James J. Halvis (1896-1987): A Greek Family Mystery Is Solved

This is the 48th profile in my 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks family history blogging challenging. I am one week behind but I’ll finish the year strong!

This is Demetrios (James) J. Halvis (1896-1987). I believe him to be my 1st cousin 3x removed. Born in Nenedes, on the Greek Island of Samos, James came to the United States around 1912. He served in the United States Army from 1917-1919 during World War I. Here he is in his uniform.

Demetrios (James) J. Halvis (1896-1987)

Demetrios (James) J. Halvis (1896-1987)

This photo (and the wedding one below) are thanks to James’ granddaughter. She and I connected via shared Ancestry DNA and family tree hints. It took us a while, but I now feel confident that we have correctly determined that she and I are 3rd cousins 1 x removed.

James and my great grandfather, Vasilios Halvangis (1891-1937) were 1st cousins. I believe their fathers were brothers. James' father was Ioannis Demetrios Halvatzis (1853-1943). Vasilios' father (my 2nd great grandfather) I believe to be Demitrios Halvangis (abt. 1860).

“Halvis” is just one of the many surname variations I have seen, all changed at different times for various reasons. Others include: Halvangis, Halvagis. Halvanges., Halvatzis, Chalvatzis, Halvas, Halves, and more.

I love genealogy tech, but sometimes good old fashioned pen and paper is most helpful when you are trying to determined precise relationships. This was the tree I created when I had the “Ah-ha!” moment making this connection.

tambakis to hanley.jpeg

Here is the high tech version that shows the relationship between James and Vasilios.

Havlangis Halvis.jpg

When James first came to the U.S. he worked on the railroad in North Platt, Nebraska. He joined the army and after serving in WWI he returned to Greece. There he married Photini Gerochristodolou (1900-1978) in 1925. Here is their wedding photo.

Demetrios (James) and Photini Halvis Wedding

Demetrios (James) and Photini Halvis Wedding

My records indicate that they had three children between 1925 and 1932. In the 1930 and 1940 U.S. Census they were living in Trumbull County, Ohio. Their oldest child was born in Greece and the two younger in the U.S.

I first became aware of this possible connection to the Halvis family long before the DNA connection was discovered. My great aunt, Irene Halvangis Mitchell (born 1925) is the youngest child of my great grandfather Vasilios. She had a Halvis name in her address book. She knew she was connected somehow and remembered attending a wedding years earlier where Halvis were present.

Low and behold that was the wedding of James’ granddaughter who I connected with on Ancestry. And, here is a photo of my aunt Irene at that wedding! She is in the center, eyes closed, behind the women in the blue and purple dresses. Over Irene’s left shoulder, wearing darkened glasses, is her husband, George E. Mitchell (1922-1995).

irene at tambakis wedding.jpg

I love how these family mysteries come full circle. For decades these families likely knew they were related to each other somehow, but the exact connection always remained elusive. It is nice to finally be able to connect the dots.

What mysteries have you solved recently in your family tree? I would love to hear about them!

Related Stories: Samos (Greece)