21 February 2014

RIIS Ancestors (Estonia) Part Four

Further clarification and appropriate credit: The "folklore" and the "narratives" I have been following are the online work of Urmas Haud, Estonian astronomer and genealogist.[1] His profession explains the initial confusion with the Tartu Observatory website. I've no idea why I had such difficulty finding the root site other than general technical ineptitude. However, the website is huge and navigation is not the easiest. There is more to be explored.
Now let's see if I can pull together information about the next generation, drawing largely from the extensive website pages. I will somewhat re-phrase the site's translated introduction:
The following is basically a memorial to the folk tradition, drawn on the written story of one family's formation and expansion. As the Riis clan grew in quite long isolation from the outside world, it also coincided with the development of two of Estonia's forest villages; the family and the villages are inseparable.[2]

Hans "Riis" is my alleged sixth great-grandfather. His wife is named Kai on the Geni family trees but her name does not appear in the online narrative.

Hans had three sons; each of them had many sons. The narrative has no dates associated with Hans' sons: Peet, Jan, and Tonis. Two of them chose separate parts of their grandfather Tiit's lands on which to live. I'm working on spotting all the location names, which were mostly on the large Vastemöise estate ― an estate that existed from the Livonian Order period. The aristocratic Von Stryk family was the landowner in the 1700s; as of yet I have found nothing more about them.

The Geni trees give Peet's dates as ca.1727-9 June1783. "Hantsu eldest son Peet gone up along the edge of the river and made a house. Thus emerged Oolmiku farm."[3] That description is about the clearest of all farm names mentioned. "River" probably refers to Raudna. A son of "Oolmiku Peet" married a woman from Oolmiku village, a place named after her mother (or her maternal family?). It appears that Peet's descendants were associated with Oolmiku, aka Hoolmiku, farm until at least the early twentieth century. 

Middle son Tonis seems to have stayed at his father's location, Adutuaa? on the Sillavilla? probably still near Sandra village. He was known for maintaining his father's (and grandfather's) lifestyle of admirable clothing and horses. Two of Tonis's sons founded farms called Aadujaani and Sõõru.

Youngest son Jan aka Jan Tõramaa (ca.1725-12 January 1800: year of birth precedes elder brothers?) is deemed the direct ancestor. He "come to the creek and the forest has a house here ... So could be Abaja farm ... inherited from his father-spirit and pride."[4] The nominal "Tõremaa" and variations (e.g. Teramane, etc) seem to indicate his location and there is a village of that name now. 
"Riisa Hall stands in the lower reaches of the river's seat of forests, swamps and marshes behind so that in the old days during the summer when the rest did not make it out alone along the river. In winter, when the bogs and fens was on top of the bridge, it had all the external services, and time to get errands." 
Riisa "Hall" (or something similar) would appear to be the name for his home. Perhaps "the creek," is connected to the Raudna river.

More interesting garble from the story: "He received a full Tõramaa lust ...". Seems he had some dispute with older brother Peet, perhaps resulting in one ousting the other from somewhere. But "Tõramaa will come back, and it started to work well. Father, Father's fortunes remember wearing boots and spurs sincerely loved riding horses." Regarding Jan's location, one Geni tree has a slight variation: Jan "... come Tõramaa creek forest and made it into the house. Only the house was a place for the stream section of land was treeless, otherwise all the fat Laan. Both were born Teramane (Abaja) farm."[5]
Part of Soomaa National Park; photo by Aivar Ruukel
An explanation of "isolation from the outside world" is necessary. The lands occupied by Tiit Kolgis and his descendants is a very large, once heavily wooded, marshy area. Clearly it had discouraged much settlement before Tiit's time. The entire area of Riis habitation for generations is now part of Soomaa National Park ("Estonia's Wilderness Capital"), dedicated to protection of its special ecological environment. Wilderness is a significant word. More on this in the next installment — lengthy searches have finally produced a very relevant map.

Our Jan had two sons including the direct ancestor Andres Riis (ca.1764-21 November 1843). Andres' year of birth is up in the air. The Geni trees show his precise date of death, most probably from a written record, occurring at age 79, hence the calculation back to 1764. On the other hand, one researcher adds, "According to the Book of the Church was born in 1756."[6]

From what I can gather, Andres was not much of a farmer. He always planted his rye early and never had a good harvest. One year a son argued strongly with him about the appropriate planting time, so each did their own thing on different parts of the land. The son proved a bountiful rye crop while Andres failed again. His father was suitably impressed and said to him, ""Sow, son - I can see that my work is not in it." One wonders at the ability to cultivate in a difficult environment for almost three hundred years! It's not clear (again) but the farm seems to have been Jan's Tõremaa. Andres' other son Tiit apparently went further off to an "island marsh dwelling."

Further information continues regarding the sons of sons; other farms in the vicinity associated with them were Üleoja and Riisa Kangru. But the translation gets even rougher. It is Andres' daughter Liso Riis (10 February 1794 - ??) who is my great-great-great-grandmother.

My stumbling explorations have been interesting the appeal seems obvious (out of the swamps we came?) but still incomplete even from Haud's website alone, and subject to translation errors.

How useful is all this? We shall see ... Part Five has a helpful map!

[1] "Hobby," Urmas Haud, (http://www.aai.ee/~urmas/ : accessed January-February 2014).
[2] "Preposition," (http://www.aai.ee/~urmas/aba/abaja0.html).
[3] "Oolmiku," (http://www.aai.ee/~urmas/aba/abaja2.html).
[4] "Hantsu Sons," (http://www.aai.ee.~urmas/aba/abaja1.html).
[5] Leivo Sepp, Geni (http://www.geni.com/people/Jaan-Riis-Terrama/6000000002648701224).
[6] Leivo Sepp, Geni (http://www.geni.com/people/Andres-Riis/6000000003319166562).

© 2014 Brenda Dougall Merriman

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