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!

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!

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, Week 11: Ieva Sedola

Click HERE for last week’s ancestor.

Ieva Sedola was my great, great grandmother. She was born January 31, 1869 to Janis Sedols and Made Stromane of Jaunzemji farm on Berghof estate (Kalnmuiza in Latvian, later known as Sieksate pagast). She was baptized February 9, 1869 at Valtaiki parish church. Her godparents are noted as Ieva Stromane, maiden, Lise Krumina and Mikelis Sedols, youth. In 1892, aged 23 she married Jekabs Grinbergs alias Akerfelds at neighboring Embutes parish church, BUT I have recently discovered that she had a bit of a past. She had given birth to an illegitimate child in 1890, a son whom she named Janis Sedols and baptized at Valtaiki church. She named Klavs Sedols and his wife Ede and Janis Sedols (quite possibly her little brother) as his godparents. Illegitimate children were not unheard of for this time and place, but were still somewhat of a scar on the reputation. There were laws about fathers paying support for their illegitimate children, but since no father at all is acknowledged on Janis’ baptism, it is more probable that Ieva was all on her own, wanting to keep the father anonymous and not receiving any sort of support.

Ieva and Jekabs had two children while living at Muizaraji farm on Lieldzelda estate. They had another son named Janis in 1898, but shortly after his birth the family left the parish, and no baptism for Janis exists at Embutes (or anywhere else in Latvia that I’ve searched). Ieva took her 4 young children, all under the age of 10, and made a very long trip with her husband a long way east to the city of Tomsk in Siberia where he sought (yet unknown) better employment opportunities. It is possible Jekabs either worked for the Trans-Siberian Railway (although the railway bypassed Tomsk to the south), or a gold mining operation (gold was discovered in the area around that time) or possibly, but quite unlikely that he was attending one of Tomsk’s two new colleges. It is even possible that he just went there to farm and settle, since land was given away to willing settlers in an effort to colonize Siberia at the time. Ieva had a fifth child in Tomsk in 1902 named Martins.

Tragedy struck Ieva and her blossoming family when Jekabs became ill after Martins’ birth. The family returned home to Lieldzelda estate, my guess is to be close to family. In July of 1904, Jekabs passed away at the young age of 34, and his church burial record states that his cause of death was kidney disease. Ieva was a young widow at 35 with 5 children and one on the way – she was pregnant with Jekabs’ last child. Daughter Katte Akerfelds was born that November. It must have been a tough few years for this family – Ieva, being pregnant or with a newborn and her older children would have had to work to earn their keep somewhere. In 1908 she married fellow widower Janis Blazgis, and so far I do not know of any children from this union, though it is possible.

Ieva’s oldest son, the illegitimate Janis Sedols married Anna Zveja and made Ieva a grandmother for the first time in 1914. Anna’s parents Janis and Jule Zveja owned Jaunzemji farm in Nikrace pagast, just a bit south of Lieldzelda and it’s entirely possible that they allowed Ieva and the rest of her children to come live with them when Janis married their daughter. Which would make sense, because Ieva’s younger son Janis Akerfelds and daughter Katte married a son and a daughter of the neighbouring farm’s owners, Indrikis and Jule Ziverts. Ieva, widowed for a second time after Janis Blazgis’ death sometime after 1918, moved in with them in 1924 to the Ziverts’ farm named Skrundenieki. The farmhouse was more than one hundred years old, lit by oil lamp and supplied with water from a spring. There were four rooms – and quickly they were filled with more grandchildren for Ieva as her children’s families flourished. Ieva would have enjoyed a simple, rural life surrounded by a large family at this time.

Ieva died sometime between the ages of 72 and 75 – She is present on the 1941 Latvian census, but was not with her family when they were forcibly evacuated to Germany in October of 1944. She was more than likely buried at Embutes parish’s cemetery, and one day I hope to find this out!

Tracing Marija

A little more digging during my lucky streak yielded me more documents regarding my Sedols family from Valtaiki parish. I discovered the death record of my 4x great grandmother Marija’s first husband, and with luck, he passed away just in the nick of time to be recorded with his surname – Paukši. Mikelis Paukši died at age 32 in 1837 – the same year Marija went on to marry Kristaps Sedols. Knowing his first name, the farm he lived on and his wife’s name allowed me to pinpoint the baptism records of their children, my distant 5x great half-aunt and uncle. I worked backward, found their son Ermanis first, still with the Paukši surname, and then his older sister Made:


137. Kazdanga estate/Strebuki farm/Mikelis and Marija’s child Made


of Kazdanga estate/Strebuki farm
child of Mikelis Paukši and his wife Marija
1. Ermanis Kronbergs
2. Ilze Paukši
3. Didrikis Simsons
Baptized by pastor Katterfelds at Neuhausen (Valtaiki) parish

I continued working my way through the records backwards in time and found Marija’s marriage record to Mikelis, a record that would have led me to a key fact in learning about the generation before her  it happened a few years later… alas, Marija married Mikelis before adopting a surname of her own – the surname of her father. No parental Iinformation is listed, to my dismay.

Mikelis from Kazdanga estate married
Marija from Muizaraji farm, Perbone estate.

No surname, but a lead: Marija was born at Muizaraji farm at Perbone estate. Mikelis was 32 when he died in 1837, so he was born circa 1805. My guess is that Marija was also born at this time period, 1805-1810, maybe closer to 1810 since she went on to have more children with her second husband after 1837. From here, I can attempt to locate her baptism record by scanning for Marijas born at Muizaraji farm, Perbone estate 1805-1810… but if there are more than one I won’t be able to distinguish, since I have no evidence of her parents’ names. The above marriage record could be the dead end on this branch of tree! But I am just happy to have traced Marija this far.

Document: The Marriage of Kristaps Sedols and Marija

A fresh set of eyes and a random tangent of curiosity won me another family document today. The family tree branch I’ve been able to trace the furthest back so far is the Sedols-Stromanis branch. Janis Sedols married Made Stromane in 1865 at Valtaiki church, and that marriage record was a rare gem of a document, recording both parties’ parent’s names and the farms they were from (rare in my area of research!). Janis’ parents, my 4x great grandparents were Kristaps Sedols and Marija, of an unknown surname so far and they lived at Strebuki farm, belonging to Kazdanga estate.

Residents of this area began using surnames in 1834-1835 – before that point it becomes more difficult to trace church records and determine which families are which. In a stroke of luck, Kristaps Sedols and Marija were married in 1837, with full surnames:

@Marriage of Kristaps and Marija, Valtaiki draudze 1837


Kristap Sedohl, jungen of Strebuk, at Katzdangen
married Marie Pauksche, wittwe

Marija Paukši! At first I was excited, thinking perhaps I had nailed down another Latvian family surname, until I confirmed that the word following her name is indeed “wittwe” or in English: widow. Paukši must have been her first husband’s surname, and her marriage to him is not within the years including surnames. To search further back without surnames is also impossible at this point, as I don’t even know Mr. Paukši’s first name, and there were many Marijas at the time.

Nevertheless, this tells me that: a)Marija was likely a bit older than Kristaps and probably has a few children from her first husband, which could also help explain why I only found two for her second marriage, b)my 4x great grandparents were definitely married in 1837 at Vailtaiki parish, and c)the Sedols family was attached to Strebuki as early as 1837 – which may disprove my theory that they are from the not-too-far “Sedoli” farm and that this is the origin of the name.