06 February 2014

RIIS Ancestors (Estonia) Part Three

Part One and Part Two introduced "Tiit Kolgis" (born ca.1650).
Clarification: my ultimate source for his legend is a website built on Estonian folk tales, collected by Jaan Kuldkepp, popularly referred to as the Kuldkepp Chronicles and published online by a presumed descendant.[1]
The tale continues with Tiit's descendants. He had a son Hants Ries or Riis; there is no mention of another son in the folklore. According to the aforesaid website the origin of the-nickname-that-became-a-surname has a few unresolved linguistic points:
Riis denotes a rich man;
Ries ("der Riese" in German means something like giants) and Tiit's descendants were all big strong men;
Ries could mean "freeze" if Tiit had perhaps actually been from Dutch Friesland [Frisia/Fryslân].

That last sounds a little lame to me ― it's so dependent on correlating pronunciation among different languages. It seems possible to me that a "knight" called "Swedish" could have been drawn from any part of northern Europe claiming allegiance to the the Swedish king at that time, such as a German state or Friesland, i.e. a knight who knew where his bread was buttered. The word "Rice" also appears as a surname, apparently as a freaky pronunciation match by the translation software.

Hants or Hans flourished like his father "but without his sword and spurs." It was apparently Hans who lived through, and was most affected by, the twenty-year Great Northern War when the invading Russians caused a great deal of destruction. The peasants often fled into the forests to hide. There's considerable detail, albeit garbled, about how the enemy "extortioners" sought to ambush Hans along the river, but he outwitted them. The great house built by his father was all but destroyed in the war; it's said that only the "Tõnistua" room survived ― another one of those problematic words.
From http://www.aai.ee/~urmas/riisa.html
The small red box on this map indicates the specific area of interest within Estonia. The search is still on for a better-scale map with (hopefully) village names.

Hans, already dubbed the "rich man," survived and eventually the village was reconstructed. Hans himself is said to have rebuilt elsewhere on the lands inherited from his father Tiit. He started a new farm that may have been called Aadutua. The Sillavalla River is mentioned. He had three sons which coincides with what is told about the 1690 tax list, assuming only the children are shown on it as per the available transcript.

Hmmm ... if anyone is following this sketchiness, we have to wonder where is "Evert"? Evert ― accepted by all the Geni trees as the son of Tiit and our direct ancestor. The story says after the war Hans "have been looking for a decent place and set up everting (Aadutua?) Farm."[sic, but emphasis added] It was very unclear to me whether the word "everting" referred to a place name (to our eyes it looks like a verb or adjective) and if this is the source for a person called Evert.

The original Estonian: "Hants tulnud Sandralt Sillavalla jõge mööda allapoole Halliste alamjooksule, otsinud sündsa koha ja asutanud Everti (Aadutua?) talu." Note the capital E on "Everti." The context suggests a farm name. Maybe I do need a competent translator. Like now! The proliferation of capitalized words and other nouns throughout the account is a bit dazing, and they are not showing up on the usual search engines, understandable if they are obsolete farm and place names. Also, you see how a name's endings can alter, depending on grammatical placement.

The alleged son Evert (Eiwertil is an alternate name used in Geni) was spotted in 1690 on an estate tax list. Evert's household had, and again I quote a translated source: "two adults (older than 15 years) sons and two daughters and one son, a minor." Could the name on the tax list refer to a farm name rather than the head of the family? It might make more sense if this was Hans, living on the Evert or Aadutua farm. Three sons are attributed to Hans, not to Tiit.

Since the Geni trees have inserted Evert as the son of Tiit and father of Hans, is it possible they have conflated "Evert" and Hans? Although they give ca.1670 as Evert's birth year, and ca.1705 for that of Hans, the latter hardly squares with Hans being an adult and community leader during the Great Northern War (1700-1721). Well, it's not only the translations that make me skeptical!

Disclaimer (again): This is a different kind of research exercise, obviously not a truly genealogical project. At this stage, I seem to be little more than out-guessing the translations.

The story goes to grandchildren of Hans and gets more specific, but thus becomes exponentially more difficult to follow the translations. Undaunted, more to follow.

[1] While the URL www.aii.ee is for the Tartu Observatory, the Kuldkepp Chronicles has the same URL base (http://www.aai.ee/~tarmo/txt/Intro.html) that confused me at first. The name of the website is unclear. Forward tracking from the URL goes like this:
Click on "chronicle" (/~tarmo/txt/index.html#Sisukord)
Scroll down to Table of Contents, and choose
"Memories of Old Time," (~tarmo/txt/Vana.html#Malestusi_vanast_ajast)
Scroll down to "War Hiding Places" and click on hot link "Riisa Toramaa" (/~urmas/riisa.html)
Click on "rice for children of pedigrees" to /~urmas/aba/abaja1.html

© 2014 Brenda Dougall Merriman

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