Samos, was named Dimitri. His passage was paid for by himself and he was in possession of $35.
Here is a closeup of the image:
I am almost certain that this “Basillis Halvatzis” is my great grandfather who I know as Vasilios Halvangis. Both would translate to the English name of "William". All of the details match up with what I know about the Vasilios from my family.
Another detail increased my confidence in this assessment. The final destination of Basillis was listed as Waterloo, Iowa. He was going to see his "brother-in-law,” also in Waterloo, Iowa. That man's name appears to be "George Kalogeras" or some similar variant (2nd page).
While I don't yet know who George Kalogeras is, the Waterloo connection is proof enough to me that I have the right man. The Waterloo detail is a well known and documented part of my family's story.
I wondered what my great-grandfather's journey was like. I went to newspapers.com, my favorite newspaper clipping service, and came across some interesting information about the very ship Vasilios was on. One article from March 14th, 1911, just a few days after the Martha Washington docked at the port of New York, details a serious spinal meningitis outbreak on the ship.
Here is a much longer follow up article about the physician monitoring the meningitis outbreak on the Martha Washington.
Last fall I went looking for my great grandfather's grave site. His death certificate indicated that he was buried at Evergreen Cemetery in Detroit, Michigan.
It was a gorgeous autumn day, perfect for a field trip. With some very basic information about the general area of the cemetery he was in I began my search. After about 30 minutes I discovered his gravestone, pictured below. It was quite overgrown with grass and mud. I cleaned it up the best I could with the supplies I had (a towel, a pair of kitchen shears, and a bottle of water).
Near him at Evergreen, according to the cemetery records, there is an unmarked grave of a Gust Halvangis who died several years earlier in 1928. In my previous searches I had discovered this death certificate for Gust. I am now almost certain that this is a brother of my great-grandfather.
I have subsequently discovered some travel records for a Constantinos Halvatzis who came to the U.S. in 1915 to see his brother, Vasilios Halvangis, in Waterloo, Iowa. "Gust" is a common shortened version of Constantinos.
Very little was known about my great-grandfather's siblings. My mother recalls one story from her father (Vasilios's son) about how Vasilios (my mom's grandfather). Apparently Vasilios always felt bad because there wasn't enough money to get his brother a proper grave marker. Beyond that all that I know I find during my genealogy searches.
I am learning more about my Halvangis roots with the help of DNA genealogy research, but there is still much more to uncover.
As with most genealogy research, my search for Vasilios Demetrio Halvangis has answered some questions but raised many more. Here are just a few.
- Who is George Kalogeras?
- Did Vasilios know there were deathly ill individuals on the ship?
- Where was Gust Halvangis between his arrival in 1915 and his death in 1928
- What was my great-grandfather's immigration experience like?
- Was he scared, sad, excited?
- Did Vasilios ever make it back to Greece?
I would love to hear your thoughts! Thanks for reading.
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