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!!!

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 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!

Baptismal Record: Kate Akerfelde

Akerfelds, KAtte - Baptism(Embūtes draudze, 1904, page 25, baptism #173)

173. Kate
Daughter of Ieva Hackerfeld, widow
Born at Lieldzelda estate, Čepli farm
Born November 30, 1904 (Julian Calendar) / December 13, 1904 (Gregorian Calendar)
Baptized December 20, 1904
Baptized at Embūtes parish
Baptized by Pastor K. Lundberg
Godparents: Adams Pogis

Baptismal Record: Anna Akerfelde

Akerfelds, Anna - Baptism

(Embūtes draudze, 1892-1896, page 110, baptism #149)

149. Anna
Daughter of Jēkabs Grinbergs (alias Akerfelds) and his wife Ieva
Born at Muižarāji farm, Lieldzelda estate
Born September 2, 1894 (Julian Calendar) / Septemner 14, 1894 (Gregorian Calendar)
Baptized on October 9, 1894
Baptized at Embūtes parish
Baptized by Pastor K. Lundberg
Godparents: Jānis Sedols, his wife Katrine and Anna Sedole

Mystery Monday: Ernests Akerfelds

As I previously mentioned, when it comes to the different Akerfelds families, the similarities and coincidences are many. One I’ll go into in detail is the prevalence of the name “Ernests” among them.

As I go forward, I’m going to refer to different “generations” of Akerfelds – “Jekabs” generation are those born around the same time as my Jekabs Grinbergs alias Akerfelds (1860-1875), possibly siblings or cousins, “Janis” generation are those born around the time as my Janis Akerfelds (1885-1905), and “Arvids” generation will refer to those born around the same time as my Arvids Akerfelds (1920-1940).

Note the small name alterations in “Akerfelds” as I go, I am going to write the name as it appears in the documents.

I’ll explore these Ernests a little:

Ernests Akerfelds #1 (Jekabs generation)

In 1873, at Rusi farm in Lieldzelda (a little north of present Nikrace) Kristaps Eichenfelds and his wife Marija had a son, who they named Ernests Eichenfelds. He was baptised at Embute Lutheran church. His godparents are listed as Ernest Steinberg, Lotte Rusivics and Willis Pumpins. Unfortunately, this Ernests died less than a year later in 1874. This Ernests also had a sister named Ieva who perished as an infant a few years before him. This Ernests would be of Jekabs’ generation, had he survived.

Ernests Akerfelds #2 (Jekabs generation)

In 1887 at Embute Lutheran church, Ernests Hackenfeld married Ieva Hase (who was born in Skrunda). Since he was married in 1887, one could assume he was born around 1865, so Jekabs’ generation. In September of the same year they were married, they welcomed a daughter named Annlise Hackerfeld at Lappe farm in Brinkenhof (Nikrace). Annlise’s godparents were madchen (unmarried or young girl) Annlise Grinbergs, wirt (landowner) Willis Wallenberg, and knecht (labourer) Eewald Redlichs. Sadly, a month after Annlise’s birth, Ieva passed away at age 23. Even more sadly, at age 7 weeks, without a mother, Annlise Hackerfeld also passed away, apparently of diphtheria.

Ernests Akerfelds #3 (Jekabs generation)

In 1888 at Embute Lutheran church, Ernests Hackenfeld married Annlise Grinbergs. The same Ernests who was widowed just months earlier? The same Annlise Grinbergs who appeared as a godparent of his deceased infant daughter? I believe so. Ernests and Annlise welcomed their first child, named Kristaps Grinbergs alias Hackerfeld at Kaupi farm in Lieldzelda in September of the same year. His godparents were jungen (youth or bachelor) Kristaps Grinbergs, jungen Mikelis Rabovics, and Lihse Rabovics(Rabovics and Akerfelds families mix it up again later on). The next record I have of this Ernests is in 1893 when he welcomes another son, Mikelis Grinberg alias Hackenfeld, at Rusi farm in Lieldzelda (the same farm as Ernests #1 lived on) and his godparents are listed as only Lotte Rutevens. Next child was named Ernests Hakenfeld alias Grinberg (#4), born at Pluini farm in Rudbarzi (north of Lieldzelda). And finally, Ernest and Annlise had a stillborn female Hackenfeldt child at Matsith (my Russian translation?) farm recorded in the Skrunda Lutheran church book. Skrunda is east of Rudbarzi, north of Nikrace. Annlise Hagenfeld, also Hakenfeld died in 1898 at Matsith in Skrunda, at age 28. This Ernests #3 and Annlise are godparents to my Jekabs and Ieva Akerfelds’ firstborn son, also named Ernests (#5).

Ernests Akerfelds #4 (Janis generation)

To be technical, Ernests #3’s son by the same name, Ernests is going to be my “Ernests Akerfelds #4″. I do not know what became of this Ernests, but he was born in 1895.

Ernests Akerfelds #5 (Janis generation)

Janis’ brother, son of Jekabs Hakerfeld and Ieva Sedols, born in 1893 at Muizaraji farm in Lieldzelda. His godparents are Ernests #3 and his wife Annlise. I do not know what became of this Ernests either.

Ernests Akerfelds #6 (Jekabs generation)

In 1898, in Skrunda, Ernests Akerfelds married Madde Storke.This marriage is recorded both in Skrunda’s Lutheran book and Embute’s Lutheran book, which is interesting. Ernests and Madde had son Janis Akerfeld in 1900 at Gruvens farm in Skrunda. His baptism is also recorded in Skrunda and Embute. In 1904, son Karlis Hagenfeld alias Grinberg was born at Gruvens, his godparents being Karlis and Anna Krunzmans. Again, Karlis is recorded in both Skrunda and Embute books. Why would it be in Embute’s book, if the family lived in Skrunda? Strong family ties in Embute? Is this the same Ernests as Ernests #3? Ernests #3 and Annlise did start out in Lieldzelda, but were moving their way north to Skrunda, with their last child being born there.

Ernests Akerfelds #7 (Janis generation)

Unmarried mother Late Grinbergs baptised a son in 1902 named Ernests Akerfelds while living at Sudmalkalns farm in Lieldzelda. Late also had a daughter named Annlise a few years earlier, for whom Ernests #3 and his wife Annlise Grinbergs are godparents. Interestingly, I believe Late Grinbergs may have been a sister of my Jekabs Grinbergs alias Akerfelds. In a list if peoples deported in the mass Soviet deportation of 1949, Ernests Akerfelds and his wife Anna Rose are recorded, living at Krogaraji farm in Rudbarzi. Ernests is listed as the son of Alberts, and was born in 1905. I have yet to find an Alberts Akerfelds of Jekabs’ generation that could be his father though, and it seems that his mother, Late also lived with him. I have learned from a family member that this Ernests never had any children.

Ernests Akerfelds #8 (Janis generation)

On the 1935 census, a widowed Marija Akerfelds, nee Rabovics lived in Nikrace at her brother’s farmstead with her two sons. I recently found a newspaper article on the Latvian National Digital Library’s periodicals site listing the deceased father’s name as Ernests. He could be either Ernests #4 or Ernests #5.

Ernests Akerfelds #9 (Arvids generation)

Son of Kristaps Akerfelds and Ieva Gaul, born circa 1920. Grandson of Ernests #3. His mother and younger siblings wound up in Australia following WWII. I do not know what became of this Ernests.

Ernests Akerfelds #10 (Arvids generation)

This Ernests married a woman named Berta. He would have been born circa 1925ish, so Arvids’ generation. Descendants of his are still living in Aizpute area today. Could very well be the same as Ernests #9.

 

I am quite sure Ernests #2, #3 and #6 are all the same person, and that he is likely the brother of my Jekabs Grinbergs alias Akerfelds.

See a visual chart of these Ernests HERE!

Google Search: Akerfelds