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52 Ancestors #2: Walter (Rudzītis) Roop

Time for Week 2 of the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge! As noted in my first post of this challenge, I am starting with my most ancient known ancestors.

This week’s ancestor: Walter (Rudzītis) Roop, born c. 1773 and died 1847. Unfortunately I do not have a precise death date for him, since the death records from that year are missing. I know of his year of death from the 1850 revision list for the town of Limbaži.

Walter (Rudzītis) Roop is my great-great-great-great-grandfather, by way of my maternal grandfather’s paternal grandfather. His youngest daughter, Jūlija Wilhelmine, is my great-great-great-grandmother.

I do not know a great deal about Walter, but since he spent a good deal of time living in, and died in, the town of Limbaži in northern Latvia, it is quite possible that he was born there as well. He was married to Dorothea (maiden name unknown). He had four children that I know of, son Mārtiņš, and daughters Anna, Elisabeth and Jūlija.

What is of interest to me with regards to Walter are his different names – a number of records refer to him as “Rudzītis alias Roop” and then later on, just “Roop”. After his death, his children are referred to only by the surname Roop.

Why did this change come about? I have one very probable theory on that. The name “Rudzītis”, a diminutive of “rye”, is a very common Latvian surname (you will have seen it as the name of my genea-fiction heroine Aila Rudzīte). Roop, however, is more Germanic. While it doesn’t appear in my German surname dictionary, the Internet tells me it can be a variation on the German Rupp/Rupprecht or English Roope. It was also the German name for the parishes of Mazstraupe (Klein-Roop) and Lielstraupe (Gross-Roop), just to the southeast of Limbaži. As regular readers of my blog will be aware, it was not uncommon for Latvians to take Germanic surnames to try and improve their social standing.

In Walter’s case, it could have played a part – in 1834, Walter became a part of the “Bürger” class in the town of Limbaži, probably due to his position as a miller. His surname is already listed as Roop in Jūlija’s birth record in 1831. The Bürger class was the middle class (bourgeois) in the town, though their actual wealth or property ownership could vary, particularly at the beginning of the 19th century when the rules were changed. But they were a step above servants and other common workers.

Walter died in 1847. Given his ambition in changing his social status, I wonder what he would have thought of his daughter Jūlija marrying a simple peasant – for that is precisely what she did in 1851 when she married my great-great-great-grandfather Jēkabs Francis. But I will talk more about them later!

3 comments to 52 Ancestors #2: Walter (Rudzītis) Roop

  • Robert

    Very interesting detective work. I presume Walter would have picked or been assigned his last name during the great surname project during the 1825 era. That got me thinking – did any of the documents registering the last names survive? Also I’ve thought it might be interesting to visit a cemetery to research early information but then it occurred to me there would be no way to identify that person prior to the 1825 era with no last name. Antra – you have visited Latvian cemetery’s. Was the person only identified by their first name or would the headstone mention the farm the person was from?

  • […] – “#2 Walter (Rudzitis) Roop” by Antra on Discovering Latvian […]

  • Antra

    There are a few parishes where the original surname registers survive, but they are very few and far between. I haven’t seen them myself, but I have read about them in some books written on Latvian surnames in the 1930s.

    As to cemeteries, it is unlikely that peasant grave markers survive from that time period. I have never seen anything earlier than the mid-1800s. Grave markers cost money, which is something that most peasants did not have, so if graves had any markers at all, they would often be wood, which would not survive to present day. So I don’t know, really. I have seen some stones that mention farm names, but it is really rare.

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