52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Week 10: Emilija Karline Veisberga

Click HERE for last week’s ancestor.

Emilija Karline Veisbergs was born October 25, 1885 to Mikelis Veisbergs and his wife Lina Brugis of Taunaga farm in Struzani pagast, just north of the eastern city of Rezekne in the Latgale province of Latvia. At the time, it was a part of the Russian Empire. Emilija was baptized at the Lutheran church in Rezekne in November just a few days after her birth, and her godparents were Karlis and his wife Karline Zvikelis and Karline Brugis. Her parents were married in 1882 at Rezekne church, and she had one older brother named Janis Rudolfs Veisbergs, born in 1883 at Gribuli farm in Struzani pagast – her parents were not particularly bound to any farm. This is of note, because after Emilija’s baptism, the family disappears from Rezekne church records. Where and why they went is a mystery to me that I am still working on, but for the next 5 years following Emilija’s birth they are nowhere to be found (yet). Then they pop up out of nowhere in Dobele parish in 1890 and 1891 to baptize two children while living at Dobe and Rumbenhof. Then they disappear another 5 years, only to pop up and baptize two more children at Tukums Lutheran church while living at Slokenbekas estate.

I don’t have a clue why they were moving so much, certainly it had something to do with Emilija’s father Mikelis and work, but it seems that Emilija spent her childhood and teens travelling around, not staying in one place. She must have settled in for a bit after her parents went to Slokenbekas though, because in November 1904 she married Vilis Augusts Vinakmens at Tukums Lutheran church. Emilija gave birth to their first son, named after her older brother Janis Rudolfs in 1905 at Slokenbekas. Her next two children were baptized at Kandava parish, northwest of Tukums in 1911 and 1913 (the latter being my great grandfather Karlis).

Then World War One broke out, and Emilija, like tens of thousands of other residents of Kurzeme, packed up and left their lives behind, seeking refuge from the German advancements into the Russian Empire that was their home, and moved with her husband and three sons to somewhere in modern Siberia (I’d wager a guess at somewhere along the Trans-Siberian Railway). Vilis found work at a meat packing factory and the family subsisted, although definitely in hardship as refugees. A fourth child was born in 1916 – Emilija’s only daughter named Alise. Shortly after her birth, the Russian Bolshevik Revolution gained steam, and the communist Bolsheviks seized power in Russia. Strikes, civilian unrest and communism closed the doors at Vilis’ meat packing factory, leaving the family without income. Luckily, World War One soon ended and Emilija, Vilis and their four children were able to move back to Tukums sometime between 1918 and 1921.

The end of World War One was an interesting time for Latvia – the area as a country gained independence for first time in modern history as part of the treaty of Brest-Litovsk (well, long story short anyways). Latvia experienced a time of great national awakening, strong nationalistic pride. People who had once been peasants belonging to German landowners in the Russian Empire were suddenly proud, free Latvians and the economy boomed. Emilija gave birth to her fifth and last child, Fricis in Tukums in 1921. Sometime after Fricis’ conception, Vilis left Emilija for a younger woman. After all they’d been through, he turned his back on her and their children. This must have been tough, with five children ranging from age 16 to newborn. Her eldest son enlisted with the army and worked in a communications unit in Riga, surely sending money to help Emilija and his siblings. Her next son got a job with the railroad and lived mostly in Valmiera and Daugavpils. Her third son also enlisted with the army, this time in the navy, his unit stationed at Liepaja. Emilija lived in Tukums with her two youngest, unmarried children. Daughter Alise worked at a pharmacy and son Fricis became a mechanic.

Emilija, Alise and Fricis moved into 11 Talsu iela in Tukums on March 1, 1940. Emilija was working as a housekeeper, likely nearby. The last bit of evidence I have about her life is the 1941 census of Latvia. After that, World War Two ravaged Latvia, many awful things happened. Latvia’s short term independence was lost to waves of occupation by both Soviet and Nazi governments. Emilija must have been incredibly worried about her older children, scattered around Latvia, as their involvement with the military and railroad would make them stand out to Soviet and Nazi occupiers as potential “Enemies of the state”. She must have lost communication with her son Arnolds in Daugavpils after the mass Soviet deportations of 1941, since his name is found in a book called These Names Accuse – a list compiled by the Latvian government of those reported missing and likely deported after the deportations. Youngest son Fricis was forcibly conscripted by the German Todt Organization in 1942 and sent off to the Eastern front in Russia. Near the end of the war, Tukums became the site of particularily awful and violent fighting and bombing as the Germans began to lose and the Russians pushed the eastern front back westward. I’ve been told that Emilija became one of the civilian casualties, meaning that very likely she passed away in 1944, around age 59.

Emilija had a relatively short and tough life. The good news is that in the face of all that hardship, all five of her children lived into their eighties, Alise was at least in her nineties when she passed away – if she is not alive still today! (I have no further news about Alise but she was living the last I heard). Emilija’s descendants are scattered around the USA, Canada, Latvia and Russia today.

Veisbergs Migration

My great great grandmother Emilija Karoline Veisbergs was born in 1885 in Rezekne, the second child of Mikelis Veisbergs and Line Brugis, who  lived in nearby Struzani estate at the time. Mikelis and Line were married in 1882 in Rezekne. What is noteworthy is this family migrated WEST after Emilija’s birth, at a time when most Latvians were migrating EAST to avoid conflict during the Russian Empire’s 1905 revolution. Emilija married Vilis Vinakmens in 1904 in Tukums, halfway westward across the country.

I had given up hope in finding any more information about Mikelis and Line, seeing as they “disappeared” from the records after Emilija’s birth, when I stumbled across them at Slokenbekas estate near Tukums, where I was looking for my Vinakmens relatives. In 1896 and 1900, they baptized two children at Tukums Lutheran church while living at Slokenbekas. That left an 11 year gap between Emilija’s birth and the next child. Again I did not expect to have my questions answered about their whereabouts during that time. And again! I stumbled across two children baptized by MIkelis and Line Veisbergs, at Dobele parish in 1890 and 1891.

So, they were married in 1882. First child in 1884 at Rezekne. Emilija in 1885 at Rezekne. I next found children in 1890 and 1891 at Dobele. And then two more at Tukums in 1896 and 1900.

The Brugis surname can be found in a few parishes in Latgale and Vidzeme. But the Germanic background of the name Veisbergs suggests perhaps Mikelis originated in Kurzeme and had migrated east to Rezekne for a short period, to return later.

New clues!

Ancestor Story: Emilija Karoline Veisbergs

Emilija Karoline Veisbergs was born October 25, 1885, the second child of Mikelis Veisbergs and his wife Lina Brugis. She was baptized at Rezekne Lutheran church, in eastern Latgale. Her baptismal record lists her family’s residence as Taunaga estate, and her older brother Janis Rudolfs was born at Gribuli estate just 2 years earlier. Both estates were in modern Struzani pagast (“Struschan” in German). Her godparents were Karhl Swihkel, Karline Sch…., and Karline Brugis.

Emilija Veisbergs’ baptismal record from Rezekne Lutheran church

For ten years after Emilija’s birth, the Veisbergs family is a bit of a mystery to me. They must have left Rezekne at some point and travelled westward, ending up in Tukums around 1896. Mikelis and Line had at least two more children that I have found so far: Julius Roberts, born  in August 1896 at Slokenbekas, and Berta Ida, born in February 1900, both baptised at Tukums Lutheran church. Emilija must have met Vilis Wihnstein whilst living in Tukums, and the next record I have of her is her marriage to him in 1904.

Emilija and Vilis’ marriage record from Tukums Lutheran church

I won’t re-iterate the story of Vilis and Emilija’s children again, but long story short, they had 5 children between 1905 and 1921, before Vilis abandoned the family, leaving Emilija for another woman. Note that there is some pencilled-in writing around their record, perhaps this gives some details as to why the marriage ended, but I cannot make out many words well enough to translate…

The last I have record of Emilija is her listing in the 1941 Latvian census,  living with Alise and Fricis in an apartment in Tukums (more on their census record: http://chelli11.wordpress.com/2011/09/30/the-1941-census-of-latvia/). During WWII, when her sons (Janis, Arnolds, Karlis and Fricis) all left Latvia, I believe Emilija and her daughter Alise stayed behind in Latvia. Alise went on to marry a man with the surname of Erdmanis, and lived in an old farmhouse in the countryside near Saldus with their two sons. It is possible that Emilija lived with Alise and her husband until her death. I did not ever hear my great-grandfather speak of his mother Emilija, but from my great-aunt I have learned that she died just before WWII ended, a civilian casualty of bombing in the area…

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/ 
 

Roadblock: Mikelis Veisbergs and Line Brugis

Mikelis Veisbergs (Weissberg) and Line Brugis (Brugge) were married in 1883 at Rezekne Lutheran church. Since they were married in December 1882, it could be assumed that at that time they were in their early 20’s, so they were probably born around 1860-1865.  

Unfortunately for me, there are no Lutheran church records for Rezekne past 1870. Whether or not this is due to the church books being destroyed or damaged, there not being Lutheran church in the predominantly Orthodox city of Rezekne at the time (I don’t know if there was or not), I don’t know. Perhaps there is some smaller parish church that they attended prior to Rezekne’s Holy Trinity Evangelical Lutheran church being built.

Veisbergs is latvianized from German “Weissberg” – White hills or mountains. I have scanned all available Rezekne Lutheran church books and not found another Weissberg. Brugis however, are plentiful, suggesting that they were probably well-established in Rezekne and had been there for multiple generations. Perhaps some of the Brugis clan may have belonged to a different church, and a clue could be found there. Until I know where to look, this couple is a roadblock!

Marriage record of Mikelis Veisbergs and Line Brugis, 1882 Rezekne Lutheran church (No. 15)

(click to enlarge) Marriage record of Mikelis Veisbergs and Line Brugis, 1882 Rezekne Lutheran church (No. 15)

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