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52 Ancestors #22: Anna Ronis (Bonis?)

Time for Week 22 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 was supposed to be another one of the “find the maiden name of a female ancestor using more roundabout methods”, but I tried this with three more female ancestors, and got blocked by missing death records in Limbaži and Matīši. Now, there is still hope, using records on-site at the Latvian State Historical Archives, but since I’m not there right now (though I will be next month!), I have to put them on hold for now.

We still have a female ancestor though! Today’s ancestor is Anna Ronis (or possibly Bonis), born 1817 and died 1904. She is my great-great-great-great-grandmother by way of my paternal grandmother’s paternal grandmother, Karoline Matilde Baburs.

My first record of Anna is her marriage to Ādams Baburs in the Suntaži Lutheran Church on June 14, 1842. This record states her surname is Ronis, and that she is from the farm called “Roņi” – and thus her surname would make a lot of sense, since surname acquisition would have taken place when she was a young girl. “Ronis” means “seal” in Latvian – how a family acquired the name of a sea animal when they lived almost 100km from the coast, I don’t know, but that’s how it was. After the birth of my great-great-great-grandfather Mārtiņš, the family moved to Stopiņi estate near the Daugava, and then eventually to Rīga, where they were a part of the worker social class. According to the tax lists, Anna died on November 10, 1904.

There is some confusion as to her surname though – while the marriage record clearly says Ronis, the tax lists clearly say Bonis. When in doubt, I’d go with the earlier record, since that is closer to the actual event of her birth, but who really knows? Since her birth pre-dates surnames, I can’t take that route, my only hope is finding a family to fit her into in Suntaži, which unfortunately has not happened, despite my best efforts. I could be looking on the wrong estate, there’s a chance that the Roņi farm might not be a part of Suntaži estate, and instead some other nearby one. It is something that I’ll look into when I can see some estate maps at the archives. Just another thing to add to the list!

The tax lists are the best resources out there for late 19th century Rīga research. More detailed than revision lists and easier to find than 1897 All-Russia census records, they are a fantastic resource. Unlike the census, they have the great advantage of indexes – as long as you know what social class they belonged to, and you’re at the archives, because the index books are enormous and sometimes require two people to lift (if you need someone else to do the heavy lifting for you, you know how to contact me!). In addition to providing birth and death information into the early 20th century, they will often also mention where a family was originally from, if they weren’t Rīga-born (though not always). They mention religions, and details for the whole family. This is how I know that Anna and Ādams’ son Ermanis converted to the Baptist faith. What they don’t do is mention where the family lived, but I guess you can’t have everything?

Have you had any success with the tax lists? Need help figuring out what social class (estate) your ancestors were from? Share in comments!

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