The search for my “lost Lithuanians” was one of my many genealogical obsessions – my mother was taken away from her parents at the age of 5 and knew very little of her heritage. After researching a number of potential collateral relatives, I had some breakthroughs and was pretty sure I had identified the Lithuanian village of my ancestors. Pretty sure…not sure.
Recently, a wonderful woman named Egle, from Lithuania, e-mailed me in response to a message board post I had made. She’s not related, but has copies of the records of the Pumpėnai church. She found the baptism of my mother’s uncle Anthony – I was elated (and that is putting in mildly). Since then she has spent hours and hours and hours scouring church records for my family – a gift of random genealogical kindness. I now have my g-grandparents marriage record naming their parents, my g-grandmother’s baptism, her parents marriage and siblings galore! I am still in disbelief, after all these years, we finally have a history, Egle has given my family such a wonderful gift.
A few months ago, I found another 3rd cousin on Facebook (before I was sure that we were cousins). To be honest, I almost didn’t contact her. She was a high school student – so young, I didn’t want to scare her – have her think I was a crazy stalker. I doubted she knew anything – but I decided to write in an effort to perhaps reach her father.
She responded to me in minutes “I have a photo on my mantel, “Charles and Maggie Morris” is inscribed on the back, do you want a copy?” Seconds later, she took a picture of the picture with her phone and posted it to Facebook. My g-grandmother’s brother. Wow!
Minutes later she mentioned that she had a letter about that same family – did she want me to transcribe a copy? Within minutes, I had the following:
July 29, 1987.
I hope you have the picture I sent you recently of our grandparents. I am a clot (?). I realize, now, that I could have sent you some added information. Again, maybe you know it. If not, here is some history for your family tree.
Your Grandmother, Maggie Bennett, whose formal maiden name was Magdelena Bendisnhas (Bendisnskas?) was born on July 22, 1886. My Mother, Nellie Morris, who became Nellie Vinnis was from Athol Mass on October 16, 1904. You an see by the dates that our Grandmother was only 18 when she had my mother. Our Grandfather, Charles Morris, was born on March 4, 1874. His occupation was mechanic or as was listed on my mothers birth certificate. He worked in a shoe factory in Athol, had a house, farm, cow, chickens, dog, cat, etc.
Many men came to his farm to talk politics. Our grandmother did everything, including making butter and ice cream. Your mother and mine were required to go out to the woods to pick blue berries. They couldn’t come home until each filled a bucket. Our grandfather brought home to Athol his father from Lithuania. My mother said that he looked so distinguished, something like Mark Twain, with lots of white hair and a large white moustache. He didn’t have to work, so he walked all over town to talking to anyone and everyone. He was well known. They found him dead one day sitting by a tree looking at a stream.
Sorry i didn’t include some of this sooner. You may find it interesting. Again, best wishes for you and your family.
I have a long way to go to document all my facts, but here is the start, in case any cousins are reading:
On 30 January 1849, in the village of Pumpėnai, Pasvalys, Lithuania, where temperatures on that day average a chilly 22.3°F, Baltramiejus Markevičius wed Viktorija Bukaitė at the Pumpėnų Švč. Mergelės Marijos Škaplierinės bažnyčia (PUMPĖNAI Church the Blessed Virgin Mary of the Scapular – http://panevezys.lcn.lt/dekanatai/pasvalio/pumpenai/)
The groom, Baltramiejus, who many years later was described by his granddaughter, Nellie (Morris) Vinnis as “distinguished, something like Mark Twain, with lots of white hair and a large white moustache” was born about 1826 in the nearby village of Stanioniai, son of Tomas Markevičius and Agnė Sustumaitė
His 19 year old bride, Viktorija, the daughter of Adomas Bukas and Elžbieta Kirkilaitė, was of the village Kraučiniai, which was likely nearby. Witnesses included Georgijus Staliulionis and Juozas Sustumas who were probably relatives.
The couple had a number of children all born in Stanioniai. Those identified to date include:
|Name and Marriage transcription|
|Jurgis Markevičius born about 1853. He was married, in Pumpenai, on 10 February 1888, to Petronėlė Jusytė, 25 years old from Smilgeliai daughter of Adomas Jusys and Salomėja Kalvėnaitė Witnesses included Mykolas Markevičius, Juozas Nevulis, Pranciškus Vyšniauskas, Juozas Stonkus, and Adolfas Diša.|
|Elžbieta Markevičiūtė born about 1854. She was a widow when she married, in Pumpenai, on 3 February 1879, Dominykas Vyšniauskas, a 38 year old widower, from Puodžiukai, son of Jonas Vyšniauskas and Elžbieta Nareikaitė. Witnesses included Danielius Zamovičius, Adomas Bukauskas, Georgijus Garliauskas, Georgijus Maikštėnas and Georgijus Markevičius.|
|Georgijus Markevičius born about 1861. He was a widower when he married, in Pumpenai, on 12 November, 1902, Barbora Jankevičiūtė, 24 years old, from Sereikoniai, daughter of Juozas Jankevičius and Ona Kraučiūnaitė Witnesses included Juozas Drumžlis Samuelis Kaulakis Juozas Maikštėnas|
|Antanas Markevičius born about 1867. He married, in Pumpenai, on 28 February, 1899, Antanina Olšauskaitė (Alšauskaitė), 19 years old, from Teberiškiai village, Maldučioniai parish, daughter of Juozas Olšauskas and Rozalija Kvietkauskaitė. Witnesses included Juozas Bukas, son of Viktoras, Juozas Kanapeckis, son of Joše (?) Jonas Malševskis, son of Juozas.|
|Kazimieras (Charles) Markevičius (Morris) born 22 February 1868. He married on 30 August 1902 in Worcester, Massachusetts, at St. Casmir a 21 year old Magdelena/Maggie Blandenza (?) daughter of Stanislaus Bendinskar (?) and Maggie Marzolonis (?).|
|Salomėja Markevičiūtė (Morris) born 26 Sept 1870. She married 18 February 1897 in Pumpenai, Juozas Baltrūnas, 24 years old, from Preibiai village, son of Antanas Baltrūnas and Anelė Orinskaitė/Arlauskaitė (?). Witnesses included Pranas Usoris, son of Jurgis, Mykolas Markevičius, son of Adomas, Antanas Beliūnas, son of Kazimieras, Jonas Dilys, Jonas Stanevičius, son of Aleksandras. ****[My g-grandparents]|
|Rapolas (Ralph Peter) Markevičius (Morris) born 15 Dec 1873. He married 11 January 1898, in Pumpenai, Anastazija Maikštėnaitė, 19 years old, of Stanioniai, daughter of Kasparas Maikštėnas and Veronika Mažeikaitė Witnesses included Jurgis Lazauskas, son of Juozas, Juozas Pogorelskis, son of Stanislovas, Šveikauskas, son of Pranas Jonas Kripaitis, son of (?), Antanas Markevičius, son of Baltramiejus, Juozas Berzinis, son of (?)|
Digitized Pumpenai church records are located at www.epaveldas.lt type in “Pumpenu RKB” for the list of records available (Kriksto – baptisms, santuokos – marriages, mirties – deaths).
In 2001, there were 11 people living in my g-grandfather’s village Preibiai and 40 people living in Stanioniai, the village of my g-grandmother. Alternate spellings would be Preibių kaimas and Stanionių kaimas which mean village of Stanioniai and Preibiai. The closest church until 1910 was in Pumpenai so they all were baptized there even though it is a bit far away. In 1910 there was a church built in Paistrys town which is across the road from Stanioniai. Stanioniai and Preibiai are now in Paistrys parish and Paistrys county.
LIFE IN LITHUANIA
Egle’s notes to me adding a bit of color to their lives:
They were peasants and most likely they had a master who was Polish (that’s why many Lithuanians spoke Polish fluently) and had to pay him either by their work, by harvest or money. So it was basically slavery there, it’s not entirely like America, but slavery anyway. In 1863 there was a huge revolution among Lithuanians to fight the slavery, government and structure of the society but Russians who were at the time ruling the land stepped in and killed many people. (There is a recent movie on it with English subtitles, it’s called Tadas Blinda http://www.chicagotribune.com/entertainment/sns-201112071658reedbusivarietynvr1118047149dec07,0,5389845.storyI am not sure but I think you can buy it in US).
Slavery was finished in 1861 but I think it was still practiced a little more. Besides all the blood, the Russian Tsar forbid that the Lithuanian language be used, taught etc. But, peasants who were literate hid books in walls of their wooden houses and woods and taught children in the evenings to read, write in Lithuanian, Polish, Russian etc… but primarily in Lithuanian. Since nothing printed in Lithuanian was allowed, Lithuanian books were printed in Prussia (where the Kaliningrad region of Russia lies now) and smuggled to Lithuania. Those people were criminals in Russian eyes but patriots and heros in Lithuanian eyes. There is a huge database on Booksmugglers and those “evening teachers” called daraktoriai. I’ll see if I can find anything on the area where your great grandparents come from, who knows maybe they were one of them. In 1905 the Lithuanian language could be used again and there was the first Parliament of Vilnius which decided to move forward to independence in 1918.
Back to 19th century, if peasant parents were rich enough they could send their children to military schools in St. Petersburg, Moscow, Kiev, Ukraine. This is how my great-grandfather ended up being train mechanic and not a peasant like his relatives. Schools were all military ones but you could get engineering professions there too. Women were understood to be housewives or they could serve in kitchens of estate owners. My g-grandmother was working as a nanny in St Petersburg for some rich family, later in kitchens of Riga, Latvia and Lithuania… I never got to meet her but my granny learned many “fancy” recipes from her. In comparison, peasant food was very simple… Vegetable soup (beets, cabbage, potatoes, carrots) in the morning before hard farming outside, meat, potatoes, bread…. No fancy cakes, I am not even sure they had spices except for pepper and salt. They probably had to buy it from Jewish traders and they were living in every bigger town because Jews in Russian Empire were not allowed to buy land therefore they could not be farmers. Alcoholism was also a common problem, as peasants could make their own beer and vodka. In 19th century there was also a movement in church (and church meant everything for peasants) to teach people that drinking is not healthy at any amounts.
Then it was devil military that all men were afraid of… The serving time was 25 years!!!! This is also quite common reason for men to run away. My granny once said that at the time her father was young, it was basically the same decision, go further to Russia or US.
I believe, your great great grandparents belonged to some estate where they had to work for an owner of estate. The land in this area is quite fertile in comparison with South Lithuania but they probably still did not have enough food, clothes etc.
Okay, so there were couple of estates around Preibiai and Stanioniai but there is hardly anything left out it (Mind two World Wars and Soviet times that went through the land).
Lastly, how did they get out of their villages to US. I have seen an article in English somewhere about it (think it was on lithuaniangenealogy.org). Well, there was a train line Warsaw, Poland to St. Petersburg, Russia, so they could take that one. All of them had to sail either from UK or Northern Germany to USA, later on there were ships from Liepoja, Latvia as well.
At least seven descendants – three of the children and four grandchildren born in Lithuania immigrated to the US:
1. Kazimieras (Charles) Markevičius (Morris) who settled in Athol, MA
2 & 3. Salomėja Markevičiūtė (Morris) with her son Antanas (Anthony George) who settled in Pittsfield and then Athol, MA
4 & 5. Rapolas (Ralph Peter) Markevičius (Morris) with his son Petras who settled in South Boston, MA
6 & 7. two children of Elžbieta Markevičiūtė – Raphael Vyšniauskas (Wishnewski) who in 1905 was in Pittsfield, MA living with his mother’s sister Salomėja, & Ona (Anna) Vyšniauskas (Wishnewski) who married on 29 Oct 1906, Antanas (Anthony) Gasiunas (Gasson/Gaston), of Gelaziai and settled in Pittsfield, MA
Although confirming records have not yet been located, family lore indicates that the patriarch Baltramiejus Markevičius may have lived/died in Athol, MA. His granddaughter, Nellie (Morris) Vinnis, recounts that her father, Charles Morris brought home to Athol his father from Lithuania. “Baltramiejus was well known. He didn’t have to work, so he walked all over town to talking to anyone and everyone They found him dead one day sitting by a tree looking at a stream”.
A few years ago, I had written here about meeting Mitt Gasson, my first real breakthrough. Mitt was a possible cousin who invited me into his home, fed me my first Lithuanian meal, shared stories and photos and taught me me first Lithuanian words “Aš tave myliu” (I love you). He was a wonderful man, but he lived 6 hours away… Sadly he passed away in June and although we connected via email, I never had the opportunity to see him again.
My husband and I with Mitt at his home in Pittsfield, MA
For the short time that I knew Mitt, he “pretended” that he wasn’t interested in genealogy, but it was clear that he cared deeply for his family and his Lithuanian heritage. Shortly after his death, I meet someone who helps with the breakthrough I had been seeking for years….also proving that Mitt and I are 3rd cousins! Serendipity…
UPDATE – The story of my Lithuanians can be read here – https://passagetothepast.wordpress.com/2014/02/05/book-club/