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

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!!!

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)!

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:

pauksimarija

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

pauksiermanis

220.Ermanis
of Kazdanga estate/Strebuki farm
child of Mikelis Paukši and his wife Marija
Godparents:
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.

Usmas Pagast, 1944

When the war was over and my great grandfather Karlis Vinakmens and his family were living in Allied occupied Germany, my great grandfather wrote a letter outlining the details of his final days in Latvia before becoming a Nazi POW. I am not sure exactly to whom the letter was addressed, but it was probably some Latvian authority. This original letter is kept in the archives of the Latvian Occupation Museum in Riga. The museum’s historian Uldis Neiburgs was kind enough to send me copies, and a wonderful lady named Ilze translated it to English for me.

After the war, Latvia remained under communist rule until 1991. Talking about these events would have been extremely dangerous, and much is unknown about the events discussed here. This might even be one of the only eyewitness accounts of the what happened, and to have been written down in 1946, while still so fresh in my great grandfather’s mind makes this letter significant. Without further ado, his words:

“When I found out about the Latvian partisans I immediately wanted to join. It was also becoming increasingly difficult to avoid being conscripted into the German army and I could no longer stand the way that the Germans were operating in our country.
12/10/1944 Lt Rubenis battalion arrived at Ilziki near Usmas. My wish was met by the battalion commander Rubenis who enlisted me with the Minumetaji as a strelnieks (rifleman). As Ilziki didn’t have many rooms and our numbers were growing each day there was nothing else to do but build bunkers in the forest around Ilzikiem. My section settled into a bunker but others moved into the houses called Irbi and Vanagi which were part of the settlement of Ilziki.
At the start of November I fell ill with malignant tumors (that is the correct translation but surely he means something less serious, perhaps boils or ulcers?) so I was moved to Irbi where the battalions ambulance was billeted. There I was living with the mechanics group from the battalion, and I stayed with this group when the Germans started to annihilate Latvian partisans.
Even though we came from different areas of Latvia, we managed to get along and live together because we all carried in our hearts the love of our homeland.
Even though initially the Germans tolerated the partisan groups in Kurzeme, later they started to eradicate them. The Germans had hoped that the groups would provide them with the highest possible numbers of recruits for their own army, therefore they allowed them to flourish. But the partisans refused all German commands to join the German army and this caused the change of heart of the Germans.
Then the Germans asked the partisans to hand over all Latvians who had deserted the German army. They replied that they were Latvians within their own country, were not guilty of any crime against their own country and would not be given up. Seeing that the Germans were not getting anywhere with the partisan leaders their response was to annihilate the groups.
From 13/11/1944 to 14/11/1944 the Germans broke into all the houses where the partisans were sleeping to arrest or kill them. From the news it was apparent that only our battalion had succeeded in avoiding the attack. It was decided to go into the forests of Ilziki pagast to save our freedom. We followed forest trails around the eastern shore of Usmas Lake in the dark, moving towards Renda.
15/11/1944 we were not far from Lielbrenda and in the morning light we couldn’t dare continue marching. We rested through the day so that we could move again under cover of darkness.
15/11/1944 – 16/11/1944 we moved on without incident and in the morning we were near the Upati Forest guards house. There we fed the horses and we ourselves also rested as we still had a long way to go. As we were now tired we stayed well away from main roads moving only on forest trails and this enabled us to travel in daylight.
Not far from Perkonu house we were overtaken from behind by two German vehicles, a truck and a car. It turned out that in the truck were ?French? soldiers who were going to arrest two deserters.
After a while 2 German officers arrived. So it was that we took away the pleasure of these two thieves of Kurzeme (direct translation to give you the heartfelt emotion with which this is written). We stopped them as it was not in our interests for them to continue either their journey to arrest the deserters or to return to their command post.
Initially the German officers were very worried but in later talks with our commander they said that here around Kuldiga partisans had not been outlawed. It was only around Talsi where General Jekelns had given the command to annihilate partisan groups. They even named the houses in which local partisan groups were living. They suggested our commander drive back with them to their command post to discuss which houses the battalion could occupy and live here.
As it happened, our battalion commander accompanied the Germans to their post for discussions, our battalion stayed where we were, awaiting the outcome of the talks. In the first day of talks no decisions were made because the senior German officer was not there, so discussion continued for a second day.
17/11/1944 When the battalion commander arrived at the German post he was surprised to come face to face with Jekeln. Jekeln was very put out that the partisans had earlier evaded him but now he had caught them and for a final time he was ordering them to lay down their arms and surrender or they would, without exception be exterminated.
In a quiet calm manner Lt Rubenis answered, and they were his final words on the matter: “I want you to drive me back to my men in the forest, they have no intention of laying down arms nor of surrender.” Jekeln smirked “You are surrounded by SS battalions and you will be wiped out to the last man.”
Our battalion commander returned fairly crestfallen, the choices open to him were not that good, driving back he saw columns of Germans marching towards our area. Our lookouts also reported the German presence and movements. Our battalion commander called for our attention and in a few words told us what had happened. He told us to form up in readiness for battle that would come with the German attack. It was not possible to guess when this attack would come.
Already at 17:00 hours on 18/11/1944 German “starki” (artillery? rockets?) fly over us. In the forest at night they found no targets.
Dawn on 18/11/1944, the sunbeams are shining through the spruce trees, it’s a beautiful emotional scene of the men sitting together sunbeams playing over them as they sit around a campfire discussing what has happened in the previous year and todays celebrated/heroic acts that they anticipate are still to happen.
Seated are Briedis, Zarins and Kapastins with his wife, who would not be separated from her husband even in this difficult path of walking in the footsteps of the partisans. The battalion’s mechanic group Adjans, Aire, Zigurs, Ozolins, Kalnins and me had our flag flying here under the grey spruces of our homeland that the SS are so determined to destroy.
That was what 18/11 was like for Latvian partisans in 1944 on the left bank of the Abavas not far from Lielbrendes.
The morning was quiet, even so the battalion prepared for the fight. At 9:30 the first German “starki” (rockets) appeared and that revealed the position of the German heavy and light artillery, that started firing. The gunfire echoes in the forest and the fronds of the spruce rain down like snow flakes falling on the fighters clothing.
At 10:00 they started to advance their attack with German foot soldiers and their automatic fire. From the partisan side can be heard about 10 shots that are not without result. The partisans are not attacking, only taking defensive positions. As the Germans were not trying very hard, relying on their superior numbers and fire power they did not achieve their desired result. Some Germans lost their way and ended up being taken by the Latvian fighters.
As darkness was falling the Latvians started to push back the German attack and in places quite quickly the Germans in retreat found themselves on the banks of the fast flowing Abavas River and in their rush they couldn’t find a way to cross. The strongest partisan weapon fire forced those still left alive into the current and here now the fast flowing Abava achieves its goal and the majority drown. The German soldiers are driven by the current to the Venta River. Lots of German corpses litter the forests of Kurzeme and their losses are heavier than the partisans.
The most painful loss for the partisans is the loss of their commander, Roberts Rubenis, who not long after being wounded in the stomach and leg, died of his wounds. The command is taken over by v.v. Druvins. After the German encounter the battalion moves on as there is no reason to wait here.
Again a couple of times through the night there are a couple of encounters with landmines left behind by the houses that the battalion used. The strongest resistance is around the ‘Novadnieku’ houses. Even so v.v. Sulcs who is at the front of the column finds them.
On the 19th we camp in a swampy forest to rest and decide that our commanders, Lt Rubenis funeral will be carried out at Usmas cemetery. Having taken command Druvins gave a short speech in memory of our fallen and also mentioning our country’s National Day (18/11 is Latvia Day). He thanked us all for our heroic fight now so fatefully linked with 18/11.
Doubly significant is this day because it brought us victory over a superior enemy. Finally Druvins invited us all to sing the Lords Prayer(?) As many hundreds of mens chests/hearts overflow with prayer and their eyes blink back tears even after years of fighting – for those who are lost. In the distant forest there echo the songs last words, silence rules the moment as in a holy place, our homeland forest, we fighters stand, heads covered only by the grey spruces, bitter sweetness overlays the silence.
Again v.v. Sulcs recounts the conversation between our fallen commander and the German officers. With what arrogance the Germans dealt with the Latvians. Latvians can only fight, there are no other steps that can be taken against the German occupiers said v.v. Sulcs. They have taken our brothers, our sisters, and parents to their country not for some festivities but for hard/cruel work. They have destroyed our fields and pastures, our towns, stolen from our homes, we have to take the fight up to these invaders to the end even if it costs us our lives. And we will show no mercy to these, thieves of our country concluded v.v. Sulcs.
Over the night 19 to 20/11/1944 the battalion marched further and during the day of 20/11/1944 we came to Diskiru house in the region not far from where the Abavas joins the Venta and here we stay.
Making use of this rest period I ask permission from my commander to visit my family which is living in the small village of Valdemarpils, and having been granted permission I take to the road.
To avoid the areas in which partisans are being hunted and where Germans have put up strong control points I travel in a long diversion through Kuldiga along the Kuldiga and Tukums pagast boundary through Talsi and finally arrive at Valdemarpils.
Here at Valdemarpils is another bit of bad luck. Everyone who has come here from elsewhere, if they haven’t documented evidence of having lived here for 3 years, they are being forcibly removed to Germany. As I’m not on the residents list I was stopped and together with all the exiled, including my own family, we were taken to Ventspils and then by ship to Germany. It should be noted that in Valdemarpils this action was undertaken by communists with the help of Germans. They didn’t even allow the town council to distribute food parcels from those who had relatives who had somehow escaped deportation.
In this way on 8/12/1944 we left Ventspils. I have no further knowledge of my fighting comrades and have had no further news.”