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Patreon Debut!

This week marks the start of a new era of Discovering Latvian Roots!

I’m committing to a new blogging/social media schedule, and the reason for that is I’m also opening up my offerings to include Patreon! You can find the details of that new blogging/social media schedule at the link.

In brief, Patreon is a website that allows people to pledge regular support to creators – bloggers, independent musicians, etc. In return for pledging a certain amount of money per month or per creation (blog post, video, etc.), patrons receive different types of perks. I’ve decided to join the site and pursue the per month model, because that lends itself better to what I do – not just blogging, but also information via social media (Facebook and Twitter), as well as additions to the Latvian Surname Project, which can’t really be quantified appropriately for a per-creation type of pledge, so monthly is the best model for me.

The fact that this is a recurring monthly pledge is what makes it different from a one-time project like a Kickstarter campaign (and don’t worry, I’m hard at work at that fiction project too!). However, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t come with specific goals – for example, for my Patreon campaign, once it reaches a pledge level of $100 per month (not $100 from one person, $100 from everyone all together) then I will start publishing indexes to the First World War refugee registers every month.

And what kind of perks do patrons get? Besides the thank-you and insider news on all of my new projects, different monthly pledge levels get increasing amounts of perks, starting with a weekly newsletter that will have translations of birth, marriage and death records at the $5/month level, and then at the $100/month level you get not only that newsletter, but also a newsletter on revision list and census records, you get to submit ideas for blog posts and records for the newsletter, access to print-and-play games related to Latvian history, genealogy and migration, access to all of my ebooks as they’re published (fiction and non-fiction) and I will also manage a Latvian One-Name or One-Place study for you. That’s a lot of stuff! Of course, there are also several other pledge levels – $10, $25 and $50 per month – between the $5 and $100 options.

And if you sign up before 23:59pm Eastern European Standard Time on June 30th – that’s about 24 hours from now – regardless of your pledge level, you will get a bonus personalized THANK-YOU video from me, filmed at a Rīga location of your choice. So don’t delay!

WW1 Diary – June 28, 1918

Seventy-second installment from the diary of my great-grandfather’s sister Alise, written during the First World War. When the diary starts, she is living just a few miles from the front lines of the Eastern Front, and is then forced to flee with her husband and two young daughters to her family’s house near Limbaži as the war moves even closer. Her third child, a son, was born there in February 1916. The family has now relocated (again) to a home near Valmiera, and the Russian Revolution is in full swing. For more background, see here, and click on the tag “diary entries” to see all of the entries that I have posted.

If there is mention of a recognizable historical figure and event, I will provide a Wikipedia link so that you can read more about the events that Alise is describing.

June 28, 1918

Yesterday I celebrated my birthday according to the old style, and tomorrow I will pack my traveling bag and head off to my father’s house for a visit. What a joy it will be to see all of those dear places, how I want to be there after so long!

New Genealogy Courses Starting in May!

As you may recall, in February I started my first beginners’ course in Latvian genealogy. It is still running, and it has been an intense experience for all involved! But everyone (including me!) is learning a lot, so I think that further sessions of the course can help more people, so the next sessions will be starting on May 11!

Now, based on feedback that I’ve received on this course, I’ve made some changes. Read on to find out more!

Beginners’ Course in Latvian Genealogy – Intensive and Non-Intensive versions

This is essentially the same 12-week course that started in February (read there for more details), but with two main differences. Firstly, there will be intensive and non-intensive versions. The intensive version will be more or less the same as the current course – and let me tell you, it will be intense! Current participants report sometimes spending six to eight hours a week on the course, but they are learning a lot. The non-intensive version will follow the same curriculum, and assignments for the first four weeks will be the same, but after that, there will not be an obligation to translate full records – rather, participants will use the techniques learned in the first four weeks to identify records of interest and then submit them to me, and I will provide the translations. So this version of the course is suitable for people who want to participate in the search process for their ancestors, and have an idea as to what they’re looking at, but don’t have the time to commit to learning all of the details of each record.

The other difference is that there will be an open-ended number of assignments for each week – do as many as you can for the time you have, for either version of the course. If you want to do all of them, then great, if you can’t, that’s okay too. It is up to you how much time you want to take.

No prior knowledge of Latvian, German or Russian required – everything you’ll need to know to locate villages/towns, find your ancestors’ records on Raduraksti and then understand what the records say will be included in the course. The course will be conducted in English.

Both course variants will follow the same schedule as the current course:

  • Week 1 – Historical Context and Migration Patterns
  • Week 2 – Spelling and Orthography
  • Week 3 – Location, Location, Location
  • Week 4 – Names
  • Week 5 – Relationships and Occupations
  • Week 6 – Baptism/Birth Records
  • Week 7 – Marriage Records
  • Week 8 – Death Records
  • Week 9 – Other Religious Records
  • Week 10 – Revision Lists
  • Week 11 – 1897 Census
  • Week 12 – Wrap-Up and Next Steps

All assignments you complete will be focused to your own particular regional needs (that is, where your ancestors lived), as well as your ancestors’ religious confessions. While this first session focused on Lutheran records, this next session will have Catholic, Jewish and/or Orthodox options if requested.

NEW! – Course on Historical Context of Latvian Genealogy Records

Perhaps before you dive into the minutiae of Latvian genealogy records, you want to learn more about the history and context of said records. This course will take you through an overview of the past four hundred years of Latvian history, and the records generated throughout different historical eras, what the records were used for and what genealogical information they can provide to us today. This course does NOT go into the particulars of each type of record, or how to read them, but provides an overview of the information these records can provide. Some of the records discussed are available online, others are only available on-site at the archives.

This is an eight-week course and will be conducted in English. No knowledge of other languages is required. Assignments will be methodological in scope – analyzing different provided scenarios and making suggestions or recommendations, and so on.

The course outline:

  • Week 1 – Early Records and History to 1800 (Different empires, guilds, courts)
  • Week 2 – Serfdom and Liberation (Surnames, church records, revision lists)
  • Week 3 – Urban and Rural Shifts (Land records, housing registers, parish registers, 1897 Census)
  • Week 4 – Education and Social Betterment (Social class, school records, tax lists)
  • Week 5 – 1905 Revolution and Its Causes (Russian Empire military records, secret police records, emigration)
  • Week 6 – First World War (Refugee records, Latvian military records)
  • Week 7 – Interwar era (Census records, passports, etc.)
  • Week 8 – Second World War (Occupying regimes – Soviets and Nazis, Holocaust, military records, refugee newspapers, International Tracing Service)

Requirements for Course Participation

These technical requirements are for all courses. You will need to have an Internet connection as well as a Google account, since we will use many Google features, including Gmail, Hangouts (text only) and Drive. A Google account is free. You will also need an account on the Raduraksti website, also free. A computer (desktop or laptop) would be best, but as long as you can see, read and navigate the embedded pages in the Raduraksti website, then a tablet would also suffice (be aware that not all tablets have this capability). The intensive course will typically take four to eight hours per week, the non-intensive course should take you about one to three hours per week. The historical context course should take one to two hours per week.

Prices (in US Dollars)

Beginners’ Course in Latvian Genealogy – Intensive: $159
Beginners’ Course in Latvian Genealogy – Non-Intensive: $129

This includes:

  • 12 modules, one each week, which will consist of readings, exercises and applying lessons learned to your own family history (see outline above), new modules will be released on Monday and you have until the following Monday to complete the exercises
  • corrected exercises returned to you within 48 hours
  • access to a group chatroom where you can discuss the course material with other students and ask the instructor questions
  • *Special offer! If your family knowledge isn’t as extensive as it needs to be to participate in the course yet (that is, you do not have knowledge of ancestors born in Latvia prior to 1909), then upon registering for the course, you can receive four hours of on-site research for the price of three – $75 instead of $100 – to be conducted by me before you start the course so you will be able to participate effectively.

This course (intensive and non-intensive combined) is limited to 15 participants.

Course on Historical Context of Latvian Genealogy Records – $89

This includes:

  • 8 modules, one each week, which will consist of readings and exercises to apply your understanding of the history and record types. New modules will be released on Monday and you will have until the following Monday to complete the exercises.
  • comments provided on your exercises within 48 hours
  • access to a group chatroom where you can discuss the course material with other students and ask the instructor questions

This course is limited to 20 participants.

To Sign Up!

Please send an email to (note: this is an image to prevent spam, you will need to type it into your email program) expressing your interest, and tell me which course you are interested in. For the intensive and non-intensive courses, please outline for me your Latvian family history as far as you know it, including when approximately they emigrated from Latvia, names and dates, ethnicity, religion, and so on, so that I can make sure that the course is appropriate for you. For the historical context course, just outline your interest in the topic. Once I’ve given you the go-ahead, you can send payment via Paypal, and you’ll be welcomed into the course!

Looking forward to hearing from you soon!

WW1 Diary – March 31, 1918

Seventy-first installment from the diary of my great-grandfather’s sister Alise, written during the First World War. When the diary starts, she is living just a few miles from the front lines of the Eastern Front, and is then forced to flee with her husband and two young daughters to her family’s house near Limbaži as the war moves even closer. Her third child, a son, was born there in February 1916. The family has now relocated (again) to a home near Valmiera, and the Russian Revolution is in full swing. For more background, see here, and click on the tag “diary entries” to see all of the entries that I have posted.

If there is mention of a recognizable historical figure and event, I will provide a Wikipedia link so that you can read more about the events that Alise is describing.

March 31, 1918 (Easter Sunday)

Easter passed with many guests. Thank God that here we feel full and in God’s grace. It is almost dishonourable to use all of our goods, when we know how others are suffering with nothing.

WW1 Diary – March 24, 1918

Seventieth installment from the diary of my great-grandfather’s sister Alise, written during the First World War. When the diary starts, she is living just a few miles from the front lines of the Eastern Front, and is then forced to flee with her husband and two young daughters to her family’s house near Limbaži as the war moves even closer. Her third child, a son, was born there in February 1916. The family has now relocated (again) to a home near Valmiera, and the Russian Revolution is in full swing. For more background, see here, and click on the tag “diary entries” to see all of the entries that I have posted.

If there is mention of a recognizable historical figure and event, I will provide a Wikipedia link so that you can read more about the events that Alise is describing.

March 24, 1918 (Palm Sunday)

We were in town to visit. I also went to the cinema, where the programme really cheered me up. German order and cleanliness can really be felt in town. How unusually quickly Easter arrives according to the new calendar! The weather is still cold, the land is white. Everyone is hoping for an early spring, to save us from famine and destruction.

WW1 Diary – March 4, 1918

Sixty-ninth installment from the diary of my great-grandfather’s sister Alise, written during the First World War. When the diary starts, she is living just a few miles from the front lines of the Eastern Front, and is then forced to flee with her husband and two young daughters to her family’s house near Limbaži as the war moves even closer. Her third child, a son, was born there in February 1916. The family has now relocated (again) to a home near Valmiera, and the Russian Revolution is in full swing. For more background, see here, and click on the tag “diary entries” to see all of the entries that I have posted.

If there is mention of a recognizable historical figure and event, I will provide a Wikipedia link so that you can read more about the events that Alise is describing.

March 4, 1918

Dear friends came to visit for coffee on my name day, including Trūde’s friend Merija. Our life is good again. But the newspapers from Russia bring dreadful news about the atrocities of the Bolsheviks and the Red Guard. How good it is, that God helped our Papa escape. There is no news on the others – lost in the cauldron of terror. Some other arrestees, good men, have escaped and are telling terrible tales, what they have seen and suffered. Seven were slaughtered in one night in Strenči by the Latvian riflemen, including pastor Čiško from Matīši and others.

A man from Dikļi has written an expose in the newspaper about his experiences in the captivity of the Red Guards: “We arrived in Valmiera, the centre of all of the plans of terror and blood. The Soldier-Worker-Landless Peasant Deputy Councils – Executive committees – that is what these zoos were called. They had established themselves in the hotel. Our escort betrayed us. The Executive Committee chairman Griško, who asked about the social class of the arrestees, was told by our escort that we were farm managers, estate lords, pastors, to which Griško replied laconically – they are all for the firing squad! What terrible fates innocent people have suffered.”

Even more terrible news comes from people from Smiltene, who tell stories about the tortures that have happened after Pskov – and Pskov is where our Papa escaped. There the Red Guards were quietly told that the Germans are here. In their panic, they grabbed their victims and threw them out of the wagons, shooting them. Pharmacist Bergmanis was the only one who survived from that wagon. He tells the story: “The Red Guards broke into our wagon. They started to beat and torture the tenant of Meisi estate, who then told them that he will go on his own and die if that will benefit the fatherland and the homeland. He went out peacefully and was run through with a bullet. Lawyer Teikmanis gave his executioners a short speech before his death, telling them that every life is sacred and that they have no right to put it out like a candle, to which they replied roughly – “you, bourgeois, you tell us lies.” They pulled him out of the wagon and shot him. Pastor Jende moaned and begged – brothers, please shoot me with one bullet in the head, and so it was also done. Many in their terror started to say their prayers. Many cried. Many tried to buy their way out, and were successful.”

We live in such terrible and frightening times, due to the mercy of the Germans we are now safe, but who knows what will happen later, until complete peace on earth finally arrives? Now the authorities in Russia have signed a peace deal with the Germans, but the civil war still continues.

WW1 Diary – February 27, 1918

Sixty-eighth installment from the diary of my great-grandfather’s sister Alise, written during the First World War. When the diary starts, she is living just a few miles from the front lines of the Eastern Front, and is then forced to flee with her husband and two young daughters to her family’s house near Limbaži as the war moves even closer. Her third child, a son, was born there in February 1916. The family has now relocated (again) to a home near Valmiera, and the Russian Revolution is in full swing. For more background, see here, and click on the tag “diary entries” to see all of the entries that I have posted.

If there is mention of a recognizable historical figure and event, I will provide a Wikipedia link so that you can read more about the events that Alise is describing.

February 27, 1918

We have now returned to Anna estate with our things. The children are happy, the remaining farmhands are submissive, humble. All of the rioters were given 24 hours to leave, and all of them were quick to obey. And so all is well again – we have a hearty table in these times of shortages and famine. How have we earned God’s mercy, maybe He will be testing us again in the future.

WW1 Diary – February 22, 1918

Sixty-seventh installment from the diary of my great-grandfather’s sister Alise, written during the First World War. When the diary starts, she is living just a few miles from the front lines of the Eastern Front, and is then forced to flee with her husband and two young daughters to her family’s house near Limbaži as the war moves even closer. Her third child, a son, was born there in February 1916. The family has now relocated (again) to a home near Valmiera, and the Russian Revolution is in full swing. For more background, see here, and click on the tag “diary entries” to see all of the entries that I have posted.

If there is mention of a recognizable historical figure and event, I will provide a Wikipedia link so that you can read more about the events that Alise is describing.

February 22, 1918

Our little boy’s birthday, so quiet and sunny… I’m not reminding anyone, since we are not in our home and here with these three old shepherds all of my nerves are shot. For two years we lived as refugees with my parents in Kroņi in the upstairs room, my nerves suffered there as well, and now we’ve lived through so much, survived so much. Now it is as if new life has come, after all the sorrow and terror. When the German army moves on from Anna estate, then we will be back home. Now we go there every day to take care of the estate, the feeling is so strange – we were kicked out and still, after everything, victory is ours, for everything that was taken by the Bolsheviks is back in our hands.

WW1 Diary – February 15, 1918

Sixty-sixth installment from the diary of my great-grandfather’s sister Alise, written during the First World War. When the diary starts, she is living just a few miles from the front lines of the Eastern Front, and is then forced to flee with her husband and two young daughters to her family’s house near Limbaži as the war moves even closer. Her third child, a son, was born there in February 1916. The family has now relocated (again) to a home near Valmiera, and the Russian Revolution is in full swing. For more background, see here, and click on the tag “diary entries” to see all of the entries that I have posted.

If there is mention of a recognizable historical figure and event, I will provide a Wikipedia link so that you can read more about the events that Alise is describing.

February 15, 1918

The time of violence and tyranny is over! Once again we feel that we are under the rule of law. When a person is saved from horror, then he doesn’t ask his saviour’s ethnicity or religion – he only rushes to thank his saviour. And so our saviour and rescuer in this case is the German army. The time of violence and tyranny is over, and may it never return.

WW1 Diary – February 14, 1918

Sixty-fifth installment from the diary of my great-grandfather’s sister Alise, written during the First World War. When the diary starts, she is living just a few miles from the front lines of the Eastern Front, and is then forced to flee with her husband and two young daughters to her family’s house near Limbaži as the war moves even closer. Her third child, a son, was born there in February 1916. The family has now relocated (again) to a home near Valmiera, and the Russian Revolution is in full swing. For more background, see here, and click on the tag “diary entries” to see all of the entries that I have posted.

If there is mention of a recognizable historical figure and event, I will provide a Wikipedia link so that you can read more about the events that Alise is describing.

February 14, 1918

Papa’s home, Papa’s home!! He escaped from the claws of the Bolsheviks by Pskov station and now he is with us, with Trūtiņa, on her birthday. Thank God for his mercy. Even the children know that God has listened to their prayers and brought Trūde the best present ever – her father.