Sunday, 14 February 2010

What's in a name?

A child’s given name in Greece is nearly always a grandparent’s name. But not always. The first-born son often receives the paternal grandfather’s name and the first daughter often receives the maternal grandmother’s name. A child is practically never named for a living parent.

The operative words here are ‘often’ and ‘practically never.’ Charles and Mary had five children. So the firstborn, Constantinus John may carry his paternal grandfather’s Christian name. Or he may not.

The second-born, my grandfather, Charles Vangaleos clearly carries his living father’s name which is contrary to Greek tradition although here we also have the ‘practically never’ qualification which means that ‘practically sometimes’ it happens.

The third child was Georgina Anastasia who may well have been given her maternal grandmother’s name. Anastasia is however more likely to be the Greek and Georgina may well be from her mother’s English heritage. Again, it is all guesswork.

The fourth child and third son is Chrysantheous Christus. The Christus may well be from his paternal grandfather if the name given on Charles and Mary’s marriage certificate, Christie, is correct.

And the fifth and final child is Spiros Andrew in what looks like a Greek/English mix.

In terms of tracing my great-great grandparents in Ithaca, the possible name leads are Charles, Constantinus, Vangaleos, Anastasia, Chrysantheous, Christus and Spiros.

The only thing of which I can be sure is that when Charles Ross signed his name on December 26, 1888 at his marriage to Mary Atkins, he instinctively and no doubt nervously, wrote Ros in Greek. His Greek surname must therefore begin with these three letters and probably begins with Ross. I rather like the fact that Ros is my name and that I have taken up this search to find Charlie Ross.

The family stories were that his name was Roustopolous or Rosstopolous but neither of these names exist on Ithaca or surrounding islands. Raftopolous was a possibility until I saw the birth certificate.

My aunt tells me that her grandfather had a very heavy accent so it is hardly surprising that children and grandchildren did not have a clear understanding of the pronounciation of the name. The closest I have come to a possible surname is Rossolimos, which, surrounded by a heavy accent, could, to English ears and English bias ... all Greek names end in topolous (which means son of actually) appear to be Roustopolous.

And here begins the mystery and the journey for beyond wanting to know what my great-grandfather’s Greek surname really was, it seems that Rossolimo is a very noted surname and not the sort of thing which one takes on as a good guess. Not that I intend to settle for guesses but I have to begin with Rossolimo as it is my best bet.

The name can be traced back to the island of Cephalonia, off the west coast of Greece, as far back as 13th century, where the Rossolimo clan owned and controlled vast tracks of land. There is a belief that this clan are the descendants of Hughes de Sully, baron and “officer general” from Normandy, in the service of Charles d’Anjou, king of Naples. Hughes commanded the Neapolitan army, which King Charles sent to help the Nicephore empire against the Byzantine emperor Michel Paléologue. In 1281, Hughes, who was thought to be a member of the Blois-Champagne clan, was taken prisoner by the Byzantines and imprisoned in Constantinople. Because of his red hair, Hughes de Sully was generally called “the red de Sully”, which in Greek became “Ros Solimo”. From this, the Greeks named his descendants “Rossolimo”. (The source of this genealogical information is the three-volume “Livre d’or de la noblesse ionienne” by Eugène Rizo-Rangabé, Paris 1926)."

The variations of the name include: Rossolimo, Rossolimos, Rosolimo, Rosolimos, Rosolimou,

Historically this name is found in two countries, namely Greece (Ροσολίμοs) and Russia (Россолимо). It is believed that all persons carrying this name originate from the same bloodline, (although this has been disputed).

The literature records the following information:

• Nicolo Rossolimo was the Governor of the island of Ithaca 1634.

• Commodore Rosssolimo led Princes Claudia of Denmark’s army into Alexandria 1739 – 1741.

• Two brothers Constantin and Todorin settled in Ithaka in the late 1700’s. (We have a Constantinus)

• Iaonis Rossolimo, son of Dimitri of Coriana, was a priest in Anogi, Ithaka, travelled to Constantinople in 1803.

• Basilio Rossolimo (1822-1897) was a ship owner and travelled to Russia

• Dr Gerasimo Rossolimo (1824-1889) practised medicine in Russia

• A Spiridon Rossolimo (1862-1923) was a merchant in Russia. (We have a Spiros or Spiridon)

• A Dr. Spiridon Rossolimo qualified as a medical doctor in 1852

• A Dr. NicolÓ Rossolimo practised as a medical doctor in Marseille in 1877.

. And possibly, a Carolus Rossolimo who jumped ship in Port Pirie in the 1880’s, caught the train to Gladstone, changed his name to Charlie Ross, married Mary Atkins and spent his life as a fishmonger.

Or not!

I have just used the tarot to ask if my great-grandfather jumped ship in 1888 and got Yes. He married in December 88 and it did occur to me that he would not have spent long in the country before finding someone to marry. I looked up the Police Gazette for that year and one of the examples it cited was:

At Willunga, 14th instant, on the bodies of R. Waugh, Robert Muir, George Irvin, W. Oemirch, H.J.T. Corke, F.C. Blackman, George Carder, F.C. Carter and David Blair, late of the ship "Star of Greece". Verdict-"Death by attempting to swim ashore from the above ship."

Now, the Star of Greece sank off the coast of South Australia and is one of our most famous shipwrecks. It was laden and on its return voyage to England when it went down. It may have docked at Port Germein to load wheat. Was that when my great-grandfather decided to jump ship? Intuition? Fate? Such a scenario is not unlikely. The Port Germein deserter’s lists of January-July 1888 may well hold a clue.

But it is a stretch. I have connected with the word Greece in the ship’s name but then it was not a Greek ship. The Greek community of Calcutta made a flag for it to fly but that is the closest it gets to anything Greek.

It has however made me think that my other assumption is that Charlie Ross was based on Ithaca as a sailor but of course he may have been based anywhere... England for example. He could very easily have been on the Star of Greece. I need to find the crew lists.

As the records show, ‘The Star of Greece, was 1,289 gross tons, length 227ft x beam 35ft x depth 22.2ft, iron hull, three masted full rigged ship, was built 1868 by Harland & Wolff, Belfast for James P. Corry & Co. Launched on 19th Sep.1868, she was a fast ship and sailed London - Calcutta via the Cape in 79 days and her fastest passage from the Lizard to Melbourne took 76 days. Her best London - Calcutta - London voyage took 5 months 27 days including 10 days at Calcutta and this has never been beaten by a sailing ship. For this, she mounted a brass gamecock at the truck of her mainmast Cock of the Route. Another feature is that the ship always flew a silk Greek flag on the foremast in port, which had been made and presented by ladies of the Greek community in Calcutta.

In August 1883 she sailed through a sea of pumice after the violent eruption of Mount Krakatoa while some hundred miles away in the Indian Ocean. She arrived in the Hooghly in 1885 with her coal cargo on fire, but was brought in safely. Transferred to the Australia service in 1888, she left Port Adelaide on 12th July with a cargo of wheat and on 13th July, 25 miles off course in a fierce gale and hailstorm, and with her anchors down, she was wrecked on a reef outside Port Willunga, Gulf of St.Vincent.

The iron hull of the ship broke in two amidships at 2.00am, upon the reef 200 metres from shore. Huge seas broke over her and a strong rip of back-wash ran from the wreck. The alarm was not raised until after 6am, when the Harbourmaster at Port Willunga, Thomas Martin, learned of the disaster from a boy and went to the wreck, armed with a small telescope. The crew was still onboard the stricken vessel.’

The irony was, as the story goes, that the sailors didn't like leaving shore on the 13th, so they decided to leave shore on the 12th because of superstition. And they left at about 10 o'clock that night only to be shipwrecked the following day, the 13th.

Only 11 persons survived of a crew of 28. Some of the names of those who died include Captain H. R. Harrower, Second mate W. A. Waugh, R. Muir, (a working passenger), F. C. Blackman (cook and steward), C. Irvine (able seaman), W. Oermich (able seaman), H. J. R. Cork (ordinary seaman), C. Carder (cabin boy), F. C. Carter (crewman), D. "Andrew" Blair (a small boy) and A. Orson (able seaman). The bodies of W. J. Miles (able seaman), J, Gatis (able seaman) and J. Airzee (or Airlie, able seaman) R. (Mc)Donald (or Donnell, carpenter), W. Parker (boatswain) and G. Carlson (sailmaker) were never recovered or able to be identified.

These are all English names but perhaps Carolus Rossolimos had anglicised his name long before arriving in Australia. He was said to speak five languages and, despite having a heavy accent, English was clearly one of them.

The Star of Greece belonged to the White Star Line, which also lost The Titanic.The wreck was sold for £105 and the cargo for £21. The figurehead is in Port Adelaide Maritime Museum.

But this may all be no more than diversion, distraction and downright fantasy. Therein lies the twisting path of ancestry research. Before dismissing this very convenient possibility I need to have a look at the crew list for the Star of Greece. I am not getting very far with online searches. This may require real effort when I am next in Adelaide.

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