Document: Akerfelds Deportations

Martins, Ernests and Mikelis of Nikrace pagast were all deported to Siberia by the Soviet government for their political beliefs and their involvement with the Aizsargi. There are a collection of books documenting these deportations, “These Names Accuse”, “Political Action in Latvia: NKVD to KGB”, and more. 

Martins was related, but what of Mikelis and Ernests?

 Case Number: 218688/2: Martins, son of Jekabs Akerfelds and Ieva Sedols was born in 1902. He owned Jaunzemji farm in Nikrace. He was accused of being part of the Peasant’s Union government, as well as the commander of the local Aiszargi unit. He was arrested on June 14, 1941 and deported to Vyatlag, Kirov Oblast, Siberia. Here there was a “correctional labor camp” set up for deportees and political prisoners. His wife Anna Zveja and daughter Skaidrite (Rita) Akerfelds (Case Number: 21867/2)  were also arrested on June 14, 1941 and deported to Krasnojarsk, Manas Oblast, Siberia.  Skaidrite was released in Krasnojarsk October 15, 1946. Anna was released Sept 11, 1947. “Released” simply means released. They were not shipped back home. They were basically dropped off in the middle of Siberia to fend for themselves. Note that mother and daughter were also released a year apart. Skaidrite was born in 1937, and would have been 9 years old, separated from her mother and with no idea what happened to her father, or where he was. Martins was not so lucky, and perished in Vyatlag May 17, 1943. 

Mikelis Akerfelds, born in 1897 in Nikrace pagast. After WWII, when Soviet Russia once again had control over Latvia, another wave of Siberian deportations took place. Mikelis was arrested
December 19, 1949, his crime was being a part of the Aizsargi, and a local “policeman” (this is a poor translation courtesy of me).  His fate is not listed. In the 1935 Latvian census, this Mikelis was living with his wife Elizabete and their son Arnolds at Muizaraji farm. Muizaraji was originally owned by Anna Vainovskis, a widow, but by 1941 ownership had passed to Mikelis, who had been living there since November 26, 1921 (likely the date Elizabete and Mikelis were married). Mikelis’ father is not listed, however, prominent Embute parish Akerfelds family Ernests and Annlise already had a son named Mikelis born in 1893. So it is not likely that Ernests was his father. It is entirely possible that my Jekabs was his father, as I have no record of Jekabs and Ieva from 1896-1904. Supposedly my Janis was also born in Nikrace in 1898, but there is no baptismal record for him either. That will remain speculation until I come across further information. What became of Mikelis, and whether or not Elizabete and Arnolds were deported with him I do not know.

Case no. 4046: Finally, Ernests Akerfelds was born in 1905, son of Alberts. He was living at Krogaraji farm in Rudbarzu (north of Nikrace). This is the curveball, since I have not yet found an Alberts Akerfelds born of Jekabs’ generation. He and his wife Anna (daughter of Karlis, born 1903) were arrested March 25, 1949 and deported to Omsk, Siberia. They were released May 21, 1955.

Resource: Nekropole

I stumbled across this “Nekropole” (Necropolis) website today. It seems to be like a Latvian Helpful! There are two Akerfelds listed – Martins, the brother of Janis who was deported to Siberia, and Ansis – I believe I have spoken to one of Ansis’ descendants in Latvia. Note that he was from Skrunda, close to the rest of the Akerfelds.

Interesting! I have added Nekropole to my “Resources and Databases”

Vinakmens Puzzle Pieces

I have come across other Vinakmens, as well as Akerfelds, in my searching. Most of them who live in Latvia today go by Vinsteins-Vinakmens though, like my Janis Vinakmens did for a time before he changed his name. I’ve spoken with some of them, and in our broken Latvian-English communications what they’ve told me of their family trees does not match well with my own family tree. 

My theory here is: There were multiple unrelated Weinstein families, who over the years became known and Vinsteins-Vinakmens, for the same reason as my ancestors – just to have a more Latvian surname.

Whoever their ancestor was, they did not change their name to just plain Vinakmens like Janis did. Perhaps there was one, single Weinstein man at one point in Latvia, from whom all Vinakmens are related, but I doubt it.  I don’t believe we are all related.

There are still however, related Vinakmens out there that I do not know of yet. So far as I can discern, Janis Wihnstihn and his wife Trine only had two children: Vilis Wihnstihn and “Greete Pauline Wihnstihn” (not sure what the Latvian translation of this German name would be – Greta Paulina Vinakmens?). Greete would not have passed her surname on to her children though.

Then only one who would have passed on the Vinakmens surname that is related is the one Vinakmens son of Vilis, who is unaccounted for in my research, Arnolds. The last record of I have of him is in “These Names Accuse”. His last known residence is in Daugavpils, in eastern Latvia. His case number in this list though is “4” which means to the government, he was missing. Does this mean he avoided deportation? My great aunts spoke of Arnolds, and said his wife’s name was either Valentine or Viktorija, and that they lived in Russia. They had two sons, a painter and a violinist in Russia. These two sons would have inherited the Vinakmens surname. Would they have changed it back to Weinstein in Russia?

Blog: Nigrande to Priekule

I just stumbled across this blog by accident. This man walked across Latvia from east to west, and happened to go right through the Akerfelds/Ziverts home county. Check out some of his pictures and read his tale! Nikrace and Embute are between Nigrande and Priekule.

Ship: USS General C.H. Muir

The USS General C. H. Muir was built in 1944 by Kaiser Co. Inc. in Richmond, California and named after U.S. Army General Charles Henry Muir.

She was a transport ship for the US Navy during WWII, then used by the US Coast Guard for a short period, then transferred to the US Army as USAT General C. H. Muir in 1946. On March 1, 1950 she was transferred to the Military Sea Transportation Service (MSTS) as USNS General C. H. Muir (T-AP-142), transporting thousands of refugees of WWII to the Americas and Australia.  In late 1952, she carried reinforcements to the UN troops fighting in Korea. She made another similar voyage before being placed in the National Reserve Fleet in 1955. In 1968, the ship was sold and converted into a container vessel named the SS Chicago. In 1975, the American company that owned her sold her to Puerto Rico where she was renamed the SS San Juan. She operated until 1985 and was later scrapped.

The SS General CH Muir carried Janis Vinakmens, his wife and 3 children to the USA from Bremerhaven on August 14th, 1949. They were bound for Elk Point, South Dakota.

Ship: USS General Harry Taylor

The USNS General Harry Taylor

The USNS General Harry Taylor

The USS General Harry Taylor was built in 1943 by Kaiser Co. Inc in Richmond, California. She was named for the US Army Chief of Engineers Harry Taylor.

Like the Langfitt, she was originally a troop transport during the war. When the war was over, the Navy decommissioned her. But on March 1, 1950, the Military Sea Transportation Service (MSTS) reactivated her to help transport refugees and troops from Europe, back to the Americas or elsewhere in the world.

In 1957, she carried thousands of Hungarian refugees to Australia during the Hungarian Revolution for a year, then was deactivated once again in 1958. In 1961 she was transferred to the US Air Force and renamed the USAFS General Hoyt S. Vandenberg. In 1964, the Navy acquired her and she was designated T-AGM-10, as a Missile Range Instrumentation Ship, carrying out duties in both Atlantic and Pacific waters until 1993, when she was stricken from the Naval register.

In 1998, the movie “Virus”  shot some scenes aboard the ex-General Hoyt S. Vandenberg. The ship was supposed to be a Russian vessel known as the Akademik Vladislav Volkov.

On Wednesday, May 27, 2009, she was sunk off the coast of Florida, in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, used as an artificial reef. You can still see some of the Cyrillic lettering painted on the hull from the movie filming to this day.

The USS General Harry Taylor carried Janis Akerfelds and his family, minus his eldest two sons, to Berthoud, Colorado, USA on August 12, 1950 from Bremerhaven, Germany.

a diver explores the sunken General Hoyt Vandenburg

a diver explores the sunken General Hoyt Vandenburg

Ship: USS General Langfitt

The USS General Langfitt was built in 1944 by Kaiser Co. Inc. in Richmond, California and named after General William Campbell Langfitt. She was first used during the war to transport American troops. By the time she was inactivated on September 30, 1957, she had travelled all over the world, a people carrier dropping off refugees, troops, veterans, in all corners of the globe. She sat as part of the US National Defense’ reserve fleet for a while, then was sold in 1968  and used as a container vessel, renamed SS Transindiana. The SS Transindiana was scrapped in 1983 in Brownsville, Texas.
Arturs Ziverts and his family (except for his sisters, Ida and Olga, his mother Jule and his daughter Irma) left Bremerhaven, Germany aboard the USS General Langfitt on March 19, 1950 bound for Berthoud, Colorado.

USS General Langfitt

USS General Langfitt

Latvian Surnames: Wihnstihn/Vinsteins/Vinakmens

“Vinakmens” is a fairly uncommon Latvian surname. It is “Vin”, meaning wine, and “akmens” which means stone. Immediately when I began looking for my Vinakmens ancestors, the surname “Weinstein”, holding the same meaning caught my attention. For time being I dismissed the possibility that the surname had evolved into a Latvianized version of Weinstein and continued my other speculations as to why someone would choose the surname Vinakmens during the Latvian naming process.
Interestingly, “wine stone” is also a name for an occurence while making wine. Grapes contain tartaric acid, and during the fermentation process, the sediment from the crushed grapes can harden and turn into “cream of tartar”, which is used in some cooking. So, in some Latvian recipes, “vinakmens” is an ingredient… Yummy!!!
Anyways as I became familiar with the churchbooks on Raduraksti, I was able to locate Vilis Vinakmens’ baptism record (He was Karlis’ father). The record is in old German script, and you will notice he is “Willis August Wihnstihn”. There are two possibilities… either his name legitimately was Weinstein (the h’s replaced the e’s in old German) or this book, since it was written in German, the author germanized Vinakmens, as they germanized “Vilis”. (note: it is important to be able to switch between German and Latvian when searching for names, often things are germanized). It’s hard to read, but Willis is the son of Jahnis Wihnstihn and his wife Trihne.

In his marriage to Emilija, he also is recorded as Wihnstihn. You will notice this record is in Russian cyrillic first, then names are translated into German versions of Latvian names… confusing, I know!
Luckily for me, their first child was born in 1905 and his baptism record was available on Raduraksti. Jahnis Rudolph Wihnstein was named for Emilija’s brother. But notice the pencilled-in text. You can clearly see “Vinakmens” a few times. Sometimes the pastor of a church would go back in his church books and add information about baptised individuals later in their lives, who they married, when confirmed, etc… this happens in French-Canadian Catholic church records as well.

The last clue that helped me make up my mind about the Vinakmens-Weinstein kerfuffle was a few articles in Latvian periodicals, proclaiming Janis and his wife Emma and their surname choice. This excerpt from the Latvian periodical “Valdības Vēstnesis” (“The Messenger of the Government”) published on Saturday, September 12, 1931. Text translates as “Janis and his wife Emma Vinakmens, also Vinsteins, will hereafter be called “Vinakmens””. Important to note the language of the time period again – in 1931 Latvia was free, a proud independant nation. So everything is written in Latvian.

The last questions remains: why did they change their surname from Weinstein? Was it to distance themselves from the father that abandoned them? Was it out of Latvian nationalism? In the late 1930’s, it was popular for army officers with German-style last names to change to more patriotic surnames. Janis might have been early to catch this trend, as this is from 1931.

It seems that at one time, they may have been known and Vinsteins-Vinakmens. There are still to this day Vinsteins-Vinakmens in Latvia. Related? Other Weinsteins turned Vinakmens?

More on changing your surname in the 30’s in Latvia:

Latvian National Library Digital Periodicals:

Ancestor Story: Arvids’ Labor Service

A closer look at Arvids’ IRO Application Form (which was written in pencil and is quite hard to read. tells me he may have been in the 7318 Latvian Labor Service Corps. Unfortunately, I can’t find anything about this particular unit… I think it is a misspelling of 7132.

A snippet from Arvids Akerfelds' IRO Application Form

A snippet from Arvids Akerfelds' IRO Application Form

The writing at the bottom may provide some clue as to why he returned to Germany illegally from Belgium as well… but it is barely legible.

According to one of my listed resources on the Labor Service, the following were Latvian units:
8252 LS Co (Engr Const) LATVIAN Bad Nauheim (Janis Akerfelds)
8717 LS Co (Engr Const) LATVIAN Großauheim
8850 LS Co (Engr Const) LATVIAN Großauheim (Arturs Ziverts)
7132 LS Co (Engr Const) LATVIAN Mannheim (Arvids Akerfelds)
7566 LS Co (Engr Dump Trk) LATVIAN Mannheim (Karlis Vinakmens)
8361 LS Co (Engr Const) LATVIAN Mannheim

Old Photo: Karlis in the Labor Service

The more knowledge I acquire, the more I can discern from every record I’ve found so far. I passed most of my grandmother’s old photos over at first, gleaning no useful hints from them. Silly me!

This picture is of Karlis Vinakmens, c. 1954 in Germany. The uniform he is wearing is typical of the US Army Labour Service Co at the time. You can just barely make out his shoulder badge.

Although it is impossible to discern which of these two the patch is, it was quite likely one of the two pictured above. The unit I know he was a part of, the 7566 LS Co, was indeed a Latvian unit. 

The other insignia that stands out is the triangular one above the flower. It could be one of these, or a variation:

Karlis’ appears to be sideways though. I havent found a sideways triangle pictured anywhere yet!

Will return to this post when more information is upturned :)