Time for Week 24 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 is a relatively recent one, by virtue of the fact that I do not have much information on his family line thus far. This ancestor is Brencis LÄ«cÄ«tis, born August 12, 1866 and died c. 1946-1949. He was my great-grandfather, from one of my maternal lines.

The reason I have very little information on his family is that he was illegitimate. He was born to Ieva Līcīte on August 12, 1866 on Jaunsērene estate, Līči farm, and baptized on August 21 at the Sece Lutheran Church. Jaunsērene and Sece are in southern Latvia, in what would have been the Kurland guberniya at the time, south of the town of Jaunjelgava. Brencis and his family are my only known Kurland ancestors. I already spoke about his mother Ieva Līcīte in her own 52 Ancestors entry, but I will spend some time exploring possibilities for his father.

Two possibilities are the men named as godparents – Māŗtiņš Zods and JorÄ£is Lintners. I’m not familiar with any instances where the godparents were complete strangers to the parent/s of a child, so this likely means they were friends of some sort. Close enough friends to have made a child together? Who knows.

The other possibility is the story I outlined in Ieva’s post – that the father was the local baron, or one of his sons – it would fit, since Ieva disappears from the records at this point, which likely means she relocated elsewhere.

Then there’s the third possibility – some other random man that I have no hope of tracking down, unless he happened to have more children who have taken autosomal DNA tests, and if I can get one as well, then I can find them.

At any rate, I don’t know what Brencis’ childhood was like, only that by the age of 30 he was living in Krustpils, when he was enumerated in the All-Russia Census. This document tells us that he was literate, and that his learning took place at home. It is possible that he did not have any formal education. He is listed as a “worker” in the household of 21-year old “landlord” PÄ“teris Grigulis, who was from LÄ«ksna parish near Daugavpils.

On September 9, 1909, 43-year old Brencis married 35-year old JÅ«le Å telmahere at the Krustpils Lutheran Church. On June 26, 1911, their first daughter, Marta, was born (see my obituary for Marta here). When I was young, my mother and I remembered that Marta mentioned a male child (possibly named Harijs?), who died in infancy, but later in life, denied any such claim. I suppose that when the records for this time period are released to the archives, I will be able to look into this, to see if Marta and my grandmother had a brother.

When the First World War broke out, Brencis, JÅ«le and Marta moved into Inner Russia, since the war front would later rage right along the Daugava river where Krustpils was located. They moved to Rzhev with JÅ«le’s sister EmÄ«lija and her husband KriÅ¡jānis Rasa, while the rest of JÅ«le’s family only went as far as RÄ“zekne.

Brencis was an instrument repairman and harmonica maker by profession, as well as a shoemaker. While in Russia, he tried working in a matchstick factory, but did not excel working for others, and left as soon as he could acquire boards for the floor of his house, preferring to otherwise work for himself. My family maintains this entrepreneurial spirit!

Allegedly, the family returned to Krustpils before my grandmother was born in October of 1919, but I doubt the veracity of this story, even though Marta was there when her sister was born and claimed that the event took place in Krustpils. I doubt it for several reasons – firstly, her birth record was not found in the registry office archives. Secondly, the Latvian War of Independence was still going on at the time, and most war refugees didn’t return until 1920 at the earliest. Krustpils came under the control of the Free Latvian Forces in June of 1919, but the war front between the Latvian forces and the Soviet forces remained just kilometres away in November of 1919 (not to mention the Bermontian German/White Russian forces were just kilometres away in the other direction). To reach Krustpils, they would have had to cross at least some hostile territory, and it just seems extremely unlikely that Brencis would have taken his pregnant wife and young daughter across a war zone just so that child could be born in Latvia.

The family did return to Krustpils eventually, since Marta and my grandmother both attended the local school and were confirmed in the Krustpils Lutheran Church. Brencis and JÅ«le remained behind in Latvia after their daughters left prior to the second Soviet occupation. Brencis died not long after the war, sometime between 1946 and 1950.

I do wish that I could find out more about Brencis’ life and parentage! It will be an ongoing process, but I’m sure I can dredge up a few more facts than I currently have. All in good time!

52 Ancestors #24: Brencis Līcītis
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