Place of Interest: Elkuzeme/Elkesem Estate

While I haven’t been able track down a baptismal record for my great-great grandfather Indriks Ziverts, I have scoured the rest of the Embute church records and noted some other Ziverts/Sivert/Sihwert families. Andrejs and Anna Sivert were having children around 1850 at Amboten estate. Fricis and Anna Sihwert around 1900 at Backhusen. Otis and Lise Sihwert around 1875 at Dinsdorf, Karlis and Katrine Sihwert around 1873 at Dinsdorf. Heinrich and Betty Sivert around 1882 at Dsirgen. Klavs and Line Sivert at Brinkenhof around 1885.

The farther back I look though, earlier than 1850, it seems like some the Sivert families of Embute draudze lived at an estate called Elkesem, southwest of Amboten estate, just south of Asitten estate. Elkesem (modern Elkuzeme) is a little interesting, because as an estate it is comprised of only some 15 or so farms, when the average for an estate was around 35. Something about the name Elkesem also intrigues me – it is “Elks” or “idol” and “zeme” – “land”. Land of idols.

The area was severely damaged during WWII, at one time there was a train station there, on a track leading from a Lithuanian city (Mazeikiai) to Liepaja. Now there is a spring located there, called the Elkuzeme Eye spring.

While I cannot attribute my Ziverts ancestors to the Sivert families of Elkesem/Elkuzeme for sure until I find Indriks’ baptismal record, it is still a place worthy of noting!

The red A marker shows where Elkesem estate was. In comparison, you can see Embute, where the Lutheran church was, Dinsdurbe, which is old Dinsdorf estate, Bakuze, which is old Backhusen estate, and Nikrace, old Brinkenhof estate. Note in the southwest, Purmsati and Gramzdas estates. Purmsati is where Indriks

Place of Interest: Slokenbeka Manor

Slokenbekas manor, c. early 1900's

Slokenbekas manor, present-day

Šlokenbekas (Latvian), Schlokenbeck (German), Шлокенбекъ (Russian)

Slokenbeka is Latvia’s sole remaining fortified manor house. Originally belonging to the Livonian Order, the manor/castle was first mentioned in documents from the mid 1500’s. It is located on the eastern side of Tukums, in the village of Milzkalne, in Engures novads, and draws it’s name from the small stream that runs near it called Slokas. Today, the manor exists as a historical tourist attraction and part museum, housing old farming artifacts and displaying examples of fortified defensive walls and gatehouses.

The earliest known residents were a German noble family named von Buttlar, and it passed through several other noble families – Schenking, Putthammer, Brueggens, Grothuss, Medems and Blumerings, through the ages. Matthias Dietrich Rheinhold von der Recke, a successful maker of liquor and spirits, purchased the manor and his family owned it from 1848 to 1920. During World War 1, the German army had a military hospital established at the manor, and after the war ended ownership of the manor passed to the forestry ministry of Tukums. A restoration project began to take place around 1977, to help turn it into what it is today.

Both Vinakmens and Veisbergs families are listed in baptismal records as living in Slokenbeka at different points of Matthias von der Recke’s ownership of the manor. Whether this refers to living on the actual manor grounds or on the manor’s surrounding estate property is up for debate – likely it refers to farms on the estate property surrounding the fortified manor, but who knows? Either way, the manor would have been a close, familiar landmark to the Vinakmens/Veisbergs families.

While browsing the Tukums church records I noticed Mikelis Veisbergs and his wife Line Brugis must have moved to Tukums from Rezekne sometime after the birth of their daughter Emilija Karline Veisbergs (my great-great grandmother) in 1885. Their son Julius Robert’s baptismal record in 1896 states Slokenbek as his family’s residence. A baptismal record of a daughter of Fricis and Anna Veisbergs also exists in the same year at Slokenbeka. Perhaps Fricis and Mikelis Veisbergs were brothers, who migrated to the Tukums area together.

Janis Rudolfs Wihnstein, son of Vilis and Emilija was born at Slokenbeka in 1905. How long the family stayed there is unknown to me, perhaps their next two sons Arnolds and Karlis were also born there, in 1911 and 1913. It would make sense, since the family’s fleeing to Russia at the beginning of World War 1 would coincide with the German military hospital being set up at Slokenbeka – perhaps it was the advance of the German army that pushed Vilis and his family east to Russia.

(click to enlarge) Janis Rudolfs Vinakmens’ baptismal record – Slokenbekas is mentioned as the family’s residence, on the far right
Here’s a link to a very good site about Slokenbeka’s history, complete with many modern-day photographs: http://www.ambermarks.com/_Pieminekli/GarieApraksti/TukumaRaj/SmardesPag/ESlokenbekas_vid_pils.htm
 
Beautiful historical photographs of Slokenbekas on Zudusi Latvija: http://www.zudusilatvija.lv/objects/object/8519/ 
 

Places of Interest: Allied-Occupied Germany

Allied occupied Germany, c 1947. The black square outlines the portion shown in the map below.

(click to enlarge) Places of interest within Allied-Occupied Germany. From the North, going southward: Marburg, Fulda, Giessen, Butzbach, Echzell, Friedberg, Budingen, Hanau, Wiesbaden, Frankfurt, Darmstadt-Dieburg, Bensheim-Auerbach, Mannheim, Ettlingen. Gaggenau-Bad Rotenfels, Augsburg.

In the period immediately following Germany’s surrender in WWII, German territory was split into zones occupied by different Allied powers for administrative purposes. British, French, Soviet and American zones were established. All of my Latvian ancestors fell into the American zone, located in the German states of Hessen, Bavaria, the northern part of Baden-Württemberg, and the ports of Bremen and Bremerhaven.

Germany remained occupied like this from 1945-1949, but Allied powers kept military bases in many German cities for many years, during the Cold War period especially. The American Army still has forces stationed in Germany today (as they do around Europe). The US army’s headquarters in Germany were located in Frankfurt am Main, a city which was the site of a large airport (the one that Arvids Akerfelds flew out of in 1957).

Two such American military bases that are of interest to my Latvian ancestors were located in Mannheim-Käfertal and Ettlingen. Karlis Vinakmens, in the 7566 LSCo, and Arvids Akerfelds, in the 7132 LSCo, were stationed at both. The bases were called “Kasernen”. “Kaserne” is the German word for “barracks” (a “barracks” refers to a permanent housing for military troops, being either a complex of housing units, or one large building).

The military accommodations in Mannheim were large, and known as “The Benjamin Franklin Village” and consisted of several different barracks: Taylor Barracks, Sullivan Barracks, Funari Barracks, Spinelli Barracks, Coleman Barracks, and Turley Barracks. These buildings, along with an American high school and middle school located in Mannheim have been in use since 1947 and are still in use today, scheduled to be vacated by 2014.

In Ettlingen, the Rheinland Kaserne was home to American troops and support from 1950-1995, and prior to this was home of many displaced persons from the end of the war up until its use as a military facility. It is a large grouping of buildings. The facility is still standing today, it’s historical buildings have been turned into housing units, a high school, private offices, a research laboratory, a movie theatre and sports centre, pubs, and a park and children’s playground.

Much information is easily found on these kasernes with a quick Google search, but very little of the information pertains to the Latvian Labor Service. I am still very underwhelmed at the amount of information available about what the Labor Service men were all about.

Place of Interest: Tomsk, Siberia

 

Tomsk (English), Томск (Russian)

Tomsk is the largest city in Tomsk Oblast, Russia. It is named for the river on which it is situated, the Tom. Officially founded in 1604, it is one of the oldest cities in Siberia.

Tomsk Oblast within Russia

Gold was discovered in Tomsk in (he 1830’s and mining operations soon set up camp, which helped bolster the economy and growth. However, the Trans-Siberian Railway bypassed Tomsk in favor of Novosibirsk to the south, and with it went the development boom in the area.

The Trans-Siberian Railway route

When the Akerfelds family was here around the year 1900, Tomsk was a growing city, with two new universities (Tomsk State University, the oldest in Siberia, founded in 1887 and Tomsk Polytechnic University, the oldest technical university in Siberia, founded in 1900).

Old wooden houses in Tomsk

Place of Interest: Rezekne

Rezekne (Latvian), Rositten (German), Резекне (Russian)

Rezekne (pronounced ray-SHEK-knee) is currently Latvia’s 7th largest city and is situated on the Eastern side of the Latgale province. Founded by the ancient Baltic Latgallian tribe, the term Rezekne was first used as a name for the area in 1285 when a stone castle was built here as a defensive building by the Livonian Order.

Because of its close proximity to the Russian border and Latgale’s Russian influence, Rezekne has always been fairly more russified than the places I’ve talked about up until this point in Kurzeme. Orthodox Catholic is the dominant religion in the area today, but in the past, Judaism was a contender for the top spot. Up until WWII, the population of Rezekne was around 13,000, with 2/3 being Jewish. After WWII, the population was 5,000, with nearly all Jewish people being executed or removed, and many more people having been deported to Siberian gulags.

After WWII, Rezekne was rebuilt with an industrial emphasis. This, coupled with Latvia’s occupation by the USSR, brought many ethnic Russians to the area for work. Even today, the population of Rezekne is about half Russian.

Rezekne Castle Ruins
Rezekne

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:

Blog: Nigrande to Priekule

http://walkacrosslatvia2008.blogspot.com/2008/08/day-22-past-nigrande-to-priekule.html

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.