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What Do You Want To Read?

Sorry for the lack of posting the past couple of weeks – I was making my way home from Latvia, and then, just four days after getting home, moved across the province. I’m mostly settled in now, and starting to process everything I learned and found while I was researching in the archives in Latvia.

There’s just so much that I learned, so much that I could share, that I don’t know where to start!

What do you, my readers, want to read about? Is it surnames and the history of them that you’re interested in? 20th century census records? 19th century revision lists? Military records? Land records? I’ll talk about them all eventually, but if there’s something specific that you want to hear about, do let me know, and I’ll get to it as soon as I can!

9 comments to What Do You Want To Read?

  • Any official Latvian records post-1905 -the point when raduraksti stops…

  • Military records! My grandfather served in the Latvian military so I would love to know what might be available and how to get it.

  • Beth

    I second the desire for military records, especially those around WWII, where it gets rather confusing…

  • Gary Larsen

    Greetings:

    I am seeking assistance, sources, suggestions, etc., for researching a man named “Arthur Gorsey,” who was purportedly born in Riga ca. 1865. According to his 1900 U.S. Census records (for Seattle, King Co, State of Washington) He came to America ca. 1885. My suspcion is that “Arthur Gorsey” was an Americanization of his birth name. Though his Naturalization papers give Russia as his country of origin, his “native tongue” (and ethnic background) is clearly German. This leads me to suspect that he was from a Baltic German family. American records of Arthur Gorsey’s family origins are scant, however one record lists his parents as “August Gorsey,” and “Amelia,” or “Emalie Fechter” of Riga. According to oral traditions of Arthur Gorsey’s descendants, his was a prominent family, however, he was forced to flee his native land on very short notice. There is even a suggestion that he left a wife and child back in the Old County when he left.

    Any assistance, suggested sources, or interested researchers, etc., you can think of would be most greatfully received.

    Very Best Regards,

    Gary Larsen
    Seattle

  • Antra

    Hi Gary,

    As a start, I would recommend reading my post Getting Started with Latvian Research, to give you some ideas on where to start.

    Without more details, it could be very difficult to find more information – Rīga is a large city, and has been the largest city in Latvia for a long time. Do you know what occupation he held in Latvia? That could lead to guild records or employment records. Do you know what religion he was? There are many Lutheran churches in Rīga that had Baltic German congregants, you could start looking through the pages on Raduraksti for his birth, but this could be a very long process.

    I can’t think of any large far-reaching events that would have forced him to flee in the 1880s, though it is possible that he could have been involved in the local worker strikes that started in the 1870s, which could have led to his need to leave. Do you have his death certificate? It could provide more information to work from.

    Best of luck!

  • Gary Larsen

    Hi Again Antra:

    Thanks for your response. Sorry it took so long to get back to you – I guess I wrongly assumed that your reply would be sent directly to my e: mail address. It did not occur to me to re-check your website…

    I don’t have much additional information about “Arthur Gorsey” which might help trace his family origins back in Riga. In fact, the only record suggesting his Latvian origins is his marriage return, sent in to the State of Washington by the Minister of the German Evangelical Lutheran Church of Seattle, who performed the ceremony in December 1893. That is the document which listed his parents as August Gorsey and Amilie Fechter. Since “Arthur,” and “Gorsey” seem likely to have been an “Americanized” versions of this man’s name, my sense is that the best family name to try to trace in Riga records would that of his mother – Amalie, or Emalie Fechter.

    Being Lutheran would be consistent with Baltic German origins. However, the fact that Arthur Gorsey was married in Seattle’s German Evangelical Lutheran Church may, or may not, indicate his religion back in Latvia.

    Depending on the record, Arthur Gorsey’s place of origin is listed as either Russia, or Prussia. Consistently, his mother tongue and ethnicity are listed as German. His affinity for German ethnicity and the facility in the German language further suggested by the fact that he belonged to the Seattle Chapter of a German-oriented Lodge called The Sons of Herman.

    The only clue as to what Arthur Gorsey may have done for work back in Riga are two refrences (in his Naturalization records, and his marriage return) suggesting that he was a sailor when he arrived in the U.S. circa 1885. From the time of his marriage in 1893, he worked in flour mills in Seattle.

    As to what might have prompted 20-year-old Arthur Gorsey to leave Riga, I wonder whether he may have been trying to avoid being drafted into the Russian Army. My understanding is that, in the 1870-1880 timeframe, young Baltic German men, who had previously been exempt from military service, were being called-up by the Russian authorities. It is my further understanding that this was the result of “Russification” which was then being pushed during the reign of Tzar Alexander II. Apparently Russification not only effected young men of draft age, it involved making Russian, rather than German, the official language in Latvia. I understand that Russification also promoted Russian Orthodoxy as the Latvian State Religion, while simultaneously discouraging Lutheranism. Apparentl;y quite a few Baltic Germans left Latvia in the late 1800′s owing to these “reforms.”

    I have tried to wade through the records with Raduraksti, but gave-up. I found them just too disjointed and difficult to decifer. It’s a noble effort by the Latvian Archives, but, without a good search engine, I find them nearly impossible for an English speaker to use.

    For me, I’m afraid the practical way to get more information about Arthur Gorsey’s familial background would be to hire an on-scene researcher who is conversant in English (or in a pinch, German), and really knows their way around Baltic German records the Riga Archives.

    Any suggestiions for researchers who fit that description would be most appreciated.

    Thanks,

    Gary Larsen ~ gtlarsoni@comcast.net

    206 547 8073

  • Gary Larsen

    Hello Again, Antra:

    Since my last (Dec 2010) posting to you, I have obtained a document which may help locate information about “Arthur Gorsey.” One of his descendants had a notebook of hand-writen German language Bible quotations, which Arthur apparently carried with him when he left Latvia in circa 1885. Bible entries include New Testament verses, suggesting that Arthur’s family were German-speaking, Protestant (Lutheran), and, very-possibly, members of the Baltic German community.

    The notebook included his not-yet-Americanized name, “Arthur Gustav, Adolph Gorszüchowskij.” It also contained the names, dates of birth, and in the case of his mother and father, dates of death, of his immediate family.

    Arthur’s parents were: “August Ferdinand Gorszüchowskij,” b. 20 Nov 1815, d. 20 Nov 1874 (this date is difficult to read and could have been 1879). August Ferdinand Gorszüchowskij’s “Kirchof” number was listed as 543 – perhaps indicating the grave site in the Lutheran cemetery where he was buried – or the page in the record book at the Lutheran Church where his funeral service was held.

    Arthur’s mother was “Amalia Charlotte Fechter,” b. 12 Sep 1821, d. 10 Jun 1882 (Kirchof number 1076).

    The date of marriage of the Arthur’s parents is not listed in the notebook. Given the age of the bride, and the March 1844 date birth for the first child listed, it seems reasonable that they were married in the 1842-1843 timeframe.

    If you think it would be helpful, I can supply the names and dates of birth of Arthur’s 8 siblings (4 sisters, 3 brother).

    What may, in part, explain why Arthur Gorszüchowskij left Latvia within a few years of the passing of his parents, is that he had three older brothers. If the principal of primogeniture was in effect in Latvia in the 1880′s, Arthur was well down the line of of succession of those likely to inherit any money or property from estate the elder Gorszükowskij’s may have left.

    Last April 2011, I made contact with the Riga Archives, providing them the information from Arthus’s notebook, and wiring them the amount of U.S Dollars they asked for in order to do initial research. Ten months, and three follow-up inquires, later, there and still no response from the Riga Archives. I am beginning to suspect that my money went into their “picnic fund.”

    So you see, Antra, I am still looking for a reliable, bi-lingual person familiar with Latvian, who is willing to be commissioned to do on-scene research in the Riga Archives. If you are willing to take-on this project – or can provide me with contacts who may be – I would be most grateful.

    Lastly, could I ask you to respond diretly to my e: maill address? It’s gtlarsoni@comcast.net

    Many Thanks ,

    Gary Larsen
    Tel. 206 547 8073

  • Sam Cartwright

    Gary, hang in there. I also used the Riga Archives and many months after I paid, they sent me a document in the mail with a lot more information than I had expected. I must confess that I did nag them a couple of times via email!

    I was investigating Otilija PALM who was also a member of the Evangelical Lutheran community in Riga, with many generations worshipping at St Johanneskirche in Riga’s old town.

    Unfortunately they drew a blank on the other side of my family: STIRNA.

    I can’t help but feel that someone in Latvia is missing a trick in not setting up a business to help out the likes of the people posting on this site. I would be glad to pay for some research, but it’s hard to know who to contact.

    Rgds, Sam

  • Margret McPharlin

    I am also looking for Military records for my Grandfather Janis Grasis. He was in the Russian Army and a high ranking officer.

    Any one know how to get some info on him and what I really would love is a photo. He was born in 1857 and died 1950.

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