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The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ,  the Son of David, the Son of Abraham: Abraham begot

Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob, and Jacob begot Judah and his brothers…

     

              MATTHEW 1:2

 

 

          Hello – Yiassou! My name is Victor Gus Polizos, named after my paternal grandfather. I was born in Montgomery, AL in July, 1949. I am the son of Gus and Kiki Polizos, the grandson of Varsamas and Ourania Polizos and Dimitrios and Magdalene Hirras, all born in Skopelos, Greece. I am married to the former Christina Kleomenis Kliossis. Her parents were also born in Greece. We have two children; Georgea, named after her maternal grandmother, and Constantine (Dean), named after his paternal grandfather. Children in the Greek tradition are named after their grandparents.

 

 

In January of 2006, I added researching my family genealogy to my daily routine. Two months before I started this, my father Gus’s oldest brother Theo (uncle) Nick, died at eighty-seven years of age. Gus’s oldest sister, Thea (aunt) Keratso, was only 95 years old, and her memory was starting to fade a bit. My dad, Gus eighty-five years old was thankfully still sharp as a tack. His back and feet do not cooperate as they once did but sometimes, life has its trade-offs. They all lived in Montgomery, AL. Their two other sisters, Thea (aunt) Anthoula and Thea Alexandra, still lived in Greece. The idea that we had already lost family members and their memories was a wake-up call for me. No more time could be wasted or all of our family history would be lost forever.

 

          I tried to start this research about 1990, but life had other responsibilities at that time including; my family, pediatric practice, church community,  and the Atlanta 1996 Olympics and the AHEPA “Tribute” statue in Centennial Olympic Park. All of my notes and information just ended up under one of those piles on my desk that disappeared from the light of day. So in January of 2006, I took my pen and paper and left work early on a Friday afternoon for the two and a half hour drive to Montgomery to spend time with my dad on our family’s genealogy.

 

Gus left Skopelos, Greece in 1935 when he was fifteen years old, and only made two trips back to Greece in his first thirty years in America. The first was after World War II to marry my mother, Kiki. He spent nine months in Skopelos on that trip. The second trip took place in 1965. It was one of his rare long vacations where we all spent six weeks together on the island. 

 

As I began to interview Dad about his family, he started with his two sets of grandparents and went through aunts, uncles, cousins, and some nephews and nieces. A slow methodical process of many weekends began – most of these overnight trips – followed up by plenty of phones calls. Not being familiar with a lot of the information, I needed him to repeat family names, birth orders, deaths, and information about second or third marriages (which were usually the result of an illness or a wife’s death during childbirth). Surprisingly, the information he provided on birth order was on target the majority of the time. Dad also remembered a lot of my mom, Kiki’s family’s history, starting with her grandparents.

 

I traveled to Greece many times and again in June 2006 with my wife, Christina. Mom and Dad were already in Skopelos. I sought out and met new relatives who gave me more family names and dates (being fluent in Greek always helps). I returned to Greece with my son, Dean for one more week in September of that year specifically to obtain more genealogical information. We started on the Greek mainland and ended up on “the island”. We began early in the morning and continued late into the night, meeting, talking to, and photographing family members. First, middle and last names were all checked and occasionally corrected. On our last afternoon on the island, we were talking to an older aunt, Elaine Varvarezos. It was then that we discovered that my dad had one last remaining first cousin – Yiannis Polizos, 95 years old. Five minutes later, we were walking through the dimly lit cobblestone streets to find his house and to meet him before his bedtime. He lived alone in his home with some of his family members living close by. When we found him, he was happy to see us, and the details he provided were wonderful.  A total of three hundred new or corrected details were obtained on that one week trip!

 

Sadly and realistically, older generations’ old birthdays and wedding dates may be lost forever. In Greece, birthdays and anniversaries are typically not celebrated and therefore these dates are not easy to remember; they celebrate namedays (their patron saint’s feast-day) instead. Early on I realized that our family probably was not unlike other Greek families; at times a Greek tragedy, other times, a Greek comedy. This should come as no surprise, the Greeks invented both. Weddings were arranged and dowries were negotiated. Typically older brothers did not marry until their sisters were married. Physicians were non-existent, antibiotics were unheard of, herbal remedies ruled the day, and death during childbirth was common. Many men said goodbye to their families for work, money, and better opportunities overseas. Some assimilated into American life, married and never returned to Greece, others died before they could return home. Many kept Skopelos and Greece in their hearts with the hopes of returning. World Wars and the Greek Civil War (1945 – 1949) also split families.

 

Greek life was full of contradictions; villagers clung tightly to their religion as much as their superstitions, including falling ill and even dying from someone placing the “evil eye” on you. One’s family was the most important piece of their everyday life, yet individualism was placed among the most important of virtues; it was synonymous with “Greek” and the Greek spirit of freedom. This ethos never ceased to exist from ancient Greece, under the 400 years of Ottoman slavery (1453 – 1821), and into modern times. Villagers were suspicious of those from a different family, village, island, or country, yet all were welcomed into their family home. “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels” Hebrews 13:2. I received a personal lesson about this fact as late as 1984 when I introduced my 100% Greek-American wife, Christina (her family was from the mainland of southern Greece) to my family in Skopelos. Upon meeting her they commented that I had married a “xeni,” or “foreigner.” But I digress…

 

It would have been enough to only do one family, but all eight ancestral families at the same time have offered many many challenges. At home, I had my daughter, Georgea start typing all the details on the computer in outline form. By Fall of 2006, my son Dean has embraced the project, and we got together regularly to update the information.

 

An interesting part in all this research is making that next important contact – one relative, giving me the phone number to another “lost” relative in Greece, America, Canada, the Bahamas, Cyprus, England, South Africa, and even Switzerland. When I would make the first call – oh the hours on the phone – after some fast introductions, most became cautiously interested and would begin to answer my questions about their pieces of the family mosaic. Others would take two phone calls to be convinced that we were actually related. Two years passed before I found anyone in my eight family branches who had done any significant research of their family. Many of the family members I spoke with requested copies of the final product. New details of one part of my dad’s family would help him to realize what happened to his “lost” cousins and their offspring. His response to any new information was always, “How about that.”

 

So my once a month, face to face, father-son time continues, but now we concentrate on other memories. The recent joke when calling him is, “Turn on your computer (his brain) and tell me…” Sometimes the computer turns on for hours – other times, for only a few minutes, as I remember things to ask him. The present concentration is on writing timelines of my grandparents Varsamas, Ourania, Dimitrios, and Magdalene, as well as timelines of  my parents, Gus and Kiki’s  lives. Later, Christina and I will write our own timelines for our children, Georgea and Dean to have. Collecting and cataloging photographs as well as taking new ones has begun to supplement the project. The project will continue, probably for the rest of my life.

 

 

Timeline of our research

 

~ 2000 – A young lady approached me in church one day. She introduced herself as PanayiotoulaToulaFlorou McCarty. “Hi,” she said, “I just heard someone call you by your last name, Polizos. We must be related. My grandmother, Alexandra was a Polizos, and  I was born in Skopelos.” I quickly tried to resolve in my mind, who, where, when, and how we could be related. “I’ll have to ask my dad how we may be related,” I said. Besides, she was very quiet in her demeanor and speech… There’s no way she could be related. Most Polizos’s I know are not very quiet.

 

October 2006 – My brother Dimitri faxed me a strange e-mail from a Ryan Kale Jackson thinking I might be interested. At the time, I was still over my head recording the details of my immediate family, I didn’t have time to investigate any e-x-t-e-n-d-e-d family at that moment. Furthermore, the e-mail did not seem to fit into my immediate family research... It actually confused me more. So I put it in my box of “things to do someday”.

 

Kale’s e-mail to Dimitri Polizos: Monday Oct. 16, 2006 7:58 PM

 

KALHMERA Mr. Polizos,

                             My name is Ryan Kale Jackson. I know this sounds weird but the name Polizos was my grandfather’s name until he changed it to Jackson in 1921 when he was finally naturalized. The reason I say possible family member is that the name Polizos is not very common in Greece and I know this from experience I was stationed over on the island of Crete. I assure you I am not a wacko nut case, so please don’t think so. Ok my grandfather’s name was Charlie and he was naturalized in North Carolina and later moved to Tuscaloosa. He was from the island of Skopelos aka the “Green Island”. My family still resides in Tuscaloosa, and I am in the Navy stationed in WA. I would like to know if you have any other information on the name and if you have possibly heard of my grandfather or his brother Gus Polizos who was decorated by King Constantine during the World War before the King was exiled from Greece for being the leader of the Greek Underground. I tell you all of this to see if maybe some of the stories you can relate to. I know I have jumped around in this and I am sorry for that. I would be much appreciative of any information you may be willing to provide.

 

EUCARISTO POLU (THANK YOU VERY MUCH)

                             R.K.Jackson

 

Dad says to me one day, “You know, there was a Dr. Polizos in Florida. I’m not sure what kind of a doctor he is, and I’m not sure if he’s still living, but we are distantly related… I just don’t know how. Jimmy or Dimitri Polizos, something like that.”

 

April 2007 – At a Greek wedding reception in Atlanta, We just happened to be seated at a table with a Greek family from Pensacola, FL. “Polizos, we have a retired doctor in Pensacola who is a Polizo. We are good friends. I’ll get you his phone number if you want. You can’t find his number because it is unlisted.” Oh my, I thought, another Polizos family!

 

September 2007 – I traveled to Greece to meet newly discovered family members and record new information. Getting older ancestral information continued, and continues to be a huge challenge and priority. On this trip, I met family members on the Hirras and Ravanos branches of my mother’s family.

 

October 2007- I called Dr. Jimmy Polizo in Pensacola, FL. We spoke for a long time, shared details, and planned to talk again and possibly meet.

 

Nov. 10, 2007 – Christina and I traveled to Greenville, MS to find the gravesites of two of my great-uncles. While in the cemetery on the eve of Veterans Day, high school students and veterans were placing flags on the gravesites of deceased veterans. Two older gentlemen saw Christina searching and asked her who she was looking for. “Polizos you say is your name, I went to school with a Polizo. He spells it P-e-l-e-z-o, Angelo. He moved to Pensacola FL. I haven’t seen him in a few years, but maybe he’ll be here for our next class reunion, it’ll be our 70th.” “Here’s my business card, if you see him have him call me,” I said (I would later learn that Angelo died on April, 28, 2005). The other gentleman said, “We just brought back a John Pelezo, Angelo’s older brother from Texas, he was about 98 years old. We buried him in the ‘other cemetery’ in town. One of his sons still lives in Texas. He has other children too. He has a sister Sophie that still lives in Greenville. She could give you more information.” Oh my, I thought, another Polizos family! We turned to continue our search of the gravesites, and when we looked around, the two veterans we had spoken to were gone.

          We did find my two uncle’s gravesites thanks to a flag next to one of their tombstones. Uncle John Fivyas was a veteran of WWI. Later, at the Greenville library, we looked up family obituaries. One of the obituaries mentioned Jim’s Café, located right around the corner from the library. This became our next stop. Owner, Gus Johnson, whose family also comes from Skopelos, happened to be there. He gave me Sophie Pelezo Saratsopulos’s phone number.

 

January 2008 – I finally contacted Sophie at her youngest daughter, Angela’s home in Oceans Springs, Mississippi. Angela gave me her older sister Rene’s phone number in Texas. Upon calling her she said, “Now how do you spell your name?… It’s nice that you are working on the family tree, but you might want to call my cousin Chris Pelezo in Fayetteville, NC. He has been working on a family tree as well.” Oh my, I thought, another Polizos family! I contacted Chris in NC and after a long conversation about our families we wanted to share our family trees with each other. Chris was the first family member I spoke with who had also done extensive research on his family. He sent me his very impressive family tree, and we planned to meet in the spring. Chris filled an important gap in the Polizos family tree… years of work… which arrived at my house within days. I later learned that my dad had met Chris’s parents during his first Christmas in America in Greenwood, MS  in 1935.

 

All this time I am trying to figure out how are we all connected?!?

 

Late January 2008 – As if all this wasn’t getting a little complicated by now, I decided it was time to contact Kale Jackson. We played phone and e-mail tag, but we had yet to speak.

 

Friday, February 1, 2008 – We traveled to Pensacola to meet Dr. Jimmy (Demetri) Polizo. We had our meeting at where else but The Skopelos Restaurant. He showed up in sneakers, with a camera around his neck. My wife Christina thought I was the only Dr. Polizos that wore sneakers and carried a camera around his neck. Here was a man after my own heart. We talked and shared memories for three hours that afternoon. We gave him his direct family tree, thanks mostly to the efforts of his niece, Toula Florou McCarthy, whom he has never met, and who lives in Marietta, GA. He mentioned that he has cousins in Tuscaloosa. He said “Their last name is Jackson.” BINGO! That was when Kale’s e-mail came back to my thoughts.

Dr. Jimmy told me that they were originally from Skopelos, and he mentioned something about their dad changing the family name from Polizos to Jackson. He pulled out his cell phone and after claiming he didn’t know how to use it, he looked up the phone number of a Ruby Jackson Hardin. “Call her,” he said, “She’ll tell you everything, and give you the phone numbers to the rest of the family.” Oh my, I thought, another Polizos family!

 

February: I finally spoke with Kale, who lived in Washington state. “I was stationed in Crete during my tour in the Navy, but I never made it to Skopelos. So, how are we connected?” he asked. We talked at length about our genealogy. “Call my aunt Ruby, she knows everything and can give you phone numbers to the rest of the family,” he said.

 

Feb. 10, 2008, late afternoon – I called Ruby, and we spoke for a long time. “Can I call your brother Paul to ask him about his family,” I asked her. “Oh, he’ll be glad to talk to you, only problem is he can’t hear very well and wears hearing aids, so you might have to speak up,” she said. “And by the way, yesterday was his birthday, he’s 89 years old.” From 206 miles away, “Hello Paul, this is Victor Polizos, we may be cousins.” The next day, I called Ruby and Paul’s sister, Florene. She already knew all about me, “and when are you coming to visit?” she asked. It didn’t take long.

 

March 1, 2008 – I traveled to Tuscaloosa, AL where I met the Jacksons; Paul, Ruby, Florine, her husband Bob, Jimmy, and Sissy (Jimmy’s dog). I shared the genealogy information I had gathered about our families, and gave them homework assignments to go out and fill in the blanks of their “tree”. We spent four hours together, I felt like they were all family. The only mistake I made that day was not taking my wife, Christina with me, because they kept asking me about her, and why she had not come with me.

 

April 18, 2008 – Christina and I traveled to W. Jefferson NC to meet Chris and Doris Pelezo. We spent a wonderful day, had a great lunch, and shared genealogy information and more stories.

 

May 9, 2008 – I drove back to Greenville, MS, alone this time, to the “other cemetery,” the one we didn’t visit on our first trip. This time I was looking for Pelezo gravesites and the gravesite of another uncle who was a Polizos. There just happened to be a couple in the cemetery who asked me who I was looking for. “Polizo, P-o-l-i-z-o, I went to school with a Pam Pelezo, Angelo’s daughter. Her husband works just down the street, across the street from the funeral home.” Oh my, I thought, more Polizi. As I walked away and continued my search, I looked back, and the couple was gone. Later, I met Pam’s husband Robert, and spoke with Pam on the phone… more names, more dates.

 

May 17, 2008 – Back to Tuscaloosa, AL, with Christina this time, to meet the Jacksons. We also met Paul’s daughter, Susan, for the first time. She had now been appointed by her father, aunts and uncles, as the family’s official recording secretary. We had a wonderful day, and Christina and I felt right at home. They had made much progress on their research. Paul said, “We ought to have a family reunion so that we can all meet each other’s families.” Florine took out her calendar and we set the date for Aug. 2, 2008 (before Alabama football season).

 

Early Summer 2008 – I made a phone call to a Ioannis “John” Hirras in Vancouver, Canada. I knew who he was through family in Greece, and he had my mother’s last name, but I was not sure how we were related. John and his wife Debbie were helpful and recommended I call John Larigakis, also of Vancouver, also a relative. Larigakis had already done some family research on his branch of the Hirras family and was extremely helpful. After several calls and letters, he was able to complete his entire branch of the Hirras family for me; five more pages of names and dates!!

 

          The Jackson, Pelezo, Polizo, and Polizos families all had a recurring theme; an ancestor named Apostolos Polizos. But trying to make the family names match up under his name always seemed off by at least one generation. In Greece, first born sons are named after their paternal grandfathers and all offspring take their father’s name as their middle name. In this case, middle names were different. Also, relatives kept giving us different names and birth orders of Apostolos’ children. I had already made contact with two uncles; both originally born in Skopelos, and both vacationing there that summer. Triandafilos Papayeoryiou, and Yeoryios Polizos; both of them knowledgeable and both interested in this project. Neither had an answer for me concerning the Apostolos connection. Neither had an explanation for me concerning the “Apostolos connection” (or disconnection as I began referring to it).

 

Jul. 25, 2008 – I called Uncle Yeoryios and asked him if he had made any progress with my dilemma. He said, “Triandafilos and I are going to Glossa to speak with an older uncle. He will probably be able to help us with this question.” I told him that I only had eight days before “the reunion.” I asked, “Can I call you in seven days? Is that enough time?”

 

July 30, 2008 – I called Uncle Yeoryios. “Have you talked to ‘the Uncle’ yet?” I asked. He responds, “It hasn’t been seven days yet, call me in two days.”

 

Aug. 1, 2008 – THE SEVENTH DAY! I called Uncle Yeoryios. “Yes, we went to Glossa and found ‘the Uncle’. Do you have a pencil to write down this information?” Yeoryios told me the names and birth orders of Apostolos’ seven children… MY Apostolos, MY great-grandfather. He then informed me that the Polizo, Pelezo, Jackson’s Apostolos was MY great-grandfather Apostolos’ grandson. “Oh my god,” it though, hundreds of names were connected by this one phone call. Immediately I called my wife, I called my son, and one hour later we left Atlanta for Tuscaloosa, AL, the venue of our reunion. The code was cracked.

 

Aug. 2, 2008 – Reunion Day – For over three hours, over 40 people gathered to meet one another, share stories, and to learn more about the genealogical links between them. Four major Polizos branches were represented. Thanks Kale Jackson!

 

 

Every trip near and far and every contact has been wonderful. Individually, each of us stands at the top of our own family tree, but starting from our great grandparents, the family seems a little richer and fuller. Let’s not take for granted that almost 200 years of family history is represented in our research. All of us have our place in this family mosaic. As long as we can, we should continue to pursue as many details and to update this information. One day we will pass this information on to the next generation. Maybe in 100 years, future generations will rejoice in learning about our families as we have rejoiced in learning about each other today.

 

 

I would be remiss if I did not give credit to all who have shared their information to make this project possible. Everyone who has offered me even one date or middle name has contributed to the beauty of this family mosaic. Some of these people are mentioned in my timeline above but I would especially like to thank; my mom and dad Gus and Kiki Polizos of Montgomery, AL; my wife Chirstina and my children Georgea and Dean; Chris Pelezo of Fayetteville, NC; Toula Florou McCarty of Marietta, GA; Paul Jackson, Ruby Hardin, Florene Woolridge, and Susan Blankenship, all of Tuscsaloosa, AL; Ryan Kale Jackson of San Diego, CA; Triandafilos Papayeoryiou of Athens/Skopelos, Greece; Yeoryios Polizos of Athens/Skopelos, Greece; Fenia Dimitriadis of Thessaloniki, Greece; Terpi and Pete Hirras of Slidell, LA; and John Larigakis of Vancouver, Canada.

 

 

June 11, 2009