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.