Time for Week 27 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.
Though I am cheating a bit this week. I will not be talking about a direct ancestor, but rather, the brother of a great-grandfather. With all the First World War commemorations that are starting to happen now to commemorate the centenary of the start of the war, I thought it would be appropriate to talk about a life that could have been, but was tragically cut short by the war. That would be my great-grandfather Arvīds Francis’ brother, Bruno.
Bruno Maximillian Francis was born on March 23, 1891, while his family was living on Remberģe estate, just northwest of Rīga, while his father Roberts was the tavernkeeper at the Stāle tavern. He was still, however, baptized in the Lēdurga Lutheran Church on April 21, near the family’s usual home of Kroņi on Nabe estate. His older sister Vera was also born at Stāle tavern, but the rest of the children, both older and younger, were born back in Nabe.
He lived at his family’s farm until the time of his conscription into the Russian Empire Army in 1915, when he was 24 years old. From his sister Alise’s diaries, we know that he was unhappy about going to war, and not eager in the least, as other young men were. This makes me think that he was not a part of the Latvian rifleman brigades, which were allegedly “volunteer” brigades, but who knows how voluntary they really were.
The diaries tell us that he reported to the army in mid-September of 1915, so he would not have been on the Eastern Front during the Great Retreat, which makes me think that he was sent to reinforce the Rīga-Jēkabpils-Daugavpils-Baranovichi-Pinsk-Dubno-Ternopil line. However, all contact was lost with him by the end of October – though I’m not certain that he died outright, since otherwise his family would have received notice of his death, but here they are left waiting and do not know, since still a year later Alise writes that she knows nothing of her brother’s fate, but assumes he is dead since he has not written. Did the Russian army send telegrams to families when soldiers died? I would have to check. If letters got through, I would imagine telegrams would as well. But maybe he was sent further afield, and only died later? Or was imprisoned and in a POW camp? I may never know. Maybe as I work into 1918 in Alise’s diary some answers will come (there were no answers in 1917), but right now, there are none.
If Bruno did die shortly after arriving at the front, he would have died when he was 24 years old. So young. Such a life unlived. This family photo – the only photo I have of him – tells me that he was a good-looking young man. I’m sure he had many women clamouring to marry him, but it was not to be. Did he leave a sweetheart behind when he headed off to war? Alise doesn’t mention anyone, but it is possible.
Or maybe… he survived? Maybe he was taken prisoner by the Germans, but then after the war was over, and the Russian Civil War was in full swing, he elected not to return, since he wasn’t sure what would result from the chaos? But surely, in such a case, after Latvia was established as its own free country, he would have communicated with his family, even if he had settled down elsewhere? All family lore says he died, but I have yet to have a record of it, or even a mention of a record, so I’m not giving up on him yet, though it may be a futile hope.
War is a terrible thing. While humanity didn’t learn from the First World War and did the Second, let’s hope that the Third never comes.
Time for Week 26 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.
Today we return to my Celmiņš line, with Dāvis Celmiņš, the son of the first Celmiņš I talked about, Pēteris Celmiņš. Dāvis is my great-great-great-great-grandfather, by way of my paternal grandfather’s paternal grandfather Pēteris Celmiņš (as mentioned in the earlier post, this is a popular name).
Other than the fact that he was born c. 1790 (too early for birth records) and died c. 1839 (according to the 1850 revision list, though I have not found a death record), and the fact that he was married to a woman named Baiba, Dāvis’ story is much the same as his father’s – quite probably born on Paukulītes farm, but moved to Stampvēveri at an early age, where his descendants would remain for decades (and even centuries) to come. Dāvis and Baiba had at least six (possibly seven) children. Five sons: Pēteris (c. 1814 – in this generation, NOT my ancestor), Jēkabs (c. 1821), Kārlis (c. 1823, my great-great-great-grandfather), Dāvis (c. 1827) and Jānis (c. 1831), and one or two daughters – there is a Marija mentioned in the 1826 revision list born c. 1825, but then the 1834 revision list mentions a daughter born c. 1825 or 1826 named Anna. So either someone got one of the names wrong, or there were two daughters, born relatively close together, but then the first (Marija) died in infancy.
To add a bit more to this post, I’ve been doing a bit of looking around at the Paukulītes farm, the farm of origin for my Celmiņš line. Predictably, it is full of Celmiņš residents as well, though at times they are referred to as “Celmītis” instead – same meaning, “-ītis” and “-iņš” are both diminutive endings, though the “-iņš” version is more common. Both the Stampvēveri and Paukulītes Celmiņš families are descended from the same progenitors. This also means that when surnames were assigned in the 1820s, the families on the two farms were still considered close enough relatives to be able to use the same surname – otherwise they would have had to use different ones.
If you are interested in the work I’m doing on my Celmiņš family – or in any Celmiņš family in general – or alternately, in Vijciems parish, watch this space, because I am in the process of developing both a One-Name Study for the name Celmiņš, as well as a One-Place Study for Vijciems parish. Stay tuned!
Time for Week 25 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 Marija Radziņā, born November 11, 1856 and died between 1935 and 1941. She is my great-great-grandmother, being my paternal grandfather’s paternal grandmother.
Marija was born on Lielkāji farm on Lugaži estate, in northern Latvia near the divided town of Valka/Valga on the Latvian-Estonian border, though at the time of her birth, Valka/Valga was one united town located in the middle of the Livland guberniya of the Russian Empire. Her parents were Kārlis and Marija, both of whom I’ve already written about. The family had moved around quite a lot – while Marija was born on Lielkāji farm according to her birth record, by the time of the 1857 revision list the following year, they were living on Zīle (or possibly Sīle) farm instead. This list also tells us that in 1850, the family was living on Tači farm. All of these farms (assuming Zīle is the proper name) are within a few kilometres of each other close to or on the Gauja river south of Valka, scattered in a few small plots of farmland amongst the vast forest of the region.
On the south side of this forest was Stampvēveri farm of Vijciems estate – an important place to take note of, since this is where Marija’s husband-to-be, Pēteris Celmiņš (the great-grandson of the Pēteris Celmiņš I wrote about earlier), was from, and where Marija would spend the rest of her days after their marriage on September 24, 1877 in the Lugaži Lutheran Church.
Marrying into the prolific Celmiņš clan of Vijciems estate, Marija continued the prolific tradition – she had seven known children, of whom my great-grandfather Pēteris Eduards was the third youngest, born in 1888. He had older siblings Voldemārs Kāŗlis (1878), Janis Jūlijs (1882), Emma Paulīne (1884) and Anna Karlīne (1886), and younger siblings Alma Viktorija (1894) and Elza Antonija (1896).
Voldemārs Kārlis evidently inherited the family farm, since he was the only child of the family who continued to live there into the 1930s and 1940s. Marija lived with them, and probably died sometime between 1935 and 1941, since she is listed in the 1935 census but not in the one for 1941. She is also not mentioned in a document from 1949 which listed people being deported to Siberia by the Soviet powers – which included Voldemārs Kārlis, his wife Mīla and their children Auseklis and Aija. Voldemārs Kārlis died en route, while the rest of his family remained in Siberia until 1957. Since the Soviets were not in the habit of leaving family members behind, this is further confirmation that Marija died prior to the 1940s.
Okay, now I am caught up on my 52 Ancestors! Expect a new one on the weekend! And hopefully soon more on those female ancestors that I had to put aside until I could investigate them at the archives – should be headed to the archives by next week at the latest!
Time for Week 24 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 a relatively recent one, by virtue of the fact that I do not have much information on his family line thus far. This ancestor is Brencis Līcītis, born August 12, 1866 and died c. 1946-1949. He was my great-grandfather, from one of my maternal lines.
The reason I have very little information on his family is that he was illegitimate. He was born to Ieva Līcīte on August 12, 1866 on Jaunsērene estate, Līči farm, and baptized on August 21 at the Sece Lutheran Church. Jaunsērene and Sece are in southern Latvia, in what would have been the Kurland guberniya at the time, south of the town of Jaunjelgava. Brencis and his family are my only known Kurland ancestors. I already spoke about his mother Ieva Līcīte in her own 52 Ancestors entry, but I will spend some time exploring possibilities for his father.
Two possibilities are the men named as godparents – Māŗtiņš Zods and Jorģis Lintners. I’m not familiar with any instances where the godparents were complete strangers to the parent/s of a child, so this likely means they were friends of some sort. Close enough friends to have made a child together? Who knows.
The other possibility is the story I outlined in Ieva’s post – that the father was the local baron, or one of his sons – it would fit, since Ieva disappears from the records at this point, which likely means she relocated elsewhere.
Then there’s the third possibility – some other random man that I have no hope of tracking down, unless he happened to have more children who have taken autosomal DNA tests, and if I can get one as well, then I can find them.
At any rate, I don’t know what Brencis’ childhood was like, only that by the age of 30 he was living in Krustpils, when he was enumerated in the All-Russia Census. This document tells us that he was literate, and that his learning took place at home. It is possible that he did not have any formal education. He is listed as a “worker” in the household of 21-year old “landlord” Pēteris Grigulis, who was from Līksna parish near Daugavpils.
On September 9, 1909, 43-year old Brencis married 35-year old Jūle Štelmahere at the Krustpils Lutheran Church. On June 26, 1911, their first daughter, Marta, was born (see my obituary for Marta here). When I was young, my mother and I remembered that Marta mentioned a male child (possibly named Harijs?), who died in infancy, but later in life, denied any such claim. I suppose that when the records for this time period are released to the archives, I will be able to look into this, to see if Marta and my grandmother had a brother.
When the First World War broke out, Brencis, Jūle and Marta moved into Inner Russia, since the war front would later rage right along the Daugava river where Krustpils was located. They moved to Rzhev with Jūle’s sister Emīlija and her husband Krišjānis Rasa, while the rest of Jūle’s family only went as far as Rēzekne.
Brencis was an instrument repairman and harmonica maker by profession, as well as a shoemaker. While in Russia, he tried working in a matchstick factory, but did not excel working for others, and left as soon as he could acquire boards for the floor of his house, preferring to otherwise work for himself. My family maintains this entrepreneurial spirit!
Allegedly, the family returned to Krustpils before my grandmother was born in October of 1919, but I doubt the veracity of this story, even though Marta was there when her sister was born and claimed that the event took place in Krustpils. I doubt it for several reasons – firstly, her birth record was not found in the registry office archives. Secondly, the Latvian War of Independence was still going on at the time, and most war refugees didn’t return until 1920 at the earliest. Krustpils came under the control of the Free Latvian Forces in June of 1919, but the war front between the Latvian forces and the Soviet forces remained just kilometres away in November of 1919 (not to mention the Bermontian German/White Russian forces were just kilometres away in the other direction). To reach Krustpils, they would have had to cross at least some hostile territory, and it just seems extremely unlikely that Brencis would have taken his pregnant wife and young daughter across a war zone just so that child could be born in Latvia.
The family did return to Krustpils eventually, since Marta and my grandmother both attended the local school and were confirmed in the Krustpils Lutheran Church. Brencis and Jūle remained behind in Latvia after their daughters left prior to the second Soviet occupation. Brencis died not long after the war, sometime between 1946 and 1950.
I do wish that I could find out more about Brencis’ life and parentage! It will be an ongoing process, but I’m sure I can dredge up a few more facts than I currently have. All in good time!
Time for Week 23 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 Ieva Lapiņa (?), born c. 1847 and died sometime after 1917. She is my great-great-grandmother, being my maternal grandmother’s maternal grandmother.
I put her surname with a question mark (?) because I have no definitive proof of this. She was born at a time and place where surnames were not yet common, and thus I have not been able to find a birth record – or even a marriage record – for her and her husband Indriķis Štelmahers. Her maiden name comes to me only via family lore.
My first documentary evidence of her existence is the birth of her first daughter, my great-grandmother Jūle, in 1874. She had two more daughters, Emīlija (born 1877) and Karlīne (born 1878), and one son, Jānis (born c. 1880). They are all enumerated together in the 1897 Census in the town of Krustpils, at the time a part of Vitebsk guberniya. This same document gives her the Russian patronymic “Ivanovna”, which means her father’s name was Jānis (the Latvian version of Ivan).
The census document also tells me that Ieva was not born in Krustpils. While I’m not entirely certain where she was born, because the writing is a mess, it is probably somewhere nearby, since I can at least make out Vitebsk guberniya, so she wasn’t from across the river in Kurland guberniya (with the town of Jēkabpils directly across the Daugava river from Krustpils, the two towns are now united under one authority of Jēkabpils).
I don’t know when Ieva died, but I know that she outlived her husband, who died of dysentery in Rēzekne during the First World War. I assume she returned to Krustpils with her daughter, and died sometime prior to the 1935 Census, since I have no record of her there.
Will I ever be able to find more on Ieva? I don’t know, to be honest. Lutheran records for Vitebsk guberniya are spotty at best, and lacking surnames at worst. I may never really have documentation about her maiden name – if she even had one when she married!
Forty-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, and the Russian Revolution is in full swing. For more background, see here, and click on the tag “diary entries” to see all of the entries that I have posted.
June 4, 1917
Days are warm, sunny. The air is full of flowers. White lilacs are blooming, lilies-of-the-valley, fields are full of uncountable flowers. Still, life is stormy, full of fear and unrest. The farmhands and servants on all of the estates are striking. Our farmhands and servants announced their strike on June 2nd. No one is working. The barley has been seeded in the fields, but crowds of crows are feasting, because there is no one to dig the seeds into the soil. The cows are mooing in the barn, disturbed by the pigs, everyone wants to eat and most importantly, the cows must be milked. We got up at 4am, everyone else was sleeping, what could we do. The only person who stayed loyal to us was the stablemaster, with whom we went to the barn and gave the cows hay, and then we began to milk them. Thankfully two reservists’ wives showed up, who helped, otherwise I would not have been able to manage with 28 cows to milk. We locked ourselves in the barn, so that no one could get to us, so they could not yell or hit us or other terrible things. Papa watered the calves and fed the pigs himself. There are hundreds of chores to be done in the house, which all need to be done, and the children want to eat.
The strike demands are sky-high. Some farmhands want to be paid 1600 rubles in cash, the girls want salaries raised to 350 rubles, and they want everything for free. We cannot accept or reach a compromise on many of these, because there is no income and how could we meet such demands. And so the strike continues, with all sorts of irritations, each one bigger than the last. May God give us strength to persevere, to survive this. There are promises and threats to kick owners and stewards out of their homes, so that the farmhands can take over and deal out the land and belongings. There are more and more political parties. The Bolsheviks are inviting people to fight not against the Germans anymore, but against the capitalists and the provisional government. They want to divide up everything, so that everyone has an equal share. Madness!
They want to force the Tsar and his whole family to leave their palace and put them in Kronstadt prison. The ministers are suffering in prison, waiting for their day in court. Maybe that will happen to us too, we innocents, we could be thrown out of our home and bread, and then where will we be with small children. Crazy, horrible life! A whole band of bandits and thieves has organized itself in Valmiera, there are all sorts of thefts and deceptions with every step, it is terrifying to live. The only peace and refuge – our God, we ask him for peace, so that only the heart becomes peaceful.
Time for Week 22 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 was supposed to be another one of the “find the maiden name of a female ancestor using more roundabout methods”, but I tried this with three more female ancestors, and got blocked by missing death records in Limbaži and Matīši. Now, there is still hope, using records on-site at the Latvian State Historical Archives, but since I’m not there right now (though I will be next month!), I have to put them on hold for now.
We still have a female ancestor though! Today’s ancestor is Anna Ronis (or possibly Bonis), born 1817 and died 1904. She is my great-great-great-great-grandmother by way of my paternal grandmother’s paternal grandmother, Karoline Matilde Baburs.
My first record of Anna is her marriage to Ādams Baburs in the Suntaži Lutheran Church on June 14, 1842. This record states her surname is Ronis, and that she is from the farm called “Roņi” – and thus her surname would make a lot of sense, since surname acquisition would have taken place when she was a young girl. “Ronis” means “seal” in Latvian – how a family acquired the name of a sea animal when they lived almost 100km from the coast, I don’t know, but that’s how it was. After the birth of my great-great-great-grandfather Mārtiņš, the family moved to Stopiņi estate near the Daugava, and then eventually to Rīga, where they were a part of the worker social class. According to the tax lists, Anna died on November 10, 1904.
There is some confusion as to her surname though – while the marriage record clearly says Ronis, the tax lists clearly say Bonis. When in doubt, I’d go with the earlier record, since that is closer to the actual event of her birth, but who really knows? Since her birth pre-dates surnames, I can’t take that route, my only hope is finding a family to fit her into in Suntaži, which unfortunately has not happened, despite my best efforts. I could be looking on the wrong estate, there’s a chance that the Roņi farm might not be a part of Suntaži estate, and instead some other nearby one. It is something that I’ll look into when I can see some estate maps at the archives. Just another thing to add to the list!
The tax lists are the best resources out there for late 19th century Rīga research. More detailed than revision lists and easier to find than 1897 All-Russia census records, they are a fantastic resource. Unlike the census, they have the great advantage of indexes – as long as you know what social class they belonged to, and you’re at the archives, because the index books are enormous and sometimes require two people to lift (if you need someone else to do the heavy lifting for you, you know how to contact me!). In addition to providing birth and death information into the early 20th century, they will often also mention where a family was originally from, if they weren’t Rīga-born (though not always). They mention religions, and details for the whole family. This is how I know that Anna and Ādams’ son Ermanis converted to the Baptist faith. What they don’t do is mention where the family lived, but I guess you can’t have everything?
Have you had any success with the tax lists? Need help figuring out what social class (estate) your ancestors were from? Share in comments!
Time for Week 21 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.
As I mentioned last week, I’ll be spending a few weeks dealing with challenging female ancestors – that is, female ancestors whose maiden names are unknown to me. In addition to telling their stories – what I know of them, anyways – I will also be looking into what their surnames could be, by exploring different sources with potential clues.
This week’s ancestor is Trīne, wife of Marcis Graumanis, whose grandfather was Kārlis Graumanis, who we learned about in Week 19. Trīne is my great-great-great-grandmother, by way of my maternal grandfather’s maternal grandmother Līze Graumane.
According to a list of Lāde parish inhabitants from the 1870s, Trīne was born on December 23, 1823. However, in the documentation that I have thus far, she only appears on the scene in the spring of 1849, when she and her husband Marcis, along with Marcis’ parents Jānis and Grieta, and Marcis’ sister Līze, moved from Pociems estate to Sigulda estate. Trīne was not a part of the family when they had arrived on Pociems estate from Dikļi estate in 1842, so they must have married somewhere in that time period. However, I have not found any records of this event thus far, and I worry that they might be in the abyss of the missing late 1840s Limbaži records, since no other nearby parish has the record I’m looking for.
After moving with her family from Pociems to Sigulda, from Sigulda to Stalbe, they finally came to Lāde parish, south of Limbaži, in 1857. They established themselves on the Lejas-Samši farm, and have been there ever since (this property still belongs to some of my relatives). Trīne and Marcis passed the farm on to their daughter Līze, who passed it on to her daughter Mēŗija, who owned it at the time of the Soviet invasion in 1940. The property was reclaimed by her family when independence was regained.
Trīne died on February 12, 1883, and her birth was registered in the Limbaži St. Katherine’s parish, which is a bit odd – her children and grandchildren conducted their affairs in the Limbaži Church, so why would they travel further for their mother’s funeral? I know it is her, because the record states that she was living on Lejas-Samši farm, but it is just bizarre that they would not have recorded the event in the regular Limbaži church, which was much closer to their home.
Her death record says she was born in Dikļi, which is nice to know but not nearly as detailed as the death record from last week, where Marija’s death provided a specific farm as a place of birth. But since it is Dikļi, I do have one option to consult that doesn’t require me to know the specific farm – instead, her supposed birthdate will provide the clue that I need. Dikļi does not have birth records going back to 1823, but it does have confirmation records from the 1830s. So is there a Trīne there who was born in December of 1823? There is! With the precise birthdate listed of December 23, 1823, so it looks like a good match indeed! This Trīne’s surname is Krastiņa, and her father’s name is Jānis. She was born on Dikļi estate, Kulmači farm.
Though in the interest of completeness, there are other Trīnes as well. While Trīne Krastiņa certainly looks like the perfect match, I will not consider it 100% until I actually find a marriage record, since in this time period people were notoriously unreliable about dates. Even years! And so, the other possibles, all born within a few months or years:
- Trīne Ābele, father Marcis, born October 23, 1821
- Trīne Miķelsone, father Jānis, born July 15, 1822
- Trīne Wende, father Tenis, born November 29, 1822
- Trīne Krastiņa (another one!), father Pēteris, born June 6, 1823 – she was also from Kulmači farm, so it seems as though the fathers may have been brothers?
- Trīne Krospiņa, father Jēkabs, born December 12, 1824
- Trīne Diecmane, father Jānis, born December 28, 1824
- Trīne Siliņa, father Jēkabs, born March 5, 1825
- Trīne Ulme, widowed mother Ēde, born May 10, 1826 – this one is also important to note, since she is living on Spurītis farm, which I know to be a place where the Graumanis family lived
So I still like the younger Trīne Krastiņa for my ancestor, but I shouldn’t discount Trīne Krastiņa the elder, or Trīne Ulme. I think the rest I can probably set aside, but you never know. Stranger things have happened!
I’m not certain what possessed two brothers (? – this still needs to be confirmed) to give their daughters the same name -in the same year, no less – while they were living on the same farm. I’d like to say I haven’t seen this before, but I have. I don’t know why people did it, it is just asking for trouble and a great deal of confusion.
Come back next week, where I will tackle another female ancestor’s potential maiden names!
Time for Week 20 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.
Starting with this week, I’ll be spending a few weeks dealing with challenging female ancestors – that is, female ancestors whose maiden names are unknown to me. In addition to telling their stories – what I know of them, anyways – I will also be looking into what their surnames could be, by exploring different sources with potential clues.
This week’s ancestor is Marija, wife of Kārlis Radziņš, who we learned about in Week 17. As I mentioned in that post, it is possible that her surname may have been Kaukulis (Kaukule in the feminine form), but I am also going to explore alternate possibilities.
What I know of Marija I already summed up in Kārlis’ post: They would have married in 1840 or 1841, and these records are missing for Lugaži parish, so I can’t use this easy resource to find her maiden name. They had six known children who survived past infancy, and it was the birth of the seventh child, a stillborn daughter, that also led to Marija’s death in 1864. It is Marija’s death record that provides the information we need to try and find the family she was born into, and consequently, her surname. She was born on Smēķi farm on Lugaži estate, which does not appear on any maps that I can find, though there is a “Smēķupīte” (Smēķi creek/stream) on the outskirts of the town of Valka. Surrounding farm names in the revision list indicate that this is a probable location of the farm, so if I can find maps of Lugaži estate somewhere, then this might tell me if this is the right place.
Why I think Kaukulis is the best possibility for her family name: The managing family at Smēķi farm at the time of the 1857 revision list is the Kaukulis family. Now, it is easy to say “Marija might not have been a member of the managing family”, and I will explore those options below, but I have another point in favour: My great-great-grandmother Marija Radziņa, this Marija’s daughter, was born on Lielkāji farm on Lugaži estate, and wouldn’t you know it – the 1857 revision list entry for Lielkāji farm also has a Kaukulis family living there. People often lived with extended family, so this adds to the possibility that they are related. If this is Marija’s family, her parents could be Līze and Gusts. There are no revision lists prior to 1857 available.
There are also other potential surnames. There is another family with appropriate ages living on Smēķi farm in 1857 – the Dūviņš family. Since they were a farmhand family, suggesting that they were there 35 years earlier when Marija was born might be a bit of a stretch. But you never know. Sometimes farmhand families stayed in one place for a longer time.
The biggest problem with these names from the 1857 revision list is that they are there 35 years after Marija’s birth. There’s nothing saying they were there when she was born c. 1822. The closest records I have available right now to consult are the 1830s BMD records. Looking through 1834 and 1835, I found one entry for someone born or living in Smēķi – a married man by the name of Barķis Balkains who died there at the age of 42. Since Marija would have been 12 in 1834, there is a possibility that this could be her father. Looking further through these records might yield even more possibilities.
Looking at the Latvian State Historical Archives’ fonds register, there are many items in the collections regarding Lugaži parish. I hope that one of these documents can help provide the answers I’m looking for!
Do you have any female ancestors for whom you are attempting to identify maiden names? What are your techniques? Share your stories in comments!
While ruling powers – Germans, Swedes, Russians, Poles, etc. – changed over the centuries, one constant in the ruling class remained: Most local gentry in Latvian territory were Germans. As a result, many documents related to Latvian genealogical research prior to Latvian independence are written in German. But German writing then did not look like German writing today – most records are written in a script called Kurrent (which in the 20th century also developed into Sütterlin script, and the terms are sometimes used interchangeably). Kurrent and Sütterlin are no longer used today, but the old records are almost exclusively written in them.
Through practice and the use of material guides, one can begin to puzzle out what this script says – but here there is a bit of a shortcut! If you are just beginning to learn this script, or even if you’ve got years of experience in trying to puzzle it out, sometimes you will come across a word that is unfamiliar, and you think you know what it might say, but you’re not sure… enter this script generator that was mentioned on the Genealogy Translations Facebook group!
Alte deutsche Schrift‘s (“Old German Handwriting”) script generator can help you determine whether or not something says what you think it says. If you think you know what some old writing says, enter it in the box. Then press Enter, and it will pop up an image of how that word would appear in Kurrent. Click on the different styles under the text box to get different variations (in terms of what I see in Latvian records, I find the first, fourth and fifth style options most useful). Does the resulting image look like the word you’re puzzling out in the record? Fantastic! If not, try again with new possible letters.
The important part of the German instructions that non-German speakers need to be aware of: If you need to include the “long S” (ß), but don’t know how to type it on your keyboard, you can use the colon (:) instead.
May this resource help you in your search for your ancestors! Please share any successes in comments!