Ancestor Story: Arturs Ziverts, Part 1

Arturs Ziverts was born November 15, 1901 at 6 in the evening, at Skrundenieki farm on Brinkenhof estate. He was the fourth child of Indriks Ziverts, a farmer, and his wife Jule Dzerve. He was baptised December 2, 1901 at Embute Parish Lutheran church. I haven’t figured out who it lists his godparents as yet…

(click to enlarge) Arturs Ziverts' baptismal Record

Arturs had many siblings, I know of 8 siblings thus far, born between 1896 and 1919 (Klaus, Fricis, Peteris, Arturs, Lucija, Anna, Olga, Ida). There is a 10 year gap in my knowledge of these siblings between 1905 and 1915 where Raduraksti’s churchbooks stop, so it is likely that there are even more. The 2 youngest siblings of Arturs, Olga and Ida born in 1915 and 1919, I know of from the 1935 census, as they were young enough to still be living at home at the time.

Arturs married Katte Akerfelds around 1925 (Possibly April 23, 1924, as this is the date she is recorded as living at Skrundenieki since). Around that same time, his little sister Anna married Katte’s brother Janis, who also began living at Skrundenieki, bringing his mother Ieva Sedols with him (It’s quite possible these 2 couples were married on the same day – the census of 1941 reads that Janis had been living at Skrundenieki since April 23, 1922, but it is hard to read, and Janis and Anna’s first son was not born until August of 1925, so I wonder if it actually reads “1924”).

In the interwar period (between WWI and WWII; 1918-1940), during Latvia’s independence, many reforms to the governmental and social systems were made, including a reform that allowed ownership of land to pass to the people, the peasants who worked on it, rather than greedy German land barons. It is probable that Skrundenieki came into Arturs’ father Indriks’ possession during this time, around the early 1920’s (Although as a side note, it is possible that with a surname like Ziverts in a fairly Germanized area with Siebert families around, Skrundenieki was in Indriks’ possession before the land reforms.. TBD). Indriks must have died somewhere between 1919, when his last child was born, and 1935 when the census was taken, because ownership of Skrundenieki had passed to Arturs by 1935. Why Arturs and not one of his 3 older brothers? I am not sure, and I don’t know where the brothers ended up either, although Arturs does say that some brothers had been deported to Siberia in an IRO document later on.

Arturs and Katte had 8 children - three boys and five girls, the eldest was a son born in October of 1927. Three of their children, born in 1933, 1942 and 1944, were born in Liepaja. The latter was born during their flight from Latvia with the retreating German army, but the two in 1933 and 1942 require some special consideration. I can’t really figure out why Arturs and Katte would have left their farm for a brief period to go to Liepaja twice. They returned to Skrundenieki shortly after the births, both times. So what were they doing in Liepaja for a year or two? I am not quite sure yet!

Roadblock: Ziverts

Well, a thorough search of Embute’s German congregation baptismal records turned up no baptism for my Indriks Ziverts. I guess this leaves me with two possibilities: 1. He was born elsewhere, or 2. He was born between 1852 and 1871. Probably the latter, although since his wife was born in late, late 1877 I was banking on him being less than 6 or 7 years older than her.

The search did make a few more Siebert/Siewert/Sihwert/Ziverts connections though, as it turned up some other Siewerts families in the area. The most interesting is Klaus Sihwerts and his wife Lina Grinbergs (Grinbergs, of all things {alias Akerfelds??}) of Brinkenhof, who were married in 1881 and had at least 3 children baptised in Embute between 1882 and 1888. This is interesting because Indriks and Jule’s first son is named Klaus, and one of his godparents is Klaus Ziverts. Could he be a brother of Indriks? Here is a snippet from Indriks’ son Klaus’ baptism record, listing his godparents, Klaus Schano (sp?) Ziverts, and Karlis Jekabsons… I can’t quite make out the words in between, although it seems that Klaus is recorded as evangelical lutheran.

    Ù

Those Places Thursday: Embute Castle

http://www.geneabloggers.com
Embute Castle was built sometime in the 1200′s by the bishop of Kurland as a residence. Embute as a location had been occupied by Couronians for centuries and was a strong centre for resistance against the German Christian Crusaders (who ultimately prevailed). Over the centuries the Castle had been occupied by many German land barons, and Embute became a cultural centre for the area it is situated in, with it’s Lutheran church and fortified castle.
The castle was destroyed during the Great Northern War (1700-1721) but rebuilt as a manor a few decades later. It survived as a manor until 1920 when it burned down. The last owners of the manor were Hans von Hahn, and later his widow, who returned to Germany after the manor burned. The rumour mill spun word that she had burned the manor down in an effort to avoid it’s nationalization by the Latvian government during it’s land ownership reforms of 1920-1930 (ownership of land and buildings was given to the peasants who lived and worked on it.)
This is what is left of the castle/manor today:

Place of Interest: Embute Lutheran Parish

There are a few books, even on Google (e-books) that detail the Baltic German nobility and their estates and manors in Kurland. They are written in old German for the most part, but can be understood.

“Das curländische Privatrecht, wissenschaftlich dargestellt” By Friedrich Georg Bunge is just one such book. According to which, Ambothen Kirchspiel (Embute Parish) in 1617 consisted ofthese estates/manors/farms (which I will attempt to identify in contemporary Latvian names):

Abelnieki Abelneeken
Alšu Allschof
Nīkrace Klein Nikrazzen
Asīte Assieten
Bakūze Backhusen
Bāta Bathen
Brinki Gross Altdorf
Dāma Gross Dahmen
Dēsele Deseln
Dinzdurbe Diensdorff
Dzelzgale Dselsgaln
Elkuzeme Alt-Elkesem
Elkuzeme Elkesem
Embūte Amboten
Galķinte Galkitten
Grieze Groesen
  Bergbathen
Krōna Krohnen
  Lathen
Lieldzelda Gross Dselden
Mazdāma Klein Dahmen
Mazdzelda Klein Dselden
Meldzere Meldsern
Mugurkaula Muggerkaul
Nīgrande Nigranden
Nīkrace Gross Niekratzen
Nodegi Nodaggen
Pikuļi Pikeln
Priekule Preekuln
Sepene Seppen
Tukummuiza Tuckumshof
Vaiņode Wainoden
Vartāja Wartagen
Vībiņi Wibingen
Vormsāte Gross Wormsahten
Ventinieki Gross Windaushof
Ventinieki Klein Windaushof
  Aswinden
  Gulben
  Schmaisen
  Rauden
Plepju Pleppen
Dziras Dsirgen

Timeline: Indriks Ziverts

**update: I have decided that this is not the birth record of Indriks Ziverts. The surname looks to me more like “Strasds” or something to the like. There’s more of this surname in Embute. The rest of the info about Indriks here is accurate, but I do believe the search for his baptismal record is back on**

Indriks Straute

 

To me, it looks like this record has some Russian cyrillic letters mixed in with the German, but Indriks, as well as everyone else listed on the page has a “someone Von Lundberg” named in their baptism. A landowner/baron? The pastor? Sounds pretty German to me, so that would be my best guess. Along with Von Lundberg, I can make out Lize Berzins, and Indriks and Bille Jankowski (sp?) Jankowski is a guess, but there are other Jankowskis in the area. These 3 are godparents I assume? Not very helpful just yet but they may be good clues later.

Indriks married Jule Dzerve around 1895. From then on, they resided at Skrundenieki (according to the 1941 census).

Their first child, Klavs Schanis (sp?) was born one day in April 1896 at 11pm, at Skrundenieki. (I haven’t made out the exact day yet). He was baptised at Embute. His parents are both listed as Lutheran, and his godparents are Klavs Schanis Ziverts and Karlis Jekabsons.

Their second child Peteris was born November 28, 1897 at 10 am. He was baptised December 26, 1897 at Embute and his godparents were Peteris Ziverts, Karlis Jekabsons and Lawise Dzerve.

Their third child Fricis was born June 9, 1900 at 5am. He was baptised June 24, 1900 at Embute.

Their fourth child Arturs was born November 2, 1901 at 7pm. He was baptisted December 2, 1901 at Embute.

Their fifth child Lucija was born in Agugust of 1904 at 6pm (havent made out the day yet). She was baptised that October at Embute.

There were more children, the youngest, Ida was born in 1919 I believe. Again their birth information does not yield much useful information yet, but the godparents may be helpful later when I know more.

Combing through the Embute church books from 1852 back seems to be my only lead. I may finally have to take a crack at the revision lists on Raduraksti too. It does look positive that I may be able to find the next generation here. All I need to do is find the time to go through the records!

Timeline: Jekabs Grinbergs, alias Akerfelds

Jekabs Grinbergs alias Akerfelds was born around 1870, judging from his death record in 1904 at age 34. He married Ieva Sedols on November 14, 1892 at Embute Lutheran church.

Their first child Ernests was born April 1st, 1893 at 2 in the morning at Muizaraji farm in Lieldzelda (a little north of present-day Nikrace). He was baptised April 17th at Embute. Jekabs is listed as a worker, and both he and Ieva are recorded as Lutheran. His godparents are listed as Ernests Akerfelds (Hakenfeld) and his wife Annlise (was Ernests Jekabs’ brother?)

Their second child, Anna was born September 2nd, 1894 at 5 in the morning, also at Muizaraji farm. Her godparents are listed as Janis Sedols, worker and Katrine Sedols, servant. (Siblings of Ieva?)

Their third child is my ancestor Janis. He was born September 30th, 1898 in Nikrace pagast, according to his DP card. This has to be incorrect, as Nikrace did not exist at the time of his birth, rather it would have been Lieldzelda or Brinki. I cannot find his baptism record anywhere.

Their fourth child Martins was born in 1902 in Tomsk, Siberia. What were they doing in Siberia? Tomsk is a city, but also a region. This is the Martins that would eventually be deported back to Siberia.

Jekabs died back in Latvia in July 1904, leaving behind his four young children and a pregnant Ieva. His cause of death is listed as either lung or kidney disease.

 
 
 

Their fifth and final child Katte, was born November of 1904 at Cepli farm in Lieldzelda, a few months after her fathers passing.

It would be great to find some kind of clue to look for Jekabs’ baptismal record, or what farm/estate he was on prior to living at Muizaraji with Ieva. Anything really, to help point to his father. Likely, his father was a Grinbergs, and decided to call himself and his sons Akerfelds to help differentiate from the multiple other unrelated Grinbergs families. We will see, I guess!

 

Places of Interest: Skrundenieki

Farmsteads in Latvia were given names, much like some farms you might find in the Canadian countryside today (Green Acres, Mapleview Farms, etc). The names were chosen in a similar way as well. They were named after nearby surroundings, people, type of farming, etc.

“Skrundenieki” was a farmstead in modern-day Nikrace pagast, olden-time Brinkenhof/Gross Altdorf estate located in the Aizpute district of the province of Kurzeme. The name means “people from Skrunda”, Skrunda being the largest nearby city. (Possibly a clue that the original owners were from Skrunda? I have yet to prove.) It was listed as “vecsaimnieciba” or old, established farm on the census form of 1935, and was spring-fed. The farm existed since at least the early 1800′s and probably even earlier.

My great-great grandfather Indriks Ziverts owned Skrundenieki at one point. The earliest I can prove his residence there is 1894. The baptism of his first child has he and his family recorded as residing there. During Latvia’s independence in the 1920′s, laws were passed that allowed Latvian peasants to purchase property much more easily, and it is perfectly possible that this is when Indriks would have become the owner of Skrundenieki.

Prior to 1925, Nikrace as a pagast did not exist, and the area was known as Brinki, from the nearby Brinkenhof manor/estate. (Side note: the old building that was Brinkenhof manor is currently for sale)

The residents of Nikrace attended Embute parish Lutheran church, (now in ruins) and the children would have attended Nikrace pamatskola (elementary school). At least 3 generations of my Latvian ancestors lived at Skrundenieki. My great-grandfather, Arturs Zīverts inherited the farm after his father Indriks passed, and most of his children were born there as he was. In October of 1944, as WWII ripped through Latvia, Arturs and family were forced to abandon Skrundenieki in order to flee for safety.

Nikrace pagast was subsequently savaged by the Soviets, and they constructed a nuclear missile silo and bunker there. (Pictures of the Soviet structures)

It should be noted that place names in Latvia typically have a German counterpart, or “exonym”. Depending on the time period of a document you may come across, you might find the German version, or a Russian Cyrillic translation of the German name.