JewishGen Latvia & Estonia Special Interest Group (SIG)
Welcome to the JewishGen Latvia & Estonia Special Interest Group (SIG)
The JewishGen Latvia & Estonia Special Interest Group (SIG) is a group of volunteer genealogists and researchers exploring the lives and experiences of Jewish ancestors and relatives who lived in Latvia and Estonia. Latvian research has become much easier since the inception of the original Latvia SIG in 1994. The JewishGen Latvia Database has grown exponentially, and the availablity of resources is constantly expanding and changing. Our website has been completely redesigned in recognition of these changes.
Our goal is to acquire, transcribe, translate, and share historical records of genealogical value to the descendants of Latvian and Estonian Jews, and to provide the tools and resources you need to help discover your ancestors. Our Latvia database has grown in leaps and bounds over the years, and it continues to expand as new records are translated and extracted. This website describes some of the many resources available to researchers and will be updated as new records and information become available.
We welcome suggestions and updates from our readers.
Volunteers are welcome, both as translators and to assist with data entry. Of course, we greatly appreciate all donations, as our projects are made possible through the support of our donors' contributions, both monetary and as volunteers.
Explore Our Website
The following pages will guide you in your research, and we encourage you to explore our updated website to enhance your knowledge of your ancestors and the world they lived in. We have recently added the smaller country of Estonia to our portfolio, and we will be adding Estonian resources as well.
Latvia and Estonia's history and geography are different than that of their neighbors. In particular, most of Latvia was outside the Pale of Settlement. The most Eastern region, Latgale, was part of Vitebsk gubernia, which was within the Pale. Both Courland (Kurzeme and Zemgale) and Livland (Vidzeme) were outside the Pale, as was Estonia. This section of the website describes the history of the Jewish communities in both Latvia and Estonia.
This section gives an overview of the three regions of Latvia, listing the major towns in each area, and provides links to separate pages for each region. The regional pages provide details for each town. Estonia will be added in a future update.
The Research section is the heart of this website. There is advice for beginners, first explaining the basics of research in the country where the immigrant ancestors settled, and a detailed section on how to determine an ancestor's town of origin using citizenship and immigration records. The next section takes a deep dive into archival resources and where to find them.
Latvian cemeteries are well represented on the JewishGen Online Worldwid Burial Registry (JOWBR), as well as on other third-party sites. Links to Landsmanschaften (burial societies) are also included. While most of the cemetery information is included in the detailed town descriptions, there is general information and links to additional websites in the Cemeteries section. Estonian cemeteries will be added soon.
The Holocaust was devastating to Latvia's Jewish community. One invaluable source for reseachers trying to reconstruct their pre-World War II families in Latvia is the Latvia Names Project, a project unique to Latvia. There are also Yizkor books and testimonies available. The town descriptions section includes links to Yizkor books as well.
The Latvia SIG published a newsletter between 1996 and 2011. The Newsletter Archive has links to PDF copies of all surviving issues, and includes information about the contents of each issue.
Current projects, volunteer opportunities, and donation information are descibed here.