Left to right: Alise Vinakmens, Arnolds Vinakmens, Emilija (Veisbergs) Vinakmens, Fricis Vinakmens (front), Janis Vinakmens, Karlis Vinakmens. Photo c.1924, probably taken in Tukums.
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.
Ans Hakenfeld, son of Ernests and Madde, born in 1908 at Skrunda. Living at Skudrites farm at the time of confirmation in 1925!
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!
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?).
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.
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.
Forgive me, this is going to be somewhat of a rambling post – hope it’s not too hard to follow my train of thought!!
My great-great grandfather Indrikis Ziverts was born around 1875 (judging from his wife Jule Dzerve’s birth year – 1877). As to where is still a mystery. I have not found a record of his baptism yet. He purchased Skrundenieki farm on Brinkenhof estate in 1895. At this time he was already married to 17-year-old Jule Dzerve. Where did they marry? I’m not sure, but Jule was from Purmsati estate, Gramzdas draudze – south and west of Brinkenhof. In 1896, Indrikis and Jule had their first child – a son – at Skrundenieki. His name was Klavs Jeannot, and he was baptized at Embutes draudze, named for one of his godparents: Klavs Jeannot Ziverts, who is listed on the baptism as “father of the master of the farm”. So Indrikis’ father’s name is Klavs..?
There was only one other Klavs Ziverts besides Indrikis’ son at Brinkenhof estate. The revision list for Brinkenhof tells me that he came to Kalna farm at Brinkenhof from Nodegi estate (west) in 1883 with his wife, Line (who he had married at Embute draudze in 1881) and his daughter Matilde (born at Nodegi and baptised at Embute in 1882). Klavs and Line had 2 more children before 1890 who were baptized at Embute, whilst the family was living at Vanagi farm in Brinkenhof. The revision list also tells me that his father’s name was Lauris and mother was Margreete.
Searching back further for Klavs, in the Brinkenhof revision list again, he appears with his father Lauris, mother Margreete and 4 siblings, arriving at Brinkenhof, Mucenieki farm from Paplaka estate around 1858. While Lauris and family remained at Brinkenhof, Klavs, aged 17, left almost immediately for Dizdroga, or Lieldroga estate. The residents of Lieldroga seem to have attended north Durbe draudze, but there is no record of Klavs to be found there. There are no revision lists on Raduraksti for Lieldroga, or Nodegi, or Paplaka for that matter. When Klavs married Line at Embute, he was 40 years old. Line was 19. Was Klavs married before? It seems likely. My theory is that Klavs had another wife who passed away, and some children sometime between 1858 and 1881. My Indrikis could have been one of these children.
If I can find them, and prove this, I will know my Ziverts family line back further than the year 1800. I have found Klavs’ older brother Adams’ baptism at Virgas draudze. The residents of Virgas draudze did not take surnames until midway through the year 1837. However, luckily for me, “Lauris” is a fairly uncommon name – he’s actually the only one I’ve found so far – so finding Adams, son of Lauris and Margreete, was relatively easy even without surnames. Adams was born, the first son of Lauris, wirt (landowner or master of the farm) of Čakšes farm, and his wife Margreete in 1836.
Knowing that Adams was their oldest son, (from the Brinkenhof revision lists) I guessed that Lauris and Margreete were likely married a few years prior to his birth. I found their marriage in 1834 at Virgas draudze. In another stroke of luck, Virgas kept detailed marriage records. Lauris was the son of Janis, wirt of the farm Kalna Ziverti in Paplaka estate and his wife Lise. Margreete was the daughter of Evalds, son of wirt of Pleiku farm in Purmsati estate (I can find what Margreete’s surname would have been , if I can locate a sibling’s baptism based on the knowledge that they probably lived at Pleiku farm and the parent’s names) and Marija.
So Lauris was married in 1834. My guess at his year of birth is 1811-ish. Based on his year of birth, his father Janis was probably born somewhere within the years 1770 and 1790. Now, to find Janis’ baptism would be especially difficult, since I don’t know his parent’s names ahead of time. I could try to find a Janis born at Kalna Ziverti within that time period, but Janis is just so common of a name, and I don’t know if he purchased Kalna Ziverti or was born there, that I just wouldn’t be able to say for sure if I had the right baptism..
What’s interesting is that I traced these Ziverts back to a farm names Kalna Ziverti. Which name came first? The farm or the family? I have a few theories:
- The family took their name from the farm. Janis was the first to adopt the name, and all of his sons inherited it as well. Perhaps the farm was first named for some German landowner with the name Sieberts/Siewerts, years earlier.
- The family IS the old German Baltic landowner family, originally named Sieberts/Siewerts and they named their farm after themselves.
Given that Janis Ziverts owned Kalna Ziverti BEFORE laws were passed making it easier for peasants to purchase land, I am almost inclined to believe theory number 2. Also, the fact that Janis Ziverts, his son Lauris, and great-grandson Indrikis all were able to purchase land indicate that the family might have had some money. Klavs doesn’t seem to have actually owned a farm, but is listed as “Hofesleute” or “manor-dweller” on his 1883 Brinkenhof Revision list record. But without further research, I won’t count my chickens before they hatch! I must find Indrikis’ baptism. That is priority #1 for the research of the Ziverts line!
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:
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!
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
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.)
Helmut Oberlander was born in Ukraine in 1924 to ethnic German parents. He left Ukraine during WWII and immigrated to Canada in 1954 with his wife Margaret. He lived (and still lives) in my hometown of Kitchener, Ontario, where he ran a successful construction business. He attained Canadian citizenship in 1960.
After forty-six years of living in Canada, the Canadian government, in an initiative to remove suspected war criminals from Canada, began a process of denaturalization and deportation against Mr. Oberlander, who was 71 years old at the time (1995). Over the years, his case was debated, attracting national media attention, and his citizenship being revoked and reinstated (reinstated in 2009).
The reasoning behind this debate? During WWII, Ukraine’s story is not much different from Latvia’s. The Nazi’s pushed the Soviets east through Ukraine in 1941. As they invaded his village, 17-year-old Helmut Oberlander was recognized by a Nazi unit (Einsatzgruppen D, Special Detachment 10a) as someone who could speak both Russian and German, and they forcibly conscripted him to use as an interpreter. This unit just happened to be a particularly well-known mobile death squad, responsible for the mass murders of tens of thousands of Jewish, Sinti and Roma people.
Mr. Oberlander has maintained that his duties within this unit were strictly non-violent (consisting of listening to intercepted Russian radio communications, acting as an interpreter between occupying German forces and the local population, and guarding supplies). However, captured Nazi documents do disclose that he was awarded a second-class service cross in January 1943 for his role in the Einsatzgruppen. Later that same year, his unit was dismantled and absorbed into the German army. When Germany was defeated, Oberlander became a British POW. Presumably he became a displaced person after that, and he reunited with his family in Germany near Stuttgart in 1947. In Stuttgart, he married his wife and worked as an apprentice bricklayer, studying construction engineering.
He and his wife applied to immigrate to Canada in 1953. Part of the immigration approval process was an interview in which many questions were asked, but did not inquire about past military service.
In April 2012, the Simon Wiesenthal Center (a Jewish human rights organization in Los Angeles) named Oberlander as one of their top 10 “Most Wanted” Nazi war criminals. Oberlander wound up on the list after 3 others died of old age, bumping him into the top 10. They hope to deport Mr. Oberlander to Germany where in 2011, a man with a similar story named Ivan Demjanjuk was convicted without any evidence of a specific crime.
I’m no WWII or human rights laws expert, but… the man was a teenager when the Nazi’s pretty much said “do this or die”. They took him from his home, to which he never returned again. In my eyes, he is another kind of victim of the Nazi regime. It was an absolutely terrifying time in our human history. Everyone in Europe did what they had to do to survive the Nazi and Soviet terrors of the WWII era. Jews, Germans, Latvians, Ukrainians, Roma, Catholics, Lutherans. You did what you had to do to survive. If the Soviets or Nazi’s knocked on your door, put a gun in your face and said “You and your family, or the family next door”, not a soul, regardless of colour or creed, would have said “no, please, take us instead”. It’s been 58 years since he came to Canada, and 69 years since his Einsatzgruppen unit was disbanded. Likely, no one is still be alive to be able to testify for or against him in court.
On one hand, I fully agree with the views of the Simon Wiesenthal Center – what happened should never be forgotten, and the masterminds in charge or anyone who willfully committed atrocious acts of genocide should definitely be brought to cold, hard justice but… Where do you draw the line?
Is attempting to have someone convicted of either murder or accessory to murder with absolutely no evidence really justice served? …Really?
Trying to imagine my own family in the position of the Jewish people during WWII is obviously not very hard. The Soviets were the mass murderers of my Latvian ancestors. If there was a man still alive today who was a Russian engineer and he was ordered to drive one of the trains that pulled the cattle cars full of Latvian deportees (my own great-great uncle and family as an example) to their doom in Siberian Gulags… would I really want him persecuted today? Did the engineer really have a choice? What if he had said “no, I won’t drive this train”… Would he have been shot? What would I have done in his shoes?
Would I want this engineer persecuted now, a lifetime later?? …Stalin, yes. His top ministers, generals, advisors? Yes. (although really, if you were Stalin’s top general and he said “I want to kill a bunch of Latvians so we can better control their country, what do you think?” If you said “that’s a terrible idea and I am going to stop you!!” You were probably going to be killed on the spot). So, the engineer… would probably be best left alone, as an elderly man who has seen too much and suffered enough.
What do you think?