About chelli11

Researching my Latvian, French-Canadian, Italian and Ukrainian ancestry.

Grenci Estate, 1700’s

I traced my Veisbergs line back to an estate called Grenci (Grendsen). Mikelis Veisbergs, my 3x great grandfather (father of Emilija) was born in October of 1861 at Sprungi farm on Grendsen estate. He was baptized at Zemite parish, while the rest of his siblings were baptized at Satu parish, the traditional church of Grenci residents. His parents were Jekabs Veisbergs and Liba Meiers, a fairly productive couple with upwards of 10 children over a fairly long period of time. Jekabs and Liba were married in 1834 at Satu and baptized all their children there except for the last one, which happens to be my ancestor Mikelis. It’s unclear to me yet why they baptized him at a different church, especially when they were still living on the same farm.Mikkel

No. 110 Mikelis, Grenci estate, Sprungi farm. Son of Jekabs Veisbergs and his wife Trine Liba. Godparents: Mikelis Weickner, spirdzenieks(??), Kriss Meiers of Spinni farm, and Trine Meiers

marr

No. 24. October 21, 1834 Jekabs, farmer from Sprungi farm, Grenci estate married Liba, Kriss daughter from Spinni farm, Grenci estate.

Jekabs was the son of Andrejs Veisbergs and had one brother named Janis, but both Andrejs and their mother must died at an early age because on the revision list for Sprungi farm, Jekabs and Janis are listed as step sons of a man named Janis Sohne, wirt (head or master of farm) of Sprungi. Whether this means their mother remarried to Mr. Sohne, or he adopted them as orphans somehow is yet to be discovered.

Sprungi

1850 Grenci estate revision list showing Jekabs Veisbergs and his brother Janis Veisbergs, sons of Andrejs, living with Jekabs Sohne, his family, and their families at Sprungi farm.

Liba Meiers was from Spinna farm at Grenci estate, the daughter of Kriss Meiers and his wife Trine. From the Grenci revisions I know that Kriss is the son of Otto Meiers – my 6x great grandfather. Since Liba Meiers was married in 1834 and had children up until 1861, she was probably married fairly young to continue having children that far into the marriage. So I’d assume she was born between 1810 and 1814 (Sadly, church books from Satu are missing from this time period). Her father Kriss, was therefore born ~1785. And HIS father Otto can be predicted to have been born ~1760. That’s about as far back as you can hope to go with purely Latvian peasant genealogy!

Spinna

1850 Grenci estate revision list showing Kriss Meiers, son of Otto and his family living at Spinna farm.

Krapas Estate, 1700’s

With a refreshed set of eyes I returned to my Brugis family from near Gulbene to see what more I could find. This was a smart move, as I found a lot of new records!

From the parish members list, I knew that my 4x great grandfather Ermanis Brugis was born January 5, 1831 at Vipuzi farm, Krapa estate and that his parents were Janis and Lina. I set out to find his baptism record and easily located it in the Gulbene parish church books:Brugis, Ermanis - BaptismKroppenhof, Vipuzi farm/ Ermanis born January 5th, baptized January 9th 1831, son of Janis Brugis and his wife Lina. Godparents Ermanis from Vipuzi farm, Juris and Ilze from Kanderi farm.
So knowing his parents should have been married sometime before his birth, I started in on the marriage registers for (and found the right page on the first try!)in 1827:Brugis, Janis - MarriageKroppenhof, Kanderi farm wirt Janis Brugis, widow and Kroppenhof, Kanderi farm Lina, daughter of Toms Briedis.
Knowing Kroppenhof/Krapa to be the estate we seem to be working with here for this Brugis family, I checked out what kind of revision lists might have survived for this estate and luckily for me, a nice complete set exist on Raduraksti. I found the Briedis family first, at Kanderi farm in 1834:Briedis, Toms - 1835 revisionToms Briedis, son of Hans, wirt 41 years old
Son 1. Janis age 17
Son 2. Kriss age 10
Son 3. Adams age 5
Son 4. Simanis age 2
Wife Lina age 42
Daughter 1. Anna age 20
Daughter 2. Lise age 7
At 41 years old, Toms would have been born in 1793. His wife Lina in 1792. Their listed children were born between 1814 and 1832. My ancestor, 5x great grandmother Lina Briedis is not listed with her family as she was already married off to Janis Brugis in 1827. But here she is with her own family at neighbouring Vipuzi farm:Brugis, Janis - 1834 RevisionJanis Brugis, Simanis’ son, wirt, 28 years old
Son 1. Andres age 7
Son 2. Ermanis age 3
Wife Lina, aged 25
Janis’ mother, Anna Brugis, widow of Simanis aged 60
Unless Andres was born very soon after Janis and Lina were married, he could be from Janis’ first wife. Also Lina was 18 at the time of her marriage, much younger than is typical for Lutheran Latvians!

I’m excited to have found ancestors from Vidzeme rather than Kurzeme where most of my Latvian family is from – surnames were adopted earlier here (1816ish) and the records are much more complete. The discovery of Hans Briedis, father of Toms, father of Lina, mother of Ermanis, father of Lina, mother of Emilija, mother of Karlis, father of Rasma, my grandmother, marks the earliest Latvian ancestor uncovered yet. If Toms was born in 1793, Hans must have been born around 1770 or earlier. He is my 7x great grandfather, and I never expected to be able to go that far back in Latvia!!!

A Whole New Direction…

So in a shocking (to me, anyways) plot twist, a totally new direction…

In comparing the DNA of my mother and her third cousin from the Akerfelds line, it seems that the only other people matching the both of them (ie. sharing a common ancestor at some point) are of Ashkenazi Jewish lineage. However these Jewish matches appear to be fairly close cousins – 2nd to 4th cousins. This could indicate that either the father or mother of Jekabs and Ernests Akerfelds was the child of Jewish parents who must have been converts to Lutheranism.

Interestingly though, the third cousin has a lot more Jewish matches than my mother does. I started investigating this a little bit…

One reason could simply be that the third cousin has another Latvian ancestor from a different line not shared with my mother who is also of Ashkenazi descent.

Ashkenazi ancestry and DNA testing gets fairly complicated though, since the population is infamous for their endogamy – basically the population increased very rapidly from a smaller core group of people, who all married within their own faith and localities – which means inevitably, to varying degrees, cousin marriages and interbreeding. This happens in all cultures and religions, and yes if you look hard enough you will see it in your family tree too – every generation you move backward in time, you multiply the number of ancestors you have by two (ie 2 parents, 4 grandparents, 8 great-grandparents, etc). At the 20th generation level, you have 1,048,576 ancestors… were there 1 million people in the areas nearby to your family who were completely unrelated? Good luck!

Another thing complicating Ashkenazi genealogy is that for the most part they had young hereditary surnames – for example in Kurzeme, surnames were not required until 1835, which in my Akerfelds case points to either the father or grandfather of Jekabs and Ernests being the first to bear their name, which means genetically we could match people of all different surnames at a fairly close level…

So after signing up at JewishGen, I checked their Latvia database for the only surnames that I do know my mother and her third cousin share – those are Akerfelds and Grinbergs. That ever elusive “Grinbergs alias Akerfelds”. Well, GREENBERG…(Grinbergs is prounounced the same and also means the same thing, it’s just the Latvian spelling) is definitely a name used by some Jews in Courland. And other surnames connected to the Jewish DNA matches of my mother and third cousin also appear in Courland, some as close to the Akerfelds’ origin point as Aizpute.

But then I was reading about Jews converting to other religions in the 1800’s on the Roots=Saknes site, which mentions that often when Jews converted they were encouraged to choose more Lutheran/Christian names, both first and last names. So perhaps this Jewish line of mine is a totally new surname all together?

Luckily my mother’s third cousin has also completed some Y-Chromosome DNA testing, which should give us some strong hints as to whether or not this Jewish link follows the direct male Akerfelds line, or if it was perhaps a wife with a different surname who married into the Akerfelds family. It should also answer whether or not the Akerfelds line has anything to do with Sweden and if not, where that male line originates.

His Y-DNA test results should be in any day now… I’m waiting!!!

Another Brick Wall Crumbling

Yet another brick wall possibly crumbling with the use of DNA. This one is by a string of very slight but apparently lucky chances. Through communicating with a genetic cousin of mine we learned his family roots trace back to a parish near Talsi called Nurmuiza. This suggested he could match my family somewhere in my mostly unknown Ozols-Ozolins family from Talsi. With my list of clues about my great grandmother Berta Ozolins’ parents Fricis Ozolins and Matilde Ozols, I decided to check Nurmuiza’s baptismal records from around the time I estimated Matilde to be born (1885-1890) and… I found a possible Matilde Ozols!

Actually I found two possible Matilde Ozols. Which would normally be bad news, but in this case… both have the same parents, they’re sisters. Janis Ozols married Madlena Briede in 1886 at Nurmuiza parish. They first had daughter Sophie Mathilde Helene Ozols in 1888, then her little sister Magda Mathilde Pauline Ozols in 1890. Sophie/Zofiya and Magda are definitely more Polish/Lithuanian/Catholic sounding names as opposed to Lutheran Latvian farmer names, and indeed Nurmuiza seems to have a strong Polish presence in their given and surnames, in the glimpse I’ve had of their church records. “Ozols” and “Briedis”, on the other hand, are extremely traditionally Latvian (they mean “oak” and “stag” respectively). Nevertheless maybe there is a connection further back on this family line to explain all my Polish connections.

One of these two sisters could be my great-great grandmother Matilde. Another hint that this family could be related is that my great grandmother Berta had a middle name – Helene – just like the older sister Sophie Mathilde Helene.

The last clue from my DNA/genetic cousin is that he had been in contact with a known relative of his in Latvia, who located a lucky type of document for Nurmuiza – a register of families from ~1900-~1915. If my family is also recorded in this book, it would give great details and confirmations! This book could be released onto Raduraksti soon (along with other church records from 1910-1914!)

This is all speculation for now. How do I hope to confirm? I have Antra Celmiņa of Discovering Latvian Roots on the case. She is a professional Latvian genealogist based out of Rīga, with access to a host of more records pertaining to the time period of Matilde and Fricis’s lives, including perhaps the above noted book…. Hopefully one of these records will confirm a birth date, place, parent’s names!

the baptism of Magda Mathilde Pauline Ozols, possible candidate for my great great grandmother!

 

DNA Verifies my Akerfelds Puzzle Theory!

Well the first of some really big mysteries I’ve been working on for years has finally been solved by DNA and genetic genealogy. One of my longest standing theories has been that all living Akerfeldses with roots in Latvia were related. All seem to be descended from either Jekabs Grinbergs alias Akerfelds, born around 1870, Ernests Grinbergs alias Akerfelds, born around 1863, or Lata Grinbergs, who’s children are named after Ernests and Jekabs and although were baptized as Grinbergs, began using Akerfelds throughout their lifetime, as do their descendants. Jekabs, Ernests and Lata all hail from Lieldzelda estate in Aizpute aprinki, ~1862-1872. And while there are no records of any Akerfeldses in the area prior to that time, there are several Grinbergs families, not likely all related. Because the church records are missing from Embute parish 1853-1870, and Lieldzelda estate did not leave any revision lists behind as clues, I have not been able to prove Jekabs, Ernests and Lata are related, nor who there parents are, or where they came from, if their surname was originally Grinbergs or originally Akerfelds, nothing like that.

But now… my mother, a great granddaughter of Jekabs, and an Australian born great grandchild of Ernests have both completed autosomal DNA testing and… they’re a close cousin match! They share several large segments of DNA with an estimated most common recent ancestor at 3.5 generations from themselves. Jekabs and Ernests are the third generation, and their parents would be the fourth generation. So it seems pretty accurate to say that at least Jekabs and Ernests are brothers, just as suspected. Still no proof for Lata yet, although the coincidences seem to be too great to imagine she’s not related at least somehow.

The odd thing about the Lata connection though, is she was born in 1872, and I was able to find her baptism. Her mother is named as Ilze Grinbergs, but there is no father in the picture – Lata was born out of wedlock at Lieldzelda estate. Perhaps Lata is a half-sister to Jekabs and Ernests, maybe their father passed away at an early age and a widowed Ilze had Lata after with another man. Or maybe Lata, Jekabs and Ernests are all illegitimate children of a Ilze Grinbergs, and the “alias Akerfelds” they added to their name somehow reflects their father(s)?

Another curiosity is Ernests Grinbergs alias Akerfelds’ first wife was named Ieva Haase, the two were married and 9 months later had a baby girl named Anlize after her godmother, also named Anlize Grinbergs. Ieva died a few weeks after Anlize’s birth, and Anlize only lived to be about 3 months old. That same year Ernests Grinbergs alias Akerfelds remarried to Anlize Grinbergs, the godmother (who also later died in childbirth). Were Ernests and Anlize related?? Or does their marriage suggest that they were from different Grinbergs families and this is why Ernests chose to add an alias? Or were they from the same Grinbergs and this is the reason for the alias??

Definitely a victory to confirm a relation between Jekabs and Ernests, but still many more questions yet to be answered!!!

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, Week 23: Martins Akerfelds

Click HERE for last week’s ancestor.

My next “trend” I’d like to write about are NOT my direct ancestors, but are siblings of direct ancestors, with rather incredible stories.

Martins Akerfelds was born in 1902 near the village of Tomsk in Tomsk oblast, Siberia. His family – mother, father, two older brothers and a sister – had moved there a few years prior, from Latvia – the Kurland province of the Russian empire at the time. This Kurland-Siberia trip is a path quite a few Latvians took at this time in history – land was very cheap in Siberia, especially because the Russian empire was keen to grow the population and work the land, colonize the vast expanse to the east. Tomsk was a growing city at the time, with two universities, the Trans-Siberian Railway nearby, and the discovery of gold to boost the economy. It must have seemed like a golden opportunity at the time.

The opportunity was lost though, because Martins’ father Jekabs became ill shortly after his birth, and the family made a quick move back to their original home in Nikrace pagast, Latvia. Martins’ mother Ieva was pregnant with his little sister when his father Jekabs died in July 1904, apparently of kidney disease. Ieva gave birth soon after to a daughter she named Katte. The family lived at Cepli farm on the old Lieldzelda estate and Ieva remarried in 1908 to a fellow widower named Janis Blazgis. Martins attended Nikrace pamatskola (elementary school). He eventually married his half-brother’s widow, Anna Zveja sometime in the early 1930’s and lived at Jaunzemji farm which was owned by Anna’s parents. His brother (my great grandfather Janis) and sister lived on an adjacent farm with their large families. Martins himself became a stepfather to Anna’s three children, his half-nephews.

Martins was a young man when Latvia gained her first stint of independence. The Latvian people had more freedom and opportunity than ever before, new political parties were formed as Latvians were finally able to begin to choose their own types of government (as opposed to being ruled by German land barons or the Tzar). Having been an agricultural laborer his entire life, Martins became a supporter of a new political party called the Farmer’s Union, like many other Latvians, who were a very agricultural people. His became the owner of Jaunzemji after his parents-in-law passed away sometime before 1935 and he joined the local Aizsargi unit – a small, local defense police force. Martins and Anna added one more child to their family, a daughter born in 1937. Things seemed to be going well for Martins at this time.

This period of Latvian independence Martins grew up under came to a sad end when World War Two started. Soviet Russia occupied the country, and under their communist regime began to effectively squash any future attempts to regain sovereignty by Latvia. They did this by declaring Latvians in any position of power or wealth enemies of the state. This included all Latvian military personnel and political figures, right down to bank managers, large-scale land owners, the Aizsargi and people deemed in support of the Farmer’s Union political party. This was a dangerous time for these people, and who began to slowly be arrested or go missing.

The arrests and disappearances culminated on the night of June 14, 1941. In a well-organized and planned move, Soviets stormed the houses of a huge list of people, “enemies” all over Latvia. These arrestees were given a few minutes to pack some essentials, then taken to the local train station. Not just the men who had been deemed enemies, their entire families. Wives, children, infants, elderly. Women and children were herded into train cars designed for hauling cattle, and then men separated and put into different cattle cars. Family units were separated in this way, and many (if not, most) never saw their loved ones again. The trains were bound for Siberian gulags – strings of prison labour camps in the harsh Siberian landscape. The journey to prison was a harsh one. With many being unprepared for such long travel, the sick, weak, very young and very old were most at risk at this point. Many died on the way. The camps were notoriously brutal – disgusting cesspools of filth, long hours of labor every day, and little food or shelter. While the Nazis were committing gross atrocities against Jews in western Europe, another genocide was taking place in the east – a slow, sad and painful genocide that has somehow missed the history books.

Martins, Anna and their 4 year old daughter were arrested the night of June 14th, 1941. Anna and her young daughter were sent to the Krasnojarsk camp, and Martins went to Vyatlag camp in Kirov. Anna and her daughter were eventually released, separately in different years, mind you – 1946 and 1947. But Martins had tragically died of exhaustion and exposure in Vyatlag on May 17, 1943, aged 41 years old. Martins was coincidentally born and had died in Siberia.

I had assumed the worst for Anna and her daughter, 9 years old at her release (imagine a child growing up in a prison labor camp, then being released alone without her mother and no father) but recently I discovered some of their descendants, which shed a little happiness on this very sad story. Martins’ 9 year old daughter had made it back home to Latvia and had grown up, married and had three children of her own.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, Week 18: Janis Stromanis

Click HERE for last week’s ancestor.

Janis Stromanis was born around 1810, quite likely on Vecpils estate in rural Latvia. He was born before the time that Latvian peasant farmers acquired surnames of their own – this acquisition was a process carried out in the mid 1830’s in Latvia’s Kurzeme province where Janis lived. Scribes visited each house and recorded the surnames of those living there. The basic rules were that each father was to choose a name for himself and his children, and each child of a deceased father could choose his own name. There were other rules regarding what kind of names could be chosen, and there are many other subtleties to this as well – more reading on the naming process can be found HERE. Stromanis is a Latvian name derived from a German compound name – Strohmann. Stroh mann means – wait for it – straw man. Could this be derived from his line of work? Or perhaps some physical characteristic? Latvians chose surnames based on both, so it is anyone’s guess.

What I do know is that Janis’ father must have been alive at the time of the naming because while Janis married a woman named Lize and had two daughters with her in 1836 and 1838, other Stromanis family members served as their godparents, meaning he very likely had siblings. His daughters were born on Vecpils estate, at Gobzemji and Kapsi farms. Their eldest daughter, Made is my 3x great grandmother.

What makes Janis tough to find more information about is that he was married before having an official surname, and Janis isn’t exactly a stand out name – it is in fact the #1 most common male Latvian name. Lize is not uncommon either, although it is less common than Anna or Ieva. But there were tons of Janis and Lizes at the time, and the fact that both of their daughters were born on different farms also means they don’t seem to have strong ties to any farm in particular. The reason I was able to find their daughter Made’s baptism, which occurred before the acquisition of surnames is that her marriage record to last week’s ancestor’s son, Janis Sedols, is actually the most detailed marriage I’ve come across in regards to my own family so far. It stated that her parents were Janis and Lize and she was born at Gobzemji farm.

For now, Janis is as far back as I have gone with this line. I have not yet found his burial record, so I don’t know how long he lived or when and where he passed away, but that just means I have more work to do on Raduraksti’s wealth of church books!