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« Tuna 2 / 2016

A Family that Died over 300 Years Ago Has Been Successfully Kalev Jaago: Identified Using Pictures

In the early spring of 2015, one of the authors of this article started digging a pit in front of the front door of the vestibule of the Jaani-Aadu farm’s new dwelling in Peanse village in Lihula Rural Municipality to build a stair. In front of the exterior wall of the vestibule at a depth of 60 cm from the ground surface, a skull came into view and shortly another as well. The National Heritage Board was informed of the find and an excavation permit was applied for.

The digging began on 1 and 2 May, impeded by groundwater seeping into the pit and by the clayey soil. It turned out that four skeletons were buried in a common grave, one of which was that of a child. Three coins, a small horseshoe-shaped brooch, and a severely oxidised metal object were found near the child’s skull.

The numismatist Ivar Leimus determined the origin of the coins. The coins were Swedish 1/6 öres and a Charles XII öre from 1701. The coins confirm the presumption that the remains could be those of victims of the plague of 1710. Institute of History anthropologist Raili Allmäe analysed the bones. According to her assessment, the skeletons were those of an 11–15 year old child or adolescent, a man’s skeleton aged 45+ years, a woman aged 50+ years and a child aged 7 years +/- 30 months.

There is no farm by the name of Jaani-Aadu listed under Peanse village in the oldest parish register of Karuse Church (1685–1728). Yet it turns out from the registers of residents of Lihula manorial estate for the period 1782–1858 that this farm had borne the name Leti in earlier archival sources.

The 1686 register of socage holdings and the taxes imposed on them lists the farm of Leti Andres (or Andrus) among the 13 farms of Peanse village. The parish register for 1692 already names his son Mihkel as the head of the farm. There are entries in the parish register concerning the christening of two of Mihkel’s children. The register for 1712 proves that the family had died out, since according to the register, Kehmo Jüri’s family was the only one in the village to survive the plague. Thus the buried persons could very likely have been Mihkel, son of Leti Andrus, Mihkel’s unnamed wife and their children Heinrich (christened on 7 September 1699) and Ann (christened on 31 January 1703). They are evidently victims of the plague of 1710–1711, and as a rare instance, the bones can be connected to specific historical persons.

The bones of these four people were buried in Karuse Cemetery on 31 October. Pastor Endel Apsalon conducted a modest burial service at the graveside.