Time for Week 20 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.

Starting with this week, I’ll be spending a few weeks dealing with challenging female ancestors – that is, female ancestors whose maiden names are unknown to me. In addition to telling their stories – what I know of them, anyways – I will also be looking into what their surnames could be, by exploring different sources with potential clues.

This week’s ancestor is Marija, wife of Kārlis Radziņš, who we learned about in Week 17. As I mentioned in that post, it is possible that her surname may have been Kaukulis (Kaukule in the feminine form), but I am also going to explore alternate possibilities.

What I know of Marija I already summed up in Kārlis’ post: They would have married in 1840 or 1841, and these records are missing for Lugaži parish, so I can’t use this easy resource to find her maiden name. They had six known children who survived past infancy, and it was the birth of the seventh child, a stillborn daughter, that also led to Marija’s death in 1864. It is Marija’s death record that provides the information we need to try and find the family she was born into, and consequently, her surname. She was born on SmÄ“Ä·i farm on Lugaži estate, which does not appear on any maps that I can find, though there is a “SmÄ“Ä·upÄ«te” (SmÄ“Ä·i creek/stream) on the outskirts of the town of Valka. Surrounding farm names in the revision list indicate that this is a probable location of the farm, so if I can find maps of Lugaži estate somewhere, then this might tell me if this is the right place.

Why I think Kaukulis is the best possibility for her family name: The managing family at SmÄ“Ä·i farm at the time of the 1857 revision list is the Kaukulis family. Now, it is easy to say “Marija might not have been a member of the managing family”, and I will explore those options below, but I have another point in favour: My great-great-grandmother Marija Radziņa, this Marija’s daughter, was born on Lielkāji farm on Lugaži estate, and wouldn’t you know it – the 1857 revision list entry for Lielkāji farm also has a Kaukulis family living there. People often lived with extended family, so this adds to the possibility that they are related. If this is Marija’s family, her parents could be LÄ«ze and Gusts. There are no revision lists prior to 1857 available.

There are also other potential surnames. There is another family with appropriate ages living on SmÄ“Ä·i farm in 1857 – the DÅ«viņš family. Since they were a farmhand family, suggesting that they were there 35 years earlier when Marija was born might be a bit of a stretch. But you never know. Sometimes farmhand families stayed in one place for a longer time.

The biggest problem with these names from the 1857 revision list is that they are there 35 years after Marija’s birth. There’s nothing saying they were there when she was born c. 1822. The closest records I have available right now to consult are the 1830s BMD records. Looking through 1834 and 1835, I found one entry for someone born or living in SmÄ“Ä·i – a married man by the name of BarÄ·is Balkains who died there at the age of 42. Since Marija would have been 12 in 1834, there is a possibility that this could be her father. Looking further through these records might yield even more possibilities.

Looking at the Latvian State Historical Archives’ fonds register, there are many items in the collections regarding Lugaži parish. I hope that one of these documents can help provide the answers I’m looking for!

Do you have any female ancestors for whom you are attempting to identify maiden names? What are your techniques? Share your stories in comments!

52 Ancestors #20: Marija (Unknown)
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