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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.

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.