Friday, March 16, 2012

The Wulffius Family of Latvia

Biron wash basin in the State Heritage Museum formerly owned by the Wulffius family

 My step-grandmother known as Madame Nadine Wulffius (1899 Riga Latvia-1992 Dumbleyung Western Australia) told me that her husband Baron Alf-Paul Oscar Wulffius came from a place in Latvia called Salnevo or Salneva. She also said that her father -in -law Baron Alexander Robert Wulffius was a manger of the Tsar's estates. Until recently I only had her tales to go on but recently I found information on the internet about the Wulffius family. She also told me how her husband had been taken away and killed by the Communists during World War Two. I was also to find confirmation of this on the internet.
Countess Sophia Sollogub (nee Vielgorskii)

According to a Latvian source the Wulffius (Vulfiuss/ Vulfius) family lived in Salnavas (Salnava, Salnevas) when Baroness Katarina (or Jekaterina)Wulffius (nee Sollogub)married into the Wulffius's family. Her father Count Matvey Vladimirovich Sollogub (Sollohub) bought an estate in Salnavas in 1868 from Prince Vikenti Sadurski which he gave to his daughter Katarina. The State Heritage Museum has a wash basin that once belonged to the Wulffius family inherited from Duke Ernst Johann Biron an ancestor of Countess Katerina Sollogub (born 1860 died 1918) who became Baroness Wulffius. Nana Wuffa (as we called Nadine Wulffius)did tell me that her mother-in-law had been a Russian Countess called Katerina but she didn't know the surname. Countess Katarina was the daughter of Count Matvey Sollogub whose father was a famous literary figure Count Vladimir Sollogub and his wife Sophia Ivanovna Arkharova (born 1792) was a friend of Czar Alexander I and Pushkin. Sophia Arkharova was the daughter of Ivan Petrovich Arkharova the Governor of Moscow and his wife Countess Katerina Rimska-Korsakova.

Alexander Ludwig Wulffius (1820-1884)

Countess Katerina Sollogub's paternal grandmother Countess Sophia Vielgorskii's [born 1827] ancestor was the Duke Ernest Johann Biron of Courland and Regent of Russia and also said to be a lover of the Empress Anna of Russia. Her mother Countess Hedwig Biron was the daughter of Count Peter Johann Biron and his wife Elisabeta Jacobi was of Jewish and Frankist ancestry. This Hedwig Biron has been confused with Hedwig the daughter of Duke Ernst Johann Biron. Count Peter Biron (b.1818) was a son of Count Gustav Biron who in turn was the son of Duke Karl Ernst Biron of Courland.  Countess Elisabeta Jacobi was a daughter of Apollonia Wulffius (b.1816) a daughter of Alexander Wulffius (b.1784) who first came to Latvia from Posen.

Princess Louisa Biron (Countess Vielgorskii)

Count Vladimir Sollogub was the son of Count Alexander Sollogub a wealthy patron of the Arts. Count Vladimir's father-in-law was Count Michael Vielgorskii (Wielhorskii) (born 1788) whose wife was Princess Louisa Karlovna Biron (born 1791). Louisa was the daughter of Duke Karl Ernst Biron of Courland who was a son of Duke Ernst Johann Biron mentioned above. Vladimir Sollogub also attended the University of Tartu where he graduated in 1834.

Count Vladimir Sollogub

Countess Katerina Sollogub married Baron Alexander Robert Wulffius (born 1854 Dorpat died 1940 Wolmar Latvia) son of Alexander Ludwig Wulffius (born 1820 Latvia)and his wife Daphne Caroline Bergholtz. They married in 1882 in Tartu (Dorpat) in Estonia. Alexander Ludwig Wulffius may have been the Alexander Wulffius who graduated from the University of Tartu in 1845. Baron Alexander Ludwig Wulffius also had brothers Hermann Wulffius (born 1820 died 1884 St Petersburg)), Paul Magnus Wulffius (born 1830 died 1896 Moscow) and Emanuel Nikolaus Wulffius (born 1832 died 1885).

                                   Baron Alexander Robert Wulffius
The Wulffius family descended from a family of German Jewish merchants from Posen who had become Protestants and settled in Latvia in the Russian Empire. The first ancestors in Latvia were Alexander Wulffius (born 1784 Posen died 1868 Riga Latvia) and his wife Rosalie Lieven. Emanuel and Paul Wulffius are listed as Jewish students at the University of Tartu in Estonia in 1850 on the Tartu University Educational website. On a list of German Jews killed in World War Two is Hedwig Sara Wulffius (born 1871) is listed. However it is believed that at this time these Wulffius family members were Christians of Jewish ancestry rather than practicing Jews. Of course the childen of Alexander and Rosalie (nee Lieven) were halakically Jewish according to Orthodox Jewish law even though they had been reared as Protestant Christians. As Jewishness passes halakhically through the mothers later Wulffius family members would only be Jewish if their mothers were of maternal Jewish ancestry. Some of the Wulffius family became victims of Hitler's racial laws even though they had been Protestants for a few generations and only had Jewish ancestors on one line of their ancestry.

Ella Amitan-Wilensky in her article titled "Esthonian Jewry A Historical Summary" states: "...During the Eighteen Thirties Jewish patients from the Pale of Settlement were given special permission to come for treatment to the hospitals of Dorpat, which had an excellent medical reputation. Later many Jewish students from the Pale of Settlement and Inner Russia also came to this famous University City. The first Jewish student known in Dorpat was a certain Alexander Wulfius, who was there in 1840. After he graduated in laws he converted to Christianity and remained in Dorpat permanently. At the same time he maintained his friendship with Jews and helped those of the city considerably in their communal and cultural affairs. He also made large-scale contributions to the Community. It is interesting that he was popular and highly respected by Jews and Christians alike..." According to Wulffius family members Alexander did not convert to Christianity but his parents were already converted to Protestantism from Judaism before they arrived in Latvia. However it would seem that at least Alexander and his son Theodore maintained an interest in the welfare of the Jewish community.

Salnava Manor today: Home of the Wulffius Family until 1944

Alexander Ludwig Wulffius had a son called Theodor Alexander Wulffius (born 1850 died 1918) who was a curator and benefactor of a Jewish school in Dorpat. In the memoirs of Isidor Brenson (1854-1928)he mentions Theodor Wulffius. "...When I came to Dorpat, I found about fifteen Jewish students there, who appeared to stick together really well and gathered at one of the students’ homes by turns. For the moment I joined this circle. Just as all Jewish life is serious, the efforts of the young Jewish students were also centered on serious things. We had founded an elementary school for poor Jewish children, and thereby contributed much to an improvement in the spiritual and mental level of the Jews of Dorpat, who because of their great poverty and ignorance lived in great darkness at that time. We students ourselves taught at the school without pay and chose from our midst a school principal. I functioned as such for several semesters. The means for the school’s maintenance, such as rent, heat and operation, school supplies, and often also clothes for the children, we obtained partly by self-taxation, and partly through a subsidy of 100 rubles per year from the honorary curator we had chosen for the school, attorney Theodor Wulffius, JD, who magnanimously contributed considerable sums of his own money. When I was principal, besides Wulffius, Professor Allexander Oettingen, author of moral statistics, and jurist Professor Heinrich Mühlau also served as honorary curators.

All three gentlemen were invited to the final exam. I had drilled the little girls so well in biblical history that they recited their answers like clockwork. Things went just as well with the other subjects. The honorary curators were delighted and could not express their praise enough. They were hardly gone, when they sent large tureens of steaming hot chocolate and the most delicious cake from the nearest pastry shop as an expression of their satisfaction. The enthusiasm was so great that I pretty well had to give in to the wish of the children for a little dance, in which a few of the teachers participated. The seed we scattered then, fertilized by our zeal, bore good fruit. Enlarged and better financed, the school existed until the World War (1914)...".
Both Theodore and his father Alexander Ludwig Wulffius were attorneys.

It would seem that Theodore Wulffius had a son Alexander Theodore Wulffius (b.1878 d. 1906) who was a Second Master on a Sailing Ship that visited Newcastle in Australia. He was murdered by one Alexander Brehmer (Brechmer) the first mate by a pistol shot to the head after only being in New South Wales for 3 weeks. He died on 8 January 1906 in the Newcastle Hospital. His death certificate states that he was born in St Petersburg Russia and he was buried according to the rites of the Church of England and is buried in the Sandgate Cemetery. Brehmer during a quarrel shot Wulffius and then committed suicide by shooting himself in the head which occurrred in the Cabin of the German ship called Werra. Wulffius was shot through the spine and head according to a newspaper report at the time. The Sydney Morning Herald of 1 January 1906 reports that Brehmer was drunk and had disobeyed orders and that Captain Julius Brunings had a warrant for his arrest. 

Madame Nadine Wulffius was the daughter of a Russian Countess Kladiya Aleksayev-Yavosluski who is believed to have actually been the daughter of Czar Alexander II. Countess Kladiya's mother Anna Shulgin became a Lady -in -Waiting to the Empress after her first marriage to Prince Vladimir Meshcherski. She became pregnant to the Czar and her marriage to Prince Vladimir who was a well-known homosexual was annulled and she married the Count.  Nadine Wulffius was trained at the Imperial Ballet School in St Petersberg and she danced with the Latvian Theatre in Riga under the name Mirceva. She was later a choreographer and ran her own Ballet School in Western Australia.

There are a number of other scholarly Wulffius (Vulfiuss/ Vulfius) descendants such as Herman Hermanovitch Vulfius (1865-1893) a famous archeologist who was the son of Hermann Wulffius who studied at the University of Tartu. There is also Pavel (Paul) Vulfius (1908-1977) the famous Russian musicologist who was a son of the historian Alexander Vulfiusa.

Count Alexander Sollogub-an ancestor of Baroness Katherina Wulffius

Wulffius Descent from the Dukes of Courland

1. Duke Gotthard Kettler of Courland married Princess Anna of Mecklenburg-Schwerin

2. Duke Wilhelm Kettler of Courland married Princess Sophie of Prussia
3. Duke Jacob Kettler of Courland by his lover Christina Margaretha von Raab (nee Bergholtz)
4. Katarina Hedwig von Raab married Count Karl von Biron
5. Ernst Johann Biron, Duke of Courland and Regent of Russia b.1690
6. Karl Ernst Biron, Duke of Courland b.1728
7. Princess Louise Karlovna Biron b.1791[sister of Gustav Biron] married Count Michael Vielgorskii
8. Countess Sophia Vielgorskii b.1827 married Count Vladimir Sollogub
9. Count Matvey Sollogub married Countess Hedwig Biron daughter of Count Peter Biron b.1818 and Elisabeta Jacobi
10. Countess Katerina Sollogub b.1860 married Baron Alexander Wulffius
11. Baron Alf Paul Oscar Wulffius married Nadine Krivko (Baroness Nadine Wulffius)

Note: After researching and writing this blog article I found this interview with a member of the Vulfiuss family in Riga. Vera is a daughter of Baron Kurt Wulffius a brother of Baron Alf Paul Oscar Wulffius.

Note 2: It is also said that the three children of Duke Ernst Johann were actually the children he had with the Empress Anna but reared as the children of his legal wife. It is also probable that Ernst Johann's mother Katarina Hedwig was really an illegitimate daughter of Duke Jacob Kettler of Courland with her mother Christina Maragrethe von Bergholtz and that Caspar von Raab was not her biological father.

Note 3:(Added April 2013) Nadine Wulffius, Gerhard Wulffius and Vera Vulfiuss-Bartosevska all independently of each other know of the wife of Baron Alexander Wulffius as a Russian Countess named Katerina or Ekaterina. Nadine Wulffius (Nana Wuffa) told me first of Baron Alexander Wulffius and his wife the Russian Countess Katerina in 1978 when I interviewed her and took down some notes. She also gave me a list of their children and their wives that she could remember. My sister Tamara later showed me some handwritten notes by Nadine who also listed this information for her around 1971 at the time of her marriage. My mother also knew of these facts much earlier in the 1950's from her mother-in-law and also her husband. Countess Katerina or Ekaterina Sollugub and her connection to the Wulffius family is mentioned in the State Heritage Museum website which states about the Biron wash basin the following information:

"Provenance: prior to 1741, in the possession of the owner; after 1741, the property of the imperial household; from 1759 belonged to Duke Biron’s heirs, first his daughter and then his granddaughter, Countess Sollogub, who took it as dowry into the Wulffius family; in 1904 it passed to Duke M.G. Mecklenburg-Strelitsky. Entered the Hermitage in 1922 from the collection of Duchess Elena Georgievna of Saxon-Altenburg."

                                   Baroness Ekaterina Wulffius [nee Sollugub (Solluhub)]

The title Baron was a courtesy title granted to Alexander Robert Wulffius on his marriage to Countess Katerina who was then known as Baroness Katerina Wulffius. At this time it was common for influential families to take courtesy titles. A Wulffius family member informed me that Alexander Ludwig Wulffius did receive some kind of ennoblement and did not have to pay taxes so it may have been Alexander Robert's father that first used the courtesy title of Baron Vulfiuss or Wulffius.

Note 4: In 1949 Ernest, Nicholas and Virginia Vulfius left Italy and arrived in Sydney.