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WW1 Diary – October 4, 1917

Forty-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 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.

October 4, 1917

German airplanes are flying over us. Anti-aircraft guns are set up not far from us to shoot at them. Today they fired, bombs exploded in the air, so much noise it is terrible. I took all of the children to the basement, wishing that I had wings and could flee to the sea, or hide in the mountains. The Lord sees us – and the Lord’s hand will protect me. It horrifies me, what the soldiers are doing in the churches, they use them for horses, as toilets and as brothels. We have heard from Cēsis that the Bolsheviks have decided to hold rallies in the churches. The heart tightens, hearing all of this. The situation of our loved ones is hard. Everything they have seen and heard, we have a letter from an acquaintance who is an officer, who says that big Russia is in its final death throes.

The groves have started to turn yellow, leaves falling to sleep one after another. Days are so short and one cannot buy petroleum for lamps anymore – I’m afraid of the dark!

52 Ancestors #36: Pēteris Celmiņš

Time for Week 36 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. Sorry that I’ve been delayed on these posts – I was on vacation, and didn’t have time to schedule them ahead of time! So you’ll see a glut of 52 Ancestors posts as I catch up.

This week’s ancestor is Pēteris Celmiņš, born September 9, 1847, died prior to the mid-1930s. He is my great-great-grandfather, my paternal grandfather’s paternal grandfather.

Probably named for his great-grandfather Pēteris, this Pēteris was born on Stampvēveri farm in Vijciems parish to parents Kārlis Celmiņš and Kače Rožlapa. He was the eldest child of the family. He married Marija Radziņa on September 24, 1877 in Lugaži Lutheran Church, north of Vijciems.

Despite the marriage in Lugaži, Pēteris and his family continued living in Vijciems on Stampvēveri farm, baptizing their children in the Trikāta Lutheran Church – Voldemārs Kāŗlis (1878), Janis Jūlijs (1882), Emma Paulīne (1884), Anna Karlīne (1886), Pēteris Eduards (1888, my great-grandfather), Alma Viktorija (1894) and Elza Antonija (1896).

This is unfortunately where my knowledge of him ends. I have not had the opportunity to go searching for death records yet – a bit of a daunting task, given how many Celmiņi there are in the area, and a number of them named Pēteris. A register of Vijciems residents that was started in 1875 notes that he died at some point while the register was being utilized (which was into the 1900s, and all of his childrens’ births are listed there), but does not list a year of death, so that isn’t particularly helpful. All I do know is that he was deceased prior to the 1935 census, where his wife Marija is listed as a widow.

So when did he die? This is a mystery for me to solve. Given that he probably died prior to the early 1900s – otherwise he wouldn’t have had that notation in the register – that means he probably died in his 50s, so what was his cause of death? Is it a family trait I should worry about? I guess I will find out when I find the record.

More ancestors coming soon!

WW1 Diary – September 16, 1917

Forty-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 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.

New! 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.

September 16, 1917

The time has come, that nothing surprises me anymore. Yesterday, refugees from Lēdurga arrived at our home. Mrs Pudis and her children and their rescued belongings. We must accept them and take care of them until we can find a place for them. It is impossible to count the crimes and experiences and the whole story of what they have experienced. Now anyone who has a good house and property isn’t safe, the possibility of being called “bourgeois” and being robbed or burned down is great. Bands of thieves and deserters are rampaging across Vidzeme, and there is no protection to speak of anymore. Now we are being destroyed by our own country. Only God knows, how all of this will end. Even our familiar, dear churches are being destroyed, altarpieces turned into toilets.

Not looking at all of the madness, we are still doing very well, even if the current situation is writing harsh and gloomy words on the page of our country’s history, still personally we are not suffering.

WW1 Diary - September 6, 1917

Forty-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 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.

New! 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.

September 6, 1917

The Provisional Government has proclaimed the Russian Republic. Rationing has grown, and soldiers are participating in destruction and theft. Our old Lēdurga is completely destroyed, residents driven out, all of our old acquaintances have fled to the forest and are living there. Mr Šmits came to us and told us about his crazy experiences, which would require a lot of time to write down. So many terrible stories are coming from all directions. How long will we remain saved? Each day brings with it its own horrors. Still, the soul quietly hopes for what God will decide, who has Him in his heart will survive, when life is hard, God sends help. Destruction cannot be greater than the Saviour…

WW1 Diary - September 4, 1917

Forty-fourth 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 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.

New! 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.

September 4, 1917

Kerensky and his followers have ordered the destruction of all of the railway splits in the Petrograd area. Kornilov and his accomplices have been arrested. For now, civil war has been prevented, the revolutionary government remains.

WW1 Diary - September 2, 1917

Forty-third 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 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.

New! 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.

September 2, 1917

The news has come, that a civil war is brewing. The head of the army, General Kornilov, along with many battalions of soldiers, has risen up against the Provisional Government, and is heading for Petrograd with 70 echelons to bring the government down.

52 Ancestors #35: Ansis Eglītis

Time for Week 35 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 Ansis Eglītis, born April 13, 1850, died prior to the mid-1920s. He is my great-great-grandfather, my maternal grandfather’s maternal grandfather.

As mentioned in his father’s post, Ansis Eglītis (junior) was the son of Ansis Eglītis (senior) and Anna (last name unknown). His birth record has not been found, since the Limbaži records are missing for that year, thus this date comes from a revision list supplement. I would assume he was born on Langači farm on Limbaži estate, since his family lived there earlier, and he appears on Langači farm as an infant in the 1850 revision list.

Ansis Eglītis married Līze Graumane sometime between 1873 and 1876, however, these marriage records are also missing from the Limbaži church records. The next time we meet Ansis is when he is moving to Lāde estate in 1878 with his wife and first son Vilhelms Leonards (b. 1876). They moved to Lejas Samši, the farm that Līze had grown up on, and that remains in my family to this day.

Ansis and Līze had nine children, according to a family story told to me by my great-aunt. The records provide me with the following: the aforementioned Vilhelms Leonards, Johanna Malvīne (1878), Hugo Samuels (1882), Emma Marija (1884), a stillborn daughter (1886), Kārlis Eižens (1887), Jānis Alfreds (1890), my great-grandmother, Mērija Alide (1892) and Ella Elizabete (1897). I’m not sure if the stillborn daughter was included in that count of nine, or if there is yet another child I have not found yet. I’m pretty certain several of the children died in infancy, though the only one I have confirmed thus far is Hugo Samuels.

Ansis died prior to the mid-1920s, when and how I am not yet certain. I only know that my great-aunt has no recollection of him, but she does remember her grandmother Līze. So I would say that he probably died before my great aunt was born, or when she was just a baby. Ansis is buried in the family plot in Limbaži cemetery, however the gravestone also does not provide any information – it just says “Eglītis family”. His wife Līze, his son Vilhelms Leonards and Līze’s parents Marcis and Trīne Graumaņi, are also buried there.

Where do we go next week? Back to the other family of repeating names!

WW1 Diary – August 31, 1917

Forty-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 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.

August 31, 1917

It’s fall. Fall in the hills, valleys, fall also dwells in the heart. I’m sad that I did not bring my diary when we fled to the seminary, there are all sorts of crazy events that I have not been able to describe. Now we returned home with our belongings, and the war is right at our doorstep. Many are fleeing, to wherever each person thinks it might be safe. The announcements are varied – don’t flee, for if you flee into the unknown, you will die of starvation. Rīga has fallen. After a year of battles across the Daugava, Rīga has fallen and the Germans are already in Sigulda and at the Līgatne river. We are visited by “zeppelins”, who drop bombs, which create panic among the residents, and terrible fear. It is a new era knocking on Latvia’s door, with cannons and zeppelins’ bombs. Crazy events are expected, so big and terrible that the heart races. Soon Latvia’s fate will be decided…

Vidzeme’s roads are again full with processions of refugees, full of worry and long faces. They’ve stayed over even at our house. They are trouble for peaceful residents, for they destroy and take what they can. When asking a refugee, why they fled, they respond – one can’t live in a pile of ruins. And so they burn, steal, destroy, at will. Even our old Lēdurga has been destroyed, robbed, the residents fleeing into forest homes. Dagiņa’s godmother was robbed of all of her money, her home emptied. You cannot even enter Lēdurga without permission anymore. And so it is in all of the regions closest to the front, the same fate. It is not possible to describe all of the horrible events, I’d fill all of these white pages.

Epidemics are rife, and Death is cutting a wide swath through Valmiera and the area, taking people in huge numbers. Most deaths are from dysentry, young people. Epidemics grew from famine. There is a shortage of food. You cannot buy bread anywhere, and forget about anything else. A pound of butter costs 475 kopecks, a quart of milk 40 kopecks, and so on. Thank God that we still have enough, and that huge thefts have not occured. Still, the two months of strikes were difficult, when we were tormented and we weren’t allowed to take anything that belonged to us. We had to steal our own property and buy it. I was not even allowed to pick a leaf of the parsley I planted myself in the garden without shouts from the farmhands to not go in their garden, this has made their backs soft.

They were crazy times. Worker-soldier committees and councils, meetings and rallies, sedition and swearing, I’m surprised that we are still alive. Madness! Now all of the organizations have fallen apart, a line has been drawn through all of their achievements, and good!!! Most of them have been sent to the front, all of the world-changers and destroyers.

52 Ancestors #34: Jānis Šīrs

Time for Week 5 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 Jānis Šīrs, born October 20, 1819 and died after 1868. He is my great-great-great-grandfather, by way of my paternal grandmother’s maternal grandfather, Jēkabs Šīrs.

Jānis Šīrs was born on Staiceles farm on Pučurga estate, near the west coast of Lake Burtnieki in northern Latvia. His parents were Marcis and Anna. Jānis married Kristīne Kvante on November 21, 1851 at the Matīši Lutheran Church.

Kristīne’s entry describes their migration pattern – from Pučurga to Stāberģi in 1858, to Milite in 1863, to Vilzēni in 1868. It is here that their path appears to stop, though there is a notation next to the name of their son Jēkabs (my great-great-grandfather) that he moved to Limbaži and became a part of the petty bourgeois at some point (I’m assuming a great deal later, since the bulk of the revision list registers are in German, but the notation is in Russian, and I would assume that a five year old did not amass the wealth necessary to achieve that status on his own). Whether there is any truth to this, I don’t know, because I have not found him in Limbaži records and the next news I have of him is the baptism of his daughter Lilija in 1899 in Daugavgrīva, near Rīga.

The different revision lists provide a listing of children of Jānis and Kristīne – Jānis (c. 1852), Antons (c. 1854), Augusts (c. 1856) are listed in the 1857 revision list and their 1858 move to Stāberģi. The 1863 move to Milite lists four sons – Jānis and Antons again, then Pēteris and Jēkabs (1862). The 1868 move to Vilzēni loses Antons, but adds Marcis as the youngest son. So it seems that Jānis and Kristīne had six sons all together, but two (Antons and Augusts) died in childhood. There is never a mention of any daughters, but starting from the move to Milite, there appears to be a girl called Marija Brants traveling with the family – eight years older than their oldest son, but maybe she worked with the family as an extra caregiver? That’s what I would guess, anyways. She moved with them from Stāberģi to Milite, and again from Milite to Vilzēni.

Since I have no sign of them moving anywhere after Vilzēni, it is probable that Jānis died in Vilzēni, but when, I cannot say. Perhaps if I could finally find a marriage record belonging to his son Jēkabs (to the mysterious Kristīne Kukure), that might help narrow down when he died. But since I haven’t had any luck with Jēkabs’ marriage record yet (aggravated by the fact that 31 years of his life – from 1868 to 1899 – are unaccounted for, and Kristīne Kukure’s life prior to her daughter’s birth is also a mystery), perhaps marriage records for his brothers might help, since they may have stayed in the Matīši area. It is an option to look into.

Next week we return to one of my family’s repeating names – no, we’re not going back to a Pēteris Celmiņš again yet (though there is still another one to come), but to the other repeating name! Do you remember which one that is?

Pay Close Attention to Document Numbers

Many genealogical documents contain not only information about your ancestor, but clues on how to find out even more. But do you know how to read those clues?

Documents and records lead to more documents and records. This is a given. However, the path a genealogist needs to take to get from one to the other can be incredibly difficult and time-consuming – but sometimes, those little notes, numbers and scribbles can provide more information than you may have expected, and cut that time in half – or even better than that, eliminate that difficulty all together.

In Latvian genealogy, the best document that can provide straightforward clues to other documents is the internal passport – that is, the identity document everyone over a given age had to carry with them in Latvia. Just like passports today, people needed to provide supporting documentation to be issued a passport. Sometimes this would be a previous passport, but often – particularly for the passports from the early 1920s – this document (or documents) would be something else, anything else that a person could present to confirm who they were. And the official wouldn’t just write down “birth record”, “marriage record” or “refugee document” – they would include the number of that document, and using that number, you can track down that record as well.

This number is especially important when it comes to refugee documents. Refugee documents are not organized in a way that is simple to search. They are organized as they were issued – by date, record number and location. So if you have that record number in a passport, the procedure is greatly simplified for you. Yes, after the refugee documents were finished, alphabets were created, but there are dozens of these alphabets, often with overlapping years, and plenty of spelling variations for people’s names, so you can imagine how much more complex the procedure gets without the record number. With the record number, you can go directly to the book that contains it, and easily find the person you are looking for. If for some reason you don’t find the person you expect at the record number, consider two possible alternative scenarios – one, you are looking at the wrong location, or two, there was a small mistake in the document number. For the first, it is easily solved – just look at the corresponding record number for the other locations. The second is harder, but the passport will also usually mention the date the refugee document was issued, in which case you can look by that instead.

Internal passports also provide an important link to the housing registers – these documents recorded every address change a person had, and sometimes these could be quite frequent. While housing registers often contain much the same information as a passport, they can also provide information on people who may not have crossed your radar before – relatives who lived in the same apartment, and so on. And not everyone in a family has a surviving passport in the archives, and thus these housing registers will provide information on them. Of course, not all housing registers survive, but a great deal of them do (for the city of Rīga at least, survival rates are lower outside of Rīga).

If someone got married, had children, or died, these events as well as their corresponding record numbers would also be recorded in the passports. So all in all, an excellent resource!

Other documents that can contain useful notations and document numbers are the Rīga tax lists for the late 19th century. If a person was a relatively new arrival to Rīga, the record could mention where they were from, as well as the record number for the document granting them permission to live in Rīga. These documents provide the date, ages of the people arriving in Rīga, as well as the social estate into which they were sorted. The tax lists are also sorted by social estate, so this would not be new information, but if for some reason you know the date your ancestor settled in Riga, but not their social estate, then looking at these records by date would be useful to find out the social estate, which would then help you find them in the tax lists.

The last record type I want to mention where watching out for extra notations is important are the revision lists. The revision lists frequently have almost-illegible scribbles that will reference if the person has recently arrived on the estate (or, in the case of cities, changed social estate), and if so, when and from where. Then you can use the incoming/outgoing registers to find out further information (including hopefully a more legible version of the place name). I talk more about these registers here. These extra notations will also sometimes reference if someone was recruited into the army.

Do you have any tips for other Latvian records that then lead to other records that I’ve forgotten to mention? Share in comments!