Resource: These Names Accuse

What It Is

There is a book titled “These Names Accuse: Nominal List of Latvians deported to Soviet Russia in 1940-1941″. It was published by the Latvian National Foundation (located in Stockholm, Sweden). The list of names is actually a list of people reported to the authorities in Riga as missing, either by their family members, or friends, or other members of the community.

When the Germans occupied Latvia and took control, organizations such as the Latvian Red Cross and the Latvian Statistical board were established, and tried to compile a list of those murdered by the Soviets and count the human losses. They asked the Latvian public to report those known to have been executed, or deported, or just missing. The first compilation was published in 1942, but reports continued to be received, and supplementary lists were added. As time wore on and the fates of some of those arrested became known, the fate of a person was also added in.

How You Can Use It

In addition to first and last names, the approximate birth date, registration/group number, last known address, and in some cases, the fate of the listed person is included.

The group number indicates under which circumstance the person was deported – the number 2 meant deportation occurred on the night of June 14, 1941. Number 3 meant they were arrested, then removed from prison. Number 4 meant the person had been missing since the collapse of the Russian Empire (this was mostly military personnel) who had been forcibly evacuated to Russia.

Since many of those listed here perished, you are more likely to find information on extended families of ancestors here. In my own experience I discovered brothers and sisters of direct ancestors, however their stories are important too, providing clues and puzzle pieces. Keep in mind that quite likely their arrest and deportation had a formative impact on the family and friends they left behind.

If you’d like to know more about these events: http://www.latvians.com/en/Reading/TheseNamesAccuse/ThNA-00-OurFamilies.php

The full list of names can be found here: http://www.latvietislatvija.com/These_Names_Accuse/These_Names_Accuse.htm

Resource: Family Search Centres

The Church of Latter-Day Saint (LDS church) keeps Family Search centres at their churches. Apparently, they have access to a huge number of genealogical records from around the world on microfilm, including a massive collection of Latvian records. I guess you can order these microfilms to your nearest search centre and access them. I haven’t tried this yet and am not sure when I will have time to do so, but perhaps it is a future path for me to follow.
https://www.familysearch.org/locations

Resource: Nekropole

I stumbled across this “Nekropole” (Necropolis) website today. It seems to be like a Latvian http://www.findagrave.com. 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”

http://www.nekropole.lv/

Resource: Augsburg Stadtarchiv

Another resource I have tapped into recently has been the Augsburg State Archives in Germany. Before I contacted the archives, I already knew that Arvids’ eldest brother Arturs Akerfelds had, during their time in Germany, fallen in love and married a native German girl named Luise Gottle. When the time came for his family to be resettled in the US, he applied for resettlement as well but was denied (likely due to Luise not being a displaced person).
I had always wondered what had happened to Arturs, especially since he was recorded as being an “invalid” after losing his right hand in some kind of accident. But apparently he joined the German workforce in 1951.
I wrote to the Augsburg archives and received Arturs and Luise’s marriage information, Arturs’ death date, and the birthdates and names of their 3 children. For tracking purposes, I was lucky that Arturs remained in Augsburg for the rest of his life, so he was relatively easy to find.
Note that the archives charged me 20.00 EU to send me this information, so be prepared to pay a fee if you ask for records from an archives!

Resource: Raduraksti’s Church Books

Raduraksti LogoThis is a crucial sresource, should you wish to research Latvian genealogy. Hosted by the Latvian State Historical Archives, it contains 3 types of records (so far) with more being added all the time. They are digitized copies of original documents. The documents are church book records, Revision Lists and the 1895 Russian Census.

The church books are birth/baptism, marriage and death/burial (BMD) records from churches all over Latvia. They are organized by religion, then parish. The Lutheran church books have proven quite easy for me to sift through and have yielded some results for me. The records are in German and Russian, depending on the time period. German is close enough to Latvian to understand names, and the Russian text usually has first names and surnames spelled out in German as well. The church books only have records up until 1905, and it is important to note that there are gaps in their coverage, as some books have been lost or destroyed.

Records you find on Raduraksti may be hard to understand for the English-as-an-only-language researcher such as myself, since are in old-German script, Russian Cyrillic, Russian translations of German translations of Latvian names and places, etc. I am still yet to use the Revision lists or Census, simply because I haven’t had the time to hunker down, figure out how to find what I’m looking for, and really go at them just yet. I can pick out my family’s surnames and first names now in Cyrillic, and make some really slow progress with the help of online translators, but the church books are really the only document I’ve gotten into just yet. I will get to the census and revision lists in time!
Here’s an excellent guide to understanding these records by a fellow Latvian genealogy blogger: http://www.celmina.com/genealogy/2011/09/anatomy-of-a-birth-record/

This is the where you can find the priceless resource: http://www.lvva-raduraksti.lv/en.html

Resource: The International Tracing Service (ITS)

The International Tracing Service (ITS) in Bad Arolsen, Germany is intended to serve the victims of Nazi persecution and their families with information regarding their loved ones they may have lost contact with. Their document collection is hugely extensive, containing everything from International Refugee Organization Registration forms, to Displaced Persons cards, to birth certificates and even personal effects of some individuals. I cannot stress enough how huge their collection is.
I first wrote to the ITS in 2009. I wasn’t sure what I might receive, but I knew that my family members had spent time in DP camps as refugees. I figured they might be able to at least tell me which camps they had resided at, thus tracing their journey from Latvia to the Americas. It took a few months but when I finally received a package rom them in the mail, it contained a huge treasure trove of scanned copies of documents straight from 1940’s-1950’s Europe, including some pictures which suddenly brought a very human aspect to the names, places and dates I had been studying. DP Cards, ID Cards, Refugee Organization application forms detailing, in their own words, their plight from Latvia, past residences, personal employment and education histories… So much information. To this day I am still revisiting to these documents and stumbling upon new facts that either I didn’t understand before or ignorantly disregarded as unimportant.
Along the way on my quest for answers, I have spoken to (internet-speak, anyways!) many other Latvian genealogy or history enthusiasts willing to share some conversation with me. One who has helped me the most so far, is a man named George Jaunzemis, aka Peter Thomas. After reading a post of mine on a Latvian forum in late 2008, he responded to me, pointing out my errors in assumptions about my family’s military past. In our multiple emails back and forth since then, he offered suggestions and information regarding my Latvian families and in the process, bit by bit recounted his tale to me which was and the reason he was so interested in Latvian history. After receiving my package from the ITS, I questioned why he hadn’t written to them yet, in his search (which was a little less straight-forward than mine). He wasn’t sure that they would be able to help him with his complicated situation, but he did write to them at that point. He was presented by the ITS with a boatload of questions upfront, instead of just a document package like myself. Since his information did not fit neatly onto the form that the ITS requests you fill out, he wrote a letter explaining his situation to them, and this is what they found:
http://www.its-arolsen.org/en/press/press_releases/index.html?expand=5164&cHash=84941b5a86
http://www.stuff.co.nz/world/europe/5030187/Kiwi-finds-true-identity-66-years-on

Stories like his put the thrill back in genealogy.

The moral of the story? If you are trying to find relatives who were in a displaced persons camp after WWII, contact the ITS!!  http://www.its-arolsen.org/