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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.

Missed Diary Entries

With everything that has been going on, I missed posting two of the diary entries from my great-great-aunt’s First World War diary. I have now posted and backdated them, so you can go back to take a look: November 25, 1916 and November 30, 1916. Sorry about that! The rest will be published as planned.

WW1 Diary - November 30, 1916

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

November 30, 1916

The stories from the war are terrible. The Germans have also destroyed Romania, taking over their capital city, Bucharest. The fate of Romanian refugees is terrible – terror, famine, cold. Many fall by the side of the road and stay fall then there, unburied, mostly children. I sympathize with them, and feel their pain in my heart, and wish that life’s happiness reaches them again and God only knows what awaits us, for the Germans are strong, they could still take Rīga and scare us with their airplanes and cannons. No point in fleeing anymore, it is better to die here than to suffer famine in foreign lands. And still, even in foreign lands there is war and terror. A World War, and what will happen after? The Duma is divided, the ministers keep changing, every so often you hear about unrest amongst the workers. The year has not been very fertile. Milk is very expensive – a pound of butter already costs 226 kopecks in Valmiera.

Thanks be to God, that we have everything in abundance. The children want for nothing. Still they are sad every now and again. My dear Dagīte has started to squint, she will need an operation. Olģertiņš has been suffering with scrofula for a number of months, and tormented his nannies and caregivers. Now it is getting better. Day by day he is becoming an understanding and strong boy, he is so sweet, so sweet, the missing part of his ear will be shown – when he grows up, then he can grow part of my ear and we will be even.

Five Cents – November 25, 1927

This is part of my series of interesting newspaper articles that I find in the old Latvian newspapers available through Periodika. Most of the articles I post are in some way related to migration, wars or other events that are of particular genealogical note.

Source: Pieci Santīmi (Five Cents), the evening edition of Pēdejais Brīdis (Last Minute), November 25, 1927

Inheritance in America. The General-Consul in New York tells us that a Joe Propokovičs died in 1924, in the city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, leaving an estate of approximately 1370 dollars. The deceased has brothers and sisters that live in Latvia, but their place of residence is unknown. The sisters are Anna and Sofija, the brothers are Kārlis and Pēteris. Anyone who has the rights to the estate left by the deceased is asked to turn to the Foreign Ministry’s legal counsel.

Calculated into today’s currency, that $1370 would be about $17,500 – not an insignificant sum. I wonder if Joe Propokovičs’ family was ever located.

WW1 Diary – November 25, 1916

Thirty-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 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.

November 25, 1916

The Sicaus visited us. We spent the evening happily, because I had all sorts of treats with which to feed them, which is a big deal in these empty hungry times. We owe God so much! He has visited us with riches for the moment.

WW1 Diary – November 20, 1916

Thirtieth 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.

November 20, 1916

We were at church at 6pm, where they had organized a musical liturgy service. The Old Valmiera church was full to the last spot. Artists Kornets and Mediņš participated with musical presentations. These soft sounds awakened a deep religious feeling. No eye stayed dry. One could cry from the heart. Everyone was thinking of their loved ones who rest in the cold sands – about all of them. Pastor Pavasars reminded us of the fallen soldiers with an enthusiastic and moving speech. No one to tidy the sand on their graves, only the wind to move it, only the rays of the sun to greet them, I suppose also my brother’s grave, for it has been a whole year since we have heard anything from him.

Latvia and the World

Happy Latvian Independence Day!

What have you done today to show your appreciation for Latvia? Sang a song, made some traditional Latvian food, attended a Latvian celebration of some kind?

Something that anyone can do to celebrate Latvia today is to tell people about our country. We may be small, but that doesn’t mean we should be ignored! We need to take our place on the world stage, and make sure that everyone everywhere knows about us, our culture and our land.

Take the time to share our history with your friends. Tell them about the struggle for independence – gaining it, losing it, and gaining it again. Tell about our folk hero Lāčplēsis. Tell them about the Baltic Way, where millions of Latvians, Estonians and Lithuanians joined hands to protest Soviet occupation.

Share our traditions – a love of nature, the countryside and public access to lands for mushroom and berry-picking. Midsummer’s Night. Mārtiņi, Miķeļi, Ūsiņi and all of the other seasonal celebrations. Eat some Jāņi cheese and rye bread.

Remember our heroes – the men and women, both known and unknown, who fought for Latvia’s independence and freedom and would not give up the cause. Who hid the Forest Brothers for decades. Who petitioned Western governments for acknowledgement of the occupation. Who dedicated their lives to ensuring that our people would have a home to call their own, where their language would be freely spoken, supported and encouraged, and their history taught to its fullest.

So, what are you doing today to celebrate Latvia?

Surname Saturday – Rudzītis

Today’s Surname Saturday name is Rudzītis!

This Latvian name is the diminutive of “rudzi”, which means “rye”. It is a relatively common surname, found in many Latvian parishes, including Bauņi, Galgauska, Dauguļi, Krāslava, Lēdurga, Limbaži, Nabe, Sece, Sidgunda, Skaņkalne, Stopiņi, Taurupe and Umurga.

Rye is a popular Latvian foodstuff, its most popular form being rye bread, which is a Latvian staple food. Though I have yet to see anyone with a surname meaning “rye bread”!

Rudzītis is also the surname of my genealogy fiction heroine, Aila Rudzīte, “Rudzīte” being the feminine form of the name. You can read her first adventure in short story form here, and if you see promise in a series of novels featuring this genea-fiction heroine, then please support my Kickstarter which is raising funds for the production of the first novel!