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?

Ship: USS General C.H. Muir

The USS General C. H. Muir was built in 1944 by Kaiser Co. Inc. in Richmond, California and named after U.S. Army General Charles Henry Muir.

She was a transport ship for the US Navy during WWII, then used by the US Coast Guard for a short period, then transferred to the US Army as USAT General C. H. Muir in 1946. On March 1, 1950 she was transferred to the Military Sea Transportation Service (MSTS) as USNS General C. H. Muir (T-AP-142), transporting thousands of refugees of WWII to the Americas and Australia.  In late 1952, she carried reinforcements to the UN troops fighting in Korea. She made another similar voyage before being placed in the National Reserve Fleet in 1955. In 1968, the ship was sold and converted into a container vessel named the SS Chicago. In 1975, the American company that owned her sold her to Puerto Rico where she was renamed the SS San Juan. She operated until 1985 and was later scrapped.

The SS General CH Muir carried Janis Vinakmens, his wife and 3 children to the USA from Bremerhaven on August 14th, 1949. They were bound for Elk Point, South Dakota.

Latvian Surnames: Wihnstihn/Vinsteins/Vinakmens

“Vinakmens” is a fairly uncommon Latvian surname. It is “Vin”, meaning wine, and “akmens” which means stone. Immediately when I began looking for my Vinakmens ancestors, the surname “Weinstein”, holding the same meaning caught my attention. For time being I dismissed the possibility that the surname had evolved into a Latvianized version of Weinstein and continued my other speculations as to why someone would choose the surname Vinakmens during the Latvian naming process.
Interestingly, “wine stone” is also a name for an occurence while making wine. Grapes contain tartaric acid, and during the fermentation process, the sediment from the crushed grapes can harden and turn into “cream of tartar”, which is used in some cooking. So, in some Latvian recipes, “vinakmens” is an ingredient… Yummy!!!
Anyways as I became familiar with the churchbooks on Raduraksti, I was able to locate Vilis Vinakmens’ baptism record (He was Karlis’ father). The record is in old German script, and you will notice he is “Willis August Wihnstihn”. There are two possibilities… either his name legitimately was Weinstein (the h’s replaced the e’s in old German) or this book, since it was written in German, the author germanized Vinakmens, as they germanized “Vilis”. (note: it is important to be able to switch between German and Latvian when searching for names, often things are germanized). It’s hard to read, but Willis is the son of Jahnis Wihnstihn and his wife Trihne.

In his marriage to Emilija, he also is recorded as Wihnstihn. You will notice this record is in Russian cyrillic first, then names are translated into German versions of Latvian names… confusing, I know!
Luckily for me, their first child was born in 1905 and his baptism record was available on Raduraksti. Jahnis Rudolph Wihnstein was named for Emilija’s brother. But notice the pencilled-in text. You can clearly see “Vinakmens” a few times. Sometimes the pastor of a church would go back in his church books and add information about baptised individuals later in their lives, who they married, when confirmed, etc… this happens in French-Canadian Catholic church records as well.

The last clue that helped me make up my mind about the Vinakmens-Weinstein kerfuffle was a few articles in Latvian periodicals, proclaiming Janis and his wife Emma and their surname choice. This excerpt from the Latvian periodical “Valdības Vēstnesis” (“The Messenger of the Government”) published on Saturday, September 12, 1931. Text translates as “Janis and his wife Emma Vinakmens, also Vinsteins, will hereafter be called “Vinakmens””. Important to note the language of the time period again – in 1931 Latvia was free, a proud independant nation. So everything is written in Latvian.

The last questions remains: why did they change their surname from Weinstein? Was it to distance themselves from the father that abandoned them? Was it out of Latvian nationalism? In the late 1930’s, it was popular for army officers with German-style last names to change to more patriotic surnames. Janis might have been early to catch this trend, as this is from 1931.

It seems that at one time, they may have been known and Vinsteins-Vinakmens. There are still to this day Vinsteins-Vinakmens in Latvia. Related? Other Weinsteins turned Vinakmens?

More on changing your surname in the 30’s in Latvia:

Latvian National Library Digital Periodicals:

Ancestor Story: Arvids’ Labor Service

A closer look at Arvids’ IRO Application Form (which was written in pencil and is quite hard to read. tells me he may have been in the 7318 Latvian Labor Service Corps. Unfortunately, I can’t find anything about this particular unit… I think it is a misspelling of 7132.

A snippet from Arvids Akerfelds' IRO Application Form

A snippet from Arvids Akerfelds' IRO Application Form

The writing at the bottom may provide some clue as to why he returned to Germany illegally from Belgium as well… but it is barely legible.

According to one of my listed resources on the Labor Service, the following were Latvian units:
8252 LS Co (Engr Const) LATVIAN Bad Nauheim (Janis Akerfelds)
8717 LS Co (Engr Const) LATVIAN Großauheim
8850 LS Co (Engr Const) LATVIAN Großauheim (Arturs Ziverts)
7132 LS Co (Engr Const) LATVIAN Mannheim (Arvids Akerfelds)
7566 LS Co (Engr Dump Trk) LATVIAN Mannheim (Karlis Vinakmens)
8361 LS Co (Engr Const) LATVIAN Mannheim

Old Photo: Karlis in the Labor Service

The more knowledge I acquire, the more I can discern from every record I’ve found so far. I passed most of my grandmother’s old photos over at first, gleaning no useful hints from them. Silly me!

This picture is of Karlis Vinakmens, c. 1954 in Germany. The uniform he is wearing is typical of the US Army Labour Service Co at the time. You can just barely make out his shoulder badge.

Although it is impossible to discern which of these two the patch is, it was quite likely one of the two pictured above. The unit I know he was a part of, the 7566 LS Co, was indeed a Latvian unit. 

The other insignia that stands out is the triangular one above the flower. It could be one of these, or a variation:

Karlis’ appears to be sideways though. I havent found a sideways triangle pictured anywhere yet!

Will return to this post when more information is upturned :)

Leitnanta Rubeņa Bataljons

Crazily enough, the other day I stumbled across a quote from Karlis in an article by a man named Uldis Neiburgs, a researcher for the Latvian Occupation Museum. This article directly outlines all activity by Karlis’ Resistance Movement unit. Now If only I could translate it well…
The good news here is, there is someone out there researching and documenting these events. Mr. Neiburgs has to have come across documents regarding Karlis, for he has written about him twice. I have emailed Mr. Neiburgs… wish me luck on the response I receive.

 Here’s the quote:

Leitnanta R. Rubeņa bataljons nākamajā dienā uzbruka SS obergrupenfīrera F. Jekelna štābam, izsitot to no nometnes vietas mežsarga mājās “Novadniekos”. Bijušā rubenieša Kārļa Vīnakmens atmiņās varam lasīt:

“Kā lielākais negadījums, kas vien var būt, pāršalc kureliešu rindas vēsts, ka kritis bataljona komandieris. Viesulim līdzīgi cēlās vīri, metās prettriecienā, lai atriebtu šo sāpīgo zaudējumu. Ar rokas granātām un durkļiem tiek SS vīri atsviesti atpakaļ. Vēl mēģina griezties tie pretīm, bet te nu kaulu zāģis dara savu. Nu jau ašāki zib vācu naglotie papēži, un, neizturot straujo prettriecienu, tie savā aizmugurē nonāk pie straujās Abavas. Daudzi aiz bailēm, daudzi no spīvās uguns pļauti sakrīt straumē, un te nu ložu neskartos pieveic Abavas straujie ūdeņi. Un, kas arī mēģina tikt otrā krastā augšā, to graiza ložu šaltis.”

Latvian Occupation Museum:

Old Photo: Karlis’ Aviation Wings

Not being a military buff in the least, I first looked past the hints and tips to Karlis’ military story. Looking harder for clues, I noticed his insignia in the below picture, and set out to learn what these meant.

The top one is an eagle, typically used  in many different countries for Air Force units. My search first upturned a plethora of German Nazi Luftwaffe eagle insignia, the same eagle, but with a swastika in it’s grasp, facing the opposite direction. But Karlis’ eagle doesn’t appear to be holding a swastika. With a little more digging I came across THIS website. So he was part of the Latvian Navy! I guess that explains his uniform! A naval aviator.

The second insignia pictured up there turned up THIS website.

A sniper as well! If this picture truly was taken in 1934, he was only 20 years old. Again, not much of a military buff myself, but these are some fairly exciting puzzle pieces!
Note that his picture was taken at K. Levinson’s photo studio in Liepaja. There was a large naval base at Liepaja.
A LINK to a site devoted to historic Latvian aviation:

Ship: SS Zuiderkruis

The SS Zuiderkruis is the ship that carried Karlis Vinakmens and his family to Canada. Originally named the “SS Cranston Victory”, it was built by the Oregon Shipbuilding Yard in Portland, Oregon, USA and launched on May 5, 1944. It was first used as a troop transport ship, but was soon sold to the Dutch government for use as an immigrant transport ship. The SS Cranston Victory was renamed SS Zuiderkruis by the Dutch. She was out of commission by 1969 and destroyed.