I had already (from my grandfather’s birth record) established that the family was from Dusetos, Lithuania. Dusetos was a small shtetl and was closely tied economically to Daugavpils (known as Dvinsk in Yiddish, by the way, and quite a large center of Jewish life in the region). So searching there was a smart thing to do in any case.
So what did I find? Mostly that there are a lot fewer Latvian records than Lithuanian ones available. However, I did find some key information that gets me a couple of generations further back and creates a couple of branches on my father’s paternal side.
In particular, it turned up the 1897 census, which includes my grandfather’s father, Pinchus NODEL, who was then married to Sara. His father is identified as Leiba and hers as Morduch, but her maiden name isn’t given. Both of them are 33 years old, so born in 1864. In addition, Leiba is there. Both he and his wife, Tscherna, are identified as being from Dusyati, Novo-Alexandrovsk district, Kovno province. Tscherna’s father is Israel and Leiba’s is Salman. Leiba is 79 years old, so born in 1818 and Tscherna is 42, so born in 1855. That suggests that she may be a second wife. She's definitely not the mother of Pinchus, because she's too young to be.
My tentative conclusion is that Pinchus outlived Sara and then remarried, to Tsivia. Her maiden name was probably something like BRUTSKI, but she married and divorced someone with the last name CHWOLES.
But let’s see if I can go any further back. Looking for the NODEL name in Dusetos turns up a Zalman Nisel, who was 49 in 1845 so born in 1796. That sounds plausible for Leiba’s father (and is as far back as I am likely to find records for.) The other family members with him on that revision list are:
His wife, Reyza - born in 1800
A son, Pinkhas - born in 1820
Pinkhas’s wife, Leah - born in 1825
Pinkhas's daughter, Rocha - born in 1843)
A son, Yankel - born in 1835
A son, Izrael - born in 1837
A daughter, Sheyna - born in 1827. Interestingly, Sheyna is identified as married, but she is still using the surname NODEL. Maybe she married a cousin?
Zalman Nisel’s father is Izrael Itsyk and the family is identified as being "from kahal." That’s rather mysterious, because it’s a reference to the self-government council of a Jewish community, not to a place.
I’ve also found likely children of Pinchus and Sara, i.e. half-siblings of my grandfather. One is Khaya, a tradeswoman born in 1897 in Daugavpils, and living at Wilenska Street 39-10 in Vilnius in 1921. (I have tentatively identified her on a Vilna Ghetto list from 1942, by the way, but there is more work to do there.) There is also a marriage record for Ruvin NODEL to Beila Ester MOVSHOVICH / ALEKSANDROVICH in Kaunas in 1908, when he was 25 (so born in 1883). They had at least four children:
Lipman - born 18 Nov 1909
Pinkhos - born in 1910
Motel - born in 1913
Sore - born in 1917
Ruvin worked as a dyer, breaking with family tradition of tailoring. (NODEL is Yiddish for "needle," so is basically an occupational name for a tailor.)
Going back a generation, I think I’ve found two sons of Leyba’s (possibly with a wife prior to Tscherna) in records from Rokiskis, which is near Dusetos. (The records in question identify these families as being from Dusetos.) There is a birth record for a Khatskel, who is the son of Zelik and grandson of Leybe, born in 1888. And there is a family of six (so identified on tax records), headed by Izrael Ber (Srol Ber in some records). Based on 1908 revision list, Srol Ber himself was born in 1851 and his wife, Zelda Riva (whose father’s name was Shlioma) was born in 1853. Their 4 children were:
Chana Freyda – born 1877
Iosel Movsha – born 1879
Sheyna Reyza – born 1884. I think she is the person identified as Shenka in the January 1897 census, a 12 year old servant, living with the ELISON family.
Zalman Orel – born 1873. He married Chaya (possibly nee DRUPESK), who was born in 1878 and they had at least 2 sons. Ruvin was born on 29 Sep 1899 and Abe was born on 12 Oct 1902.