We already celebrated Latvian Olympians in last week’s Surname Saturday post, but I’m dedicating another week to them, since Latvia scored one last medal on the final day of the Olympics! This was a silver medal in men’s 4-man bobsleigh, to go along with the two bronzes in luge and silver in skeleton won previously, making it Latvia’s best Olympic showing! We’re moving up in the world.
The members of the 4-man team that won the silver:
Oskars MELBĀRDIS – This surname could have a variety of meanings. The last part, “bārdis” is clear enough – this means “beard” (or more accurately, “bearded” or “someone with a beard”). The “Mel” part is more difficult though. By itself, it could mean “liar”, which would make the name meaning “lying beard” or something like that. But I’ve also seen “Melbārdis” and “Melnbārdis” used interchangeably to refer to the same person/family – which would make the meaning “black beard” instead.
Arvis VILKASTE – I like this one. “Vilks” (wolf) + “aste” (tail) = “Wolf tail”.
Daumants DREIŠKENS – This one I’m not certain on. Could be related to the German verb “dreschen”, which means “thresh”. My German surname dictionary also suggests that similar names could be unusual patronymic forms of “Andreas”, so there is that possibility as well.
Jānis STRENGA – This name could come from the word “streņģe”, which refers to a rope that is a part of a horse’s harness.
Now that Olympic fever is over, time to move on to new names! There have been a lot of additions to the Latvian Surname Project recently, so pop over to check it out!
Just like in 2012, Surname Saturday here at Discovering Latvian Roots is celebrating Latvia’s Olympians!
Now, I’m not sticking only to the medalists. And there’s a reason for that, which most Latvians, and others paying attention to the Latvian Olympic team (which this week included all of Canada), will know full well – whatever the medal accomplishments of Latvian athletes in Sochi, the real darling of the Latvian sports world right now is 21-year goalie Kristers Gudļevskis.
For those that missed it, here’s the short version: Latvia’s ice hockey team often makes it to the Olympics, but fails to get out of preliminary rounds. This year was no different – they lost all of their preliminary round matches – but in the playoff round, they had a surprise win against the Swiss team, which sent them into the quarter-finals against Canada, the defending Olympic champions.
Gudļevskis – Latvia’s second goalie – was chosen to start in this game, since Edgars Masaļskis, the veteran goalie who had played against the Swiss, was suffering from exhaustion. Gudļevskis, a 5th round 2013 NHL entry draft pick for the Tampa Bay Lightning currently playing for their AHL affiliate Syracuse Crunch, was now up against over $140 million worth of Canadian NHL players.
Now, Latvia did lose the game 2-1. But consider this – apparently 90% of the game was in the Latvian end. Gudļevskis made 55 saves, letting in only two goals. That’s pretty phenomenal, especially for a rookie. Now, I don’t really know anything about hockey, but considering all sorts of hockey experts (including Canada’s goalie Carey Price) said that his goaltending was phenomenal, I’ll trust their judgement. I’ll certainly be following his career development, and I hope to see him as starting goalie in the 2018 Olympics.
So, after all that, the first name we’re looking at in Surname Saturday is GUDĻEVSKIS. Unfortunately, I don’t have a firm meaning for this name. It is of Slavic origin, as evidenced by the the -skis ending. It is probably related to the Polish names Gudlewski and Gudlewicz. I did find one Polish surnames website that connects names starting with Gud- to meanings associated with pigs or liars. Another possibility is a Scandinavian connection (by way of Slavic territory) where the “Gudļev” in “Gudļevskis” comes from the Norse name “Gudleif”, which means “God’s heir”. In light of Gudļevskis’ performance, and several memes going around Twitter, Wikipedia and Facebook, I think this second option will prove most popular! I know I certainly prefer it.
But we can’t neglect Gudļevskis’ teammates, many of whom have much more easily recognizable names – longtime NHL veteran Sandis OZOLIŅŠ (diminutive of “oak”) has a pretty straightforward name, as do Lauris DĀRZIŅŠ (diminutive of “garden”), Zemgus GIRGENSONS (patronymic, “son of Jirgens”), Armands BĒRZIŅŠ (diminutive of “birch”), Ronalds ĶĒNIŅŠ (“king”), Ralfs FREIBERGS (“free mountain”) and Vitālijs PAVLOVS (patronymic, “son of Paul”). Latvia’s goalie against the Swiss, Edgars MASAĻSKIS, has a bit trickier of a name – like Gudļevskis, it is also a name of Slavic origins. It could have a variety of connections, Polish “masa” (mass, substance) or perhaps Russian “масло” (maslo), meaning “oil”. A Polish surname website suggests that it could be to do with weight (as in “masa” mentioned before), or have a connection to the name “Mosiej”, a variation of Moses.
Now we will turn our attention to the Olympic medalists!
Skeleton silver medallist Martins DUKURS, as well as his brother Tomass who finished in 4th, have an interesting surname. Dictionaries tell me it means “scoop net” – that is, a handheld net that is used for fishing. This isn’t a surname I see very often, but my surname project shows it as appearing in Mazsalaca, Sēļi and Skaņkalne parishes, all in northern Latvia. Wikipedia tells me that the skeleton racers’ roots are in Alūksne, which is also in northern Latvia, though further east than the abovementioned parishes.
Latvia also acquired two bronze medals in luge – in doubles and in the team relay. Doubles winners were the brothers Šici – Andris and Juris. ŠICS is also a surname whose meaning I am not certain about. It looks more like a name ending than anything else. I thought perhaps German, but it doesn’t appear in my German surname dictionary. It could be related to the German surnames Schütz or Schütze, which mean “shelter” and “rifleman”, respectively.
Rounding out the team relay, along with the brothers Šici, were Elīza TĪRUMA (“field”) and Mārtiņš RUBENIS (“grouse”).
Best of luck to Latvian athletes in their endeavours after Sochi 2014, and see you in Rio in 2016 for the Summer Olympics, and Pyeongchang in 2018 for the next Winter Olympics!
Time for Week 8 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 Pēteris Celmiņš. Now, the first question to answer here is – which one? I have five in my paternal line. Evidently this was a popular family name – nowhere else in my family lines do I have a name repeat that often. I’m certain that if I go down collateral lines I’ll see names repeat with more frequency, but to have five people with the same name in one direct line in only eight generations must be pretty remarkable, especially given that there was no strict order in the naming of sons (that is, birth order was irrelevant in terms of when the Pēteris showed up, but most of them appear in my direct line). One might wonder how I didn’t end up with the name Petra. But moving on.
We’ll start with the furthest back Pēteris Celmiņš that I have any amount of information on, who was born c. 1755 and died 1828. He was my great-great-great-great-great-grandfather, by way of my paternal grandfather’s paternal grandfather, whose name was also Pēteris Celmiņš (surprise surprise). This furthest back Pēteris’ father’s name was Pēteris as well (again, big surprise). He was married to a woman named Anna. He had four sons that I’m aware of, Jēkabs (c. 1784-1819), Jānis (c. 1785-1813), Dāvis (c. 1790-1839, my great-great-great-great-grandfather) and Kārlis (c. 1796-after 1858). Even the earliest revision lists show no sign of a daughter, and no son named Pēteris, though the name would reappear in later generations.
Pēteris died in 1828, according to the 1834 revision list. It is likely that his wife Anna also died between 1826 and 1834, since she does not appear in the 1834 revision list either.
Pēteris spent most of his life on Stampvēveri farm on Vijciems estate in northern Latvia, south of Valka, but the earliest revision lists (1795) show that he was originally from the nearby Paukulītes farm. This means he would have attended religious services and celebrated life events at the Trikāta Lutheran Church, as his descendants did, who would remain on Stampvēveri farm until well into the 20th century. His great-great-grandson, my great-grandfather Pēteris Eduards, moved to Rīga in the early 20th century, but at least one brother of Pēteris Eduards remained on the Stampvēveri farm into the 1940s. I wonder if Celmiņš descendants still own the farm today – I attempted to visit it a year and a half ago when I was in the area, but a freak snowstorm made the minor roads around Stampvēveri impassable, so that is something I will need to do some other time.
Next week we will pursue more of my paternal grandfather’s line. Stay tuned!
Time for Week 7 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 Līze Mildere, born April 27, 1825, and died prior to October 1892. She is my great-great-great-grandmother, by way of my paternal grandmother’s paternal grandfather Jēkabs Lūkins.
Līze was born on the Melluži farm on Vecate estate in northern Latvia, another one of my ancestors from the Lake Burtnieki area. She is the daughter of Jēkabs Milders and his wife Ēde. Līze had at least four siblings, Ēde (c. 1813), Indriķis (c. 1816), Jānis (c. 1819), Mārīte (c. 1822), and several probable half siblings, including Tenis (c. 1831) and another Ēde (c. 1833) . While she was born on the Melluži farm, by the age of 9 she was living up the road at the Zērbele farm, according to the 1834 revision list (and was still living there according to her 1844 marriage record). I’m not certain why, her older sister Mārīte is still living at home, though the elder Ēde is not – she would be 21 years of age in 1834, so she could have been married, or she may have died (given that there is a younger daughter named Ēde as well).
For whatever reason 9-year old Līze was living separately from her family, she was still there on Zērbele farm in 1844 when she married Līberts Lūkins on October 29, 1844 in Matīši church. After moving with him to Jaunate estate, they had a number of children, one of the youngest being my great-great-grandfather Jēkabs Lūkins in 1862. She died sometime prior to Jēkabs’ marriage to my great-great-grandmother Karoline Matilde Baburs in 1892, since she is listed as deceased in his marriage record.
Līze’s family and home farm showcase the importance of paying attention to residences, ages and parents – for on the Melluži farm, Līze had a cousin by the same name only two years older, and, what’s more, the two women married within days of each other, leading to many opportunities for confusion, especially if one didn’t know that my Līze had moved to Zērbele farm. The other Līze’s parents were Jānis and Mārīte, and she was born on February 27, 1823. This Jānis was the elder brother of Līze’s father Jēkabs, and his other children also shared names with Līze’s siblings – Ēde, Indriķis, Mārīte, Tenis. What possessed a pair of brothers living on the same farm to give their children the same names, I don’t know, but this happens frequently within my family history, and is frustrating to no end.
Do you have any stories to share about cousins with the same names? Feel free to comment!
Thirty-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. For more background, see here, and click on the tag “diary entries” to see all of the entries that I have posted.
February 15, 1917
Trūtiņa is already six years old. Yesterday we celebrated her birthday. So many nice presents and greetings, one marvels. The servant girls had decorated the door and a chair, and after that woke Trūtiņa with some nice songs. The table of presents was rich and decorated with six candles. After that, aunts and friends came to give congratulations, everyone bringing a little something. Several cards had also arrived at the post office and 10 rubles from her godmother. We immediately put those in savings at the post office in Valmiera. They will come in handy later.
Trūtiņa is a good and proper child, that’s why everyone loves her. May God keep her! I feel sorry for Dagmāriņa, she is so small, but must wear glasses, and she is a mischievious one, but still we must heal her eyes so that she can grow to be a good and educated person. I could fall to my knees, take on everything, so that I could give all that I have not been able to provide. However, things have gone well for me in life, I cannot complain. At the moment we live very well, we don’t feel the high prices or famine, that is felt in many places. Right now the battlefields are again preparing for horrible battles, peace is not yet in sight.
Time for Week 6 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 Jēkabs Francis, born March 25, 1825, and died sometime after 1884. He is my great-great-great-grandfather, by way of my maternal grandfather’s paternal grandfather, Roberts Jūlijs Francis.
Jēkabs Francis was born on March 25, 1825 (according to his marriage record), to parents Kārlis and Anna, at Liel-Mārkundas farm on Milīte estate, near lake Burtnieki in northern Latvia (not far from last week’s ancestor Marcis Šīrs). In fact, it is quite probable that the Francis and Šīrs families – one from my maternal side, one from my paternal side – knew each other. They attended the same church in Matīši, and Jēkabs’ marriage record follows the marriage record of Marcis’ son Jānis in the church books for 1851.
Jēkabs married Jūlija Wilhelmine Roop (daughter of 52 Ancestors #2 Walter (Rudzītis) Roop) in 1851. They had at least four children: Emma (c. 1852), Rudolfs (c. 1854), Arnolds (c. 1856) and my great-great-grandfather Roberts Jūlijs (1859). I have not had the opportunity to examine Matīši death records in detail yet, but according to Roberts’ marriage record in 1884, both of his parents (Jēkabs and Jūlija) were still living, so my first step will be to look after that marriage date for the death of Jēkabs. He would have been 59 years old when his son married.
Since Milīte estate does not have any revision lists prior to 1857, it is difficult to find more on any family – siblings, parents, and so on. I will have to spend more time going through the Matīši records to see if I can find more. The only other Francis in the Milīte revision list for 1857 is the family of Mārtiņš Francis, son of Jēkabs, who was around the same age as my Jēkabs – Mārtiņš was 40 years old, Jēkabs was 32. Consequently, their closest possible relation could be first cousins, and that would be assuming that Jēkabs’ father Kārlis and Mārtiņš’ father Jēkabs were brothers. They could be more distant relatives, or not relatives at all. But the lack of any siblings of Jēkabs does raise the question – was he actually born in Liel-Mārkundas? His marriage record says he was, but the lack of any immediate family does seem suspicious. My next step will be to consult the other local estates – of which there are many – to see if they happen to be found on any of them.
So that’s it for Week 6 – Week 7 to come!
Thirty-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. For more background, see here, and click on the tag “diary entries” to see all of the entries that I have posted.
Sometime after January 7, 1917
The dreaded 3rd of January came and went, leaving Papa with us. A small lump saved him. I am overwhelmed with happiness. What would we do in the opposite scenario?? Trūtiņa would not survive being separated from her father, for the child idolizes him. We spent a very cosy 7th of January, Papa’s birthday, with full tables and many guests. How good it is to be able to live like this now. God is caring for us, so we must not forget Him, we must thank Him and honour Him.
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 Marcis Šīrs, born c. 1792 and died after 1857. He is my great-great-great-great-grandfather, by way of my paternal grandmother’s maternal grandfather, Jēkabs Šīrs.
I do not know very much about Marcis’ life, since all I know comes from the revision lists, which do not provide much information. His father’s name was Tenis, I don’t know his mother’s name. I know that Marcis spent much of his life living on the Staiceles farm on Pučurga estate, in northern Latvia near lake Burtnieki. Marcis arrived at the Staiceles farm between 1811 and 1816 from the Dreimaņi farm, also on Pučurga estate. He married a woman named Anna in the same 1811-1816 time frame. Even less is known about her – her father’s name was Pēteris, she was the same age as Marcis and she died in late 1850 or early 1851 (since she was living at the time of the 1850 revision list in September 1850, but had died by the time of her son Jānis’ marriage in November 1851).
They had five known children – Marija (born c. 1817), Jānis (my great-great-great-grandfather, born 1819), Līze (born c. 1821), Jēkabs (born 1825) and Marcis (born 1835). Being as Jānis, his wife Kristīne and their first three children left Pučurga in 1858 (my great-great-grandfather Jēkabs was born a few years later), I suspect Marcis might have died not long after the 1857 revision list. However, the death records for the year in question are missing from the Matīši congregation church records, so I cannot confirm this. It is possible that he stayed there with some of his younger children.
While researching this branch of my family, I happened upon a geographic problem that genealogists might often face – places with the same name. I was initially stymied in my research regarding this branch of the family, since I misinterpreted a placename. Jānis Šīrs’ marriage record from 1851 says that he was born in “Staizel” – I initially interpreted this as meaning the village Staicele, north of the town of Aloja where his son, my great-great-grandfather Jēkabs, was baptized. Thus I was searching Aloja-area records for the family. It was only later that I learned it wasn’t the town of Staicele at all, but rather Staiceles farm on Pučurga estate near Matīši, 35 kilometres away. If you spot a birthplace, but aren’t finding anything in that town, keep in mind it could be a farm name instead of a parish/city name. Nearly every major city/town/parish in Latvia also has namesakes amongst the rural farms, sometimes hundreds of kilometres away – for example, I found a “Liepājas” farm just outside of the city of Daugavpils, over 400 kilometres away from the city of Liepāja. There is also a Limbaži farm near Daugavpils and a Valmieras farm near Kuldīga.
Those are just a few examples. Keep this in mind when doing your searches – maybe the place you are looking for is not that place at all. Also remember that placenames changed, or were called by different names in different records, depending on the language they were kept in. The town of Cēsis is known in German as Wenden, Polish as Kieś and Estonian as Võnnu. The above-mentioned Pučurga estate was called Galantfeldt in German.
Do you have a placename you’re stuck on? I might be able to help with it! More 52 Ancestors to come next week.
Time for Week 4 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. Like last week, however, this week’s ancestor is more recent.
My great-grandmother Anna Liepa (born September 22, 1895, and died June 20, 1987) is the only great-grandparent of mine for whom I do not have a confirmed birth record. I have talked about my difficulties in tracking her down repeatedly, here, here and here. I know her father’s name was Fricis, she was born in Rīga and started working for the co-operative association “Konzums” when she was 17, but that’s about all in terms of her life before she married my great-grandfather Pēteris Eduards Celmiņš on September 17, 1919, a few days before her 24th birthday. I would like to confirm the record mentioned in the first link as her birth record, but the trouble is, no other document that I have about her or her family lists a middle name, so I’m reluctant to take that option until I have eliminated others.
Some new avenues to consider – maybe she wasn’t actually born in 1895. I have encountered this in the past, where all records produced later in life state the wrong birth year – whether it is by accident, design or a mistake due to a calendar change. Or perhaps she was actually born outside of Rīga – in which case I may have no hope of finding her, since she has an extremely common name that could be from anywhere in the country. But this could explain what has always vexed me – how does a born-and-bred city girl end up marrying some guy from the countryside 150km away? While a war is still on, no less? Though their marriage record in Rīga does state that she was from Rīga…
Now that I think of it, my grandfather Juris was born a week ahead of Anna’s and Pēteris’ nine-month wedding anniversary. Of course, babies can be born early, but it makes me wonder – did they marry in the middle of all the chaos going on because they knew that Anna was already pregnant? There’s no doubt that Pēteris was the father – there is a definite family resemblance between him and my grandfather. But it does make me wonder about the exact circumstances of their marriage.
Anna has the distinction of being the only great-grandparent of mine who was still living when I was born, though I never met her since I was born in Canada, she was living in Soviet-occupied Latvia, and died when I was three years old. I did however meet her granddaughter (my grandfather’s sister’s daughter) Rita once when she came to Canada to visit, though both she and her mother Skaidrīte have since passed away.
New mysteries to contemplate! Hopefully I will have a breakthrough in researching Anna’s family, but it may be a long way off. I’m hoping for the best!
Time for Week 3 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. However, this week’s ancestor is a bit more recent than the others!
This week’s ancestor is Ieva Līcīte. I do not know her precise birth or death dates. My best evidence shows that she may have been born on May 15, 1843, but this may or may not be correct. This is the only listing for an Ieva Līcīte in the parish that her son was born in in 1866, and the father’s name listed, Brencis, is the name of my Ieva’s son (my great-grandfather Brencis). So there’s a good chance that it is the same woman. If this is the case, her mother’s name is Maija, and she was born on Sece estate, Šlūke farm. Sece estate is in southern Latvia, south of the Daugava river, between Jaunjelgava and Jēkabpils.
I do not know very much about Ieva’s life, but I do know that she gave birth to a son, my great-grandfather Brencis, out of wedlock on August 12, 1866. Who she had this child with is a mystery, but family lore has it that when Brencis grew up and moved to Krustpils, he had a pile of money. Short of robbing a bank, there are not many ways how a young illegitimate peasant could have such a pile of money. I do know that if a local baron (or his sons) accidentally got some local peasant girl pregnant, it would not be unusual for them to quietly marry her off to some “reliable” young man and pay them off. So this is one possibility that exists, for the money and for his true parentage, and I hope that when I am eventually able to do genetic testing, this could be answered – it would have to be autosomal DNA testing though, since Brencis has no male descendants – just two daughters, one granddaughter and one great-granddaughter (me) – can anyone comment on the efficacy of this testing method on what I want to find out?
My great-grandfather’s paternity aside, I do know that he had a brother Krišjānis – whether they were full siblings or half siblings, I do not know. It is most likely that Ieva was Krišjānis’ mother as well, but I have not found a marriage record for Ieva (if she did in fact marry), or a birth record for Krišjānis – I do not even know if Brencis and Krišjānis share a surname, so looking for him is difficult. Krišjānis died as a result of drowning in a river sometime at the outset of the First World War. I’m hoping that this might eventually prove more fruitful in locating him, since I can skim cause of death columns for nearby parishes – I can’t imagine that it would be a particularly common cause of death amongst young men.
I do not know Ieva’s precise death date, but I do know she died before her son Brencis’ marriage to my great-grandmother Jūle in 1909. I suspect that it might have even been prior to 1897, since Brencis was already living in Krustpils at that time.
So right now Ieva is a real question mark and mystery for me – I know that if she married, it was not in the local parish of her birth and her son’s birth. Where might she have gone? That is a question I have yet to answer.