Rural Latvia was and is covered with farms – usually quite small in size, and all with names. Many of these names have been around for centuries – in most cases, longer than surnames.
Many of these farm names come from natural features, occupations and so on – much like the surnames that would later come from them. Many also come in compound forms – this could have been to indicate two (or more) parts of what used to be one farm, and then split into two (or more) for various reasons.
Farm names like this are fairly common – usually using prefixes such as Jaun-/Vec- (New/Old) or Kaln-/Lejas- (Hill/Valley) to distinguish the two. Examples like this can be seen all over Latvia, such as Kaln-SamÅ¡i and Lejas-SamÅ¡i in LÄde parish in northern Latvia, and VecpavÄri and JaunpavÄri in Vandzene parish in the west.
But sometimes, there are even more prefixes, using a combination of the ones listed above, as well as others. Sometimes it might be limited to two prefixes, but I’ve even seen three prefixes at times.
One parish where double prefixes (as well as the occasional triple prefix) are ubiquitous is Ranka parish, in central Latvia between CÄ“sis and Gulbene. Here, if you look at a modern map, you’ll see clusters of similarly-named farms, many of which existed in years and centuries past as well.
One such cluster is the “DukuÄ¼i” cluster: Besides the basic “DukuÄ¼i” farm, we have DÄrza DukuÄ¼i (Garden DukuÄ¼i), TÄ«rumdukuÄ¼i (Field DukuÄ¼i), VeclieldukuÄ¼i (Old Big DukuÄ¼i), JaunlieldukuÄ¼i (New Big DukuÄ¼i), GaladukuÄ¼i (End DukuÄ¼i), VidusdukuÄ¼i (Middle DukuÄ¼i), KalnadukuÄ¼i (Hill DukuÄ¼i) and KalnalieldukuÄ¼i (Hill Big DukuÄ¼i). What DukuÄ¼i means, I don’t know for certain, but perhaps it is related to the Lithuanian word “dÅ«kulys”, meaning “madness”.
Then there is the “SÄvas” cluster: JaunmazsÄvas (New Small SÄvas), KalnalielsÄvas (Hill Big SÄvas), LejaslielsÄvas (Valley Big SÄvas), VecmazsÄvas (Old Small SÄvas), LiepsÄvas (Linden SÄvas), VeclielsÄvas (Old Big SÄvas).
Ranka was also home to the triple prefix names that I have seen – KalnavecmeÅ¾silieÅ¡i (Hill Old Forest SilieÅ¡i) and KalnajaunmeÅ¾silieÅ¡i (Hill New Forest SilieÅ¡i). Neither appear on the map today, but it is likely that they were part of what is now just a “MeÅ¾silieÅ¡i” cluster of farms, where the houses are numbered as “MeÅ¾silieÅ¡i 1” through “MeÅ¾silieÅ¡i 7” instead of having separate names like the abovementioned clusters. I wonder why this changed – was it a Soviet-era change, to simplify the names? Or did the farm owners choose to simplify them on their own? Land records could hold the answers to those questions.
Have you seen any triple (or more!) prefixed farms in Latvia? Share in comments if you have!