Changes in Course Offerings!

As you will recall, last year I launched my first genealogy course offering – most specifically, a 12-week intensive course on the basics of conducting online research in Latvian genealogy.

Response to the course has been great, but at the same time, the length of the course and the intensiveness of the course over such a long period of time also resulted in a lot of attrition and most people who started the course not having the time in their schedules to finish.

So with that in mind, I’ve decided to revamp the course offerings – breaking the courses down into smaller independent chunks, so people can take the courses that are most necessary for their personal needs.

Now I will be offering THREE separate courses, all playing an important part in helping you learn how to do your own Latvian genealogy research utilizing online resources. Each of the courses will now be FOUR weeks long, with two out of three of the courses being offered each month. Each course will be US$49, and they will be based on the three concepts of UNDERSTAND, USE and INTERPRET.

UNDERSTAND Latvian genealogy records – This course will take you through the context of Latvian genealogical research – not as intensive as my Historical Context course, but it will provide a basic historical overview as it relates to the most commonly used Latvian genealogical records, as well as information on names of people and places and how they changed over the years. There are no prerequisites for this course.

USE Latvian genealogy records – This course will be the most intensive one, but it is also the most vital. This course will teach you how to read the old records – both the old German orthography (first two weeks) and old Russian orthography (second two weeks). We will cover how to pick out names and how to recognize common and important words. There are no strict prerequisites for this course, but if you are completely new to Latvian genealogy research and have little to no familiarity with Latvian history and naming practices, I would recommend taking the UNDERSTAND course first.

INTERPRET Latvian genealogy records – This course will help you put it all together. We will dive into the specifics of the main records – birth, marriage and death records, as well as revision lists. We will locate and analyze records (you can also bring your own) to draw out the important information and put together family trees. This course WILL require previous experience with old German and Russian orthography – which can be fulfilled by either the USE course, or your own study, but if you are coming to the course without having taken a course with me before, I will test your knowledge of orthography and vocabulary to make sure you know what you need to for the course. If you pass this test, you will be allowed into the course, if not, then you will need to take the USE course first.

The first sessions for the UNDERSTAND and USE courses will start on February 1. A full schedule can be found here (please note there will be no courses offered in October and December). As mentioned above, each course is US$49, but if you want to pre-pay for all three, for a limited time (until January 18) this package will be US$129 – save almost $20 from buying them individually! You will then have a year to use all three courses.

Please let me know if you have any questions!

WW1 Diary – December 10, 1918

Eighty-seventh installment from the diary of my great-grandfather’s sister Alise, written during the First World War. When the diary starts, she is living just a few miles from the front lines of the Eastern Front, and is then forced to flee with her husband and two young daughters to her family’s house near Limbaži as the war moves even closer. Her third child, a son, was born there in February 1916. The family has now relocated (again) to a home near Valmiera, and the Russian Revolution is in full swing. For more background, see here, and click on the tag “diary entries” to see all of the entries that I have posted.

If there is mention of a recognizable historical figure and event, I will provide a Wikipedia link so that you can read more about the events that Alise is describing.

I missed posting December 4th’s entry, you can read it here.

December 10, 1918

Today was the first nice day of winter. Quiet, white. Snow is falling slowly and covering all of nature – for a long time the sorrowful land was ailing, dreary autumn storms, not having its peaceful rest, and after a nap it broke: The skies opened and from above the land recieved snow which fell so white, onto the despairing and crying land. And it’s true, the whole world is despairing and crying, our people, what a dark future, how filled with horror and fear and discord, the brothers of our Latvian people one against the other. If only wiht the white snow, and the nearing Christmas, would come real peace on Earth and goodwill towards men, and after the tears and sorrows the land could sleep in comfort, and no injustices could touch that holy peace. White snow is also covering Mother’s burial mound. My thoughts take me to the old Lēdurga cemetery, where I sit next to Mother’s grave, if only I had wings, I would fly there, for the longing to be there is very great. White snow like a sheet, wrapped around all of nature. The days of life, how they rush, how they come and then they end! White snow like a sheet, wraps up our lives.

WW1 Diary – December 4, 1918

Eighty-sixth installment from the diary of my great-grandfather’s sister Alise, written during the First World War. When the diary starts, she is living just a few miles from the front lines of the Eastern Front, and is then forced to flee with her husband and two young daughters to her family’s house near Limbaži as the war moves even closer. Her third child, a son, was born there in February 1916. The family has now relocated (again) to a home near Valmiera, and the Russian Revolution is in full swing. For more background, see here, and click on the tag “diary entries” to see all of the entries that I have posted.

If there is mention of a recognizable historical figure and event, I will provide a Wikipedia link so that you can read more about the events that Alise is describing.

December 4, 1918

Oh, what times! So many divisions, so much anger between people… there is so much freedom, and with it – terror. The Latvian Provisional Government is working, but its enemies – the Bolsheviks – are not standing still, they want to destroy our citizens, take their unity and want to bring back the old slavery to Latvia. Their warpath to Latvia has already started. Taking Pskov demanded many sacrifices, because the White Guard along with the German troops are preventing the Russian Bolsheviks from attacking us. The Bolsheviks that are already here are holding meetings, where they decide how to torture and oppress the intelligentsia, how to confiscate estates, how to take away other property, and put them to work in simple jobs. Their newspapers are full of threats and bloodthirsty words. Most of the manor lords have left, leaving most of their belongings in the hands of fate, to save their own lives. Rīga is full of newcomers and prices cannot be described. For a small room people are asking 80-100 rubles per month. Bread is 200 rubles and who knows what else! There are rumours that the English are heading to Tallinn, Rīga, to save Latvian residents from the Bolshevik terror and destroy them.

I got a letter from home that made my mood even worse. No one can get past Mother’s death. Mother is missing here, Mother is missing there. The pain is in everyone’s hearts, like a painful tumour. Even though it is not as hard for me, since I am away from home, I can still imagine their pain, where every day every path, every little thing, reminds one of dear Mother.

WW1 Diary – November 28, 1918

Eighty-fifth installment from the diary of my great-grandfather’s sister Alise, written during the First World War. When the diary starts, she is living just a few miles from the front lines of the Eastern Front, and is then forced to flee with her husband and two young daughters to her family’s house near Limbaži as the war moves even closer. Her third child, a son, was born there in February 1916. The family has now relocated (again) to a home near Valmiera, and the Russian Revolution is in full swing. For more background, see here, and click on the tag “diary entries” to see all of the entries that I have posted.

If there is mention of a recognizable historical figure and event, I will provide a Wikipedia link so that you can read more about the events that Alise is describing.

November 28, 1918

I was in town, and there are worrying rumours – apparently bands of Bolsheviks are gathering for robbery and murder, and in our thoughts we think back to the summer of 1914, and the questions of would have the late Austrian kaiser Franz Joseph have declared war on little Serbia after the assassination of Franz Ferdinand? Or would German kaiser Wilhelm II have declared war on Russia, and would have Russian Czar Nicholas II issued sufficient mobilization requests, if they would have known what fates awaited their thrones and countries? Probably rather this horrible feeling would have forced them to find a path to agreementn and not to lead the world to such a horrible war along with their own fates. Crowns, thrones, until now so respected and celebrated, no longer play any roles. It looks like this war has removed 30 rulers from their thrones. And good!

Now there are worker-soldier committees everywhere. Our land, our homeland, has been proclaimed as an independent state – a free Latvia! Red-white-red flags were everywhere in town. Everywhere freedom – press strikes – meetings – trips – freedom. A moment at the wheel – the Farmers’ Union with its program to reduce land holdings of large landowners, introduce an 8-hour workday, etc. The President is agronomist Ulmanis and many others are all in their own departments. Between them, other parties are also growing. All sorts of parties are publishing their newspapers, where they are confusing people, like in the Bible. All sorts of meetings, where the results are plastered all over poles around town. Freedom!

Pastor Beldavs, in his Bible study, explains the Revelation of John and the predicted end of the world. The arrival of Jesus Christ is also being proclaimed in the churches, people are singing the songs of the End of Days. The pastor is urging people to wake up, wake up Christian people, prepare your candles, so that oil is not lacking in them. May God help us, may God help Free Latvia in its path, may God also cut off the Bolsheviks from their murder and pillaging.

WW1 Diary – November 12, 1918

Eighty-fourth installment from the diary of my great-grandfather’s sister Alise, written during the First World War. When the diary starts, she is living just a few miles from the front lines of the Eastern Front, and is then forced to flee with her husband and two young daughters to her family’s house near Limbaži as the war moves even closer. Her third child, a son, was born there in February 1916. The family has now relocated (again) to a home near Valmiera, and the Russian Revolution is in full swing. For more background, see here, and click on the tag “diary entries” to see all of the entries that I have posted.

If there is mention of a recognizable historical figure and event, I will provide a Wikipedia link so that you can read more about the events that Alise is describing. It is with this entry here that the calendar in Latvia changed from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar.

November 12, 1918

Weapons have gone silent on the fields of war. The long-awaited peace has been concluded. Still though, people are wary, for the awaited peace has come with many changes to the usual order of the world. We will see how it is all sorted out and what kind of events I will be able to write down on these white pages, whose future is still dark and good that it is so!

People still fear the Bolsheviks the most, but there is one bit of peace – the Versailles conference has announced that the Allies have agreed to fight – with weapons in hand – against Bolshevism in all lands, so that it does not spring up there as well.

WW1 Diary – November 10, 1918

Eighty-third installment from the diary of my great-grandfather’s sister Alise, written during the First World War. When the diary starts, she is living just a few miles from the front lines of the Eastern Front, and is then forced to flee with her husband and two young daughters to her family’s house near Limbaži as the war moves even closer. Her third child, a son, was born there in February 1916. The family has now relocated (again) to a home near Valmiera, and the Russian Revolution is in full swing. For more background, see here, and click on the tag “diary entries” to see all of the entries that I have posted.

If there is mention of a recognizable historical figure and event, I will provide a Wikipedia link so that you can read more about the events that Alise is describing. It is with this entry here that the calendar in Latvia changed from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar.

I accidentally missed posting November 7th’s entry on the day, you can read it by clicking here.

November 10, 1918

We were in Valmiera for the big market day. On the street boys are yelling that there is extra news! Kaiser Wilhelm has abdicated the throne! The Prince of Baden has also abdicated. The government has been taken over by social democrats. So the revolution is in Germany too. The German authorities received peace provisions on Friday morning from the Allies, and an invitation to respond within 72 hours – by 11 o’clock on Monday – to accept or reject them.

WW1 Diary – November 7, 1918

Eighty-second installment from the diary of my great-grandfather’s sister Alise, written during the First World War. When the diary starts, she is living just a few miles from the front lines of the Eastern Front, and is then forced to flee with her husband and two young daughters to her family’s house near Limbaži as the war moves even closer. Her third child, a son, was born there in February 1916. The family has now relocated (again) to a home near Valmiera, and the Russian Revolution is in full swing. For more background, see here, and click on the tag “diary entries” to see all of the entries that I have posted.

If there is mention of a recognizable historical figure and event, I will provide a Wikipedia link so that you can read more about the events that Alise is describing. It is with this entry here that the calendar in Latvia changed from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar.

November 7, 1918

A clear autumn day. The last leaves are falling, and so with them we hear the end of so many leaving this life. The last migratory birds are leaving, and the heart sorrows at the sound of their farewell song, quiet, quiet… As the rays of the sun set, I thought of so many sung songs, the sun flows, flowing. Flow along sun, wait for me, wait for what I will tell you. Take my mother a hundred lovely evenings… The sun is so low low, mother is far, far, I run run, don’t get anywhere, I call call, and can’t call her…

WW1 Diary – November 4, 1918

Eighty-first installment from the diary of my great-grandfather’s sister Alise, written during the First World War. When the diary starts, she is living just a few miles from the front lines of the Eastern Front, and is then forced to flee with her husband and two young daughters to her family’s house near Limbaži as the war moves even closer. Her third child, a son, was born there in February 1916. The family has now relocated (again) to a home near Valmiera, and the Russian Revolution is in full swing. For more background, see here, and click on the tag “diary entries” to see all of the entries that I have posted.

If there is mention of a recognizable historical figure and event, I will provide a Wikipedia link so that you can read more about the events that Alise is describing. It is with this entry here that the calendar in Latvia changed from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar.

November 4, 1918

The newspapers are bringing news that the end of the war is nigh. Soon the weapons will quiet and rust. The war will only continue for just a few more days. The dates 1914-1918 will be seen on a cross that will be raised on Europe’s war cemetery. No one will cry for its loss.

Tombstone Tuesday – Michelsons Family

In this series, I am providing pictures of tombstones from Latvian cemeteries, all with death dates prior to 1945. I do not have any further information on the people mentioned.

DSC04400_done

Photo taken by me, August 2015. Click to enlarge.

Top Inscription: “Dus Dieva mierā” (Resting in God’s Peace)

Names: Pēteris Michelsons, born September 27, 1868, died April 15, 1925; Aleksandra Michelsons, born August 1, 1907, died November 22, 1928; Emīlija Sloka, nee Strazdiņš, widowed Michelsons, born March 21, 1878, died March 29, 1941.

Bottom Inscription: “Saule tik augstu, sirdī kokles vel trīc, Ak, vakars pienāca negaidīts!” (The sun is so high, music from kokles still quakes in our hearts, Oh, evening has come unexpectedly!)

Location: Sarkandaugava Hill Cemetery, Rīga

Mappy Monday – Crossing the Southern Border

Last week on Mappy Monday, we made the journey north to Estonia, to learn different names of Estonian places that could come up in your research. This week, we will be doing the same with Lithuania!

Historically speaking, Latvia has a lot more in common with Estonia, especially given that Livland stretched across Latvian and Estonian lands. The border between Latvia and Lithuania was a lot more defined, but that doesn’t mean that Latvians and Lithuanians didn’t live on the other sides of the borders – they definitely did. The Latvian communities in northern Lithuania are particularly important for people trying to find their Latvian roots, since a lot of the Latvians who emigrated to the US and Canada in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were actually from the Lithuanian side of the border.

According to the All-Russia Census of 1897, approximately 35,000 Latvians lived in the Lithuanian provinces of the Russian Empire. The majority of them would have lived in the districts that bordered Latvian lands – the northern districts of the Kaunas province. These were the districts of Telšiai, Šiauliai, Panavežys and Zarasai (also seen as Novoaleksandrovsk in the old records).

The district of Telšiai is the westernmost of the group, bordering Liepāja district. In Latvian, it would appear as Telši. The towns of Skuodas (Škoda/Skoda in Latvian) and Mažeikai (Mažeiķi in Latvian, for a brief period Muravyov in Russian) had notable Latvian populations, the latter being the birthplace of sculptor Kārlis Zāle, who was designed Rīga’s Freedom Monument.

The district of Šiauliai borders Jelgava district. In Latvian it would be known as Šauļi. There was a significant Latvian community in the border regions, particularly in Akmene and Žagare. The Latvian parishes of Ukri and Panemune were, in the time of the Russian Empire, part of the province of Kaunas, likely both in Šiauliai district (Ukri could be in Telši, it is in that border area), but were transferred to Latvia as part of the border agreements after independence, since they had predominantly Latvian populations.

Moving eastward, the district of Panavežys (Paņevēža in Latvian) also had a significant Latvian community, particularly around Biržai (Birži). It had the largest Latvian community out of all of the Lithuanian districts – Latvians comprised almost 7% of the population in 1897.

The last district, Zarasai (Zarasi in Latvian) also had a large Latvian community, and prior to independence contained the predominantly Latvian parish of Aknīste, which was also granted to Latvia in the border agreements after the war. Known as Novoaleksandrovsk in Russian, its Latvian community was not as large (1.8%) as the other districts, but many Jews who later settled in Latvian cities, particularly Rīga, and then emigrated abroad, were from the district. A number of Poles from this district also migrated to Rīga and other Latvian cities.

Next week – we cross Latvia’s eastern border!