Inspiration: Darrel Akerfelds

Darrel is a grandson of Janis Akerfelds and Anna Ziverts (a cousin of my mother) who I’ve never personally me (blame WWII for scattering the Akerfelds family across Germany, Canada and the USA in the 1950’s). Nonetheless, he and his family have been in my thoughts since I first heard news of his battle.

Normally I’d try to write something up about this, but this article does a better job detailing Darrel’s inspirational life’s story than I could hope to:

http://espn.go.com/espn/otl/story/_/id/7318959/san-diego-padres-bullpen-coach-darrel-akerfelds-too-b

Document: Brinkenhof Revision List

Up until recently I had ignored the revision lists (Dvēseļu revīzijas) offered on Raduraksti. Curious about the ownership and history of Skrundenieki farm, I decided to take a stab at  deciphering this unfamiliar resource. These lists are recordings of peasants arriving at and departing from different estates, if they moved. If your particular family did not move around a lot, as I am unsure my Ziverts (Skrundenieki’s owners) did, chances are they will not be found in this resource.

The revision lists are organized by estate, not draudze, pagast, aprinki, novad, rajon…etc. These terms can be a little confusing if you are not very familiar with the geography of our ancestor’s homeland (as was the case for me the first time I tried the use the revision lists). I am now very familiar with the area surrounding Skrundenieki, and know that prior to 1925ish, it was part of what used to be Brinkenhof estate, also known as “Gross Altdorf” in German (Embutes/Amboten lutheran draudze, Brinki/Nikrace/Brinkenhof/Nikrazzen pagast, Aizputes/Hasenpoth aprinki, Vainodes/Wainoden novad, Liepajas rajon, Kurzeme… I know, confusing right?). So I leafed through the Brinkenhof revision list, really just scanning for the Ziverts name in relation to Skrundenieki.

Within a few pages, something caught my eye. An entry for a “Klavs Laure Siewert”. Since I’d already gone through the area’s church books with a fine-toothed comb, I am already familiar with this Klavs Siewert. He married Lina Grinbergs in 1881 at Embute lutheran church, and they had a daughter named Mathilde Emilie Wilhelmine Siewert in 1882 at Nodaggen estate (I have yet to figure out what that name is in modern Latvian). Also notable from the church books: living at Nodaggen simultaneously at that time as well was an Ernest Siewert, his wife Marija and their son Karlis.

But back to the revision list. In 1883, Klavs, Lina and their daughter Matilde left Nodaggen and moved to Brinkenhof estate. The lists divide men on one side (left), and women on the other (right). Here is their recording:

(click to enlarge) Brinkenhof Revision List from 1883

I can’t make out the large block of text beside Klav’s entry, but most of it looks to be talking about how he came to Gross Altdorf in 1883 and left from Nodaggen estate. He was born December 12, 1841 (and as fate would have it, 1842 is where the Embute church books end..). he was 42 at the time of the move…. and if you notice, it lists his wife Lina as only 21 years of age (and daughter Matilde 1 year old). With such an age gap, was Lina Klav’s second wife?

What really attracted me to Klav’s record is that my own ancestors – Indriks Ziverts and Jule Dzerve – named their first born son Klavs Jeannot, and one of his godparents is listed as Klavs Jeannot, who is listed as the owner of the farm they lived on (Skrundenieki). Some of the text beside this inscription in the younger Klavs’ baptism either points to the fact that the older Klavs, the same one listed in the revision list above, is either the father of Indriks Ziverts, or his uncle. I can’t tell which, because Indriks and Jule named their second son Peteris Ziverts, and one of his godparents is Peteris Ziverts, with the same inscription. Both uncles? When did these Siewerts come to Brinkenhof estate? There are no other Siewerts in Brinkenhof’s revision list history.

Also, I discovered that Skrundenieki is much older than I had suspected, existing at least as early as 1811 under the same name.

More to come, as I learn to decipher these records…

How can you use the revision lists to learn about your family? Check out this article on how to use them at Celmina.com

Lest We Forget

My earliest memories of Remembrance Day are slightly less than honorable. “A big, solemn assembly at school? With a whole minute of complete silence?? Trumpets? What’s with all the seriousness on my BIRTHDAY??”. I can still recite the words of the poem “In Flander’s Fields” by John McCrae off the top of my head, a poem which I learned in grade school to recite at these Remembrance Day assemblies, year after year.

I suppose it’s fitting that my birthday falls on a day of historic remembrance, being the history lover that I am. Genealogical research, knowledge (and likely maturity) have changed the way I view Remembrance day. Sometimes researching ancestors makes me realize that it is a very complicated and delicate (and lucky) web of events that facilitates my existence. Whilst Remembrance Day (Veterans’ Day in the USA) and the iconic poppy were first celebrated in Canada/USA to commemorate the end of World War One on November 11, 1918, it has evolved to honour Canadian/American veterans of all wars.

As generations pass on, it becomes easier and easier to forget that here in Canada, we are privileged to live the way we do. Everyone living here (unless you’re a native, I suppose) is here because their parents, their parent’s parents, parent’s parent’s parents, (etc, etc etc)came here to try and find a better way of living than they had experienced elsewhere. The freedom we experience here was not free, it cost millions of lives, millions of brave souls who were ready to give everything they had so that we could exist in this way.

During World War Two, my maternal ancestors were forced labourers in Nazi Germany, plucked from their war-ravaged homeland and used as bodies to help fuel the German war effort. While definitely far from paradise, some Latvians suffered far less fortunate fates and this would have seemed a best-case scenario at the time to some.  They had watched family, friends and neighbours be brutally executed, deported to Soviet prison camps and forcibly recruited to foreign armies, forced to fight for a cause that was not their own, their country’s cause and voice drowned out by larger world powers. The world must have seemed to have gone crazy, barbarian. Their home would never be “home” again.

World War Two was the deadliest conflict in recorded history, with estimates of 50 to 70 million lives lost. The Allied countries counted an estimated 16,000,000 military casualties. My ancestors were liberated by the Allies (US Army) in 1945 as they captured different towns in Germany that housed the forced labor camps. They were granted immigration to the USA and Canada within 5 or 6 years, where they lived freely the rest of their days. Their families flourished, and continue to flourish today.

…Thanks, guys.

Ancestor Story: Where in the World is Jule Dzerve?

Jule Dzerve, mother of Arturs and Anna Ziverts was born December 29, 1877 in Purmsati pagast in western Latvia. Her parents were Jukums Dzerve and Lawise Bittner (her father’s name, a traditional Latvian one but her mother’s sounds more typically German). She was baptised “Jenny Jule Ida Dzerve” at the Gramzdas German Lutheran parish church. She married Indriks Ziverts June 18, 1895 (or so we can assume, since that is the date she began living at Skrundenieki farm {info gleaned from the 1941 Latvian Census}). She had 9 children that I know of: Karlis, Peteris, Fricis, Arturs, Lucija, Anna, Arnolds, Olga and Ida.
When her husband Indriks passed away (somewhere between 1920 and 1935), her son Arturs inherited the farm and was responsible for her care and upkeep for life, as per his father’s will and testament (also pinched from the 1941 Latvian Census).
Of course, she fled with her family in October of 1944. She turned 67 years old that year, and this must have been a very difficult journey for a senior citizen. She was with the Ziverts clan in Gotenhaufen/Kelsterbach/Friedberg/Bidingen/Dieburg between 1944 and 1946, and the last recording I have of her is a record of her leaving Dieburg for Darmstadt on October 21, 1946.
In most documents from the ITS I received about her, she is listed with Arturs, Katte and their children, but herself, Olga and Ida are usually listed after the main family, and may have had to fill out some of their paperwork separately as single persons.

Arturs and family left Germany in March of 1949, I know that since I have the SS General Langfitt’s Passenger Manifest. But no Jule, Olga, Irma or Ida.
I do also have a form that states that Olga and Irma were successfully resettled, going from Hochfeld DP Camp in Augsburg to Calesburg, North Dakota, USA on December 6, 1949. Why didn’t Irma go with her parents, Arturs and Katte? And what of Ida? (I remember reading somewhere that something was wrong with Ida and she could not work hard labor. I can’t remember where I read this and can’t find it again – can’t stress enough to importance of keeping your records straight!)
My theory is that Jule perished while in Germany. She would have been around 70 years old, in forced labor camps on tight rations. I just don’t know if she ever made it to the USA with her family.
I have written the ITS again regarding Jule… awaiting response..

A snippet from Arturs Ziverts IRO Assistance Application

A snippet from Arturs Ziverts IRO Assistance Application

Akerfelds Puzzle Pieces

There are more Akerfelds out there than just descendants of Janis and Anna. There is a family branch that ended up in New York, who originated in Nikrace pagasts. There is another branch that made it to Australia after WWII, who lived in Skrunda during the 30’s, but moved to Nikrace by 1941, with the death of the father of the family. Another branch is still in Latvia in the Skrunda region today.

My theory is that all Akerfelds came from one patriarch, possibly named Kristaps. I believe that my particular ancestor Jekabs had brothers, who all the other Akerfelds descended from. Proving that with documentation is quite a challenge as it stands. The names “Jekabs”, “Ernests”, “Kristaps” and “Ieva” are prominent in all the Akerfelds families I have found so far. Mind you they’re fairly common names, but in conjunction with all the other coincidences, it is just too much to ignore.

Jekabs Grinbergs alias Akerfelds and Ieva Sedols were parents to my two well-known Akerfelds ancestors, Janis and Katte, but also had 3 other children: 2 sons and 1 daughter. The daughter, named Anna, wouldn’t have passed on her Akerfelds name to her children, but the two sons would have. Their son Martins only had one child before his death in Siberia, but it was a daughter, so she would not have passed on the Akerfelds surname to her children. Their son Ernests, on the other hand, probably had children at some point, and would have passed his Akerfelds name on to them. Unfortunately for me, I can find no more record of this Ernests besides his baptism though. Ernests was the eldest son of Jekabs Akerfelds and Ieva Sedols, and his godparents were Ernests and Annlise Akerfelds (more about this couple below).

Other Akerfelds Families:

In the 1935 Latvian census, there is a Mikelis Akerfelds recorded, born in 1897 living with his wife Elizabete and their son Arnolds at Muizaraji farm in Nikrace. Being that he was born a year prior to my Janis, we will say they are of the same generation, could be brothers or cousins. The farm owner is named Anna Vainovskis, a widow and her daughter who were living there as well. In the 1941 Census however, the farm passed in ownership to Mikelis, and the Vainovskis are gone. This family comes to light again in 1949, when the Soviet government deported them to Siberia.

In the 1935 census, a widow named Marija Akerfelds (nee Rabovics) lived with her two sons Andrejs and Ermanis and her brother at “Pulvernieki” farm in Nikrace. By 1941, Marija and Andrejs are gone, but Ermanis is listed at Zoslenu majas, working as a farm worker. Andrejs immigrated to New York, and his family is still there today. Marija was born in 1899, so you could assume her deceased husband would be born around that same time as her. Again, in my Janis’ generation. Was it Janis’ brother Ernests? Another unknown brother?

In the Embute draudze church book, an Ernest Akerfelds married an Ieva Hase in 1887. It would be safe to assume Ernests was 20-25 years old at the time, so born around 1865. Not my Janis’ generation, but Janis’ father Jekabs generation. Ernests and Ieva baptised a daughter named Annlise in 1887 in Brinkenhof, at a farm I can best translate as Lappe? In the same year, 1887, Ieva passed away (childbirth complications?) and at age 7 weeks, daughter Annlise also passed away, all within the same year. One year later, in 1888, an Ernests Akerfelds married an Annlise Grinbergs. The same Ernests? Likely. Ernests and Annlise had 5 children: Kristaps, in 1888 at Kaupe farm in Lieldzelda, Jekabs in 1890 and Mikelis in 1893 at Rusi farm in Lieldzelda, Ernests in 1895 at Pluini farm in Rudbarzi, and in 1897 they had a stillborn child, and at this time they are recorded as living in Skrunda. Interestingly, this Akerfelds family also goes by both Akerfelds and Grinbergs, much like my own. This Ernests and Annlise are named as godparents of my Jekabs and Ieva’s first son, Ernests. I feel a connection here is definitely probable.

Also according to the Embute church books, there is a Lotte Akerfelds/Grinbergs who had two illegitimate children, Annlise in 1896 and Ernests in 1902, both at Sudmalkalns farm in Lieldzelda. Of course, the same Ernests and Annlise mentioned above are godparents to these children as well.

In 1898 a Kristaps Akerfelds (Hakerfeld) alias Grinbergs married Trine Skonpasts. However, no baptismal records of children were found for these two, and a burial record in 1899 shows a Kristaps Hakerfeld died at age 33 that year. The same Kristaps Hakerfeld?

In 1898 an Ernests Akerfelds married Madde Storke in Skrunda, but the Embute church book also recorded this marriage. Why is the marriage listed in Embute if it occurred in Skrunda? Is this the same Ernests as was married to Annlise, since their last child was born in Skrunda? Did Annlise pass away in the childbirth of their stillborn child, leaving Ernests to marry a third wife? Ernests and Madde had Karlis Akerfelds born in 1904 and Janis Akerfelds born in 1900,  both also born in Skrunda pagast at Gruvens farm, but also recorded in Embute.

Far enough back in the church book, an Eichenfelds family shows up. I must note that “Akerfelds” in German can be and is spelled “Hackerfeld” , “Hakenfeld”, “Hagenfeld” and other variations of the like, so comparing Eichenfelds is not a huge stretch. This Eichenfelds family’s patriarch was named Kristaps, and his wife was Marija. They had a daughter named Ieva in 1871 at Sprosti farm in Lieldzelda, but she was buried the same year. They also had a son named Ernests born in 1873 at Rusi farm in Lieldzelda, but he also perished the following year. That’s all the book has on the Eichenfelds, although it should be noted that the books from the 60’s are missing from Embute draudze. If Kristaps was having children in 1871, one could assume he was born around 1848. Is this the grand daddy patriarch of all the Akerfelds? Perhaps when the naming process occurred, he ended up with the surname of Grinbergs, but in order to differentiate himself from the other Grinbergs (which Embute draudze has in plenty), he chose to go by “alias Akerfelds”, as was common to do.

Lastly, the Australians. Ieva Akerfelds (nee Gaul) was born September 19, 1893 in Skrunda pagasts. She married a Kristaps Akerfelds and bore him four children before he died at an early age (after 1925, but before 1941 for sure). It can be assumed that Kristaps was of similar age to Ieva, so we will say c. 1893. This puts him in the same generation as my Janis, just a few years older. In 1941, a widowed Ieva and her youngest two children, Janis Alberts and Alma Emilija Akerfelds moved to Nikrace pagast and lived at “Mazvarmsate” farm. They are recorded here in the 1941 Latvian Census. Why go to Nikrace after the death of the husband/father? To be near his family for help or work?

There are two more puzzle pieces, another Mikelis Akerfelds born in 1893 in Nikrace, son of Ernests and Annlise, and an Ernests Akerfelds, born in 1905 in Nikrace, son of Alberts. I will go into further depth with them at a later date.

http://chelli11.wordpress.com/2011/11/07/mystery-monday-ernests-akerfelds/

Roadblock: Akerfelds

Jekabs Grinbergs alias Akerfelds is Arvids’ grandfather. He was born c. 1870, but as to where, I still have no clue. He married Ieva Sedols in 1892 at Embute Lutheran Church, where they baptised 2 children: Ernest in 1893 and Anna in 1894 while living at Muizaraji farm in Lieldzelda. Then the family disappears until 1904. Their son Janis (Arvids’ father) was born in 1898, supposedly in Nikrace parish (which did not exist at the time, but was rather called Brinki, or Brinkenhof estate)but I cannot find his baptismal record.

The next brother, Martins (for whom Arvids is named) is lrecorded as being born in 1902 in Tomsk, Siberia. It is noted that some Latvians did go to Siberia (voluntarily this time, not forcibly!) for work, and cheap land around 1910 when the Trans-Siberian railway was built, but alas, I have no documents from the Akerfelds family at this time. Church baptismal records do exist in Tomsk, but getting my hands on them is proving to be a challenge.

The next I know is their last child Katte was baptised in November of 1904, back in Embute parish while living at Cepli farm in Lieldzelda, and that same year Jekabs died, his cause of death listed as lung or kidney illness.

I don’t know where to begin searching for a birth record for Jekabs since I don’t know his place of birth, and can’t find listing of his parents anywhere. The exact reason why he went by Grinbergs and yet also Akerfelds is still a mystery to me also. “Grinbergs” is a fairly common surname though, and it is easily assumed that “Akerfelds” was chosen as a way to distinguish a certain family from the other, unrelated Grinbergs families in the area.

 I believe Jekabs had at least one other brother named Ernest, for whom his first son was named, and who was the godfather of his first son. This Ernest Grinbergs alias Akerfelds (c. 1868) married Annlise Grinbergs and they had a few children in Embute parish, Janis’ cousins they would have been. Again, note that during the naming of the Latvians, many different, unrelated families were given the same common names, Grinbergs being one of these common choices. So, probably Annlise and Ernest were not of the same ancestors, even though they shared the Grinbergs surname.

The Akerfelds name though, if chosen to differentiate one Grinbergs family from another, is much less common, since it is basically invented. Since both Jekabs and Ernest chose this new surname to define their families, it is not a far stretch to assume these two were brothers.