About chelli11

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

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!

Draudzes Locekļu Saraksti: Brugis Family

Progress!

Today I made a new family genealogical discovery thanks to my mother’s DNA results.  I was looking in records from the Gulbene area, trying to explore the family of a newly contacted cousin match, when I noticed the surname Brugis pop up.

Lina Brugis is my 3x great grandmother, mother of Emilija Veisbergs who is the mother of Karlis Vinakmens. She married Mikelis Veisbergs at Rezekne Lutheran parish in 1882, but I ran into a dead end looking for her family, because the Lutheran church in Rezekne was only built in the early 1870’s. Before that, there was only a Catholic parish. So the church records were no good, and Struzani pagast does not have any revision lists of any use. I had suspected the family had come from elsewhere, further northwest in Latvia closer to one of the other Lutheran parishes located there. And I was right!

Gulbene’s church records include a type of record I’ve previously not been able to use for my own family tree – a complete listing of parish members (draudzes locekļu aaraksti) Alphabetically! You need only look up a surname and people are recorded in family groups. These are a truly fantastic document to locate, they typically give you 3 generations of people – parents, children, and the parent’s parents. They also typically list birthdays and parishes baptized at, which is incredibly helpful for families on the move like the Brugises.

This record tells me that:

Lina Brugis was born December 18, 1859 at Dreini estate and baptized Christmas day, the third child of Ermanis Brugis and Lize Vacietis.

Ermanis was the son of Janis Brugis and Lina, born January 1, 1831 at Vīpuži farm.

Lize was the daughter of Janis Vacietis and Baiba, born January 15 1835 at Dreini farm. Ermanis and Lize married February 1, 1853, although Ermanis is listed as only coming to Gulbene parish in 1854, so it’s possible they were married at a different parish.

 Draudzu loceklu BrugisHow do I know this is my Lina? Because this family is listed as having moved to Struzani pagast on the following page. And Lina had several siblings born there, baptized at Rezekne draudze, who’s baptisms I’ve found before. Notably, the Brugis family had a tendency to have twins (dvini)!

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, Week 17: Kristaps Sedols

Click HERE for last week’s ancestor.

Kristaps Sedols was born around 1805 on Kazdangas estate in Kurzeme, either on Strebuki farm, or on a farm known as “Waijuppe” in German, which I can’t seem to locate on any map or decide what it’s Latvian name would be – although the “Uppe” at the end could be related to “Upe” which is Latvian for “river”. It’s possible the farm did not exist later on for some reason and that’s why I can’t find it. He is my 4x great grandfather, the grandfather of Ieva Sedols.

I believe I have found Kristaps’ baptismal record, although at this time in history, he did not have a surname yet. If it is indeed the right baptism, his parents were named Ermanis and Madde – but I am just not certain enough to say for sure yet. Ermanis and Madde would have been born around 1775, which is quite far back in Latvian Kurzeme standards.

Whether he was born there or moved there at some point, Kristaps lived at Strebuki farm at the time of his marriage to a young widow named Marija in 1837. Her husband had been named Mikelis Paukši, and he was definitely born at “Waijuppe” farm. Mikelis had died earlier in the year, and Marija, with a 7 year old daughter and 2 year old son married Kristaps at Valtaiki parish church. Marija was from Muizaraji farm on nearby Perbone estate and was roughly the same age as Kristaps. It might seem coarse to marry the same year your spouse dies in this day and age, but it was quite a good deal more common back then – Marija needed a breadwinner.

Kristaps and Marija had a son named Janis in 1838 at Strebuki farm, and this is my ancestor. I have not yet found a record of Kristaps death, to do so is quite a task. It is possible he had moved away from Valtaiki parish by the time he passed away, in which case I’d be blindly searching for a needle in a haystack in neighbour parish church books, with no clue as to what age he survived to past his son Janis’ conception. It appears as thought Kristaps is at the top of my Sedols line for now!

Genetic Genealogy: The Beginning

It would appear that I have opened a brand new can of worms in my attempt to break through some of these Latvian genealogical brick walls – I tried a new method. I tested my mother’s autosomal DNA using Family Tree DNA’s Family Finder test. The whole process from ordering the kit to receiving our results took about 2 months. I received her results last week and have been on a reading bender ever since, looking for ways to interpret what we’ve been given.

The first thing we’ve been given is tools to calculate “Admixture” – her ethnic heritage. Family Tree DNA gives us the vague and somewhat confusing results of 89% Eastern European and 11% Finland/Northern Siberia. But a myriad of other admixture tools found at GedMatch give us a clearer, more Baltic approach – ~60% Baltic, ~30% North Atlantic, and a few other small minorities mixed in (always a hint of something from the Caucasus area).

The second type of hints we’ve been given is a list of “Matches” – people who share a segment of 7.0 centiMorgans (cM) or more of autosomal or x-chromosome DNA with my mother, suggesting they could be anywhere from 20th to 3rd cousins, depending on the amount of DNA shared.

It gets pretty technical, but the jist of it is, if you share a segment >11cM with someone, there is a >99% chance you share a common ancestor within the last 7 generations. 10cM = 99%, 9cM=80%, and it rapidly drops off from there, with less chances for smaller segments. Other things to consider are amount of segments shared – sometimes it is only one large segment, sometimes a medium sized one, plus a few other small ones.. it’s quite open for interpretation. I decided to focus first on those who share a segment of at least 10cM, since they seem the most probable. We have 59 matches at this level. You are able to see any data your matches have put in for their ethnicity and surnames in their family trees, as well as an email address to contact them at.

We have 4 matches that were predicted to be between 4 and 4.5 generations away, with German, German/Swiss, German/Swedish and Polish roots, although ¾ identify as German + one of the other ethnicities. 6 matches estimated at 4.8 generations away are of Russian, Polish, Latvian and Lithuanian ethnicity. From 5 generations back there are hundreds of matches – almost 2,000 in total, including some smaller segment matches.

I’ve noticed some recurring themes:

  • There seems to be a strong Lithuanian connection, particularily from the Samogitia/Telsiai area of Lithuania – not surprising given it’s proximity to my ancestor’s homelands in southwestern Latvia near the border with Lithuania. These matches seem to share particular segments of the 11th and 12th chromosomes, should that end up pointing to anything significant.
  • There’s also a strong Swedish connection – I’ve got a long theory that it could be from my Akerfelds family who’s ancestor appears to have been a mother of several illegitimate children living at an estate in Nikrace pagast owned by a Swedish baron (Baron de Bagge, Dinsdurbe estate)
  • There’s a pronounced Finnish connection, with a strong presence on the 4th chromosome
  • There’s definitely the probability that there’s some Baltic German mixed in at some point in the last 250 years
  • For some reason we have a load of matches with seemingly British Isles ancestors all matching up on a particular segment of the 19th chromosome, which I find interesting. There’s also a few Russian matches with that spot.
  • There’s a total mash-up of Eastern Europeans matching on a similar segment on the 3rd chromosome – from Hungarians, a Romanian and a Serbian to Slovakians, Swedes and Lithuanians. Is this that rogue “Caucasus” gene? Or the result of some Viking conquests?
  • There’s one particularily strong match with southern Estonian roots, and although many of the Latvian matches I’ve found seem likely to match up with my Akerfelds side down in Kurzeme, many of them also have a Northern Latvian connection, especially near Valka (right on the border with Estonia)

For now, it’s hard to say what to do with these hints. Something that could help solve some riddles is testing more family members – one potential 3rd Akerfelds cousin is completing some testing, results now pending. There’s a chance he will not show as an autosomal match to my mother since they are theoretically relatively distant, but he also has the ability as a male to test his Y-chromosome, a direct male lineage for the Akerfelds. If I can get a known male Akerfelds relative of my mother’s to test his Y chromosome as well, I can verify 100% that two Akerfelds ancestors I’ve found are definitely related, which is another theory of mine. Also using a method called “phasing” at that point I could distinguish which of my matches, and therefore which ethnicities are likely to have come from my mother’s Akerfelds side or her Vinakmens side. This could potentially help me locate more family records for all those blanks I’ve yet to fill in in my tree.

Until more testing is completed and I learn more about DNA, what I’ve started to do is contact my matches that are obviously Latvian, to see what their family trees look like and if I can help them expand those trees so we can find a common ancestor. So far I’ve got related families living in Saldus and Liepaja, totally within my mother’s paternal home-area.

The search continues! And the really interesting part is that as more people test throughout time, your own results just keep growing. Go on and try it out, people!! Maybe we’re related!