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Surname Saturday – Kukurs

This edition of Surname Saturday is about the surname Kukurs.

I have chosen this surname for two reasons – a person with this surname in my family tree is currently giving me trouble, and I happened across the definition of this word in my Latvian etymological dictionary while looking for something else.

The root of the word “kukurs” is the verb “kukt”, meaning “to become crooked”. A “kukurs” is a “crooked back” or a “hard lump of earth”. It is likely that this was given as a nickname to someone with a hunched back, and the name later stuck as a surname. I haven’t seen many nicknames-turned-surnames in my work with Latvian names yet, so this was an interesting find.

Now, onto my ancestor – her name was Kristīne Kukurs. She married Jēkabs Šīrs sometime before 1899, and had my great-grandmother Lilija in Mangaļu parish, just north of Rīga. Kristīne and Jēkabs divorced in June of 1923 for reasons unknown. He died several months later, and she died in 1945. She had two brothers living at the time of her death, Andrejs Kukurs and Augusts Blaus. As to why this second brother has a different surname, I do not know yet. It is possible that he was adopted, or that he was from a different marriage than Kristīne and Andrejs.

I know her father’s name was Andrejs as well. Three separate documents tell me that she was born in Limbaži. Two of those documents (the 1935 census and the 1941 census) also tell me that she was born in 1872 (one also mentions the date – November 22). The third (a document where she is signing over ownership of a property to her daughter) does not mention a date of birth.

But she isn’t in the 1872 birth records for Limbaži. Or 1873. Or in the post-October 1872 or 1873 records for any of the parishes surrounding Limbaži. There is a mention of a Karlīne Kukurs born in Umurga parish (just to the east of Limbaži) in that time period, but the name of the father is different, so this could be a cousin. I’m currently looking in the surrounding years for Limbaži, and then I’ll move on to doing the same for the surrounding parishes.

Kukuri is also the name of a hamlet in southern Latvia, southeast of Auce, just a few kilometres from the Lithuanian border. I don’t believe this has any relation to my Kristīne Kukurs, since Limbaži is in the north of the country, but if I still see no sign of her in the Limbaži area, it is another location to consider.

For now, back to the record books! I will also be updating the Record Project and Surname Project this evening. Lots of new names added!

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