During our trip in 2002 we stayed a few days in Riga, another beautiful Baltic city, but it didn’t quite beat Tallinn. In Riga, we again had a passionate guide who told us about the changeover period in which he as a student took an active role. He showed us the paver in the street in front of the Parliament House, on which he stood when the independence of Latvia was declared. Lots of interesting stories. Riga is built along the river Duagave. This river already played a key role in pre-historic times, creating a border between various tribes. The Balts were the people who arrived around 2000 BC in Latvia and they were still there at the time the Teutonic Knights invaded around 1200. The Balts had their own distinct language. Their closest relatives were the Russian Slavs and the current language is a Slavonic one.

Historic Overview

Under the assault of Ivan the Terrible the Teutonic Order collapsed in 1561. Remarkable, the Order’s last master, Gothard Kettler, salvaged Courland (Kurzeme in Latvian) and neighbouring Zemgale as his personal fiefdom. In 1558 he pledged alliance to Poland and Courland became a duchy under Polish suzerainty. The consequent dukes remained largely independent.  Duke Jacob (1640-1682) established his capital in Jelgava. He developed his own navy and merchant fleet and purchased two far flung colonies – Tobago in the Caribbean (from Britain) and an island in the Gambia river (from African chiefs). He even laid plans to colonise Australia! Both colonies were successful trade ventures until the end of his reign (1682), when the navy fell apart and the two colonies were lost to the English and the Dutch

Duke Friederich Wilhelm was even able to marry the Russian tsarina Anna Joanovna.

His son Duke Ferdinand, the last descendent of the Kettler dynasty, tried to make Jelgava the ‘northern Paris’. But his successor, Ernst Johann Biron, went even further as will be discussed under ‘Rundale’ below.

When we visited Jelgava, the palace functioned as a college and is, yes you guessed it, in desperate need of restoration.

From 1795 till 1918 the duchy formed part of Russia. In 1919 Courland, together with the southern part of Livonia became what is now known as Latvia.


From here we travelled south and visited some of the most historic sites in Latvia. One of my key genealogy friends in relation to this region is Klas Lackschewitz. One of his great-great-grandmother lived in Mesothen / Mezotne. This castle belonged to the Duke Charlotte v. Lieven, née v. Gaugreben. She educated the czars Nikolaus and Alexander. We visited this recently fully restored very interesting palace, which has now been turned into a conference centre and hotel, just beautiful.


From here we travelled to the Versailles of Latvia, an out of this world palace, in the middle of nowhere, built by the Duke Ernst Johann (1737-1769). Designed by the famous French architect Rastrelli, who was the lead architect in Petersburg at that time. Ernst Johann was born in a poor landlord’s family in Courland. He became a favourite of the Russian tsarina Anna Joanovna (1730-1740), after her husband Duke Friedrich had died. When Joanovna ascended the Russian throne in 1730, he became the senior chamberlain of the Empress. This put him in a very strong position to convince the nobility of Courland to elect him as the new Duke after Ferdinand died childless in 1737.

However, in anticipation he had already started with the construction of Rundale in 1735.  A special village for an army of 1000 workers had to be built for the construction of the palace and daily over 433 horse wagons were driving up and down to St Petersburg to deliver the building materials. A fascinating place to visit.

After the death of Joanovna in 1740, Duke Ernst became for 22 days the regent of the Russian Empire. However, he was arrested and sentenced to death. This was replaced by exile for life to Siberia. Fortune smiled again upon Ernst Johan in 1762 when tsar Peter III returned Biron his titles. A major reconstruction of Rundale started in 1764, after Ernst Johann started, after a political fight, the 2nd stage of his reign in Courland. However, deep discord remain this led to his abdication in 1769 in favour of his son Peter and eventually to the loss of Courland’s independence in 1795. The Duchy was annexed by Russia.

The next day it was back on the Budde trail. This time to the north of Latvia near the Kolka coast, we stayed in the fishing village Roja. From here we travelled to the area around the city of Talsi, situated in the middle of the only hilly area of the country. It is a lovely town and already before our trip we got a taste of the hospitality of this town as the tourist office has gone out of there way to send us information about the places I was interested in. We took the opportunity while we were there to say thank you.

The Budde Family


The Buddes in Courland are not related to the Buddes in Estonia, whose heritage goes back to Pommern, but to the Buddes in Westphalen (The Knights from Dranthem – for details on them see the Budde Book). There has been some confusion amongst genealogists in the 19th century regarding Matthias Budde, who came from Pommern and became the governor of Denmark for the island of Oesel.  He was married to Ursula von Behr, from Courland, and it was thought that Matthias’ branch of the family was related to the one in Courland, but it was indicated that it was unknown if there was a link with the Buddes here. He clearly is linked to the Budde’s in Pommern.

There is a separate coat of arms of the Budde lineage of Courland.


In 1631 a descendant of the Dranthem Budde’s, a Johann Budde in Kurland, claimed its noble heritage back to these Buddes. The various official requests for this recognition and the replies are still in existence in the historical archives. It was however, only after his death in 1646, that his family was finally included in the official nobility register of Kurland (Matrikel – entry 183), on 30th July 1648.  In the various applications he also stated that he had participated in various battles of the Thirty Year War, especially in the Livonian expedition.

He claimed title through both from his father’s and his from his mother’s side. She was a noble dame called ‘die Sperlingsche’ (daughter of Ambrosius Sperling?). On 18th July 1634 he also claimed that noble families from Meppen and Getling formed part of his family tree. The ‘direct’ family tree that he produced for the Duke Jacob von Courland at the court in Pilten (in the north of Courland) and the order of the Knights at the first diet of Courland, 13th November 1642, was as follows.

His grandfather Jürgen Budde arrived in Courland from Westphalia. He was also called Jürgen von Soest, probably because he arrived in Courland from Soest. He married N.N Sperling. He received from Walter von Plettenberg, in 1532, the lease of Alt Odern, near Talsen (Talsi), which he had, in his turn, received from Ambrosius Sperling. (Hans Sperling received, in 1443, from Odernsmeister (OM) Heidenreich Fink von Obenberg the leases of Wandsen (Vandzeme) and Odern. An ‘Odernsmeister (OM)’, is a title within the Teutonic Order. Sperling was the governor of Livonia for the Teutonic Order (see exhibit: Teutonic Knights).

They had two sons Heinrich and Jürgen. Heinrich lived in 1570 at Alt Odern, as well as his son Johann. According to a document of June 7th 1596, Jürgen’s brothers are named as the ‘Westphalishen’ branch of the Budde family.

In 1679 Alt Odern was sold by Johann Budde, he was married to Catherina Elisabeth von Fulda. After the sale a branch of this Budde family probably moved to Lithuania. They still held properties in that country well into the 18th century.

The last time the Buddes are mentioned in Courland was in 1727. Johan Conrad Budde had properties in Oberlande. In 1711 he married Amelia Nettelhorst and in 1727 (as a 1st lieutenant) Ursula Magdalena von Brunnow.


The difficulty was to find Alt Odern. Initially we thought this was a homestead called Jukas (previously named  Odern), close to the centre of Talsi. However, Klas had already indicated that this couldn’t be the right place and he directed us to Vandzeme midway between Talsi and Roja. We did find the Vandzeme mansion, as mentioned above, now a high school and after some discussion, using our hands and feet, a German teacher arrived and she helped us out. We quickly established that Vandzeme was not the right place and she was adamant that the place we were looking for was Nogale (near Darte) a few kilometres down the track. We knew already from our information from Klas that it would be difficult to find Alt Odern as the various estates were combined in the 18th century and the name Alt Odern had since disappeared. We did find the mansion that our German teacher had directed us to and we met the current owner Vilmars Vaiba, a young Latvian entrepreneur who, in the mid 1990s, acquired a run down porcelain factory in Riga and had since become a successful businessman. He had started the restoration of the mansion, a massive task but the first restored rooms are just looking magnificent. The current mansion was built around 1800 and replaced the previous estate that was demolished at that time. This old estate would have been dating back to the 16th century, according to Vilmars. One of the farms on the estate as well as an old windmill were the only reminders left of the old estate.

I am currently checking with Klas if this place could have been the Alt Odern I was looking for.


However, already in 1458 the name Budde already appears in Kurland. In that year Hermann Budde received from OM Johan Mengden, also known as ‘Olthof, the fief of a house near Goldingen (Kuldiga). It is however possible that this Hermann is a member of the Budde knights from Pommern.


Georg Budde and Margarethe Stoerenbeckhad a daughter Elizabeth..

She was born in approximately 1580 and married Everhardt  (Ewert) (von) Koskull (1566-1597).He is the owner of :

  • Eckhof (Ozmolmuiza, 23 km south of Frauenburg on the river Ezere.
  • Tyrsen (Rammenhof  or Rama) 18km south-west from Wenden

There daughter is Anna Maria Transehe (born Koskull).

There is another (?) Elizabeth Budde. She was married with Georg v. Ungern, owner of Orellen (Unguri – 10km from Wenden), Livonia. They had a daughter Magdalena who was buried on the 15th of January 1659 in Reval (Riga).

Otto Dietrich v. Budde married before 29.4.1668 Dorothea Elisabeth von Bolschwing.

A daughter (born after 1729) of the Polish Lieutenant Christopher Heinrich von Korff, owner of Kubluny (Johannenhof) in Lithuania, and N.N. von Duesterloh married a N.N. von Budde.

The last time the Buddes are mentioned in Kurland was in 1727. Johan Conrad Budde had properties in Oberlande. In 1711 he married Amelia Nettelhorst and in 1727 (as a 1st lieutenant) Ursula Magdalena von Brunnow.


At the end of the 19th century a x Budde moved from Klaipeda in Lithuania to Vlaardingen in the Netherlands. He got married here and had 3 boys. By 2002 there was only one family member left Irene Budde (