Document: Skrundenieki’s Land File – Sneak Peek

I was able to get a glimpse of the highlights of Skrundenieki’s official land record from the Latvian State Historical Archives.

I know this is repetition, but laws passed in the 1860’s allowing people to purchase farms, rather than having all land owned by German nobility. Skrundenieki was first purchased in 1882 by a “Perkons” family, and was probably sold by Alexander von Simolins – Wettberg. I know of Alexander already, since he baptised a daughter at Embute while living at Lieldzelda in 1842. Going along with the Lieldzelda connection – a “Kristaps Akkerfeld” is mentioned in this sale, possibly as a witness to the exchange of money.

In 1895, Skrundenieki was sold for 5019 roubles to the Ziverts family, from Perkons. This is the same year I suspect my great, great grandfather Indriks Ziverts married his wife Jule Dzerve (she would have been 18). The very next year in April 1896, Indriks and Jule baptised their first son Klavs Jeannot at Skrundenieki, and named Klavs Jeannot Ziverts, “wirt” or “landowner” as his godfather. I long suspected this Klavs was my Indriks’ father. Now there is more evidence in this land file. When Indriks, son of Klavs passed away, ownership of Skrundenieki passed to my great, great uncle Arturs Ziverts, in 1930. So it is likely Indriks died in 1929 or 1930.

The good news is: I have already done my research on this Klavs, suspecting he could be my great, great, great grandfather: He was born in Paplakas estate December 12, 1941. His father, Lauris and mother Margreete moved to “Mucenieki” farm in Brinkenhof estate in 1858. The same year, 17 year old Klavs left for “Dizdroga” estate. From Dizdroga he went to Nodega. In 1881, 40 year old Klavs married 19 year old Lina Grinbergs. They welcomed a daughter in 1882 while at Nodega estate. July 16, 1883 they moved back to Brinkenhof, “Vanagi” farm. And I suppose after that, to Skrundenieki!

The bad news: Indriks must be from an unknown first marriage of Klavs, maybe at Dizdroga estate, maybe Nodega, maybe even an unknown place. No revision lists exist for these two. Nodega residents are usually recorded at Embute church, but there is no sign of Klavs there. Indriks could have been born anywhere. My next step is scan the Durbe churchbooks for such a marriage, or Indriks baptism, and hope that Klavs didn’t move around too much more than I know!

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/

Document: Brinkenhof Revision List

Up until recently I had ignored the revision lists (Dvēseļu revīzijas) offered on Raduraksti. Curious about the ownership and history of Skrundenieki farm, I decided to take a stab at  deciphering this unfamiliar resource. These lists are recordings of peasants arriving at and departing from different estates, if they moved. If your particular family did not move around a lot, as I am unsure my Ziverts (Skrundenieki’s owners) did, chances are they will not be found in this resource.

The revision lists are organized by estate, not draudze, pagast, aprinki, novad, rajon…etc. These terms can be a little confusing if you are not very familiar with the geography of our ancestor’s homeland (as was the case for me the first time I tried the use the revision lists). I am now very familiar with the area surrounding Skrundenieki, and know that prior to 1925ish, it was part of what used to be Brinkenhof estate, also known as “Gross Altdorf” in German (Embutes/Amboten lutheran draudze, Brinki/Nikrace/Brinkenhof/Nikrazzen pagast, Aizputes/Hasenpoth aprinki, Vainodes/Wainoden novad, Liepajas rajon, Kurzeme… I know, confusing right?). So I leafed through the Brinkenhof revision list, really just scanning for the Ziverts name in relation to Skrundenieki.

Within a few pages, something caught my eye. An entry for a “Klavs Laure Siewert”. Since I’d already gone through the area’s church books with a fine-toothed comb, I am already familiar with this Klavs Siewert. He married Lina Grinbergs in 1881 at Embute lutheran church, and they had a daughter named Mathilde Emilie Wilhelmine Siewert in 1882 at Nodaggen estate (I have yet to figure out what that name is in modern Latvian). Also notable from the church books: living at Nodaggen simultaneously at that time as well was an Ernest Siewert, his wife Marija and their son Karlis.

But back to the revision list. In 1883, Klavs, Lina and their daughter Matilde left Nodaggen and moved to Brinkenhof estate. The lists divide men on one side (left), and women on the other (right). Here is their recording:

(click to enlarge) Brinkenhof Revision List from 1883

I can’t make out the large block of text beside Klav’s entry, but most of it looks to be talking about how he came to Gross Altdorf in 1883 and left from Nodaggen estate. He was born December 12, 1841 (and as fate would have it, 1842 is where the Embute church books end..). he was 42 at the time of the move…. and if you notice, it lists his wife Lina as only 21 years of age (and daughter Matilde 1 year old). With such an age gap, was Lina Klav’s second wife?

What really attracted me to Klav’s record is that my own ancestors – Indriks Ziverts and Jule Dzerve – named their first born son Klavs Jeannot, and one of his godparents is listed as Klavs Jeannot, who is listed as the owner of the farm they lived on (Skrundenieki). Some of the text beside this inscription in the younger Klavs’ baptism either points to the fact that the older Klavs, the same one listed in the revision list above, is either the father of Indriks Ziverts, or his uncle. I can’t tell which, because Indriks and Jule named their second son Peteris Ziverts, and one of his godparents is Peteris Ziverts, with the same inscription. Both uncles? When did these Siewerts come to Brinkenhof estate? There are no other Siewerts in Brinkenhof’s revision list history.

Also, I discovered that Skrundenieki is much older than I had suspected, existing at least as early as 1811 under the same name.

More to come, as I learn to decipher these records…

How can you use the revision lists to learn about your family? Check out this article on how to use them at Celmina.com

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!

Document: The 1941 Census of Latvia

In 1935 and 1941, Latvia took a census. The one conducted in 1941 yields much useful vital information about persons listed. It is important to note that it was conducted after the Soviet mass deportations of June that year.

This is the 1941 census listing of Emilija Veisbergs, and her youngest children Alise and Fricis. They were living at 11 Talsu iela, Tukums. I honestly can’t remember where I got this document (frustrating, I know!) Again… WRITE EVERYTHING DOWN, INCLUDING WHERE YOU GOT DOCUMENTS FROM! Woops… Anyways, I will transcribe below…

(click to enlarge) inhabitants of Talsu iela 11, Tukums (1941)

Family # 7

Name: Vinakmens, Fricis/Gender: male/Born: May 19, 1921 in Tukums/Ethnicity: Latvian/Religion: Evangelical Lutheran/Occupation: “galdnieka māceklis”(His IRO application years later states that he was a mechanic at this time, but the translation of this text is “tablemaker’s apprentice”, “pie Jelnieka” might be referring to the name of the master tablemaker he worked for)/When moved to residence: March 1, 1940

Name: Vinakmens, Alise/Gender: female/Born: November 29, 1916 in Russia/Ethnicity: Latvian/Religion: Evangelical Lutheran/Occupation: “Apkalpotāja “Vecā aptiekā” (A clerk at the “Old Pharmacy”{likely a business or store name})/When moved to residence: March 1, 1940

Name: Vinakmens, Emilija/Gender: female/Born: 1885 in Rezekne/Ethnicity: Latvian/Religion: Evangelical Lutheran/Occupation:”majsaimniciba” (housekeeper)/When moved to residence: March 1, 1940

I have gotten a peek at 1941 census records for the Akerfelds/Ziverts clan as well, but they were sent to me already transcribed by someone who had visited the archives in Latvia for me:

 

Census 1941

Aizputes aprinki Nikrace town / pagasts
Address Nikrace pag.
House name Skundunieku majas
Owner Ziverts Arturs
Apartments 5
Nr of residents 24
1. Ziverts, Arturs/Born: 1901.XI.15 Nikrace pag/Occupation: Farmer/In residence from: 1901.XI.15
2 Ziverts, Katte/Born: 1904.XII.13 Nikraces pag/Occupation: Farmer/In residence from: 1924.IV.23
3. Ziverts, Alberts/Born: 1926.V.7 Nikraces pag/Occupation: school student/In residence from: 1926.V.7
4 Ziverts, Voldemārs/Born: 1927.X.28 Nikraces pag/Occupation: school student /In residence from: 1927.X.28
5 Ziverts, Irma/Born: 1931.III.21 Nikraces pag/Occupation: school student /In residence from: 1931.III.21
6 Ziverts, Velta /Born: 1933.VII.17 Nikraces pag/In residence from: 1933.VII.17
7 Ziverts, Skaidrite/Born: 1934.XI.17 Nikraces pag/In residence from: 1934.XI.17
8 Ziverts, Karlis/Born: 1940.III.2 Nikraces pag/In residence from: 1940.III.2
9 Ziverts, Jule/Born: 1877.XII.29 Purmsati pag/In residence from: 1895.VI.18
10 Ziverts, Ida /Born:1919.III.13 Nikraces pag/Occupation: worker /In residence from: 1919.II.13
11 Ziverts, Olga /Born: 1915.VIII.10 Nikraces pag/Occupation: worker/In residence from: 1919.II.13
12 Blažgis, Ieva/Born: 1869.I.30 Sieksates pag/In residence from: 1924.IV.23
13 Akerfelds, Janis/Born: 1898.IX.23 Nikraces pag/Occupation: Farm worker/In residence from: 1922.IV.23
14 Akerfelds, Anna/Born: 1906.XII.14 Nikraces pag Occupation: Farmer/In reisdence from: 1906.XII.14
15 Akerfelds, Arturs /Born: 1925.VIII.20 Nikraces pag /Occupation: school student/In residence from: 1925.VIII.20
16 Akerfelds, Arvids/Born: 1927.IX.30 Nikraces pag/Occupation: school student/In reisdence from: 1927.IX.30
17 Akerfelds, Elvina/Born: 1929.IV.12 Nikraces pag/Occupation: school student/In residence from: 1929.IV.12
18 Akerfelds, Arijs/Born: 1930.IX.30 Nikraces pag/ Occupation: school student /In residence from: 1930.IX/30
19 Akerfelds, Ludmila/Born: 1932.III.20 Nikraces pag/In reisdence from: 1932.III.20
20 Akerfelds, Alfons/Born: 1933.VI.28 Nikraces pag/In residence from: 1933.VI.28
21 Akerfelds, Alberts/Born: 1935.III.7 Nikraces pag/In residence from: 1935.III.7
22 Akerfelds, Arnolds/Born: 1936.XII.31 Nikrace pag/In residence from: 1936.XII.31
23 Akerfelds, Skaidritie/Born: 1939.I.7 Nikraces pag/In residence from: 1939.I.7
24 Akerfelds, Aivars/Born: 1940.IV.11 Nikraces pag/ In reisdence from: 1940.IV.11

I wonder if that Family Search Centre I mentioned before can give me access to these censuses in more detail…. hmm…

*Special thanks to Antra Celmins for deciphering the Latvian in the Vinakmens census!*