Tracing Marija

A little more digging during my lucky streak yielded me more documents regarding my Sedols family from Valtaiki parish. I discovered the death record of my 4x great grandmother Marija’s first husband, and with luck, he passed away just in the nick of time to be recorded with his surname – Paukši. Mikelis Paukši died at age 32 in 1837 – the same year Marija went on to marry Kristaps Sedols. Knowing his first name, the farm he lived on and his wife’s name allowed me to pinpoint the baptism records of their children, my distant 5x great half-aunt and uncle. I worked backward, found their son Ermanis first, still with the Paukši surname, and then his older sister Made:

pauksimarija

Baptism
137. Kazdanga estate/Strebuki farm/Mikelis and Marija’s child Made

pauksiermanis

220.Ermanis
of Kazdanga estate/Strebuki farm
child of Mikelis Paukši and his wife Marija
Godparents:
1. Ermanis Kronbergs
2. Ilze Paukši
3. Didrikis Simsons
Baptized by pastor Katterfelds at Neuhausen (Valtaiki) parish

I continued working my way through the records backwards in time and found Marija’s marriage record to Mikelis, a record that would have led me to a key fact in learning about the generation before her  it happened a few years later… alas, Marija married Mikelis before adopting a surname of her own – the surname of her father. No parental Iinformation is listed, to my dismay.

Mikelis from Kazdanga estate married
Marija from Muizaraji farm, Perbone estate.

No surname, but a lead: Marija was born at Muizaraji farm at Perbone estate. Mikelis was 32 when he died in 1837, so he was born circa 1805. My guess is that Marija was also born at this time period, 1805-1810, maybe closer to 1810 since she went on to have more children with her second husband after 1837. From here, I can attempt to locate her baptism record by scanning for Marijas born at Muizaraji farm, Perbone estate 1805-1810… but if there are more than one I won’t be able to distinguish, since I have no evidence of her parents’ names. The above marriage record could be the dead end on this branch of tree! But I am just happy to have traced Marija this far.

Document: The Marriage of Kristaps Sedols and Marija

A fresh set of eyes and a random tangent of curiosity won me another family document today. The family tree branch I’ve been able to trace the furthest back so far is the Sedols-Stromanis branch. Janis Sedols married Made Stromane in 1865 at Valtaiki church, and that marriage record was a rare gem of a document, recording both parties’ parent’s names and the farms they were from (rare in my area of research!). Janis’ parents, my 4x great grandparents were Kristaps Sedols and Marija, of an unknown surname so far and they lived at Strebuki farm, belonging to Kazdanga estate.

Residents of this area began using surnames in 1834-1835 – before that point it becomes more difficult to trace church records and determine which families are which. In a stroke of luck, Kristaps Sedols and Marija were married in 1837, with full surnames:

@Marriage of Kristaps and Marija, Valtaiki draudze 1837

 

Kristap Sedohl, jungen of Strebuk, at Katzdangen
married Marie Pauksche, wittwe

Marija Paukši! At first I was excited, thinking perhaps I had nailed down another Latvian family surname, until I confirmed that the word following her name is indeed “wittwe” or in English: widow. Paukši must have been her first husband’s surname, and her marriage to him is not within the years including surnames. To search further back without surnames is also impossible at this point, as I don’t even know Mr. Paukši’s first name, and there were many Marijas at the time.

Nevertheless, this tells me that: a)Marija was likely a bit older than Kristaps and probably has a few children from her first husband, which could also help explain why I only found two for her second marriage, b)my 4x great grandparents were definitely married in 1837 at Vailtaiki parish, and c)the Sedols family was attached to Strebuki as early as 1837 – which may disprove my theory that they are from the not-too-far “Sedoli” farm and that this is the origin of the name.

Usmas Pagast, 1944

When the war was over and my great grandfather Karlis Vinakmens and his family were living in Allied occupied Germany, my great grandfather wrote a letter outlining the details of his final days in Latvia before becoming a Nazi POW. I am not sure exactly to whom the letter was addressed, but it was probably some Latvian authority. This original letter is kept in the archives of the Latvian Occupation Museum in Riga. The museum’s historian Uldis Neiburgs was kind enough to send me copies, and a wonderful lady named Ilze translated it to English for me.

After the war, Latvia remained under communist rule until 1991. Talking about these events would have been extremely dangerous, and much is unknown about the events discussed here. This might even be one of the only eyewitness accounts of the what happened, and to have been written down in 1946, while still so fresh in my great grandfather’s mind makes this letter significant. Without further ado, his words:

“When I found out about the Latvian partisans I immediately wanted to join. It was also becoming increasingly difficult to avoid being conscripted into the German army and I could no longer stand the way that the Germans were operating in our country.
12/10/1944 Lt Rubenis battalion arrived at Ilziki near Usmas. My wish was met by the battalion commander Rubenis who enlisted me with the Minumetaji as a strelnieks (rifleman). As Ilziki didn’t have many rooms and our numbers were growing each day there was nothing else to do but build bunkers in the forest around Ilzikiem. My section settled into a bunker but others moved into the houses called Irbi and Vanagi which were part of the settlement of Ilziki.
At the start of November I fell ill with malignant tumors (that is the correct translation but surely he means something less serious, perhaps boils or ulcers?) so I was moved to Irbi where the battalions ambulance was billeted. There I was living with the mechanics group from the battalion, and I stayed with this group when the Germans started to annihilate Latvian partisans.
Even though we came from different areas of Latvia, we managed to get along and live together because we all carried in our hearts the love of our homeland.
Even though initially the Germans tolerated the partisan groups in Kurzeme, later they started to eradicate them. The Germans had hoped that the groups would provide them with the highest possible numbers of recruits for their own army, therefore they allowed them to flourish. But the partisans refused all German commands to join the German army and this caused the change of heart of the Germans.
Then the Germans asked the partisans to hand over all Latvians who had deserted the German army. They replied that they were Latvians within their own country, were not guilty of any crime against their own country and would not be given up. Seeing that the Germans were not getting anywhere with the partisan leaders their response was to annihilate the groups.
From 13/11/1944 to 14/11/1944 the Germans broke into all the houses where the partisans were sleeping to arrest or kill them. From the news it was apparent that only our battalion had succeeded in avoiding the attack. It was decided to go into the forests of Ilziki pagast to save our freedom. We followed forest trails around the eastern shore of Usmas Lake in the dark, moving towards Renda.
15/11/1944 we were not far from Lielbrenda and in the morning light we couldn’t dare continue marching. We rested through the day so that we could move again under cover of darkness.
15/11/1944 – 16/11/1944 we moved on without incident and in the morning we were near the Upati Forest guards house. There we fed the horses and we ourselves also rested as we still had a long way to go. As we were now tired we stayed well away from main roads moving only on forest trails and this enabled us to travel in daylight.
Not far from Perkonu house we were overtaken from behind by two German vehicles, a truck and a car. It turned out that in the truck were ?French? soldiers who were going to arrest two deserters.
After a while 2 German officers arrived. So it was that we took away the pleasure of these two thieves of Kurzeme (direct translation to give you the heartfelt emotion with which this is written). We stopped them as it was not in our interests for them to continue either their journey to arrest the deserters or to return to their command post.
Initially the German officers were very worried but in later talks with our commander they said that here around Kuldiga partisans had not been outlawed. It was only around Talsi where General Jekelns had given the command to annihilate partisan groups. They even named the houses in which local partisan groups were living. They suggested our commander drive back with them to their command post to discuss which houses the battalion could occupy and live here.
As it happened, our battalion commander accompanied the Germans to their post for discussions, our battalion stayed where we were, awaiting the outcome of the talks. In the first day of talks no decisions were made because the senior German officer was not there, so discussion continued for a second day.
17/11/1944 When the battalion commander arrived at the German post he was surprised to come face to face with Jekeln. Jekeln was very put out that the partisans had earlier evaded him but now he had caught them and for a final time he was ordering them to lay down their arms and surrender or they would, without exception be exterminated.
In a quiet calm manner Lt Rubenis answered, and they were his final words on the matter: “I want you to drive me back to my men in the forest, they have no intention of laying down arms nor of surrender.” Jekeln smirked “You are surrounded by SS battalions and you will be wiped out to the last man.”
Our battalion commander returned fairly crestfallen, the choices open to him were not that good, driving back he saw columns of Germans marching towards our area. Our lookouts also reported the German presence and movements. Our battalion commander called for our attention and in a few words told us what had happened. He told us to form up in readiness for battle that would come with the German attack. It was not possible to guess when this attack would come.
Already at 17:00 hours on 18/11/1944 German “starki” (artillery? rockets?) fly over us. In the forest at night they found no targets.
Dawn on 18/11/1944, the sunbeams are shining through the spruce trees, it’s a beautiful emotional scene of the men sitting together sunbeams playing over them as they sit around a campfire discussing what has happened in the previous year and todays celebrated/heroic acts that they anticipate are still to happen.
Seated are Briedis, Zarins and Kapastins with his wife, who would not be separated from her husband even in this difficult path of walking in the footsteps of the partisans. The battalion’s mechanic group Adjans, Aire, Zigurs, Ozolins, Kalnins and me had our flag flying here under the grey spruces of our homeland that the SS are so determined to destroy.
That was what 18/11 was like for Latvian partisans in 1944 on the left bank of the Abavas not far from Lielbrendes.
The morning was quiet, even so the battalion prepared for the fight. At 9:30 the first German “starki” (rockets) appeared and that revealed the position of the German heavy and light artillery, that started firing. The gunfire echoes in the forest and the fronds of the spruce rain down like snow flakes falling on the fighters clothing.
At 10:00 they started to advance their attack with German foot soldiers and their automatic fire. From the partisan side can be heard about 10 shots that are not without result. The partisans are not attacking, only taking defensive positions. As the Germans were not trying very hard, relying on their superior numbers and fire power they did not achieve their desired result. Some Germans lost their way and ended up being taken by the Latvian fighters.
As darkness was falling the Latvians started to push back the German attack and in places quite quickly the Germans in retreat found themselves on the banks of the fast flowing Abavas River and in their rush they couldn’t find a way to cross. The strongest partisan weapon fire forced those still left alive into the current and here now the fast flowing Abava achieves its goal and the majority drown. The German soldiers are driven by the current to the Venta River. Lots of German corpses litter the forests of Kurzeme and their losses are heavier than the partisans.
The most painful loss for the partisans is the loss of their commander, Roberts Rubenis, who not long after being wounded in the stomach and leg, died of his wounds. The command is taken over by v.v. Druvins. After the German encounter the battalion moves on as there is no reason to wait here.
Again a couple of times through the night there are a couple of encounters with landmines left behind by the houses that the battalion used. The strongest resistance is around the ‘Novadnieku’ houses. Even so v.v. Sulcs who is at the front of the column finds them.
On the 19th we camp in a swampy forest to rest and decide that our commanders, Lt Rubenis funeral will be carried out at Usmas cemetery. Having taken command Druvins gave a short speech in memory of our fallen and also mentioning our country’s National Day (18/11 is Latvia Day). He thanked us all for our heroic fight now so fatefully linked with 18/11.
Doubly significant is this day because it brought us victory over a superior enemy. Finally Druvins invited us all to sing the Lords Prayer(?) As many hundreds of mens chests/hearts overflow with prayer and their eyes blink back tears even after years of fighting – for those who are lost. In the distant forest there echo the songs last words, silence rules the moment as in a holy place, our homeland forest, we fighters stand, heads covered only by the grey spruces, bitter sweetness overlays the silence.
Again v.v. Sulcs recounts the conversation between our fallen commander and the German officers. With what arrogance the Germans dealt with the Latvians. Latvians can only fight, there are no other steps that can be taken against the German occupiers said v.v. Sulcs. They have taken our brothers, our sisters, and parents to their country not for some festivities but for hard/cruel work. They have destroyed our fields and pastures, our towns, stolen from our homes, we have to take the fight up to these invaders to the end even if it costs us our lives. And we will show no mercy to these, thieves of our country concluded v.v. Sulcs.
Over the night 19 to 20/11/1944 the battalion marched further and during the day of 20/11/1944 we came to Diskiru house in the region not far from where the Abavas joins the Venta and here we stay.
Making use of this rest period I ask permission from my commander to visit my family which is living in the small village of Valdemarpils, and having been granted permission I take to the road.
To avoid the areas in which partisans are being hunted and where Germans have put up strong control points I travel in a long diversion through Kuldiga along the Kuldiga and Tukums pagast boundary through Talsi and finally arrive at Valdemarpils.
Here at Valdemarpils is another bit of bad luck. Everyone who has come here from elsewhere, if they haven’t documented evidence of having lived here for 3 years, they are being forcibly removed to Germany. As I’m not on the residents list I was stopped and together with all the exiled, including my own family, we were taken to Ventspils and then by ship to Germany. It should be noted that in Valdemarpils this action was undertaken by communists with the help of Germans. They didn’t even allow the town council to distribute food parcels from those who had relatives who had somehow escaped deportation.
In this way on 8/12/1944 we left Ventspils. I have no further knowledge of my fighting comrades and have had no further news.”

A New Akerfelds Hint…

Minor progress made today!

After looking carefully at my newly received 1935 census records, I found an Ernests Akerfelds born in 1905 who doesn’t quite fit anywhere in my grand scheme of things yet. He married Anna Rose and lived at Krogaraji house in Rudbarzi. He and Anna were deported in the second wave of Soviet deportations in March of 1949. In the deportation list, he is recorded as the son of Alberts. I have not yet found an Alberts Akerfelds.

But, it got me thinking. I went back over my multifarious communications with other Akerfeldses over the years and I noticed even more similarities and coincidences between names and places than ever before.

Most Latvian Akerfeldses recounted to me that their relatives came from Varme, Ranki and Skrunda.. all a little north of my family’s Lieldzelda/Nikrace. One particular Akerfelds told me that her great grandfather was named Jekabs and he lived at Skudrites farm in Varme. With this fairly solid name and address, I consulted the Varme church books. Alas, there is no baptism, marriage or burial information for Varme parish after 1870. There are, however, lists of those confirmed from 1892-1929. Within minutes of searching through the names, one caught my eye: Ans Hakenfeld.

*CLICK TO ENLARGE* The confirmation of Ansis Akerfelds, Varme 1925

Ans Hakenfeld, son of Ernests and Madde, born in 1908 at Skrunda. Living at Skudrites farm at the time of confirmation in 1925!

*CLICK TO ENLARGE* The baptism of Ansis Akerfelds, 1908 Skrunda

Skudrites farm brings a connection between this contact’s great grandfather Jekabs and good old Ernests from Embute, married first to Ieva Hase, next to Annlise Grinbergs and last to Madde Storke in Skrunda. Ernests who started in Lieldzelda, moved north to Rudbarzi, east to Skrunda, and now finally north to Varme! This Ernests had at least 11 children (2 of whom died in infancy). I do believe this Ernests and MY great-great grandfather Jekabs are brothers.

It seems that most of the Akerfeldses I’ve spoken to abroad descend from Ernests. There are still at least 2 of Ernests’ sons who would have passed on their Akerfelds name that I have not found answers for. Perhaps they are hidden in Varme’s lost church books…

I created THIS CHART to illustrate the relations I’ve discovered. This is a very brief summary, Sometimes I did not include all children’s names (in my grandfather’s case, he has 13 brothers and sisters) to save space. And occasionally I estimated a year of birth for those I do not know. The whole chart is divided into 6 clear generations, and was made to simplify the family’s overall structure to get a better point of view!

The Akerfelds-Grinbergs Connection

Further strengthening my theory that Grinbergs and Akerfelds (outlined HERE) were used by the same people as alternative surnames is the trail left by Lotte Grinbergs and her son Jekabs.

In 1896 at Embute church, an unmarried mother living at Sudmalkalns farm in Lieldzelda estate named Lotte Grinbergs baptised a daughter named Annlise Grinbergs. Annlise’s godparents were Kristaps Akerfelds, and Annlise Grinbergs, wife of Ernests Akerfelds. Lotte next had a son at Sudmalkalns farm, named Ernests in 1902, baptised at Embute (unrelated godparents).

An unwed Lotte Grinbergs also shows up in 1906 at Rudbarzi estate, baptising a son named Jekabs at Skrundas church. Jekabs’ godparents are Ilze Grinbergs and Ieva Grinfelds (is Grinfelds an amalgamation of Akerfelds and Grinbergs?).

the baptismal record of Jekabs Grinbergs, Skrunda church

Normally this wouldn’t be enough for me to solidify a relationship between Lotte Grinbergs and anyone named Akerfelds. But I’ve had the luck of a)talking to Jekabs’ daughter and b)getting a glimpse at the 1935 census of Rudbarzi.

a snippet of the 1935 Latvian census document detailing Jekabs Akerfelds and his unmarried (column #6, “nep”) mother Lotte Grinbergs living at Rudbarzi

Jekabs went by Akerfelds, not Grinbergs. As does his daughter, living in Latvia to this day!

This sure does complicate things. Did all Grinbergs also go by Akerfelds? Surely not, its a very common surname. Did all Akerfelds go by Grinbergs at some point? My own great-great grandfather Jekabs (same generation as Lotte – siblings?) did. It seems that they tended to use Grinbergs more for girls and Akerfelds for boys. In my great-great grandfather Jekab’s daughter Anna’s baptismal record, they used Grinbergs, not Akerfelds or Akerfelds alias Grinbergs like they did for their sons, for example.

Amanuensis Monday: The Baptism of Madde Strohmann

After a brief hiatus from Latvian genealogy for a few months, I found my mind wandering back in time again. Sometimes when you’ve hit a bunch of brick walls, you need a set of fresh eyes! I hit the Raduraksti books again, and within the first 15 minutes, I had stumbled across a new family discovery:

                            The Baptismal record of Madde Strohmann

Madde
Born on February 10, 1836 and baptised February 23, 1836
Born at Oldenburg, Gohbsem (Vecpils estate, Gobzemji farm)
To knecht (worker) Janis Strohmann and his wife Lise
Witnesses 1. Madde Strohmann, 2. Anne Sauer, 3. Janis Mattison
Baptised by Pastor Katterfeld at Neuhausen (Valtaiki)

Madde is my great-great-great-grandmother, her daughter Ieva Sedols married Jekabs Akerfelds. Just as her marriage record to Janis Sedols states, she was born at Gobzemji farm in Vecpils estate. I hadn’t found her before, because I hadn’t considered that she might have been born earlier than 1840, based on her year of marriage.

Madde didn’t marry Janis Sedols until 1865. She was almost 30! That is quite old for a first marriage back then. It makes me wonder about this curious birth record of an illegitimate child born in 1865 to an unmarried woman named Madde Strohmann that I had found months earlier. Mind you, since one of Madde’s godparents was also named Madde Strohmann, we know there were at least 2 Madde S.’s. But, an illegitimate child and affair could explain why she married so late!

It seems as though the peasants of Valtaiki parish obtained surnames about half of the way through the year 1835. In terms of continuing to follow this family line, this baptism may be the only clues I uncover about  Madde’s parents. They must have been married prior to obtaining surnames, so finding their marriage record will be slightly more of a challenge given that their names are incredibly common. A marriage could have been my only clue about Madde’s parents besides her baptism or a sibling’s baptism. I don’t mean to be negative, but Janis and Lise Strohmann might be the end of this surname’s line for me!

Amanuensis Monday: The Baptism of Rasma Vinakmens

My mother had found an old suitcare that belonged to my grandmother recently, and let me go through it to see if I could find anything of genealogical value. While I didn’t find much new information, I did find her German Reiseausweis, Caandian Citizenship certificates and 3 different copies of this curious document:

Certificate of Birth and Baptism

Rasma Lilija Vinakmenis, daughter of Karlis Vinakmenis and his wife Berta Helen Vinakmenis nee Ozols-Ozolins was born on 23 September 1937 at Tukums, Latvia and baptized on December 25, of the same year by the local paster the Rev. Alberts Virbulis at the Evang.Lutheran Church of Tukums according to the Ev. Lutheran ritual.
This statement is based on the Parish Records of the Latvian Ev. Lutheran congregtion at Esslingen.
Esslingen/Neckar Oct. 21, 1954
Pastor Elmars Rozitis
Minister of the Ev. Luth. congregation at Esslingen/Neckar

(Seal)
Secretary to the Archbishop of the Latvian Ev. Luth. Church

Signed by Adolfs Donins, 28. October 1954

This seems to be some form of birth certificate/identification for my grandmother, who turned 17 in 1954 (Where was her original birth certificate?) 

The first interesting thing that caught my eye was the stamp of the Commanding Officer of the 7566 Labor Service Engineer Dump Truck. This confirms that my great-grandfather Karlis was still a part of this Labor Service unit in 1954. Until now, besides handwritten, I had never seen “official” anything from the 7566 LSC.

The second interesting thing is now I know my grandmother was baptised on Christmas, by Dean Alberts Virbulis. Mr. Virbulis was also Dean of neighbouring Kandava parish. I found a picture of Virbulis, at the altar of ther Tukums Lutheran church on the site Zudusī Latvija.

Another name of note is Elmars Rozitis, of the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran church of Esslingen am Neckar (who appears to still be alive??).

The last, and perhaps most interesting name is Adolfs Donins. Adolfs Fricis Donins was the OBERSTURMBANNFÜHRER, or Commanding Officer of the 19th Latvian Legion during WWII, until it’s surrender in 1945. Why would an identification document of my grandmother’s bear his signature? Is this perhaps a hint that her father, Karlis Vinakmenis DID serve in the Latvian Legion? I bear in mind that he had been in the Latvian Navy, and then probably jailed in Rezekne by the Soviets until the Germans invaded and “liberated” him. Did they conscript him?? (More on Karlis’ military service.)