Guidelines for Commenting

1. Please do not post the same item on multiple posts. You only need to post once for it to be seen.

2. Please include a working email address - if your comment is related to your own personal family history, rather than Latvian genealogy in a more general sense, I prefer to respond by email to maintain your privacy. By leaving a comment with your email address, you consent to receiving an email reply to your query to that email address.

3. I don't sell email addresses or send anything to them besides responses to your comments. I am the only person who has access to them.

WW1 Diary – February 15, 1917

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.

52 Ancestors #6: Jēkabs Francis

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!

WW1 Diary - Sometime After January 7, 1917

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.

52 Ancestors #5: Marcis 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 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.

52 Ancestors #4: Anna Liepa

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!

52 Ancestors #3: Ieva Līcīte

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.

52 Ancestors #2: Walter (Rudzītis) Roop

Time for Week 2 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: Walter (Rudzītis) Roop, born c. 1773 and died 1847. Unfortunately I do not have a precise death date for him, since the death records from that year are missing. I know of his year of death from the 1850 revision list for the town of Limbaži.

Walter (Rudzītis) Roop is my great-great-great-great-grandfather, by way of my maternal grandfather’s paternal grandfather. His youngest daughter, Jūlija Wilhelmine, is my great-great-great-grandmother.

I do not know a great deal about Walter, but since he spent a good deal of time living in, and died in, the town of Limbaži in northern Latvia, it is quite possible that he was born there as well. He was married to Dorothea (maiden name unknown). He had four children that I know of, son Mārtiņš, and daughters Anna, Elisabeth and Jūlija.

What is of interest to me with regards to Walter are his different names – a number of records refer to him as “Rudzītis alias Roop” and then later on, just “Roop”. After his death, his children are referred to only by the surname Roop.

Why did this change come about? I have one very probable theory on that. The name “Rudzītis”, a diminutive of “rye”, is a very common Latvian surname (you will have seen it as the name of my genea-fiction heroine Aila Rudzīte). Roop, however, is more Germanic. While it doesn’t appear in my German surname dictionary, the Internet tells me it can be a variation on the German Rupp/Rupprecht or English Roope. It was also the German name for the parishes of Mazstraupe (Klein-Roop) and Lielstraupe (Gross-Roop), just to the southeast of Limbaži. As regular readers of my blog will be aware, it was not uncommon for Latvians to take Germanic surnames to try and improve their social standing.

In Walter’s case, it could have played a part – in 1834, Walter became a part of the “Bürger” class in the town of Limbaži, probably due to his position as a miller. His surname is already listed as Roop in Jūlija’s birth record in 1831. The Bürger class was the middle class (bourgeois) in the town, though their actual wealth or property ownership could vary, particularly at the beginning of the 19th century when the rules were changed. But they were a step above servants and other common workers.

Walter died in 1847. Given his ambition in changing his social status, I wonder what he would have thought of his daughter Jūlija marrying a simple peasant – for that is precisely what she did in 1851 when she married my great-great-great-grandfather Jēkabs Francis. But I will talk more about them later!

52 Ancestors #1: Ādams Baburs

I’ve decided to join the challenge posted by Amy of No Story Too Small, the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge of writing a blog post each week about an ancestor. In Amy’s words, “have one blog post each week devoted to a specific ancestor. It could be a story, a biography, a photograph, an outline of a research problem — anything that focuses on one ancestor”.

Initially, I thought I’d start the way we normally do with genealogy – the most recent ancestors first, and then work backwards. But I’ve decided to approach it from the other end – my most recent ancestors already get a lot of screen time in my blog, so it is time to hand over the reins to the ancients (well, as ancient as you can get with Latvian ancestors, I suppose) by starting with my earliest known ancestors in my family tree.

First on the list: Ādams Baburs, my great-great-great-great-grandfather by way of my paternal grandmother’s paternal grandmother, Karoline Matilde Baburs.

Ādams Baburs was born on April 20, 1815. A World War Two-era family document tells me that he was of the Catholic faith, but the only evidence of this that I have in other records are some scribbles in the birth records of his children that seem to indicate that he was not Lutheran, but I don’t think they say Catholic either. There is another Baburs male baptizing children in Suntaži around the same time, and he is marked as a Catholic, but I do not know if they are related. Regardless of his original faith, he married Anna Ronis or Bonis (Ronis makes more sense, since it is a known Latvian surname, but the handwriting isn’t the greatest in the marriage record and later documents clearly say Bonis) at the Suntaži Lutheran Church on June 14, 1842.

My great-great-great-grandfather Mārtiņš Baburs, born January 9, 1844, was their first child, baptized in the Suntaži Lutheran Church as well. Another son, Juris, was born in 1846 in Suntaži, but by 1852, when son Ermanis was born, the family was living on Stopiņi estate south of Rīga and baptizing their children in the Ikšķile-Salaspils Lutheran Church. Given that there is a farm in the area with the name Baburi, and the lack of Baburs records in Suntaži save for the 1830s and 1840s, it is possible that this is actually where Ādams was from.

At some point, Ādams, his wife Anna and his sons moved into Rīga, where they became a part of the workers’ social estate (class), according to the Russian system of social estates. A lot of the information I have about this family, including Ādams’ birth and death information, comes from a document from the 1890 tax lists, which are subdivided by social estate. His grand-daughter, my great-great-grandmother Karoline, was born in 1867/1868 (depending on which calendar you use), and baptized at the Jesus Lutheran Church in the Moscow district of Rīga, which was a common district for newcomers to the city to settle, and was very ethnically and religiously diverse, being home to Lutheran, Catholic, Jewish, Orthodox and Old Believer places of worship.

Ādams died on July 6, 1890 of old age. His age at time of death is listed in the Jesus Lutheran Church record as 80, and that he was born in Suntaži, but given the other document that lists his birthdate as 1815 (which would make him 75 in 1890), and that most Baburs activity is in Stopiņi, I’m not sure if either his birthplace or age here are correct. It is also worth noting that Ādams died two days after his daughter-in-law Kristīne (maiden name Baiše, wife of Ermanis), though the causes of death may or may not be related – she is listed as having died of a chest infection, while he died of old age (though that could have been brought on by the same contagion). They were both buried on July 7.

The reason I’ve started with Ādams is because he and his family have a great mystery that I’m trying to solve – where in the world did the name Baburs come from? It is an extremely uncommon name in Latvia, and from the research I’ve done thus far, I’m pretty certain all of the Baburs families are related. Babur is the name of some villages in northern Iran. It is the name of the founder of the Mughal dynasty in India, Zahir-ud-din Muhammad Babur (whose name is also spelled Baber or Babar, so I must also consider those spelling options), who was descended from Tamerlane. Babar/Babur means “lion” in Urdu, and it is a clan name in Pakistan, Afghanistan and India. So with all that in mind… how did such a name end up in rural Latvia? My best guess is that it somehow involved Ottoman prisoners of war – the Russian Empire and the Ottoman Empire were involved in numerous wars throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. I know some Ottoman prisoners of war were shipped up to Latvia in the 1870s, it is possible that some were sent there earlier as well. So either my ancestors heard the name at that time and chose it as a surname when they needed to acquire one, or an unknown ancestor (possibly Ādams’ father?) actually was of Ottoman extraction. Possibly this is a question that will needed to be identified by genetic genealogy?

So that’s ancestor #1… who knows where we’ll go next week?

WW1 Diary – January 1, 1917

Thirty-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. For more background, see here, and click on the tag “diary entries” to see all of the entries that I have posted.

January 1, 1917

The new year has started with a big question mark. Many things must be decided this year, because they cannot go on any longer. On New Year’s Eve we were at church. It is a very holy and celebratory night to be in God’s house. At 12 midnight, the service ended with 12 rings of the church bell, ringing in the new year with its clanging sounds. How many worried and broken hearts were not in God’s house? How many sit alone and want to get peace from their pain? Ahead of us waits the terrible 3rd of January, where our provider has to again go before the commission, and it will decide our continuing fate.

The holidays passed full of loud and terribly bloody battles on the battlefield. Many who had headed towards the front lines with holiday gifts were left in Rīga with heavy hearts, giving their gifts to the injured, since the commanders of the front lines were in a heavy and busy battle with good results.

Someone writes: “The din of the cannons is terrible. Everyone feels frozen, nothing will catch on the hard soldiers’ coats. A person grows hard here – they keep longing and pain to themselves, because they cannot share it with anyone. The fallen are quiet, our riflemen sleeping soundly on the white snow cover. Soft snowflakes fall on them and we honour them with flowers.”

Many were buried in Rīga on December 28. The people’s funeral. Such a long line of coffins, the mind cannot comprehend, remembering the summer nights, the fog, when they celebrated by the lakes.

An eyewitness writes: “So strange the sigh of tears – I can almost hear how the rain fills the fir trees, the wind touches the wings of the birds.

“Oh you dear Latvian mothers, tonight you will have to cradle longing and dark hands, the most painful of touches.

“Oh you dear Latvian mothers, for whom will your gentle touches be? The dear holy Latvian land – gaining only earth on the graves.

“Slowly, slowly, lightly, lightly, the snow flies white and quiet: Sleep dear soul, you have not died in the war.”

WW1 Diary – Third Day of Christmas, 1916

Thirty-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. For more background, see here, and click on the tag “diary entries” to see all of the entries that I have posted.

Third Day of Christmas, 1916

And also the third Christmas full of horrors and dangers. We cannot sing “peace on earth” and “goodwill towards men”. The war is taking on an even more ominous outlook. It must be hard for the soldiers far away from their families, in the cold and frost… and the longing!…

Our celebrations were beautiful. A bright full Christmas tree, warm rooms, a full table. Also peace and health. On the first feast day we had guests, on the second we headed off in the snow. Trūtiņa had learned many nice songs which she recited so well that it was a joy to listen.

I am just sad for the fate of my cousin Alma, whose banns were read in church, wedding rings were bought, an apartment arranged, and then to be separated from her fiance, who disappeared into the unknown without a goodbye. Broken heart, where will she find peace? She has a sad celebration, without peace, without luck, her hope dissolved like a soap bubble. I would shoot such a faking man, he hasn’t earned anything better, he who creates such scenarios. After awhile he wrote to her – “come here to me, you are my dream, I will protect you, I will wrap you up in safety… forever yours”… but still he runs away, leaving everything behind. How can one believe such a person? Now I just worry about Alma’s mood. In the first Christmas, our aunt died – the children lost their mother, this Christmas my cousin loses her fiance, what will the next Christmas bring?

Alma can at least sing – even if hope dissolves like a soap bubble – love disappears like smoke. I can call myself a lucky wife, there are not many, for a wife has learned to know her husband as a trustworthy person. I also want to be trustworthy to him. Trustworthy wives are also not as common these days as many people think.