WW1 Diary – November 12, 1918

Eighty-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 (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. It is with this entry here that the calendar in Latvia changed from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar.

November 12, 1918

Weapons have gone silent on the fields of war. The long-awaited peace has been concluded. Still though, people are wary, for the awaited peace has come with many changes to the usual order of the world. We will see how it is all sorted out and what kind of events I will be able to write down on these white pages, whose future is still dark and good that it is so!

People still fear the Bolsheviks the most, but there is one bit of peace – the Versailles conference has announced that the Allies have agreed to fight – with weapons in hand – against Bolshevism in all lands, so that it does not spring up there as well.

WW1 Diary – November 10, 1918

Eighty-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 (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. It is with this entry here that the calendar in Latvia changed from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar.

I accidentally missed posting November 7th’s entry on the day, you can read it by clicking here.

November 10, 1918

We were in Valmiera for the big market day. On the street boys are yelling that there is extra news! Kaiser Wilhelm has abdicated the throne! The Prince of Baden has also abdicated. The government has been taken over by social democrats. So the revolution is in Germany too. The German authorities received peace provisions on Friday morning from the Allies, and an invitation to respond within 72 hours – by 11 o’clock on Monday – to accept or reject them.

WW1 Diary – November 7, 1918

Eighty-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. It is with this entry here that the calendar in Latvia changed from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar.

November 7, 1918

A clear autumn day. The last leaves are falling, and so with them we hear the end of so many leaving this life. The last migratory birds are leaving, and the heart sorrows at the sound of their farewell song, quiet, quiet… As the rays of the sun set, I thought of so many sung songs, the sun flows, flowing. Flow along sun, wait for me, wait for what I will tell you. Take my mother a hundred lovely evenings… The sun is so low low, mother is far, far, I run run, don’t get anywhere, I call call, and can’t call her…

WW1 Diary – November 4, 1918

Eighty-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. It is with this entry here that the calendar in Latvia changed from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar.

November 4, 1918

The newspapers are bringing news that the end of the war is nigh. Soon the weapons will quiet and rust. The war will only continue for just a few more days. The dates 1914-1918 will be seen on a cross that will be raised on Europe’s war cemetery. No one will cry for its loss.

Tombstone Tuesday – Michelsons Family

In this series, I am providing pictures of tombstones from Latvian cemeteries, all with death dates prior to 1945. I do not have any further information on the people mentioned.

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Photo taken by me, August 2015. Click to enlarge.

Top Inscription: “Dus Dieva mierā” (Resting in God’s Peace)

Names: Pēteris Michelsons, born September 27, 1868, died April 15, 1925; Aleksandra Michelsons, born August 1, 1907, died November 22, 1928; Emīlija Sloka, nee Strazdiņš, widowed Michelsons, born March 21, 1878, died March 29, 1941.

Bottom Inscription: “Saule tik augstu, sirdī kokles vel trīc, Ak, vakars pienāca negaidīts!” (The sun is so high, music from kokles still quakes in our hearts, Oh, evening has come unexpectedly!)

Location: Sarkandaugava Hill Cemetery, Rīga

Mappy Monday – Crossing the Southern Border

Last week on Mappy Monday, we made the journey north to Estonia, to learn different names of Estonian places that could come up in your research. This week, we will be doing the same with Lithuania!

Historically speaking, Latvia has a lot more in common with Estonia, especially given that Livland stretched across Latvian and Estonian lands. The border between Latvia and Lithuania was a lot more defined, but that doesn’t mean that Latvians and Lithuanians didn’t live on the other sides of the borders – they definitely did. The Latvian communities in northern Lithuania are particularly important for people trying to find their Latvian roots, since a lot of the Latvians who emigrated to the US and Canada in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were actually from the Lithuanian side of the border.

According to the All-Russia Census of 1897, approximately 35,000 Latvians lived in the Lithuanian provinces of the Russian Empire. The majority of them would have lived in the districts that bordered Latvian lands – the northern districts of the Kaunas province. These were the districts of Telšiai, Šiauliai, Panavežys and Zarasai (also seen as Novoaleksandrovsk in the old records).

The district of Telšiai is the westernmost of the group, bordering Liepāja district. In Latvian, it would appear as Telši. The towns of Skuodas (Škoda/Skoda in Latvian) and Mažeikai (Mažeiķi in Latvian, for a brief period Muravyov in Russian) had notable Latvian populations, the latter being the birthplace of sculptor Kārlis Zāle, who was designed Rīga’s Freedom Monument.

The district of Šiauliai borders Jelgava district. In Latvian it would be known as Šauļi. There was a significant Latvian community in the border regions, particularly in Akmene and Žagare. The Latvian parishes of Ukri and Panemune were, in the time of the Russian Empire, part of the province of Kaunas, likely both in Šiauliai district (Ukri could be in Telši, it is in that border area), but were transferred to Latvia as part of the border agreements after independence, since they had predominantly Latvian populations.

Moving eastward, the district of Panavežys (Paņevēža in Latvian) also had a significant Latvian community, particularly around Biržai (Birži). It had the largest Latvian community out of all of the Lithuanian districts – Latvians comprised almost 7% of the population in 1897.

The last district, Zarasai (Zarasi in Latvian) also had a large Latvian community, and prior to independence contained the predominantly Latvian parish of Aknīste, which was also granted to Latvia in the border agreements after the war. Known as Novoaleksandrovsk in Russian, its Latvian community was not as large (1.8%) as the other districts, but many Jews who later settled in Latvian cities, particularly Rīga, and then emigrated abroad, were from the district. A number of Poles from this district also migrated to Rīga and other Latvian cities.

Next week – we cross Latvia’s eastern border!

WW1 Diary – November 1, 1918

Eightieth 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. It is with this entry here that the calendar in Latvia changed from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar.

November 1, 1918

I was in Valmiera to visit the seamstress, so that I could try on the furs that I’m having made for the cold winter ahead. I went to Betty’s grave, which was covered with colourful fall chrysanthemums. Admiring the wealth of flowers, it proved just how loved and respected Betty was. It is good to die in autumn, right at the time of the best flowers. Life is good, the time of flowers is good, if only they weren’t both so ethereal…

WW1 Diary – October 29, 2015

Seventy-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. It is with this entry here that the calendar in Latvia changed from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar.

October 29, 1918

There have been many hours filled with pain and tears. On Friday, we cried over Betty’s body, and on Saturday morning we got a telegram, which told us that my dear mother also fell into the eternal sleep at 5:30 on Friday morning. In her life, she had lived through so many troubles, pains, hurts and illnesses, and it had to be the Spanish flu that took her from us. Our one and only mother – everyone has one, and when you no longer do, your heart hurts so much. There is so much that I still wanted to do for her, so many words of love that I was not able to show… on Sunday night we arrived at Father’s house, by the veranda doors. No one came to meet us. The windows were closed, and through the white curtains we saw the light of candles, and I could feel that Mother was sleeping there.

We went onward to the second doors, where our sister met us crying, telling us that we no longer have our mother, who always lovingly and tirelessly cared for us, is now sleeping quietly and peacefully. Brothers are sick with the Spanish flu, they are sleeping with nightmares, no, I don’t know it for certain, but I can feel it… we went into the room to greet Mother, she was resting a white burial sheet on the turf, surrounded by firs, a candle was burning and it was lighting up also a picture of the Saviour, which Sister had put at her head. Mother was beautiful and smiling, as if she was happy about the guests. Thank God that her final suffering was short. She got sick on Sunday and then on Friday morning she suffered her last, though Father and sisters spent many terrible hours and sleepless nights during that time. Now they only had to worry about Mother’s journey to the cemetery. Everything important needed to be brought from the city house and carefully prepared. Even though everything is expensive and there are shortages, for Mother they got the best that they could, so that we can be happy with her final resting place. Even an honour gate was constructed, with black and white flags and firs throughout.

The last flowers of autumn – they all bloomed for Mother – are at the cemetery, where we brought her on Thursday, October 26. Now she rests with her parents in the old Lēdurga cemetery. My thoughts are there with them, lingering… If I had wings I would fly there… now I wish I could live in Lēdurga again, then I would be close to her. Rest in peace, dear Mother, maybe things are better for you now than they were here in this crazy world, for under the cemetery earth there are no worries anymore. And you so wished to live your better days again, to grow younger than your 53 years. And then darkness fell…

Everything that God does is good, I’m sure later I will understand. Maybe even more storms will pass through and destroy our land. It is good to think, that these will no longer bother Mother. Now Father has to worry about both of my sisters, that they grow up to be good people. It will be hard for them at home, where every handkerchief, every piece of cloth, even Mother’s coffee can will bring up old wounds and tears. It is easier for me to bear and forget, for with a loyal friend’s hand, with a heart full of love, it is possible to survive life’s trials, even when one is tired and consumed by sadness.

Mappy Monday – Crossing the Northern Border

On this week’s edition of Mappy Monday, we are taking a trip across Latvia’s northern border into Estonia! I know I’ve talked a lot about Estonia on this blog recently, and there’s a reason for that – the histories are so intertwined, the record types are similar, and there is a lot of crossover in terms of population – all of which you can read about in my series on Finnic influences in Latvia, which you can start reading here and then go back through the other links provided.

Today, of course, we’re focusing on some aspects of geography – Estonian placenames that are important for people investigating Latvian roots to know, since they could very well come up.

Locating places in Estonia from Latvian documents isn’t always easy – when a place name has been put through several different languages, it might end up coming out looking quite different to the name you started with. Typically, Estonian place names came into Latvian via German, but sometimes directly from Estonian as well.

First, we’ll look at the bigger cities, since these were places that Latvians were likely to go. The main one is Tartu, in southeastern Estonia, since it is known for its university, where many Latvians studied in the 19th century. In Latvian, the city is called Tērbata, which comes from the original Estonian name Tarbatu. The name used in German, Swedish and Polish also derives from this original Estonian name, and thus it most commonly appears on maps as Dorpat. In Russian, the city was sometimes known as Дерпт (Derpt) – thus also from the same root – but more commonly as Юрьев (Yuryev), the name of an ancient prince of Rus.

The capital of Estonia, on the north coast, is Tallinn – rendered in Latvian as Tallina. In older records, the Latvian name might appear as Rēvele – taken from the German, Swedish and Danish name of Reval. It had many different names throughout history, which you can explore in the Wikipedia entry here.

Closest to Latvia is the seaside town of Pärnu – the names for this city are all closely related, not varying too much from the Estonian – Pērnava in Latvian, Pernau in German and Пернов (Pernov) in Russian.

Another important place in Estonia as it relates to Latvia – because many Estonian migrants to Latvian territory originated there – is the island of Saaremaa. Residents of Saaremaa had regular contacts with coastal communities of Livonians around the Cape of Kolka, and also contributed a number of migrants to the city of Rīga (though how they traveled to Rīga – by land or by water – I am not certain). Saaremaa is known in Swedish and German as Ösel, and the similar Øsel in Danish. Russian also used a similar name, Эзел (Ezel). In Latvian, it is known as Sāmsala – but take care in old documents, because even in Latvian it could be referred to using the German or Estonian name, or sometimes a portmanteau of several of the above languages.

In terms of parishes, there are way too many to name – but you can look at this Estonian Wikipedia page that lists many of the estates in Estonia. “Nimi” will have the modern name, “Saksakeelne nimi” is the old German name, and then the next two will list the historical administrative district and the modern administrative district respectively. “Mõis” is the Estonian word for “manor/estate”, from the same root as the Latvian “muiža”.

Next week we will cross the southern border! There were a lot of Latvians living in Lithuania as well, so this is important to look at too!