I have a tiny old photograph of an old, old woman who wears a long peasant scarf on her head. It’s what my mother called a paabuska, what Russians call a babushka. My mother often wore a headscarf, which embarrassed me as a teenager because I thought she looked like a peasant. I used to beg her not to wear one for parent-teacher meetings.
The woman in this one inch by one inch black and white photograph is my great-grandmother, Leena Susi. When he gave me the photo shortly before he died, my father told me her maiden name was Leena Lumi. The word lumi means snow in Estonian, just as susi means wolf in some old Estonian dialects and in modern Finnish.
My Estonian cousin, the daughter of my father’s sister, drew up a family tree for me, and she too knew this ancestress as Leena Lumi before she married our great-grandfather Jaan Susi in 1878..
However when I began digging for more information as it became available online, I found that others had posted information on Geni.com saying that this particular Leena (or Lena) bore the maiden name Hammas (which means tooth). I found a copy of a church record posted online of the marriage of one Jaan Susi to one Lena Hammas on May 14, 1878, possibly in the town of Valga. But search as I might, I could never find any record of a marriage between a Jaan Susi and a Leena Lumi.
I put the matter aside for a couple of years. Then I went back to Geni recently and discovered links to parish records indicating that a brother of Lena called himself Jaan Hammas alias Lumi. This Jaan Hammas aka Lumi, and his wife Lotte Katarina Hammas-Lumi, as she was evidently called, gave all five of their children the surname Lumi.
And in another church record I found that Lena’s nephew Jaan Hammas, son of her brother Endrik, had officially changed his surname, and that of his wife , Elise Annette, to Lumi on november 3, 1938. Endrik’s other children Peeter, August and Minna all went by the last name Lumi.
The children of Lena’s brother Kusta Hammas, Adolf, Gustav and Albert, all used the name Lumi.
So at some period of time in the early part of the 20th Century, or even earlier, various members of the Hammas family changed their name to Lumi.
It seems reasonable to conclude that Lena Susi decided to change her maiden name retroactively to Lumi as well, and that became the name handed down to her descendants.
I haven’t the slightest idea. Was there something bad associated with the Hammas name? In all probability, the name Hammas was originally bestowed on a family of newly freed Estonian serfs by their former German baronial masters between 1822 and 1835. Prior to the naming times, many of the peasants were called only by their first name and distinguished from one another by the name of the manor where they lived. A serf named Jaan living on the Püsnikko manor might be called Püsnikko Jaan.
There was a second wave of name changing in the 1920s-30s when some Estonians with German surnames exchanged them for ones that were taken from the Estonian language, according to Professor Aado Must in his writing called Onomastika in the Estonian Folk Archives, at http://www.ra.ee/apps/onomastika/index.php/et
Onomastika unfortunately is in Estonian. But it has a neat little search tool whereby one can enter an Estonian name and quite often find the name(s) of the baronial manor(s) where it was first bestowed. The tool shows that the name Hammas was given to people in living on the Karste, Atla, Sääre and Roosna-Alliku manor estates. In my ancestors’ case, Karste was the most likely place, specifically Liivimaa kubermang (Livonian government) / Võru maakond (Võru county)/ Kanepi kihelkond (Kanepi village) / Karste mõis (Karste manor).
The change from Hammas to Lumi couldn’t have been related to the Estonianization of German surnames in the 1920s-30s because Hammas is not a German name as far as I know.
One nice thing about this research is that I have discovered a few relatives in the U.S., distant cousins with the surname Lumi. (Even if the name was originally Hammas.)