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Guide to Latvia ancestry, family history, and genealogy: birth records, marriage records, death records, census records,and military records.
Getting started with Latvian research
The first steps in getting started with Latvian research depend on what information you already know about your ancestors.
If your ancestor was born in Latvia prior to 1905, and you know where they were born, you can start immediately with religious records. These religious records are available online through the Latvian State Historical Archives online digital archive called Raduraksti. As the Family History Library has very few records from Latvia, this new website with about five million images of genealogical records is a source of both information and joy. The images include church records of Lutheran, Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Baptist, Greek Catholic, Reformed Protestant and Jewish faiths, and also revision lists and 1897 census records of the Russian Empire. The word raduraksti means genealogy. You must register to see the images, but registration is free. The site has useful instructions in English, including lists of abbreviations and some vocabulary.
To enter a database: After the home page is up, you will see some words on the top of the screen. Click on “Contents”. It will give you three choices. If you choose “Church books”, you will get a list of various faiths.
Having chosen the right faith, you will have a list of districts from which you can find a wanted area or parish. In “Revision Lists” and the “1897 Census” you likewise click down through choices of localities to find the wanted area. Knowledge about the place of origin of ancestors is obviously necessary.
The language of the records: Lutheran records are mostly in German. The use of Russian is prevalent, but not consistent, toward the end of 1800s and beginning of 1900s. In Independent times Latvian is introduced. Both Greek and Roman Catholic records are written in Latin, Polish and Russian. The revision lists are in Russian and the 1897 Census is mostly in Russian, but German and Latvian occur.
The field in the upper right hand corner provides three possibilities: The left most arrow indicates the direction you can turn the pages, the middle rectangle indicates the number of pages in each record and you can input a page number you want to move to, the three rectangles on the right allow you to enlarge the picture.
If your ancestor was born in Latvian between 1906 and 1921, you will need to write to the Registry Office Archives of the Latvian Ministry of Justice to order a birth certificate.
Latvia, officially the Republic of Latvia is a country in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by Estonia, to the south by Lithuania, to the east by the Russian Federation, and to the southeast by Belarus. Across the Baltic Sea to the west lies Sweden. The capital and largest city is Riga. To read more about Latvia see The World Factbook and Wikipedia
The Latvian National Digital Library has digitized 40 newspaper and magazine titles from the years 1895–1957. Latvian Newspaper Website features full-word search engine. It is unnecessary to use diacritic marks when searching the publications. Due to copyright restrictions, those items published after July 1, 1938 are not accessible on the Internet. They can only be accessed in Latvia at the National Library of Latvia, the Academic Library of Latvia and all public libraries in Latvia via workstations connected to the library’s internal network. A list of newspapers digitized is available at the site.
Did you know?
Latvian Jewish Records Now Online
The State Archives of Latvia is placing digitized images of Jewish vital records at their genealogy website. They include the towns of Aizputes, Bauskas, Daugavpils, Glazmankas, Grīvas, Grobiņas, Ilūkstes, Jaunjelgavas, Jēkabpils, Jelgavas, Kuldīgas, Liepājas, Ludzas, Maltas, Piltenes, Rēzeknes, Ribinišku, Rīgas, Sabiles, Saldus, Sasmakas, Skaistkalnes, Subates, Tukuma, Varakļānu, Ventspils, Viļakas and Višķu.
To use the site requires that a user first register. Go to the home page at http://www.lvva-raduraksti.lv/en.html and click Register in the upper right corner. Once registered, a shortcut directly to the Jewish (Rabināti) records is http://www.lvva-raduraksti.lv/en/menu/lv/7/ig/7.html. Click on the town of interest and a list by year and record type is displayed. Records are identified by type: dzimušie (birth), laulātie (marriage), mirušie (death), šķirtie (divorce). Select an appropriate year/type which will then display a cover page for the record group. Browse the digitized images by clicking the arrows in the upper right corner. There is a facility to zoom in on an image.
The project currently has more than 3.8 million images online of vital records of all faiths. Plans call for digitizing revision lists (censuses) of 18th–19th centuries (1782–1858), and those portions of the All-Russia census on 1897 that survived.
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