Our Spathaky Ancestry

by Mike Spathaky

When I was young it was always part of our family tradition that our surname was an anglicised form of the Greek name Spathakis. It was my father, Ronald Victor Spathaky, who told me this and my grandfather, Albert Victor Spathaky, confirmed it.

Grandma and Grandpa Spathaky were rather distant figures for most of my childhood, except for a couple of years when they came to live with us in Norfolk. We visited them a couple of times in Warrington and Carlisle, when we were en route for Ireland where we lived in the early 1950s. Grandad was a cinema manager and so moved around from time to time. A couple of years or so after we moved back to England his employers, Palace Cinemas, went under and they were left with only the basic State Pension to live on.

When we moved back to England we rented an Elizabethan farmhouse in Norfolk called Alpington Hall, which was large enough for my grandparents to have a separate living room and bedroom. I was about fifteen at the time and a keen rugby player. My parents hadn’t got round to buying a television yet but my grandparents had one and I was able to watch the rugby internationals. I was still an Ireland supporter and Grandpa was a Wales supporter. He was born in Cardiff, as was Dad, and they lived there until about 1926 when Dad was about twelve years old. Grandad still retained his Welsh accent though Dad had lost his.

I remember asking Grandpa about our Greek ancestry but he told me nothing about his family at all. I do remember that he could repeat a sentence in Greek, though I don’t remember what it was. Maybe he didn’t even know its meaning himself. He also told me that his father came from the part of Greece known as Macedonia, although at one time I seem to remember Thessaloniki was mentioned.

Dad told me that Grandpa’s father was a Greek seaman who had settled in Cardiff and had become a tobacco importer. He had also worked at times as an interpreter in the courts for the many Greek immigrants who lived in the Bute Road area near the docks. Dad also told me about other members of the family that he remembered from his childhood in Cardiff. But there is nothing more about Grandpa’s father.

It wasn’t until the 1990s, when I did some research myself using birth, marriage and death records, that I found that Grandpa’s father had died when Grandad was only eighteen months old. Census records confirmed that he was indeed a seaman, being called Antonio Spathaky. Grandpa’s mother who was English, had then married another Greek seaman, Gerasimo or Gerasimos Augeletta. It was therefore Gerasimo whom Grandad would have thought of as his father and who gave the household whatever Greek culture it had.

However it was Antonio Spathaky who was Albert's real father, and I have found that Antonio's father was called Atanasio Spathaky. Atanasio is the earliest of our Spathaky ancestors that I can name; he is my great-great-grandfather. There is no evidence that he ever came to the United Kingdom. But when his son Antonio, my great-grandfather, married in Cardiff in 1875, the marriage register showed the bridegroom's father as “Atanasio Spathaky deceased, Builder.”

That marriage, between Antonio Spathaky and Emma Tucker, took place on 25th August 1875 at the Register Office in Cardiff. The record shows that Antonio was 33 years old, a bachelor and a mariner, living at 177 Bute Road, Cardiff. The bride was Emma Tucker, aged 22, a spinster, also living at 177 Bute Road. Her father was George Tucker, deceased, a labourer. Although Antonio died at a relatively young age Emma must be the grandmother that my Dad remembers as “Granny Pack” (that is, Granny Spathaky I presume).

So the family memory that Antonio Spathaky was a seaman was correct. I have found no record of him in Wales prior to his marriage. So it is likely that he arrived in the UK between 1871 (otherwise we would expect to find a record in the Census) and his marriage in 1875.

The next record of the family that I looked at is the 1881 Census. The enumerator was not very conscientious about obtaining full details. Perhaps one cannot be too harsh - the Bute Road area was arguably the most notorious part of Cardiff. And Cardiff shared the notoriety of most major ports. However I have reason to believe that one member of the family was missed out entirely.

At 12 Francis Street, Antonio’s surname is now rendered as “Spathogi” His age is still 33 and he is described as a boarding house keeper. To my surprise his birth place is given as Italy. Unfortunately we have no written record to contradict this. In support of our family legend that he was Greek is that fact that Spathakis is a known Greek surname (Spathakis). The doubt remains however. It is possible that Antonio’s family was a Greek family who had migrated to Italy. It is more likely that the census enumerator made an incorrect guess at Antonio’s origins.

Antonio’s wife Emma is entered simply as E.P., with ditto marks for her surname. She is now 26 which tallies with her marriage record rather better than her husband’s age does. Her birth place is given as Cardiff, which again suggests laziness by the enumerator since other records tell us she was from Weston in Somerset. Three daughters are shown simply by their initials: M aged 4, H aged 3 and R.E. aged 1. We are now entering the period of which there is firm family knowledge. Dad (Ron) remembers his aunts Maria and Rose. He did not know who H was. There is also a young woman of 18 in the house, Ilabella, whose relationship to the Head of Household (Antonio) is given as “sister”, though I suspect she may be Emma’s sister. Finally, since Antonio is described as a lodging house keeper, we are not surprised to find some lodgers. There are four, aged 19 to 29, all described as sailors from Italy, but their names are not given.

Moving on another ten years, we find a new enumerator who has a higher regard for accuracy. In 1891, the Head of Household at 12 Francis Street is Gerasimos Augoletta, a 38-year-old sailor whose birth place is given as Cephalonia, Greece. His wife is shown as Emma Augoletta aged 37, a washerwoman born at Weston, Somerset. So Emma Spathaky (née Tucker) has married a Greek seaman for the second time!

I located the event in the marriage indexes and obtained a copy of the marriage certificate. This shows that Gerasimos Augeleta (one “t” this time) was 37, a bachelor and a ship’s donkeyman - the man who looks after the operation and maintenance of any type of machinery. His father is named as Spiro Augeleta, a baker. Emma is described as 36 and a widow. The bride and groom are shown as living at 12 Francis Street. Gerasimos was unable to sign his name and simply penned a cross as his mark in the register. Again the marriage was by licence at the Cardiff Register Office. It took place on 28th April 1890.

So what happened to poor Antonio, the man who brought our surname to these shores? I located him in the death indexes and obtained his death certificate. He died on 28th June 1889 at 12 Francis Street. Antonio was 40 and the certificate states, “Died very suddenly from heart disease.” In the column headed, “Signature, description and residence of informant” are the words, “Certificate received from E Bernard Reece, Coroner for Glamorgan. Inquiry held 29th June 1889.” Searches for a Coroner’s Report have proved fruitless.

Returning now to the 1891 Census record, we find six children in the household:

Maria Spathaky, 15
Harriet Spathaky, 13
Rose E Spathaky, 11
Alexander Spathaky, 6
Albert V Spathaky, 3
Constantine Augoletta, 1

So the 1891 Census confirms the children’s names that Dad remembered and also tells us that that H in the 1881 Census was Harriet. Albert Victor Spathaky was Grandpa. Now we have the full story of the family that had been imperfectly remembered by Dad. He had remembered that Grandpa (his father) had sisters Maria and Rose. Harriet must have died as he knew nothing of her. He also remembered that Albert had a step-brother known as Con. Dad had surmised, wrongly as it turned out, that it was Albert’s father who had married twice - in fact it was his mother, Emma, the grandmother Dad had remembered as Granny Pack.

A search through the birth indexes at the Family Records Centre shows the full names of the Spathaky children at their birth registrations and tells us in which quarter each was born:

Sep 1876 Maria Affrothiti Spathaky
Mar 1878 Harriet Arreti Spathaky
Mar 1880 Rosa Ellen Spathaky
Mar 1882 Aristides George Spathaky
Sep 1885 Alexandros Spathaky
Mar 1888 Albert Victor Spathaky

So we see that each child had a Greek Christian name, and apart from Rosa, all the Greek names began with A. Since their father's name was Antonio and his father was Atanasio, I think this was hardly a co-incidence. More importantly it confirms (if confirmation were needed) that the family was Greek not Italian. The list also reveals a previously unknown son, Aristides George Spathaky, who was born after the 1881 Census but did not appear in the 1891.

In the 1901 Census at 39 Craddock Street, Canton (a district of Cardiff), we find Emma Augulatta, aged 46 and born in Weston super Mare. She is married and has no occupation shown but her husband was not present on Census night. With her are five of her children:

Harriet Spathaky aged 23, stationery shop assistant
Alexander Spathaky aged 16, an apprentice printer compositor
Albert V Spathaky aged 13
Constantine Augulatta aged 11, and
Ernest J Augulatta aged 8.

Rose Spathaky was now aged 21 and employed at the Dowlais Hotel in West Bute Street, Cardiff, one of eleven young women assistants living there as Hotel assistants.

Missing from the 1901 Census was George Aristides Spathaky, born in 1882. He had died aged 3, in 1885.

In the 1990s my brother David located a Mrs I M Spathaky in the Cardiff Phone Book. I wrote to her and she replied saying that she was actually Mrs Iris Pamela Spathaky, the widow of Alexander’s son Douglas. They had had no children. Alexander had had two daughters but Douglas had been his only son. So the Spathaky name would not be carried on amongst the descendants of Alexander. When I told Dad about this he remembered “Uncle Alec.” The FreeBMD web site shows that Alexander had married twice. His first wife was Margaret F Samson. She died six years after the marriage at the age of 28. They had a daughter Beryl. Douglas Spathaky and his siter Elsie Rose were children of his second marriage to Florence Barnstable.

Dad also said that Maria married a Vivian Thomas, who was a naval officer at Arkhangelsk. They had two children, Daphne, who married George Harper, and Triphena who died unmarried. George Harper was a furrier. [November 2008:] I have now found that Maria did indeed marry a John Vivian Thomas - in 1898. Dad remembered his Aunt Rose as living in the Llandaff Road area and having married someone with the name Economides. They had sons called Charles and Leonard and a daughter whose name Dad could not remember.

In 2005 I turned up a record of an Ernest Spathaky in an index in the National Archives. He is listed as a private in the Welsh Regiment with a Service Medal or Award during World War 1. Mum wrote (December 2005): “Dad remembers an Uncle Ernie from his early childhood so Ernie may have died in the war” . To have served in that war he must be of my grandfather’s (Albert’s) generation so it is strange that we have found no birth record for him and there is no record of him in any of the three Censuses that have been searched. It seems he must have been the Ernest J Augulatta shown as aged 8 in the 1901 Census. Why he usewd the surname Spathaky when he joined the army we do not know. He was born at the earliest in 1892, three years after Antonio Spathaky had died of a heart attack.

The Greek island of Cephalonia had been under British control until 1861. It is now spelt Kefalonia and is the setting for the novel and film “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin” by Louis de Bernieres. In its opening pages, the book makes reference to Saint Gerasimo, a monk who lived in the 16th Century in the monastery, now known as the Monastery of Saint Gerasimo, at the village of … on the island. Captain Corelli himself is an Italian whose first name is Antonio.

The 1991 Census shows Gerasimo Angulatta aged 43, a ship's fireman born on Cephalonia Island, Greece, living at 35 Craddock Street, Cardiff, with his wife Emma aged 56. Still living at home were Alexander Spathaky aged 25, a printer machine minder; Constantine Angulatta aged 20 a collier (or coal miner); and Ernest G Angulatta aged 17 also a collier.

I have no record of the Greek version of our name, Spathakis, being used by our ancestors. Antonio always gave the Anglicised version, Spathaky, once he had arrived in Cardiff. Nevertheless I have no sound reason to doubt our family’s oral tradition that it was Spathakis, a known surname in Greece today. David has found 15 individuals with the name Spathakis in the online telephone directory of Greece (2005), including eight in Athens and seven in Thessaloniki. Most Greeks I have spoken to say that names ending in “-akis” come from the island of Crete in the Eastern Mediterranean. One census record from Cardiff states that Antonio Spathaky was Italian. However the state of the census records for the Bute Road area of Cardiff leaves much to be desired and I am sure this is an error. I have no doubt that Antonio Spathaky, son of Atanasio Spathakis, migrated from Greece to Wales in the early 1870s.

I am the fifth in line from Atanasio Spathakis and my grandchildren, two of whom bear my surname, are seventh. (He is their great-great-great-great-grandfather.) The line is:

1. Atanasio Spathakis, born circa 1820?
2. Antonio Spathaky, born 1848-9 m. Emma Tucker 1875
3. Albert Victor Spathaky, born 1888 m. Clara Retchford 1913
4. Ronald Victor Spathaky, born 1914 m. Kathleen Cree 1937
5. John Michael Spathaky, born 1942 m. (1)Diana Jones 1964; m. (2)Marian Chambers (nee Mitchell) 2007
6. John David Spathaky, born 1970 m. Alison Cauldwell 2002
7. Drew Francis Spathaky, born 1997 and Finley Alexander Spathaky, born 2000

Here is a full list of the 28 people that I know of who have borne the surname Spathaky in Britain. Married women are shown with their maiden name in brackets:

1. Antonio Spathaky b 1848/9, d 1889, m 1875
2. Emma (Tucker) Spathaky, b 1853, m 1875
3. Maria Affrothiti Spathaky b 1876
4. Harriet Arreti Spathaky b 1878
5. Rose Ellen Spathaky b 1880
6. George Aristides Spathaky b 1882, d 1885
7. Alexandros Spathaky b 1885, m 1913
8. Margaret F (Samson) Spathaky, b 1890, m 1913, d 1919
9 Beryl Spathaky, b 1917
10 Florence Gwendoline (Barnstaple) Spathaky, m 1922, d 1973
11 Douglas Alexander Spathaky b 1923 d 1979 m 1946
12 Iris Pamela (Jones) Spathaky m 1946
13 Elsie Rose Spathaky b 1925
14 Ernest Spathaky
15 Albert Victor Spathaky b 1888, m 1913, d 1966
16 Clara Eveline (Retchford) Spathaky b 1885, m 1913, d 1960
17 Ronald Victor Spathaky b 1914, m 1937, d 2012
18 Kathleen (Cree) Spathaky b 1918
19 John Michael Spathaky b 1942, m 1964, m 2007
20 Diana (Jones) Spathaky b 1945, d 2002
21 Marian Dorothy (Mitchell) Spathaky b 1942 m 2007
22 Jean Spathaky b 1946
23 David Victor Spathaky b 1954
24 Jane (Spathaky) Sherwood b 1969
25 John David Spathaky b 1970, m 2002
26 Alison (Coldwell) Spathaky b 1970, m 2002
27 Drew Francis Spathaky b 1997
28 Finley Alexander Spathaky b 2000

(Revised 31st May 2015 - MS)

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Four Generations 1951

(L to R) Mrs Ann Retchford (nee Watton), Michael Spathaky, Ron Spathaky, Clara (Retchford) Spathaky, Jean Spathaky, Kath (Cree) Spathaky.

OR (in relation to me):
Great-grandma Retchford, myself, Dad, Grandma Spathaky, my sister Jean, Mum.