Comparing Cousins

Part of my research I have been slacking on posting about is my ongoing adventure with DNA testing. In addition to my mother’s autosomal testing, her third cousin has completed autosomal and Y DNA testing now (including two separate single SNP tests, S17250 and Y4460), as well as a second cousin along the Akerfelds line and now myself! I recently took an autosomal test and am excitedly awaiting the results.

The autosomal tests between the 3 cousins so far definitely show them as being related, within the correct estimated ranges of shared DNA for 2nd and 3rd cousins. Interestingly, the 2nd cousin is sort of a “double cousin” to my mother, as her grandparents (Janis and Anna Akerfelds) are brother and sister to his grandparents (Arturs and Katte Ziverts), meaning they share 4/8 great grandparents, while 2nd cousins usually share 2/8. This means they should have even more DNA in common, and they are indeed in the higher range of values for a second cousin relationship. What else is interesting is my mother and her 2nd cousin share more total DNA, across many more smaller segments, while my mother and her 3rd cousin (he shares 2/16 great great grandparents) share a much longer unbroken segment (57cM). My interpretation of that is that longer segments shared between two people indicate a strong inheritance from less people while a greater number of smaller segments shows two people share many of the same more recent ancestors – this could either mean two people are closer cousins and therefore share more ancestral lines OR they may be more distant cousins along several different family lines without knowing it.

Having these other tests to compare known relationships to is handy when looking at unknown cousin matches. Size and amount of DNA segments can be compared to interpret genetic distance, or to compare other unknown matches and where they share DNA segments – chances are good a shared segment amongst two known cousins and a third unknown could all come from the same ancestor, same family line. The 3rd cousin only shares one known family line with my mother and the 2nd cousin – Akerfelds, while my mother and her 2nd cousin share Akerfelds, Ziverts, Dzerve and Bitners – her entire paternal side and his entire maternal side (which is his only Latvian side, his father is a different ethnicity, making it even easier because this tidbit means that ANY Latvian cousin matches he has is from a line he shares with my mother).

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Chromosome browser for my mother and the two cousins mentioned above. Orange is the 2nd cousin while blue is the 3rd cousin. Note the long matching segment on chromosome 7 shared with the 3rd cousin, and the multiple smaller segments shared with the 2nd.

Arlava Draudze

Finally, some answers to overcome the brick wall that was my great grandmother’s family! It wasn’t easy – the documents I needed to ensure I had the right people were not available online and I needed help from a professional genealogist stationed in Riga – Antra Celmina. She found my great great grandparents Fricis Ozolins and Matilda Ozols’ passport applications (complete with pictures) from 1920 at the Latvian State Historical Archives. They were listed one after the other suggesting they had applied as a couple, and listed children’s names that match what I know of my family. And they were from the right area – Lubezere village in Arlava parish, just a bit north of Talsi, where most documents say they were from.

According to his passport application, Fricis Ozolins was born November 23, 1868. His (much younger)wife Matilda was September 18, 1890 – which means I actually already likely found her baptism record before when I was searching the nearby parish of Nurmuiza for the family of a DNA match of my mother’s.

I went to Arlava’s parish books and found Fricis’ baptism right where it should be near the end of the book for 1868. Fricis, son of Kristaps(1841), son of Ans (1815), son of Gotthard (circa 1785). A long line of men all from Lubezere estate. Residents of Arlava parish frequently mingled with those from neighbouring Nurmuiza parish, and it seems like female lines woven into these Ozolins all hailed from Nurmuiza. There are two Grietas – Grieta Nikodemus, wife of Kristaps Ozolins, and Grieta Olms (Olmans?), the wife of Ans Ozolins (Gotthard’s wife was named Anna). Arlava kept detailed marriage records – unlike most of my family’s parishes so far – that actually denote birthdate, parish and page number of baptism. Mysteriously, Grieta/Margrieta Nikodemus’ information doesn’t check out – her marriage claims she was baptized in 1839 at Nurmuiza but there is no record to be found. Her last name intrigued me, since it doesn’t have a very traditionally Latvian sound, so I poked around some neighbouring parishes and found a larger Nikodemus family at Kuldiga. Perhaps she was originally from Kuldiga – time will tell.

Ozolins, Fricis - Baptism

210. Fritz (Fricis) son of farmer at Essern (Lubezere) estate, Smilkti farm Christoph(Kristaps) and his wife Margareta. Godparents: Fricis Ozolins, bachelor and Julie Frohlich, maiden.

Matilda’s family is more of a mystery still. Her father was Janis Ozols – a name that might as well be the “John Smith” of Latvia, since it is so common. Her mother is a glimmer of hope – Madlena Briedis. Briedis is also a very common surname but at least the first name Madlena stands out a bit. Still, no baptism to be found for a Madlena Briedis at Nurmuiza, although I HAVE located one that would fit for a MaRlena Briedis, but it seems too big of a spelling error to accept. Janis and Madlena were married in 1886 at Nurmuiza parish, which kept sadly detail-less marriage records – literally just first and last names and date of marriage. They had a daughter in 1888 and Matilda in 1890 and then disappear from records – aka moved or died. Another loose end waiting to be tied up!

A few details about the setting here – the town of Talsi is fairly inland, but the parish of Nurmuiza to it’s east included residents right from the Talsi city limits over west to the Baltic coast on the Gulf of Riga. There was a decently busy port at Roja, just to the north along the coast, and Nurmuiza residents were actually sometimes shipbuilders and fishermen as well as your typical farmers. This could potentially be a reason for Fricis’ advanced age at marriage – he was 22 years older than his wife. I had previously figured it was possible that he had been a soldier, but now sailor is also a possibility. Of course, there’s always personal preference too, I suppose!

More to come…

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

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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!!!

Potential Jewish Connection

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!!!