[This post was written for the 27th edition of the Carnival of Central and Eastern European Genealogy, hosted by Al’s Polish-American Genealogy Research.]

For this edition of the Carnival of Central and Eastern European Genealogy, I will be talking about the town of Krustpils, where both of my grandmothers lived for a time. My maternal grandmother was born there, and lived there throughout her childhood, while my paternal grandmother, Zenta LÅ«kina, lived there between 1925 and 1934, while her father Augusts was the local justice of the peace.

Krustpils is found on the north shore of the Daugava, at a midway point between RÄ«ga and Daugavpils. The name “Krustpils” translates to “Cross Castle”. It is first mentioned in 1237 as being a place where the Bishop of RÄ«ga built a castle. The name came from the cross formation of the castle.

In the modern day, Krustpils no longer exists as an independent entity – it was amalgamated with JÄ“kabpils, the larger town on the south shore of the Daugava in 1962. What I find intriguing about Krustpils in this regard is that even though the two towns were across the river from one another, they spent most of history in different administrative regions. During the time of the Russian Empire, JÄ“kabpils was in the Kurland guberniya, while Krustpils was in the Vitebsk guberniya – the Daugava river was a powerful dividing force.

This becomes quite important when it comes to genealogy, since serfdom was abolished at vastly different times – in Kurland guberniya it was abolished in 1817, while in Vitebsk guberniya only in 1861. This meant surnames were acquired at a later date as well – and took even longer to appear in church records consistently. I have been able to identify my great-grandmother JÅ«le’s birth record in 1874, but not all records in her year have surnames. The advantage is is that I clearly know where her family got their surname – JÅ«le’s father IndriÄ·is was a craftsman who made wheels and wagons, and has the surname Å telmahers – from the German “Stellmacher”, meaning “wheelwright”. Occupational surnames are not particularly common in Latvia, so I’ve lucked out here! As I’ve mentioned before, the language of a surname in Latvia has no bearing on the ethnicity of its bearer – ethnic Latvians often had surnames of German or Russian origin.

Krustpils has always been a multiethnic town. It was inhabited by Balts for centuries, and Germans arrived with the RÄ«ga bishop. Russians also settled in Krustpils, as did Jews. In 1935, Krustpils’ population was 53% Latvian, 35% Jewish, 12% other. For those doing Jewish research in Krustpils, Jewish Gen’s ShtetlLinks has a variety of information, including lists of Jewish residents. During the Russo-Turkish War (1877-1878), Turkish prisoners of war were interned in Krustpils, and many remained when the war was over. My grandmother and great-aunt grew up just down the street from the local Russian Orthodox church. Across the river in JÄ“kabpils – named for Jakob von Kettler, a 17th century duke of Kurland – there is also a very brightly blue-painted Old Believer church. Russian Old Believers and Polish/Ukrainian Greek Catholics fled from Russian territories due to persecution in the 16th and 17th centuries, and many settled in the semi-independent Duchy of Kurland.

ZÄ«lanu street, Krustpils, December 2009. Picture taken by author. Click on the image for a larger version.

In this photograph, note the abovementioned Russian Orthodox church in the background. Note also the numerous Latvian flags – this picture was taken on the first Sunday of December, which is a designated remembrance day. By law, Latvian flags must be displayed on each of the eleven remembrance days, five of which, including this one, also require black ribbons of mourning tied alongside the flag.

Today, the town of JÄ“kabpils has approximately 29,000 inhabitants. Most refer to the area solely as JÄ“kabpils, since JÄ“kabpils was larger, but the train station, as it is on the Krustpils side of the river, is still the Krustpils railway station. There is a small cemetery on the Krustpils side, but it has mostly fallen into ruin, and most burials happen on the JÄ“kabpils side. My great-grandparents, along with several other members of my extended family, are buried at the JÄ“kabpils cemetery.

Village of My Ancestors: Krustpils
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9 thoughts on “Village of My Ancestors: Krustpils

  • March 19, 2010 at 10:53 am

    How much info do you have on the building of the castle Krustpils? Do you know where it was quarried?

  • March 29, 2010 at 2:08 pm

    Great post. It was interesting to read. Being required by law to display a flag! I had no idea there were countries that had such laws.

  • July 5, 2010 at 1:50 am

    Thanks for your post. Perhaps we’re distant relatives! I was told my grandfather’s name was Paul Stellmacher and that he was born in Latvia around 1890. He and two brothers, Ed and Sam, came to the U.S. as young men. They were from a large family and had several brothers and sisters who remained in Latvia.

    I have only recently become interested in genealogy and feel it was a real stroke of luck to have learned from your post about the Stellmachers/Stelmahers.

  • July 15, 2010 at 12:45 pm

    B. McGuire,

    Where in Latvia was your grandfather from? I can trace precisely where my great-grandmother’s family got the name, as outlined in the post. I don’t know if IndriÄ·is had any brothers who he would have shared the name with, or if indeed they would have chosen the same surname – IndriÄ·is would have been in his late 20s or so when surnames were granted, so if his father was living, all brothers would have had the same name, but if his father was deceased, they may all have chosen different surnames.

  • September 9, 2011 at 9:18 am

    Hello from Australia,

    I am searching for any info on my fathers family. GRASIS.. my father is Juluis Grasis and his father was Janis, his mother Alliccia(maybe spelt wrong) both divorced? and remarried? my grandmother became Bruveris..and my grandfather had a new wife who had already 2 or 3 sons. they lived on a farm. He was carpenter by trade and served in the Russian army. My Aunt Veronica died in childbirth and had 2-3 childre 3 boys are Dainis and Janis…Dainis has a daughter and 2 marriages again names unknown the daughter is Zentina Veronica..I do not know my Aunts married name but her husband could be Milo Delin of similar. My father was born in Bauska and my Grandmother lived in Riga all her life and cleaned a school. Dainis and his daughter lived with her possibly till she died..can anyone help?
    cheers Margret

  • July 14, 2012 at 12:26 pm

    I am looking for any information on a Sergejs Gavrilovs father of Aleksandra, Tamara & Kristina. Please anything will be of great help.

  • September 29, 2012 at 12:27 pm

    My father, Andrejs Steinbergs, was born April 1, 1908 in the Krustpils region. He had a brother Jekabs, sisters Berta and Alida. He married Milda Ievins on May 30, 1936. I was born on March 21, 1937. My brother Imants Steinbergs was born June 28, 1940 and my brother Janis Steinbergs was born January 30, 1942. My father and mother passed some years ago. I am searching for any information on my father. I believe his father’s name was Janis. Does anyone have any information on this family?

  • October 12, 2012 at 7:32 pm

    Thank you, Antra! Now I have my father’s mother’s name for sure. It would be nice to know my aunts and uncle’s dates of birth. But I don’t. It’s not easy to decipher the Russian language in Raduraksti to begin with. And without their birth information I cannot imagine trying to find their records. I will keep on trying, though. Dear Antra, my mother’s date of birth is December 15, 2011. I do not have a place name for where she was born, although I suspect also somewhere in or near Krustpils. Her maiden name was Milda Natalija Ievins. Her father’s name I believe was Janis Ievins. Her mother’s given name I do not remember. She had two sisters – Marta Silins nee Ievins and Alida Rozenbergs nee Ievins. Both sisters were older than my mother. My living cousins in Latvia do not seem to be interested in geneology, but I sure would like to have that information. Do you have any suggestions for me?
    Thank you,
    Aina Ozols

  • August 4, 2014 at 5:52 am

    i know where the jakobpils cemetery is in latvia but could someone please give me a street address for the krustpils cemetery thank you

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