While looking at the 1895 Census images last week, I found a record that I believe belongs to one of my great-grandfathers, Brencis Līcītis. The Brencis Līcītis listed here is around the right age. Brencis is a fairly uncommon first name, and Līcītis is even less common so chances are good that this is the right person.

I know my Brencis Līcītis was not native to the Krustpils area, so the key information I wanted to extract from this census was where he was from.

From family sources, I know it was near Dobele, in western Latvia. But precisely where, I’m stuck. And this record doesn’t help so far, because the writing is terrible!

The location in question – first box is where he was born, the second, the place of registration of the birth. The two look similar enough that if we are to assume the handwriting is terrible, they could be the same place.

The last part looks to be “Kurland guberniya” – the Courland province of Russian Empire (consisting of modern-day Kurzeme and Zemgale in Latvia). Dobele is in Kurzeme, so thus far this seems appropriate.

However, the first part appears nowhere, no matter how many German exonym lists I look at. Is it “Sarinelf”? “Sarinekf”? Neither of those appear anywhere. The only place name I can find that is remotely close is “Zarnikau” (modern-day Carnikava), but that is north of RÄ«ga and in the Livland guberniya, not Kurland. It could also be a Russian exonym, but by and large, from what I’ve seen, Russian records simply transliterate the German name to Cyrillic.

The second part might hold the answer to the puzzle, since it is very possible that the first part is a manor/homestead name (hence too small to appear on any list), and the second part the district, but the writing is so cramped that I can’t make it out. Anyone else care to give it a go?

I am continuing to work on this puzzle, but I do have another avenue of hope – next week I will be arriving in Latvia, and beginning my research in the historical archives there. I aim to look through the 1935 and 1941 census records, and hopefully those records are written in a clearer manner. Or even typewritten. I can hope, can’t I?

Deciphering Handwriting
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