Ancestor Story: Fricis Vinakmens, Part 1

Fricis Vinakmens was born on May 19, 1921 in Tukums. He was (likely) the fifth and final child of Vilis Augusts Vinakmens/Weinstein and Emilija Karline Veisbergs. At the time of his birth, Fricis already had 16-, 10- and 8-year old brothers, and a 5-year-old sister. His parents had just come back to Latvia from Russia in the wake of the Russian Revolution. It is not clear when, but soon after his birth (or even conception), Vilis abandoned Emilija and their children.

Fricis grew up in Tukums during Latvia’s inter-war independence. His older brothers eventually joined the Latvian army and moved away from home. Fricis himself lived with his mother and sister up until 1942. His mother was a housekeeper, his sister was a clerk in a pharmacy, and Fricis was a mechanic at a private workshop owned by a man named Erdmans (his sister Alise later married an Erdmans… the same man?). When the Soviets invaded Latvia for the first time, they took over Fricis’ mechanic’s shop and declared it a Soviet government-owned business. When the Nazis took over, the shop passed hands to them.

It should be noted that much propaganda was used at this time to try and recruit men to the various German army units. A Latvian Waffen SS unit was formed. To some Latvians, after the horrors of what the Soviets had done to their family and friends, joining the Nazi army was just one way to fight back at the Soviets. Latvians also fought on the Soviet side, and also in the Kureliesi fighting against both sides. It is easy to see that the lines were quite blurred, and Latvians would fight in whatever way they could to stay alive. As the war progressed, the Nazis began suffering serious losses and the propaganda did not recruit enough men to voluntarily join their ranks, so they turned to forced conscription to recruit men into their forces to replace lost numbers.

The Todt organization was a Nazi paramilitary group, named for founder Fritz Todt. This organization in it’s early stages is actually responsible for the construction of the Autobahn highway, and the fortified Westwall along Germany’s western borders. It had been started in the early 1930′s as a large-scale construction and engineering organization. Of course, they required labourers, and in the beginning ethnic Germans worked for Todt. As the Nazi’s grew in power, the Todt’s projects became more and more militarily-focused. During the war, once the Nazi’s began suffering regular defeats, all their German man-power was diverted to military units. Forced labourers, conscripts, and prisoners-of-war from Nazi-occupied countries began to be used as Todt Organization workers. Even Jewish concentration camp prisoners were forced to join the paramilitary group. It is estimated that by 1944, over 1.4 million European men were part of this organization.

In September of 1942, Fricis was recruited by the Todt Organization. As an occupant of a Nazi-occupied foreign country, he was likely forcibly conscripted as a foreign labourer (fremdarbeiter). He was put in the “Schutzkommando” unit as a guard for other prisoners-of-war. They sent him to Riga for a brief training, then to the Russian Front near Leningrad.

More on the Todt Organization (1942-1945 under Albert Speer pertains to Fricis): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organisation_Todt

Wedding Wednesday: Arvids Martins Akerfelds and Rasma Lilija Vinakmens

Arvids Martins Akerfelds and Rasma Lilija Vinakmens were married August 10, 1957 at St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada.

In this picture, besides immediate family members: Zigurds Melderis, Ansis and Mudite Berzins, Janis and Eleonore Zommers, family friend Peteris Skrastins and Alfons Preiss.

The decals and license plates on the closer car says Racine, Wisconsin – this must have belonged to Rasma’s Vinakmens cousins from Racine! (Nice ride!)

Tombstone Tuesday: Karlis and Berta Vinakmens

This is the headstone of Karlis and Berta Vinakmens, in Parkview Cemetery, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. My opa Karlis lived to be 88 years old, and oma Berta was 91 when she passed.
You can see the oak leaves Karlis was so fond of carving on the left top corner, and a rose on top of oak leaves on the top right (perhaps for Berta’s love of flowers and gardening?).
The cross with the sunburst in the middle of the headstone is the symbol of the New Apostolic church, which Karlis and Berta converted to whilst here in Ontario.
The words “Vieglas Smiltas” literally translate to “Light Sands” which my mother tells me has a “ashes to ashes, dust to dust” type meaning.

Document: Latvian House Registers

 

House registers were kept in Latvia in later years as cities grew and so did their need for administration. When a person moved, they would notify the authorities who would record:

- New street address
- When occupant began residing there
- Surname, name, marital status, maiden name, as well as any children under the age of 16 in their care(typically children would be listed with their mothers)
- Date and place of birth
- Employment
- Former place of residence
- Passport information
- When authorities notified of move
- When occupant departed place of residence
- When struck off list by police (aka, authorities notified of move?)

These records are kept by the Latvian State Historical Archives in Riga. They’re the kind of record that you need to physically go to Latvia and visit the archives for (unfortunately for me). However, I have been lucky enough to have a fellow Latvian history researcher/enthusiast volunteer to help me by finding two house registers for both Karlis Vinakmens and his wife Berta Ozolins and sending me transcriptions. Rather than posting his transcriptions, I’ll tell you what new information I was able to assume based on the transcriptions I was sent.

Karlis and Berta were probably married around December 11, 1936. Berta’s passport information says that this is the date she was issued a new passport (likely due to a name change to Vinakmens).

It seems that they first lived at Rigas iela 16, then moved to Kaleju iela 5, apt#4 on April 6, 1938, then Balozu iela 3, apt#8 on May 5, 1939 (all are in Tukums). These 3 addresses are all very close, in the same section of Tukums, not far from Karlis’ work. Note the close proximity to the train station as well, where Berta is said to have worked prior to her marriage.

Interestingly, their daughter Rasma is listed on her father’s house register for Balozu iela, rather than her mothers, which is not unheard of, but also isn’t common. She doesn’t appear on either house register for Kaleju iela, which is also sort of odd, since she was born in 1937.

Karlis’ current Pase at the time was issued to him on January 24, 1929. He would have been 16 years old. Perhaps this is the age when one would have been issued an official piece of ID?

On his Balozu iela register, it notes that Karlis was in the town of Rezekne (his mother’s hometown) from March 3, 1941 to July 15, 1941. Because this is written on his Balozu iela register, perhaps it can be assumed that the family lived here until at least July 1941. They did not leave Latvia until December of 1944, so it’s always possible more house registers do exist for Karlis and Berta.

Karlis’ profession on both register s is craftsman/carpenter. From his IRO application we know that he worked at a carpenter’s shop on Elizabetes iela in Tukums from at least 1938 onward.

It seems it is safe to assume he left the Latvian Navy around the time he married Berta, or at least when he became a father.

(click to enlarge) A map of the centre of Tukums town. Red dots mark the 3 addresses of Karlis and Berta on Rigas, Balozu and Kaleju ielas; one dot for Karlis' carpenter's shop on Elizabetes iela; and one red dot for the address of Karlis' mother Emilija, who resided in 1941 with Karlis's youngest two siblings on Talsu iela. The Tukums train station is marked out already, the railway shown as a black line, just south and east of the Rigas iela address on Dzelceja iela.

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!*

Document: Tukums Church Books 1906-1909 Search Results

So a good search through the Tukums Lutheran church books from 1906-1909 turned up no new, solid information on any brothers or sisters of Karlis Vinakmens.

But, it did present a few other interesting facts:
1. There are “Siwerts” in the area
2. There are other Wihnstein families in the area (this I knew already, but I am now piecing them together)
3. Greete and Willis Wihnstihn are the godparents of another Wihnstihn child(Greete is the name of my Willis’ sister) while this certainly isn’t proof of a relation between this other Wihnstihn family and my Wihnstihn family, it does lend some weight to the idea (are you good friends with anyone else who shares your last name but isn’t related?? …me either!)
4. As for the concept of “Vinakmens” over “Weinstein” I now have evidence of this name’s variations earlier than before. I found a baptism from 1908 with the spelling “Wihnakmens”. This is also interesting because up until now I had never heard “Wihnakmens” – always “Vinsteins”, with the beginning part of the name Latvianized rather than the latter half.
5. Ans Rudolfs Wihnakmens is the son of Willis and Kattrine. I have not yet found any other Willis Wihnstihn in the area aside from my great, great-grandfather, who has not been painted as the greatest husband or father so far. Is this the same Willis? Ans is listed as a legitimate child. Did he leave Emilija and come back to her later? Emilija’s middle name is Karline… Could the church book have confused Karline and Kattrine? Not likely but…

(click to enlarge) Ans Rudolph Wihnakmens Baptism

Document: Tukums Church Books 1905-1909

Raduraksti now has the Lutheran church books from 1906-1909 available. This is great news, because as far as I know, Vilis Wihnstihn and Emilija Veisbergs were married in 1904, had their first child in 1905, and then a second child in 1911. Six years is a considerable gap between children, and I’ve always suspected that perhaps there were more children who maybe died, or I just never even know of.

I can’t wait to dig in and see if I can find any more brothers or sisters for Karlis Vinakmens, and more clues to his parent’s stories.

Vinakmens Puzzle Pieces

I have come across other Vinakmens, as well as Akerfelds, in my searching. Most of them who live in Latvia today go by Vinsteins-Vinakmens though, like my Janis Vinakmens did for a time before he changed his name. I’ve spoken with some of them, and in our broken Latvian-English communications what they’ve told me of their family trees does not match well with my own family tree. 

My theory here is: There were multiple unrelated Weinstein families, who over the years became known and Vinsteins-Vinakmens, for the same reason as my ancestors – just to have a more Latvian surname.

Whoever their ancestor was, they did not change their name to just plain Vinakmens like Janis did. Perhaps there was one, single Weinstein man at one point in Latvia, from whom all Vinakmens are related, but I doubt it.  I don’t believe we are all related.

There are still however, related Vinakmens out there that I do not know of yet. So far as I can discern, Janis Wihnstihn and his wife Trine only had two children: Vilis Wihnstihn and “Greete Pauline Wihnstihn” (not sure what the Latvian translation of this German name would be – Greta Paulina Vinakmens?). Greete would not have passed her surname on to her children though.

Then only one who would have passed on the Vinakmens surname that is related is the one Vinakmens son of Vilis, who is unaccounted for in my research, Arnolds. The last record of I have of him is in “These Names Accuse”. His last known residence is in Daugavpils, in eastern Latvia. His case number in this list though is “4” which means to the government, he was missing. Does this mean he avoided deportation? My great aunts spoke of Arnolds, and said his wife’s name was either Valentine or Viktorija, and that they lived in Russia. They had two sons, a painter and a violinist in Russia. These two sons would have inherited the Vinakmens surname. Would they have changed it back to Weinstein in Russia?