Category Archives: Generation 2


EMILIE CRAMERFemale View treeBorn: 1847-01-31Died: 1926-11-17
Father: UnspecifiedMother: Unspecified
Siblings: none

Emilie was one of five children born to Gottlieb and Elizabet Cramer.  She had two brothers: Karl and Julius; and two sisters: Wilhelmina and Henrietta. There is no record or account of her childhood.  Her son, Alec, says she married Victor when she was 15 (1862?), but the 1900 census lists the marriage as one of 33 years which would put it in 1867 – the same year as the birth and death of her first child, Elizabeth.  Her daughter, Val, says her parents had two ceremonies, one in Germany, 1 where they met, and a second in Russia where they made their first home.  Alec recalls that his mother’s family considered Victor a tyrant because he forbade Emilie from seeing her family after the marriage and move to Russia.

Val says the family was well off.  They had servants, a home in Moscow, and a summer home in Niskhi Novgorod.  Victor & Emilie had nine children, the first of which, Elizabeth, died in infancy in 1867.  The first child to survive infancy was Simeon, born in 1867.  A second daughter, Mary, also died in infancy in 1869.  The second child to survive infancy was Olga, born November 14, 1870 and their second son, Paul, was born on September 1, 1872.  Alec and Val both say Simeon was sickly and that the family wanted to move to a milder climate for the benefit of his health.  Surely, after the death of two children, Simeon’s health was a serious consideration.  The family did leave Russia for Italy on August 26, 1874.  Emilie was then 27.  She had three children: 7, 3, and 2 and was pregnant with Alec, who would be born in Italy on February 21, 1875.

Val says the family moved to a villa near Naples where her father had some unofficial diplomatic status.  Alec says his father refused to toast the Czar at a diplomatic gathering and was ordered to return to Russia.  Instead, the family moved to Paris, probably in early 1879.  Their last three children: Pierre, Vladimir, and Valentina, were born in Paris.

By all accounts, the family prospered in Paris, but Alec says French law imposed very heavy taxes on aliens.  By becoming French citizens, the family would have avoided the greater taxes, but the boys would have been subject to military service during a period of unrest between France and Germany.  Emilie, who was from Germany and had family there, would hardly have wanted her sons in the French Military.  The family considered another move.

In 1887, when he was 20, Simeon was sent to the Western Hemisphere to see if it would be a good place to live.  His reports were unimpressive.  The Family was considering moving to Greece when word arrived that Simeon, while in California, had became ill and died.  Emilie took her son’s death very hard.  According to Val, she insisted the family go to California to see where Simeon was buried.  Those wishes were what motivated the family to immigrate to the United States.  They arrived in New York, as visitors, on June 17, 1889 with California as their listed destination.  Because the entire family came, it is likely they intended the more to be permanent.

Val says Simeon’s grave was in San Francisco at a Russian Cemetery on Geary Street and that Emilie and Olga visited the site frequently until, while they were away, Val accidentally set a fire to their home.  Thereafter, Emilie stayed at home.  Other family accounts are that the grave could never be located because Church officials misplaced the burial records.

According to Edith, her daughter in law, Emilie never spoke English well.  She was more comfortable with German, Russian, French, and Italian in all of which she was fluent.  Sometimes she used words from several languages expressing a single thought.  Ted, her grandson, claims Emilie spoke English well.

In the years the family lived in San Francisco, Olga, their eldest daughter, married Ephrim Alexin, a Greek Orthodox Priest.  Emilie’s first grandchild, Olga, was born on February 14, 1892.   Paul had his 20th birthday, while Alec and Pierre were in their late teens and Vladimir and Val would become school age.

In 1895, Victor and Emilie moved their family to Oakland.  Their first home was at 229 Harlan Street where they were living at the time of the 1900 census.  Victor died in 1902 when Emilie was 55 and was still raising one minor child, Val, then 16.   Her husband’s will provided her with a sixth of his estate and an income of $100/month until Val became 21.  Val recalls that her mother bought two houses in the Watts Tract of Oakland: 673 & 675 33rd Street.  Emilie moved to 675 33rd St. where she is shown as living in the 1905 thru 1911 Oakland directories.

During most of the early years after Victor’s death, one or more of Emilie’s children lived with her. 2  In 1906, Victor moved to Arizona and Paul, who was in Nevada, married.  As the wedding was in Las Vegas, Emilie was not present to see the first marriage of one of her sons.

In 1907, when Val became 21, Victor’s estate was distributed.  Olga, then living in Alaska, came to California to receive her share.  Emilie had not seen her oldest daughter in over 10 years.  Although her husband’s will provided that Emilie and each of the children were to receive equal shares, there was a dispute over the distribution which remained unresolved when Olga returned to Paris in November.  Emilie would never see Olga again.  The dispute marred Victor’s generosity in giving his share to his mother.

Emilie’s second grandchild, Victor, was born September 17, 1907.  Her third grandchild, Barbara, was born August 12, 1909.   In 1910, Pete (who was then 32) married.  On December 11, 1911, her fourth grandchild, Agnes, was born; and on January 18, 1912, her fifth grandchild, Ted, was born.

In 1912, when Emilie was 65, Val, who had been courted by two suitors, married Phil Heuer, a young insurance salesman, and rejected Dr. Hillegass, who was the principal financial backer of the family business in which her sons were engaged.   After her marriage, Dr. Hillegass withdrew his financial support and the brothers’ business collapsed.   In an attempt to help her sons keep the business afloat, Emilie may have sold her house.  She moved to 691 33rd Street, Oakland where she is listed in the 1913 & 1916 directories with Alec (then 39) and Victor (then 36), both single.  1912 was also the year Pete left his wife and daughter, moved from the Bay Area to Southern California where, after a few months, he disappeared and was not heard from again.  These setbacks were followed, in 1913, with the death of Olga, who she had not seen in six years; and in 1914 with the death of her first great-grandchild, Vladimir.  That same year, Victor left the Bay Area to take a job in Los Angeles.  Except for Alec, who continued to live at her home, Emilie was alone.  She felt increasingly lonely.  On March 22, 1915, her granddaughter, Ollie Donsky, had a daughter, Olga, Emilie’s second great-grandchild.  Both Mother and Daughter were unable to leave Russia and presumably died during the Revolution.  The anguish of unsuccessful family efforts to save them added to Emilie’s unhappiness.

On January 13, 1920, Emilie’s last grandchild, Herb, was born.  Later directories show her address as 693 33rd Street, but this was probably a change of number on the same house.  In her later years, after a stroke, she suffered from loss of use of parts of her body and needed nursing care.  In a letter of March 13, 1921, Edith wrote that Emilie was: “getting along pretty well,” and had: “almost entirely recovered use of her right arm and leg.”  But she continued to need nursing help and was bedridden on July 16, 1922 when Alec married Fannie Cohen, Emilie’s nurse.  Some of the family felt Alec married to insure his mother would have a nurse.  The marriage lasted less than a year.

In 1922, Edith was less charitable in an observation that Emilie: “sits around and mopes and studies grievances, mostly imaginary.”  On November 17, 1926, at age 79, Emilie died intestate of chronic endocorditis.  Like her husband, she was cremated.  Her remains are at the Oakland Crematorium.

Emilie’s house on 33rd Street was her only asset.  On 11/2/28, Edith observed:

“The family is having a great deal of trouble over Grandma Ligda’s estate (the house on 33rd).  She made a will and also a deed of trust at different times leaving it to Vic & Alec.  It is worth about $4,500 and has been sold recently.  The money is in Paul’s hands as executor and administrator appointed by the Court, but neither will nor deed is valid, and now the heirs cannot agree on the division, so it will have to go to Court, and, of course nobody at all will get enough to do any good.”

Emilie survived her husband by 24 years.  She lived to know of the birth of all her grandchildren and two great grandchildren, yet her life was marred by the deaths and other tragedies of so many of those near her.  One of her sons, three of her daughters, two of her grandchildren, and both of her great grandchildren, neither of whom she ever saw, died during her lifetime.  None of the family which returned to Russia survived her.  Her son, Alec, suffered permanent brain damage from a beating and required care all of his life.  Her son, Pete, disappeared.  She did not see Victor after he moved to Hawaii in 1921.  Two other children, Paul and Val, were on opposite sides of the family rift resulting from the failure of the family business.  Emilie had to be very strong to endure all the emotional upheaval these events left in their wake.


  1. I attempted to find the record of the marriage in Germany, but was advised that a search of the church records was not successful.
  2. In 1905, Paul, Pete, Victor, and Val are listed as living with her.  In 1906, Alec was also listed.  In 1908 and 1910, Pete, Alec, and Val were with her.  In 1911, Alec, Val, and Victor were with her.  In 1913 and 1916, Alec and Victor are listed as living with her.   The 1920 census listed Alec as living with her.


VICTOR NICHOLAS LIGDAMale View treeBorn: 1832-01-31Died: 1902-11-06
Father: Nicholai LIGDAMother: EKATERINA

By all family accounts, Victor was the second and last child born to Nicholas and Ekatrina Ligda.  His date of birth is well documented and, although his death certificate shows Greece as his place of birth, there is little doubt he was born in Moscow. 1

The only accounts of Victor’s life in Russia are from Alec and Val, two of his children who were born after the family left Russia.  Both say their father was wealthy.  Alec says he worked for the Czar, traveling from city to city collecting money due the government for vodka concessions.  If so, he was in a position to demand payoffs from those in his district licensed to sell alcohol. 2  Alec says his father’s room at an inn was burglarized while he was sleeping.  The burglars entered his room and took some money, but failed to find 30,000 rubles Victor had under his pillow.  Val says her father was trained exclusively by private tutors, but this is unlikely as there were few private teachers in Russia at the time and he would have needed a diploma from the Gymnasia to become a civil servant.

Alec says his father traveled frequently.  He mentioned trips to Switzerland, Italy, and Germany.  About 1862, while on a trip to Saxony, Victor met Emilie Kramer, then 15.  They were married, first in Saxony and later in Russia.[The 1900 census shows Victor and Emilie married 33 years which would date the marriage in 1867 – probably the second ceremony in Russia.[/ref]

Victor and Emilie lived in Russia about 12 years.  In that period they had five children.  Two daughters, Elizabeth born in 1867 and Mary born in 1869, died in infancy  Olga, born in 1870, and two sons, Sismeon, born in 1867 and Paul, born in 1872, survived.  The family lived near Moscow.  Val says they also had a summer home in Niskhi Novgorod, a city on the Oka River near the junction with the Volga, they seldom used because it was so remote and Victor’s travels would have left Emilie and the children to deal with potential intruders.  Val says her father was called upon to do diplomatic errands for the government without official status.  His son, Paul, says he spent the bulk of his time managing his estate.

All family accounts, Victor wanted to leave Russia, either because of his growing dissatisfaction with the government 3  or his concern over the health of Simeon who was a frail and sickly child, or both.

Victor obtained a passport in Moscow on August 14, 1874.  He is listed as a “Candidate of Commerce,” a title of uncertain meaning.  The fact he was approved for foreign travel indicates he was recogized as a member of the Dvoriane Class – landless servants who administered the Czar’s land or property.  Perhaps the estate Paul believed his father owned was one he was actually managing for the Czar.  The family left for Italy on August 24th.  At the time Simeon would have been seven; Olga would have been three; Paul would have been two.

Both Val and Alec say that the family lived in a villa near Naples.  At the time, Italy was united and politically stable as a constitutional monarchy under the rule of Victor Emmanuel II.  The Pope was Pius IX.  Victor and Emilie’s third son, Alexander, was born in Naples on February 21, 1875.

Both Val and Alec indicate there was a diplomatic gathering in Naples at which their father refused to toast the Czar.  Alec says that, as a consequence, Victor was ordered to return to Russia and his passport was revoked. 4 and that any citizen who returned after a longer period faced penalties.  Five years would have elapsed in August of 1879.  His passport contains a single six month extension issued in paris on October 23, 1879.  It seems Victor remained in France without Russian approval after April 23, 1880.

While in Paris, Victor and Emilie had three more children: Pierre born October 17, 1879; Vladimir born October 11, 1881 (when the family was living a 4 Rue Halle (1st Dist.); and Valentine born July 31, 1886 (when the family was living at 20 Rue Arbalet (5th Dist.).  Paris was a cosmopolitan city – home to Degas, Monet, Caillebotte, Pissarro, and Gaugin and the Impressionist art movement.  Construction began on the Eiffel Tower.  In 1886, French children began donations to build the Statue of Liberty.  The Ligda children may well have been among those contributors.

It was also a period of lingering tension between France and Germany from the fallout of the Franco-Prussian War that ended in 1871 with a Prussian victory.  In 1887, the Germans arrested M. Schnaebele, a French official.  Russia, a French ally, moved troops to the German border.  In the Reichstag, Bismark threatened, if attacked, to: ” . . . make France incapable of attacking us for 30 years.”  The crisis passed with the release of Schnaebele. 5  Emilie could not have been comfortable with the possible outbreak of a war in which her sons could be conscripted to fight against her country of birth where she still had family. 6  Both Alec and Paul said their father did not want his sons in the military.  To evade their possible conscription, Victor felt the family had to leave France.  In 1887, Victor and Emilie sent Simeon, then twenty, to America to assess the possibility of the family relocating there.  During that trip, Simeon became ill and died in San Francisco, California,

In 1888, tensions between Germany and France again increased when General Boulanger, French Minister of War, advocated a policy ol revenge against Germany.  Emilie, who also wanted to see where Simeon was buried, insisted the family go to California.  Victor agreed.  The Ligdas left from La Harve on the La Normandie, traveling second class, thus avoiding the crowded steerage conditions typical of the period of mass immigration from Europe to the United States.  They arrived in New York at Castle Clinton 7 on June 17, 1889. 8.

The contrast between the settled cultures of Europe and the turbulence of a young nation still filling its borders must have shocked the Ligdas.  It is not clear they intended to stay.  The record of their entry states their intention was travel to California as visitors rather than immigrants and both Paul and Olga had expressed misgivings about leaving France.  Val says her parents came to San Francisco 9  because that was where Simeon died  Victor rented a house at 722 Bay Street.  They joined the small Russian community that worshipped at the Greek Orthodox Church despite the strained feelings towards the church officials who had misplaced the records of Simeon’s grave site.  It was through the Church that Olga met and married Ephrim Alexin in 1890.  There is a picture of Paul as a member of the church choir in 1891.

Paul bought a four volume English dictionary which he used daily to help everyone in the family learn English.  He preferred speaking Russian, but Val recalls family conversations in Greek, German, Italian, and French as well.  Victor did not work.  He is listed as a capitalist in the city directory of 1891.  Val says he enjoyed watching ships enter the Golden Gate with a telescope he had in his library.  The library, according to Val, contained over 2,000 volumes.  After Val accidentally started a fire that destroyed part of the Bay Street house, the family moved to 2109 Jones Street.  City directories show later addresses of 910 1/2 Vallejo Street (1892) and 614 Lombard Street (1893).  The sons lived at home and worked in the trades.  Paul became a carpenter.  Alec was a jeweler.  Pete was a printer.  All contributed to the household expenses.

On February 14, 1892, Olga Alexin, the first grandchild, was born.  This was certainly an event of considerable joy.  The next grandchild would not be born until 1907, long after Victor’s death.

Victor became a naturalized citizen on July 25, 1894, taking the oath of allegiance in San Francisco before Superior Court Judge Charles Slack. 10  He registered to vote on October 9th 11.

The family moved to Oakland in 1895.  Victor’s investments included a loan secured by property at 233 Harlan Street in Oakland. 12  When the borrower defaulted, Victor foreclosed on the property and moved his family into the house.  Emilie liked the house, so they stayed.  Victor then purchased the ajacent property at 229 Harlan for his sons.  The 1898 Oakland Directory shows his address as 233 Harlan with Alec, Paul, Pete, and Vladimir living at 229 Harlan.

Little is know of Victor’s life in Oakland.  He continued to be listed as a capitalist in the city directories.  He is shown as the head of the family in the 1900 census with all members in the household.  He prepared his will leaving his estate in trust to be divided equally between his wife and six children when Valentine, the youngest, became twenty one; meanwhile allowing $100/month to support the family.

Victor died in Oakland on November 6, 1902.  His resentment of the Church for misplacing the records of Simeon’s burial led to his insistence that his body be cremated despite church opposition to the practice.  He did not want the Church to have the opportunity of misplacing the records of his burial too.  The family honored his wishes.  Funeral services were held at a German Lutheran Church.  His body was then cremated as he instructed. 13


  1. The information on his death certificate would have been provided by a surviving relative.  In addition to the family accounts that he was born in Moscow, his place of birth is listed as Russia in the 1900 and 1920 censuses.  Presumably he provided that information.  Additionally he had a Russian passport issued in 1874; was listed as a citizen of Russia on his arrival in the United States in 1889, and was listed as a Russian citizen when he was naturalized in 1894.  It is unlikely he was born in Greece and naturalized as a Russian citizen before 1874.
  2. Turner, Europe: 1789-1920, pp. 278-80.
  3. In 1863, the government made sweeping changes to the laws governing the vodka industry including an attempt to eliminate bribery by having the taxes collected by local excise institutions staffed with personnel who were well educated and well paid: Modern Russian History, Vl. II, p. 89.  It is possible this change affected Victor’s income from bribes.
  4.   The family’s move to Paris in 1879 may have been prompted by some loss of standing in diplomatic circles.  There were no other apparent reasons to move.  None of the political changes after the deaths of Emmanuel II and Pius IX in 1878 would have affected the LIgdas.  At the time of the move to France, Victor was 47, Emilie 32, Simeon12, Olga eight or nine, Paul six, and Alec two.

    Victor’s passport contained a provision that no Russian citizen could remain abroad more than five years unless engaged in a commercial business; 14According to Alec, his father supported the family from investments he made in Greek bonds.  There was no commercial business.  He is listed as having no occupation on the entry of Vladimir’s birth in 1881 and Val’s birth in 1886.

  5. Europe 1789-1920.
  6. France had a system of universal military training: Europe 1789-1920, p. 394.
  7. Castle Clinton was the largest immigrant landing depot in the country.  Between 1855 and 1800, when it was closed, more than eight million immigrants were processed – about two thirds of the people who came to the country in that period.
  8. In 1889, the United States was a country of 62 million living in 38 States and Territories.  The President was Benjamin Harrison.
  9. San Francisco was a wide open city of about 280,000.  The Barbary Coast (what is now Pacific Street) and Devil’s Acre (a diagonally shaped area bordered by Broadway, Kearny, and Montgomery Streets) were notorious for their dives and high crime rates.  There was a licensed saloon for every 96 inhabitants.  Cable cars provided public transportation along streets crowded with horse drawn vehicles.  The Cliff House was open as was Golden Gate Park with Stow Lake, a children’s playground, and Sunday concerts.  There were organ grinders with their monkeys and the cry of the “rags” man: Herbert Asbury, The Barbary Coast (1933), Alfred A. Knopf, Inc,, pp. 119-123.
  10. The Court file number is 10079, but the original file has been destroyed.  All that remains is an entry that the naturalization took place.
  11. The record of voter registration lists Victor as 5’6″ tall with a dark complextion and grey hair and no occupation.
  12. Harlan Street ran north from Peralta Street to the Oakland Trotting Park.  It is now bisected by the I580 approach to the Bay Bridge.
  13. Vladimir Ligda removed his father’s remains to a Central Bank safe deposit vault on August 1, 1904.


VLADIMIR LIGDAMale View treeBorn: 1828-01-01
Father: Nicholai LIGDAMother: EKATERINA
Children: none

By all family accounts, Vladimir was the eldest child born to Nicholas and Ekatrina Ligda. The only evidence we have of him is an undated photograph taken in Russia.

vlad2aVladimir was probably born in 1828 in or near Moscow (the year of Leo Tolstoy’s birth) and grew up during the reign of Czar Nicholas I. His niece, Valentine, says he was trained by a private teacher, but this is unlikely, as laws banning private instruction were not eased until after Nicholas’ death in 1855. By that time, Vladimir would have been beyond his years of formal education. There is no indication he served during the Crimean War (1853-56). His nephew, Alec, said he owned a bookstore in Kharkoff. 1

Vladimir lived in changing political times. Czar Alexander II (1855-81), Nicholas’ successor, initially eased political repression which included censorship of books and regulation of sales. Yet, in 1861-62, the government promoted the arrest of publishers and writers. 2 Vladimir would have been subject to considerable scrutiny. Most probably he would have had to bribe police and other officials to remain in business. Ironically, the same period witnessed the development of some of Russia’s great composers: Alexander Borodin (1833-87), Peter Tchaikovsky (1840-93), and Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908).

Between 1863 and 1873, Poland was in active revolt against Russian rule. In combating that revolt, Alexander’s regime hardened and became more reactionary. In 1866, after an attempt on his life, Alexander declared martial law in St. Petersburg. A great many people were sent to Siberia. 3

Family accounts indicate that Victor, Vladimir’s brother, became disenchanted with the political climate in Russia, openly criticized the Czar, and left the country in 1874. Vladimir and Victor were very close, but Vladimir remained and continued to operate his store. He would later join his brother’s family in Paris. The reasons are not clear.

In 1881, Alexander II was killed by a bomb thrown as he passed through the streets. The new Czar, Alexander III, was determined to avenge his father’s death and turned Russia into a police state with “Reinforced Safeguards.” Those safeguards included the right to imprison anyone for up to three years, to close enterprises, and to declare anyone “untrustworthy” making them ineligible for civil service. 4 There was also stern regulation of the press and many newspapers were stopped. 5 Vladimir might have found operating a bookstore in this environment too uncomfortable or risky and sought escape in France. On the other hand, as Vladimir never married and had no children, it is possible he left Russia after his parents died and his brother was his only remaining family.

We have no indication of what work Vladimir did in France, but he liked the country and remained there when Victor moved with his family to the United States in 1889. Altho I was unable to find a record of his death in Paris, there is a notation in my baby book (1934), that he died in there in 1900. As there was no indication that his niece, Olga, saw him on her return to Paris in 1902, the report of his death two years earlier seems likely. His niece, Valentine, says he left his property to his nephews, but they did not return to France to claim it in the belief they would not be allowed to remove it from the country. If so, the property probably escheated to the State.


  1. I could not find this village on a modern Russian map, but it was said to be about 75 miles north of Moscow on the road to St. Petersburg.
  2. Knornilov, Modern Russian History, vl II, pp. 62-82.
  3. Turner, Europe 1789- 1920, p. 289.
  4. Russia Under the Old Regime, supra, p. 306
  5. Turner, Europe 1789-1920, pp. 420-21.