Geneaology – The Kovne’s – Part 1

Recently my daughter was given a school assignment to find out more information about places of interest in Westville. She chose to do her main study on Bertheil Museum. I was lucky to have met a lady whose ancestors can be traced back to the first settlers in Port Natal. In fact a photo of her great great great grandmother is up on the wall at the museum.

Learning about her history sparked the fire in me to learn more about my family again. I have always had an interest in genealogy and as a child; I had a huge fascination with Louw Geldenhuys’ House, the area in which we lived was named Emmarentia after the farmer’s daughter.
When I left school I heard that one of the cousins had done some research and I quizzed him about what he had learned. He told me that the house where our ancestors lived in Kovno Gubernia in Lithuania possibly still stood.
This tid bit of information stayed with me – not knowing what to do with it until a couple of months back when my doctor directed me to google the Lithuanian Census. He also mentioned to me that Kovno would be the name of the place (suburb) and Gubernia would describe the place whether it be a town or province.
On JewishGen I found the following:

Russian Empire (until 1918)

Gubernias and Uyezds:
Prior to WWI (1917), the area that is now Lithuania was in the Russian Empire, and was part of three gubernias (provinces): Kovno, Vilna, and Suwałki.  Each gubernia was in turn divided into seven uyezds (districts).
These gubernia and uyezd divisions are as follows:

Kovno Gubernia:

Kaunas (modern day), not Kovno (Lithuania)

Kaunas [Lith], Kovno [Rus], Kovne [Yid], Kovna [Heb], Kowno [Pol], Kauen [Ger]

Russian: Ковно. Yiddish: קאָװנע
Capital of Lithuania between the two world wars.

Jewish Population: 25,448 (in 1897), 40,000 (1914)


Kovno, Kovnouyezd, Kovnogubernia, Russian Empire


Kaunas, Kaunasapskritis, Lithuania





Towns: Ariogala, Grinkiškis (Grinkishok), Kėdainiai (Keidan), Krakės (Krok), Jonava, Seredžius (Srednik), Vandžiogala, Vilijampolė (Slobodka), Vilkija.

Inter-war Lithuania:

After World War I, Lithuania became an independent country. Its capital was Kaunas. (Vilnius was in Poland between the wars).
Independant Lithuania was divided into 23 districts (singular: apskritis, plural: apskritys), and further subdivided into sub-districts (singular: valsčius, plural: valsčiai).

The 23 districts of inter-war Lithuania were:










Pagėgiai *





Šilutė *


Klaipėda *







The capital city of each district was the same as the name of the district, with the exception of Seinai (capital city was Lazdijai) and Trakai (capital city was Kaišiadorys), because the cities of Sejny and Troki were in Poland at that time.

The former Prussian territory of Memel (Ger. Memelland) became an autonomous part of Lithuania under the Memel Statute in January, 1923.
After finding this information, I signed up, got my own ID and logged in a search for the Kovna Province.
I also did a little more research about the history of the Province to gain a better understanding of the surroundings and the way of life there.
This article although a really long one had photos and gave me some idea of how the Jews lived there and the difficulties they endured.
These excerpts I think may be most significant to my ancestry, as according to info I already have my Great grandfather arrived in South Africa in 1916 after marrying
“The First World War, the Expulsion of the Jews, and German Occupation
The first to suffer in result of the war among the Lithuanian Jews were the Jews of Kovno. Soon after the outbreak of war on the first of August 1914, thousands of residents left the town. As the warfront approached, a few thousand Jews transferred to Vilna and other settlements in the area.
On May 18, 1915, the head of the Russian army, the great prince Nikolai Nikolaiovich ordered that all the Jews, without exception, be expelled from the city of Kovno, and practically from the entire region. This order was immediately executed with no pity or consideration toward even those who were sick or handicapped. On the eve of the Jewish holiday Shavuot of 1915, the town was cleared of Jews.
Jewish apartments and businesses were officially shut down by the police and military authorities, although in reality Christians took over the Jews’ possessions and looted their homes. Only a minor part of the exiled Jews were able to find shelter in Vilna; most were taken south and east, deep into Russia, to areas far from the border.”
“Only a few months passed before the German army took over the Russian front and conquered the regions of Kovno, Vilna, and Grodno. Germans invaded Kovno on August 18 of 1915 and Vilna was taken a short time later, during Yom Kippur, September 1915.
The few Kovno Jews who had stayed in Vilna now immediately returned to their homes in Kovno, but found their possessions looted and homes destroyed. In addition, their synagogues and public institutions were robbed.”
“The Jewish activists also took care of the Jewish POWs who lived under very difficult conditions.
In general, residents of Kovno did not suffer from starvation and epidemics as much as the residents of Jewish Vilna. For some reason, the German occupation in Kovno was, relatively speaking, much easier on the population than the occupation in other places.”
I have also found immigrant lists which I am now studying.
Another tip from my doctor was to add my family tree on a site called Geni. It’s a social site, where you add and grow your tree by inviting living family members to your tree through their email address. That family member then adds who they know and your tree grows. I only started my tree yesterday but according to my doctor if Geni notices that you have similarities in your tree to another person’s tree they send you email, so that you can check if the trees are in fact the same ones.
I am addicted, or as my friend Lilian says I’ve been bitten by the bug.
I will be posting more info as I receive it as well as excerpts
from an article from “one of the cousins” about the research he compiled.

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About Di

Di believes that the most important and most fulfilling “job” she has is being a mom of two. She is an author and animal communicator. Her greatest passion is animals and their welfare. She enjoys writing about animals and topics to help others with their spiritual growth.

Posted on March 13, 2013, in Geneaology, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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