|I bet you have never heard of such an ethnicity as Vots (Votians).
This is a small Finno-Ugrian tribe that lives in what is called now Leningrad
oblast but a long time ago was called Ingermanland. The number of the people
decreases quite fast, and soon the tribe will dissolve in the neighboring
people, if it has not happened yet. Some centuries ago there were more Vots,
but to my knowledge the tribe never was very numerous.
The history of Vots in Latvia is rather obscure. The historical sources inform that about 1445 the Livonian Order captured many people in Ingermanland and moved them to Bauska, where working force was needed to built a castle. After the castle was built, the Vots did not go back but were settled in the vicinities of Bauska and became farmers. Gradually they forgot their own language and customs and were assimilated in neighboring Latvians. This process was not very fast - it is estimated that about 1000 Vots could yet be counted there 400 years later in the middle of the 19th century.
Surrounding Latvians named the people "krieviņi" what is just the diminutive of the word "krievs" - Russian. Obviously, Latvians had no idea about the real ethnicity of this people neither they knew what the country they came from, and both the Russian and the Votian languages were equally foreign for them. The linguists have found not so few farm names "Krieviņi" in the Bauska region and it is only reasonable to suppose that these farms once belonged to Vots. As farm names frequently became the names of the families that lived there, you may consider the possibility that you were of Votian origin, if the name Krieviņš was discovered in your family tree.
Recently I have read biographical information about one of the leading actors in Latvia - Uldis Dumpis. He informed that his grandmother name was Krieviņš, and she has descended from Vots. Additionally he asserted that all Vots obtained the name Krieviņš, what I do not believe to. You have no reasons to think that all Krieviņš from your family tree should be former Vots, because there are a lot of other reasons for having the name.
To tell the truth, I decided to include the information on Vots on this Site just because I came across a paper of Kārlis Dziļleja published in the monthly review "Domas" (Thoughts) Nr. 5, 1929. The paper dealt with the genealogy of the greatest Latvian poet Jānis Rainis (his real name was J.Pliekšāns), and his Votian roots were discovered. At least the author asserted that such roots existed. In the paper all sources on Vots in Latvia were also analyzed, and even some poetry of Finnish epos Kalevala was discussed. I have planned to put the paper on the Web (in Latvian), although I am not sure the author is always right in his linguistic guesses.
© Bruno Martuzāns. 1995-2002