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Nikolajs Heņķis (Freijs – Henke)

Data collected by Kristīne Vasiļevska-Stepanova (February, 2024)

Biography of Nikolajs Heņķis (family tree)

Nikolajs Freijs – Heņķis, full name Theofils Nikolajs Leopolds, was born on May 14, 1866, as the youngest son in the family of Ulrich Freijs (1812-1878) and Augusta Alexandra Wilhelmine Hankes. Brothers Ulrich Friedrich Albert (born 1858), Adolf Ulrich (born 1862), Karl Nikolaj Rudolf (1864 -1882).

In the picture: the family tree of Nikolajs Heņķis.

He was a weaver, a shoemaker and an excellent folk musician. He was a skilled bagpiper, kokle player and singer. He inherited the skill of playing kokles, bagpipes and horn from his grandfather. He also learned to play the violin and clarinet during his military service. In the 1930s, Emīls Melngailis, together with Nikolaj Henkis, as the main leader, organized ethnographic concerts, in which folk singers and players (kokle and stabule players, bagpipe players, etc.) took part. [1] Concerts were held in several Latvian cities. The musicians’ performance is immortalized in Latvian Film Chronicles by Arnolds Cālītis. Henķis’s music in the 1930s was recorded on the records of the Latvian Folklore Archive. E. Melngailis, A. Salaks and other collectors of folk music materials visited N. Heņķis several times. The artist Jēkabs Bīne immortalized the musician Nikolajs Heņķis in his painting The old kokle player. Nikolajs Henkis once said to his apprentice Poriķis: Put those skins away, take a kokle and let’s play. [2] He made musical instruments himself and was one of the best woodworkers in Alsunga.

January 1st, 1992 edition of Latvju Mūzika, Kokles to raksti un rotājumi, author īrisa Priedīte.

According to the report to the Board of Monuments by E. Āboliņa, written in 1935: … The deceased’s belongings (musical instruments) were inherited by Anna Kulbergs, with whom he lived for many years and worked together on weaving works. The deceased left several homemade musical instruments:

1) kokle from 1872,

2) one double kokle,

3) one bagpipe,

4) one reed pipe and one

5) carved wooden horn.

There was also a small organ (Harmony), which the deceased bought in 1911. from the teacher of the Sārnate school, his godson Miķelis Henķis recently took them to his homestead Dangarāji in Alšvanga. In addition to the mentioned things, the deceased also left one brass brooch with red glass stones, two leather belts with brass forgings and one sheet of music written by himself. It is said that the deceased expressed his wish to sell the things after his death, to give the old kokles to a museum and to build a memorial on his grave with the money obtained. As stated in the report, the board of monuments bought back both kokles, bagpipes, pipe and the belt. A carved wooden horn, a sheet of music written by the deceased and a songbook with entries were received as a gift.

The sheet music book of Nikolajs Heņķis-Freijs.

In the picture: sheet music notes of Nikolajs Heņķis-Freijs.

The bagpipes made by Nikolajs Heņķis himself, which were handed over to the Monuments Board after his death.

Report of the Monuments Board in 1935.

Data about Heņķi family members from the Alsunga population list 1920-1940

Freijs Henke Teofils – Nikolajs-Leopolds, Ulrich’s son (born in 1866, 14.V. in Alšvanga) (Passport issued in Alšvanga p.v.) (Latvian, Catholic (presumably a mistake, because he was baptized in the Lutheran Church of Ēdole and buried in the Dzēriņu Lutheran graveyard of Alsunga).

Curriculum vitae:

1928 23. IV. moved from Dīķenieku b. to Acenieki, (page 187. Enķis Nikolajs, 62 years old)

1929 22.XI. from Acenieka b. to Kaula b.

1932 6. VII. from Kaula b. to Acenieka b.

1933 10. VI. moves to Spēlmaņa b.

1934 1.X. moves to Riga.

21.XI. from Riga to Pīšļa m., died 1934.5.XII.

    He was buried in Alsunga in the Dzēriņi graveyard.

    Life partner Anna Kulberģis born 1875 30.IV in Alšvanga, 23.IV.1934. came from Kāpenieki.

    Anna Kulberga, daughter of Jēkabs, was born on April 30, 1875 [3] in Alsunga Šķītuži, baptized on May 1st in Alsunga Catholic Church. She was a weaver.

    Anna’s biography:

    1933, 23. IV. moved from Acenieki (page 96) to Kāpenieki (page 27),

    April 23, 1934 to Pīšļi (page 364).

    Map of Alsunga with marked houses where Nikolajs Henkis once lived.

    Dangaraja b. (p. 185)

    Henke Ulrih Frīdrihs, (son of Ulrich) (1858.X.20.-1.X.30.Alšvanga) (Latvian, Catholic, born in Alšvanga).

    Anna, daughter of Ulrich (b. 1898.12.XI.) 1929.23.IV. moved to Sviķi m.

    Miķels, son of Ulrich (b. XI. 23, 1892 in Alšvanga)

    Henķis Jānis – Romualds (b. Dec. 1930, in Alšvanga, no other information)

    Henķis Anna – Margrieta (b. 1932.30.IV. – 1932.01.X., Alšvanga)

    Henkis Aivars Arnolds (b. 1935.12.VII., Alšvanga)

    Sviķa Mucenieka m.

    Henķis Ādams, son of Ulrich (b. 24.IX. 1895 in Alšvanga) wife Anna Jānis daughter, born Rentoviča (b. 1896. Dec. 30 or Feb.) Alšvanga

    Antons, son of Ādams (b. 1923.9.V., Alšv.)

    Voldis, son of Ādams (b. 1925.21.VI., Alšv)

    Emīlija, daughter of Ādams (b. 1926.18.VII., Alšv.)

    Family in 1936 23. IV. moves to Sviķa Henke m. In Alšvanga, where they are the only inhabitants.

    In the Alšvanga vicarage one of many entries:

    Henķis Zenta-Sofija? Born 1929.6.III. (as if from Liepāja in 1934)

    Kaupja b. (p. 277)

    Henķis Ādolfs, son of Augusts, b. 18. II. 1862, in Alšvanga – d. 8..XII.1929.

    Henķis Grieta, daughter of Mārtiņš, born in 1883. died in 1930

    Ēdole Lutheran church registers

    In 1858 baptized Ulrich Friedrich Albert [Ulrich Friedrich], mother Augusta Alexandra Wilhelmine Henke. [Augusta Alexandra Wilhelmine gab.Henk.] Father Ulrich Frey from Gudenieki [Ulrich Frey, Guddenieken] Witnesses: Friedrich Gudewitsch [Friedrich Gudewitsch] and …. Kleinschmidt. Baptized in the Edol church in October 1866. (No. 101, p. 51. R.R.)

    In 1862 baptized Adolf Ulrich Frey [Ulrich Frey], Ustupi of Alšvanga. Mother Augusta Wilhelmine Henke, father Ulrich Freijs. Witnesses: Andrejs Grundman with his wife Anna. (No. 25, p. 93 R.R.)

    In 1864 baptized Carl Nicolai Rudolf Frey [Carl Nicolai Rudolf Frey], Ozolmuiža [Eckhoff], F. Ulrich Frey, M. Augusta Alexandra Wilhelmine Henke. Witnesses: Carl Widau, Andrej Grungman and wife Anna. (pp. no. 105, 114)

    Baptized Theophil Nicolai Leopold Frey in 1866 [Theophil Nicolai Leopld Frey]. Father Ulrich Frey, Alšvanga, mother Augusta Alexander (Leopold) Wilhelmine Henke. [Augusta Alexandra(Leopote) Wilhelmine gab.Henk.] Witnesses: Miķelis Grenevičs [Grenewitz], Anna Grundmann. Baptized in the church of Edol. (No. 49, p. 132.R.R.).

    In the picture: Ulrich Friedrich Albert Henke b. 1858. Ēdole Lutheran Church.

    In the picture: Nikolai Henke baptism record in 1866. Ēdole Lutheran Church (No. 49, p. 132.R.R.).

    The dead:


    Ulrich Frey, Alšvanga/Eckhoff (aged 66)

    1882 Carl Frey Henk, Eckhoff, Alšvanga, died (aged 18)

    188…. Grieta Freja, from Ādolf, died in September (aged 66)

    1904 Maria Olga Freija died (at the age of 3 ¾ years) (b. 1901)


    1857 Maria Teodora Wilhelmine from Aizpute with Herman Christian Frei. (No. 5, page 18)

    Sheet music notes by Nikolaj Henkis- Freys

    Mazurka. Of Poriķa from Klungsti.

    Michael’s songs. Lejas Krūmiņi. Old Courlander. In the days of the fathers.

    Old-time dance from old Franz tailer for kokle. (3 fingers match).

    Polka of (the old) Spēlmaņ Jānis/old Frey’s polka.

    People’s zinģis. We brothers sing together, we belong together (march).

    waltz (waltz).



    Photos with Nikolajs Heņķis

    Nikolajs Henkis with a kokle in 1934.

    Nikolajs Henkis (right) together with bagpiper Pēteris Šeflers from Alšvanga.

    Song tellers and employees of the Latvian folklore repository in the 20s of the 20th century.

    First row from the left: 1. Emilis Melngailis, 2. Petruļa Buls, 3. Piparu Marģieta, 4. Ukseļu Maiņķe, 5. Ulmaņu Late, 6. Meklenburgu Dārta, 7. Nikolajs Henķis, 8. Kārlis Straubergs. (Materials by Kristīne Konrāde.) [1]

    VII Latvian general song festival in 1931 from June 20 to 22 in Riga. From the left, Jānis Poriķis (02.08.1909-25.02.1992) and Nikolajs Henķis (1866–1934).

    Nikolajs Heņķis in the 2nd row, first from the right.

    Nikolajs Henkis in his youth in the uniform of the army of the Russian Empire.

    Used sources

    Lists of the Lutheran parish of Ēdole –

    Metrics of Alsunga Catholic parish –

    Archival photo of Juris Lipsnis with Heņķis sheet music notes.

    National Digital Library of Latvia –


    [2] Narrated by Valdis Muktepavels.

    [3] In the list of inhabitants of Alsung 1920-40. years mentioned that she was born on May 12