Ancestor Story: Arnold Vinakmen

Arnolds Roberts Vinakmens was born March 14, 1911, probably in Tukums, Latvia. He was the second son of Vilis Augusts Wihnstein and Emiija Karline Veisbergs. Arnolds, like the rest of his siblings, went to Russia (Siberia) with his parents and two brothers sometime around 1914, only to return home (with a new sister, Alise) a few years later, during the Russian Revolution.

Arnold’s father Vilis abandoned his family sometime after the birth of his last son Fricis in 1921, and his older sons, Arnolds included, left home to find work. Arnolds worked for the railway in Latvia. He married an ethnic Russian woman, Valentina Ivanova Fedorova (born December 19, 1912) sometime around 1936, and their first and only son, Juri (pronounced “YOU-ree”) was born on December 13, 1937 in Daugavpils, one of Latvia’s largest cities located in southeastern Latgale.

Sometime after Juri’s birth, likely after 1941, Arnolds and Valentina moved to another large Latvian city, Valmiera, (located in northern Vidzeme) where Juri attended elementary school and Arnolds once again worked for the railway.

Arnolds is listed in the book “These Names Accuse”(http://chelli11.wordpress.com/2011/11/05/these-names-accuse/). However, I am going to assume this is not because he was arrested and deported by Soviets, but because during the German occupation of Latvia following the mass deportations of 1941, being that Arnolds lived on the other side of the country as the rest of his family, perhaps his family lost communication with him and considered him “missing” when the Latvian authorities asked people to report those family members who had been deported. His key number of “4” indicates that he was reported as “missing since the last days of Soviet occupation”, his last address known being Daugavpils.

Arnolds and Valentine moved to Riga in the latter half of the 1950’s, where they had a small house and a large garden (my own Opa and Oma Karlis and Berta also kept a large, beautiful garden) on an island in the Daugava River. Their son Juri moved to St. Petersburg, Russia (then called Leningrad) to attend a Military Academy. He would become an officer, stationed in the Far East of Russia, and later in his life he became a successful doctor.

Arnolds and Valentine (Valija) lived at their house in Riga and enjoyed summertime visits from their grandchildren for many years.  As they aged in the early 1990’s, they moved to St. Petersburg to be closer to their son Juri, so he could help care for them. Arnolds passed away in 1993, at the age of 82, and Valentine passed away in 1995, aged 83.

Amazing, Arnolds was the last Vinakmens sibling for me to learn his fate. All five Vinakmens siblings lived until at least the age of 80. Quite an accomplishment, given the circumstances they faced!

http://chelli11.wordpress.com/2011/11/15/where-in-the-world-is-arnolds-vinakmens/

Where in the World is Arnolds Vinakmens?

Arnolds Vinakmens was born in 1911, probably in Tukums. He was the second son of Vilis Augusts Wihnstein and Emilija Karline Veisbergs. I have very little information about Arnolds.

He is listed in “These Names Accuse” as a deportee of June 14, 1941. Registration and group no:  17668/4, last known whereabouts: Daugavpils. The 4 in his case number means he was likely either in the military, or a communications or transport official or employee who was evacuated by force to Russia.

One of my great aunts, Arnolds’ niece, recounted to me that Arnolds had a wife named Valentina. They lived in Russia near St. Petersburg and had two sons, one of which was a violinist and one a painter.  So, if he was deported, he must have stayed there, and he was probably already fluent in Russian, since his family lived in Russia for a few years when he was a child.

Indeed, today there are Vinakmens in St. Petersburg. Whether or not they are descendants of Arnolds I don’t know yet, but I am attempting to find out!

***UPDATE***

After learning how to spell “Vinakmens” in Russian Cyrillic (“Винакмен”), I searched the web. I found a few hits on Facebook.com, of those living in St. Petersburg. Knowing that Vinakmens is not a common surname, and the fact that they lived in St. Petersburg like my great aunt had told me, I decided to send messages. Bingo! I found myself speaking to Arnolds’ grandson, who seems just as interested in family history as I am.

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

Mystery Monday: Akerfelds in Tomsk

Currently I’m emailing back and forth with someone in Russia about old church records from Tomsk. The email address I obtained by posting a query on http://genforum.genealogy.com/. I’m hoping that Jekabs and Ieva Akerfelds baptised their son Martins in Tomsk in 1902, (and possibly even my great-grandfather Janis) leaving behind some records. They were Lutheran in Latvia, but chances are a Lutheran church did not exist in Siberian Tomsk at the time, so I’m banking on at least some form of Protestant church being located there, in a mainly Orthodox country.

Obviously, English being my only fluent language, speaking Russian (a language that even uses a different alphabet all together) is not my forte. I seem to get by with the aid of Google Translate, (as crude as that is). Google Translate seems to be pretty easy to use for Russian, as long as you stay away from using any sort of slang and keep to your point. I am also lucky enough to work with a man who speaks Russian, so every now and then I ask him to get me through any difficult translations. I am to the point where I can look at a word written in Cyrillic and sound it out, but that knowledge of the Cyrillic alphabet is about as far as I get, without a good grasp on the actual Russian language.

This Russian contact of mine is very quick to respond, usually in one business day, although the email comes over night, since Tomsk is pretty much literally on the other side of the world.

Wish me luck that this Russian resource turns up some Akerfelds evidence! Maybe a clue to what exactly they were doing in Siberia!

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

Hunting for Jekabs Grinbergs alias Akerfelds

My mind has once again wandered to Jekabs Akerfelds and his origins (more putting off of combing the Tukums church books!). I was reading about Latvian migrations from the 19

th century until the present and it got me thinking about how Jekabs’ fourth child Martins was born in Tomsk, Russia in 1902. I wonder, if perhaps my Janis was actually born in Nikrace/Brinki in 1898, as his documents say, but maybe baptized in Tomsk as well, which would explain why I can’t find his baptismal record. Were there Lutheran churches in Siberia in the early 1900’s? Were they baptized Orthodox? Do records exist from the Tomsk area at that time?

The 1895 Russian Census took place between 1895 and 1897… did this family somehow slip by the census? It started in central Russia in 1895 and was taken in Latvia in 1897. I know the Akerfelds were in Embute parish as late as 1895, as their daughter Anna is baptized there. Did they move to Russia somewhere between 1895 and 1899?

The way I see it, there are still a few resources I could exhaust before throwing up my hands in the search for Jekabs at this time:
1.       Find out if Tomsk church records, or vital records exist and how I can access them.
2.       See if I can find an online way to search the 1895 Russian census outside of Latvia, and check Tomsk.

Perhaps one of these sources will give me more hints as to where to begin searching for Jekabs…

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!

 

Document: Akerfelds Deportations

Martins, Ernests and Mikelis of Nikrace pagast were all deported to Siberia by the Soviet government for their political beliefs and their involvement with the Aizsargi. There are a collection of books documenting these deportations, “These Names Accuse”, “Political Action in Latvia: NKVD to KGB”, and more. 

Martins was related, but what of Mikelis and Ernests?

 Case Number: 218688/2: Martins, son of Jekabs Akerfelds and Ieva Sedols was born in 1902. He owned Jaunzemji farm in Nikrace. He was accused of being part of the Peasant’s Union government, as well as the commander of the local Aiszargi unit. He was arrested on June 14, 1941 and deported to Vyatlag, Kirov Oblast, Siberia. Here there was a “correctional labor camp” set up for deportees and political prisoners. His wife Anna Zveja and daughter Skaidrite (Rita) Akerfelds (Case Number: 21867/2)  were also arrested on June 14, 1941 and deported to Krasnojarsk, Manas Oblast, Siberia.  Skaidrite was released in Krasnojarsk October 15, 1946. Anna was released Sept 11, 1947. “Released” simply means released. They were not shipped back home. They were basically dropped off in the middle of Siberia to fend for themselves. Note that mother and daughter were also released a year apart. Skaidrite was born in 1937, and would have been 9 years old, separated from her mother and with no idea what happened to her father, or where he was. Martins was not so lucky, and perished in Vyatlag May 17, 1943. 

Mikelis Akerfelds, born in 1897 in Nikrace pagast. After WWII, when Soviet Russia once again had control over Latvia, another wave of Siberian deportations took place. Mikelis was arrested
December 19, 1949, his crime was being a part of the Aizsargi, and a local “policeman” (this is a poor translation courtesy of me).  His fate is not listed. In the 1935 Latvian census, this Mikelis was living with his wife Elizabete and their son Arnolds at Muizaraji farm. Muizaraji was originally owned by Anna Vainovskis, a widow, but by 1941 ownership had passed to Mikelis, who had been living there since November 26, 1921 (likely the date Elizabete and Mikelis were married). Mikelis’ father is not listed, however, prominent Embute parish Akerfelds family Ernests and Annlise already had a son named Mikelis born in 1893. So it is not likely that Ernests was his father. It is entirely possible that my Jekabs was his father, as I have no record of Jekabs and Ieva from 1896-1904. Supposedly my Janis was also born in Nikrace in 1898, but there is no baptismal record for him either. That will remain speculation until I come across further information. What became of Mikelis, and whether or not Elizabete and Arnolds were deported with him I do not know.

Case no. 4046: Finally, Ernests Akerfelds was born in 1905, son of Alberts. He was living at Krogaraji farm in Rudbarzu (north of Nikrace). This is the curveball, since I have not yet found an Alberts Akerfelds born of Jekabs’ generation. He and his wife Anna (daughter of Karlis, born 1903) were arrested March 25, 1949 and deported to Omsk, Siberia. They were released May 21, 1955.