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Families Unknown

When doing your research, have you ever come across a family – not your own – that appears to have a story to tell, and you want to find out what that story is?

This has happened to me while looking at the Limbaži parish registers.

While looking at the christening records, the records where no father was named often stood out, since they were relatively rare. After going through several years’ worth of christening records, I noticed that the same surname appeared several times – Mitrovski (also spelled Mitrowski, Mitrofski and Mitrowskij). Of the twelve fatherless children christened from 1900 to 1905, three of them bore this surname.

Then I looked further into the rest of the records for that time period – three other children were born with this surname, with fathers listed. The fathers’ occupations were all listed as “цыган” – Russian for “gypsy”. Whether this meant that they were ethnically Roma or not is unclear right now, since it would seem unusual for someone’s ethnicity to appear as their occupation. There is only one other surname that appears with the designation of “цыган”, Burkevich (Burkewitsch, Burkkevich), and this surname also appears as that belonging to the godparents of one of the Mitrovski children.

There are four unique womens’ names listed as mothers – Marija, Natalija, Matilda and Zuzanna. This last one is of most interest, since this name is listed as the mother of three of the children – two with fathers, one without. Are these three mothers one and the same person? Zuzanna is not a common name – this is in fact the only occurrence of it in Limbaži records as a whole (christening, marriage, burial) in this time period.

So far, to me, it would seem that there are either a) two women, or b) one woman with a very unusual set of circumstances.

The unusual circumstances? The fatherless child born to a Zuzanna Mitrovski, Ferdinand, was born in 1905 – after the two children with fathers (Adele, born 1901; Ludwig, born 1903). The father of both of these children is a Mikel Mitrovski, so it would seem plausible that Adele and Ludwig are brother and sister. Mitrovski is also listed as Zuzanna’s maiden name (August Mitrovski, the third child listed with a father, lists no maiden name for the mother, Matilda).

This would mean that if the same Zuzanna Mitrovski had all three of the children, that the last child was not the child of Mikel (though a Mikel Mitrovski is listed as one of the godparents, as is a Dora Mitrovski). Since there is no death record listed for Mikel (though it is possible he died in 1904, for which no records seem to exist, but then Zuzanna would be listed as a widow), where did he go? Was there a divorce? These are sometimes noted next to marriage records, but I have not yet come across a marriage record for Mikel and Zuzanna. Were they still married, but the child was not his, and therefore he would not acknowledge it, except in a godfatherly capacity?

The other explanation would be that Ferdinand was born to a different Zuzanna Mitrovski. Her occupation is listed as “дев. цыг.” – probable shorthand for “девица цыган” – gypsy maiden”. It would seem unlikely that such a designation would be given to a woman who has already had at least two children. Mitrovski (or modern form, Mitrovskis) is not a common surname in Latvia – could she be a relative of the other Zuzanna? If so, how? Cousin, sister, even daughter? And do descendants of this family exist in Latvia today? If they were ethnic Roma, it is possible that they perished in the Holocaust, but they may have survived.

As I work my way back through the records, I will keep an eye on this surname, and see what develops. Hopefully this is a mystery that can be solved!

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