Ancestor Story: Arvids Akerfelds

1. Early Life

Arvids Martins Akerfelds was born on September 30th, 1927 at “Skrundenieki” farm in Nikrace, the second of fourteen children born to Janis Akerfelds and his wife Anna (nee Ziverts). Skrundenieki was owned by Anna’s brother Arturs Ziverts at this time, and there were nine people residing there: Arvids, his parents, and his older brother named Arturs (presumably for Arturs Ziverts), his uncle and aunt (Arturs Ziverts married Katte [nee Akerfelds], two Akerfelds siblings married two Ziverts siblings), their first child Alberts, and finally both his widowed paternal and maternal grandmothers, Jule Ziverts (nee Dzerve) and Ieva Akerfelds (nee Sedols).

Arvids Martins Akerfelds, c. 1940 in Latvia

Between the first and second World Wars, Latvia underwent some drastic political and social changes, including writing a new Constitution, establishing a Parliament (called the Saeima) and electing Latvia’s first president, Janis Cakste. A new influential political party was also formed, called the Latvian Farmer’s Union, headed by Karlis Ulmanis which helped pass reforms to divide State property which had once been owned by German landowners and make it available to Latvian peasants who could now own the land they lived and worked on. This boosted agriculture greatly in Latvia, which in turn helped boost the economy even through the worldwide Great Depression in the 1930’s. The number of farms increased significantly. Latvia began producing electronics, cars and even airplanes.

The Ziverts and Akerfelds families grew rapidly in this peaceful time. A census was taken in 1935, at which time the number of residents at Skrundenieki had grown to 20, all Akerfelds or Ziverts, except for one Arons Tevlovs, listed as a cattle buyer and seller. Perhaps he was a migrant worker of some kind. Arvids would have worked on the farm as a child, like everyone else living there, and he attended the equivalent of elementary school at the Nikrace pamatskola from 1936 to 1943 (ages 9-16) with his many brothers and sisters and cousins. Another census was taken in 1941, showing 24 residents (Tevlovs was gone).

2. “Displaced Person”

By mid 1939 however, the situation in Latvia had severely bleakened. On October 5, 1939, Latvia was forced to sign a “mutual assistance” pact with the Soviet Union, which gave the Soviets permission to station 25,000 troops on Latvian territory. On June 16, 1940, The Russians accused the Latvians of violating the terms of their pact. The very next day, the Soviet army took control and occupied Latvia. A rigged election was staged, and a puppet government was put into place. On August 5th, 1940 Latvia was officially annexed by the USSR. Arvids would have seen at least one of his uncle’s entire family deported by Soviet officials who had taken over the government to Siberian gulags (forced labor camps), mostly for being supportive of the Farmer’s Union political party. These families would not return.

With WWII in full-scale, the Germans invaded and occupied Latvia between 1941 and 1944. Compared to the terrors of the Soviet regime, the Germans would have appeared to be the lesser of the two evils to some Latvians. German military forces managed to push the Russian forces back east, and retained control of western Kurzeme in Latvia until mid 1944. Being occupied by Nazi German military forces was actually good news for the Akerfelds/Ziverts, as luck would have it, this allowed them to escape from Latvia before the horrific Soviet regime took control once again.

In early October of 1944, Arvids and the rest of the growing Skrundenieki clan were forced to leave their home and flee west, as the Soviet army made it’s way through Latvia from the east. Both Anna and Katte were pregnant, 7 and 9 months respectively. The clan stopped for a few days in the large, German-occupied port town of Liepaja, where Katte gave birth to the seventh Ziverts child. On October 23, 1944, the German military forcibly evacuated the group to Gotenhafen, a major German-controlled port town that is now known as Gdansk, Poland. Here they were put in a camp for foreign workers, but only for days before being transferred to a gathering camp at Kelsterbach, Germany. Another few days later, in November 1944, the Akerfelds family went to Echzell, Germany, where the men were employed at a sawmill owned by Hermann Mogk III. They were separated from the Ziverts for a while at this time. Here Anna had the twelfth Akerfelds child, and here they stayed until they were liberated by the US Army in July of 1945.

In September of 1945, WWII was officially ended, and in October the UNRRA (United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration) took on full responsibility for all those who had been displaced by the war. “Displaced Persons” camps were set up all over Europe to house these people until they could be repatriated. At this time, Arvids’ father was employed by the US Army as labourers in Wiesbaden, Germany, presumably helping to rebuild damaged infrastructure in the area. Arvids himself was employed as a labourer by the Wiesbaden DP Camp. The family next found themselves in Bidingen in February of 1946 and Dieburg in May. In October of 1946, Arvids was employed as a lumberjack by the DP Camp in Darmstadt. Here he stayed with his family, his father employed by the US Army once again as a bricklayer until 1947.

3. Belgian Coal Miner

The UNRRA tried to repatriate all displaced persons, but many would not (or could not, depending on your viewpoint) return to their country of origin. Many Latvians, in particular, did not wish to return toLatvia because it was still under Soviet control. Most other countries were reluctant to accept huge numbers of refugees, but on January 23, 1947 the Belgian Government, the US military authorities and the Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees established a framework for the resettlement in Belgium of displaced persons currently in the American zone in Germany and guarantee them employment in the Belgian coalmines. Arvids took this opportunity, whether by choice or force I am not sure. He left his family in the DP Camp in Germany and went to Waterschei, (now called Genk) Belgium. The story is that he met his future father-in-law here, but I can’t find proof of this yet, as Karlis Vinakmens was living in Chapelle-lez-Herlaimont and worked in different mines.

He worked in the coal mines until August of 1949 when (for reasons yet unknown to me), he illegally returned to Germany and wound up in the Hanau transit camp. Why he returned to Germany is speculation, but his parents and youngest ten siblings had been cleared for resettlement in the USA in May 1949, and it’s possible he returned to try to go with them, or at least see them off. At Hanau, there was a vocational training centre for displaced persons, but I am unsure if he received any training. He was at Hanau until at least January of 1950. His parents and all siblings, save for his elder brother Arturs, left Germany from the port of Bremerhaven, aboard the SS General Harry Taylor on August 19th, 1950, bound for Berthoud, Colorado. Whether he was able to see them beforehand or not, I do not know.

Arvids Martins Akerfelds, taken from a document recorded upon his return to Germany in 1949

4. Labor Service Days

Arvids was in Germany for the second time from 1950-1957 working for the US Army Labor Service Co.  He was a part of the 7132 LSC, stationed first at Mannheim-Kafertal, Germany, then Ettlingen,Germany at the Rheinland Kaserne. This was a transport unit, and it was tied in closely with the 7566 LSC. More on the 7566 and 7132 LSC here: http://chelli11.wordpress.com/2011/11/03/ancestor-story-karlis-vinakmens/

Apparently Arvids’ job with the Labour Service Co at this time involved driving important figures to sports games, meetings, and other events. One of the items in my grandmother’s possession at the time of her death was his German “Furherschein”  like a driver’s license, and a document titled “Reiseausweis” which seems to be some sort of passport, supporting this story. My grandmother also had a lot of photos of Arvids in his Labor Service days. A gallery is here: http://chelli11.wordpress.com/2011/10/14/old-photos-labor-service/

Arvids Martins Akerfelds, from his German "Fuhrerschein"

Near the end of his Labor Service days, Arvids was living in close quarters to Karlis Vinakmens, his wife Berta and their 3 daughters. The story is that Karlis Vinakmens asked some sort of refugee authority for some money to purchase a farm, or a large manor house to be used as housing for the LSC men and their families. A large mansion was purchased and split into apartments. While living in such accommodations, Arvids and Karlis’ oldest daughter Rasma fell in love. Sometimes, Arvids would climb out of his apartment’s window to climb onto a balcony that led to Rasma’s window, and they would meet this way.

5. Canada

When the Vinakmens left for resettlement in Canada in 1956, Arvids, who originally had hoped to join his family in Colorado, decided to try and switch his VISA application to Canada instead, to follow Rasma. This took time and he was not able to leave for Canada until the end of January 1957.  In the meantime, during their separation, he and Rasma became engaged inter-continentally, via the mail. Arvids sent Rasma a silver-toned ring with his initials, “A.A.” engraved on it, and he wore one with her initials “R.V.”.

What is really interesting about Arvids’ trip to Canada is that he did not travel on a boat, as was par for course for displaced persons at the time, but on a plane. The money for his ticket was loaned to his future father-in-law Karlis Vinakmens by a Latvian-Canadian man in Kitchener, a family friend named “Kurmis”, which Arvids eventually paid back once he was employed in Canada. http://chelli11.wordpress.com/2011/09/12/lockheed-super-constellation-dalid/

Arvids married Rasma Vinakmens on August 10, 1957, seven months after being reunited with her in Canada. (http://chelli11.wordpress.com/2011/10/11/wedding-wednesday-arvids-martins-akerfelds-and-rasma-lilija-vinakmens/).The pair welcomed their first of three daughters, Irida one year later.

Arvids worked for a company called GenLabor based out of Waterloo, Ontario at first. I believe he was involved with construction for the duration of his stay in Canada, and he was a foreman for MWM construction company at the time of his death in 1982. While on the job, he perished after choking on a piece of celery from his soup he had brought for lunch. The circumstances of his death are sort of shady, it was not just the celery that killed him, he also had an enlarged heart and a few other contributing factors that ultimately led to his death at age 54. Arvids died on April 16, 1982, leaving behind his widow Rasma, and three daughters, ages 23, 15 and 13.

Arvids Martins Akerfelds, c. September 1957 in Kitchener, Ontario

http://chelli11.wordpress.com/2011/11/01/tombstone-tuesday-arvids-and-rasma-akerfelds/

Ancestor Story: Emilija Karoline Veisbergs

Emilija Karoline Veisbergs was born October 25, 1885, the second child of Mikelis Veisbergs and his wife Lina Brugis. She was baptized at Rezekne Lutheran church, in eastern Latgale. Her baptismal record lists her family’s residence as Taunaga estate, and her older brother Janis Rudolfs was born at Gribuli estate just 2 years earlier. Both estates were in modern Struzani pagast (“Struschan” in German). Her godparents were Karhl Swihkel, Karline Sch…., and Karline Brugis.

Emilija Veisbergs’ baptismal record from Rezekne Lutheran church

For ten years after Emilija’s birth, the Veisbergs family is a bit of a mystery to me. They must have left Rezekne at some point and travelled westward, ending up in Tukums around 1896. Mikelis and Line had at least two more children that I have found so far: Julius Roberts, born  in August 1896 at Slokenbekas, and Berta Ida, born in February 1900, both baptised at Tukums Lutheran church. Emilija must have met Vilis Wihnstein whilst living in Tukums, and the next record I have of her is her marriage to him in 1904.

Emilija and Vilis’ marriage record from Tukums Lutheran church

I won’t re-iterate the story of Vilis and Emilija’s children again, but long story short, they had 5 children between 1905 and 1921, before Vilis abandoned the family, leaving Emilija for another woman. Note that there is some pencilled-in writing around their record, perhaps this gives some details as to why the marriage ended, but I cannot make out many words well enough to translate…

The last I have record of Emilija is her listing in the 1941 Latvian census,  living with Alise and Fricis in an apartment in Tukums (more on their census record: http://chelli11.wordpress.com/2011/09/30/the-1941-census-of-latvia/). During WWII, when her sons (Janis, Arnolds, Karlis and Fricis) all left Latvia, I believe Emilija and her daughter Alise stayed behind in Latvia. Alise went on to marry a man with the surname of Erdmanis, and lived in an old farmhouse in the countryside near Saldus with their two sons. It is possible that Emilija lived with Alise and her husband until her death. I did not ever hear my great-grandfather speak of his mother Emilija, but from my great-aunt I have learned that she died just before WWII ended, a civilian casualty of bombing in the area…

Roadblock: Ozols-Ozolins

From Karlis Vinakmens’ wife Berta Helene Ozols-Ozolins’ DP Card, I know that her parents were Fricis Ozolins and Matilde Ozols, who were 20 years apart in age (Fricis the elder) and that she was born in Talsi. Since she was born in 1914, however, the church books on Raduraksti are useless for finding any other information about her parents. I know she had 3 sisters (Milda, Velta, Lilija) and 2 brothers. Being that Berta was somewhere in the middle of the birth order of 6 children (definitely not the oldest or youngest), her parents were likely married somewhere between 1905 and 1910… I also don’t know if her birthplace refers to the town of Talsi, or the surrounding district. 

The information I need is a needle in a haystack, especially considering Ozols and Ozolins are extremely common last names (you might as well be searching for Smith and Jones). To find Fricis and Matilde, I could blindly browse the Talsi baptismal records… But since Berta was born in 1914 and was not the eldest child, you could assume her mother was at least aged 18 at the time of her marriage/birth of her first child, and therefore was born somewhere between 1894 and 1884. By adding 20 years to compensate for the age gap between her mother and father, Fricis Ozolins was born between 1874 and 1864.

But even if I thought I had found a record about them, how would I know I had the right Fricis or Matilde Ozols/Ozolins? Were they even Lutheran? Because not only does Talsi have huge Lutheran church books, but there were other religions there as well. Raduraksti’s Russian census also will not help, since I don’t know if the family was together as a unit in 1897 when they took information.
This one’s a toughie!

Clues:

-Fricis was 20 years Matilde’s elder, born betwen 1864 and 1874

-Matilde must have been born between 1894 and 1884

-Fricis was deceased by the time his daughter Berta was married, in 1936

 

http://chelli11.wordpress.com/2011/10/04/document-talsi-church-books-1900-1905/

http://chelli11.wordpress.com/2011/10/06/document-fricis-ozolins/

http://chelli11.wordpress.com/2011/10/03/place-of-interest-talsi/

Wordless Wednesday: US Army Labor Service Daughters?

Germany, c 1951. Rasma Vinakmens and 2 friends, the year her father joined the US Army Labor Service Co.

Rasma Vinakmens and the same 2 friends, Germany c. 1955

These two girls beside my grandmother are sisters Olga and Reina Petrausken, displaced persons from Lithuania.

Document: Janis Sedols

I’ve been hitting the documents on Raduraksti hard lately, compiling a database and attempting to connect the dots between baptisms, marriages, deaths and revision lists. I’ve been ignoring posting a little bit I suppose. I’ve been gaining a knowledge of the revision lists and am beginning to understand them better – which is a huge help, because they really do contain a lot of information.

Just to recap – the revision lists were basically lists of inhabitants of estates for tax purposes, almost like a census (the first of which for Latvia came later, in 1897). Usually on an estate, there were anywhere from 5ish to 40+farms, which would be numbered. The inhabitants of each farm were recorded in 1857/1858, 1850, 1835, 1816 and 1811. Not all years have survived for all estates, but the 1857/1858 (10th revision) seems pretty constant between all the estates that I am dealing with, so this is the one I will refer to most for now.

Here’s a revision list that pertains to my great-great-great grandfather Janis Sedols. Janis is the father of Ieva Sedols. According to his marriage record to Madde Strohmann, he was born at “Strebuki” farm, near Kalvene. Without further ado…

Kalna privātmuiža(Berghof) Revision List for Janis Sedols

 

I’ll do my best to transcribe: “hinzugekommen” means “added”, so these people listed above were coming to Berghof (Kalnamuiza) from other estates.

“Wo nach der ordnung der revision list vom jahre 1858 gegenwartig hinzugekommen” = “Where, according to the arrangement of the revision-list from years 1858 presently added” Basically, what farm within the estate are these people now living at.

Tauf, Vater, und Familien-Namen” = “Baptismal, Father’s and Family Name”.

“Von wo hinzugekommen”  the literal translation is “added by where” but I believe it should be “added from where”

The small 4 columns on the right pertain to age.

Alright, so my Janis is at the top of this list. In 1865, he began living at Kalna farm, which in the 1857/1858 revision was designated farm #10. His family number is 13 – families were also given designated numbers in the 1858/1857 revision – there were no Sedols living at Kalnamuiza estate then, but the family number of 13 was given to the “Jansons” family. Whether or not this means Janis was related to the Jansons (there were a ton of Jansons in the area) I have not decided yet. His baptismal and family name are included, but unfortunately they omitted his father’s name (which I believe to be Kristaps anyway, from his marriage record). He came from Kazdangas estate, north and west of Kalnamuiza and is aged 22 years.

His marriage record to Madde Strohmann is found in the Valtaiki Lutheran parish book in the same year – 1865, and their first child, my great-great grandmother Ieva (as well as her brother Janis in 1871) was born in 1869 at Kalnamuiza estate, Jaunzemji farm.

Ideally I would be able to go to the Kazdangas estate revision lists now with this knowledge, and look for Janis, but the books are mostly missing from this estate. Knowing that he was 22 in 1865 mens that I can go back through the Valtaiki Lutheran church books and search for his baptism in 1843ish, but I am not entirely sure I will find it, or if Strebuki/Kalvene inhabitants attended Valtaiki, or if it was a different church.

Wish me luck!