Latvian Records on FamilySearch

Finding Latvian Archival Records on the FamilySearch Website

by Marion E. Werle

One of the most exciting recent developments for Latvian genealogical researchers is the filming of documents from the Latvian State Historical Archives by FamilySearch. The scope of the filming includes many documents that are already available on Raduraksti, but the collection also includes a treasure trove of records from the period between the two World Wars. These documents are not searchable on FamilySearch. The first two sections of this page discuss how to find digital copies of both Jewish vital records and 1897 All Russian Census records from JewishGen Latvia Database, using the archival information provided in the database records. The remainder of the page is an overview of new records available on FamilySearch and how to access them. Filming is still in progress, and not all locations have been filmed and/or processed and uploaded. The Latvia Research Division will be undertaking new indexing projects in the coming years, in addition to the passport-related projects already underway. We will discuss some of the current efforts to index these records, including the Ciltskoki project.

In order to use FamilySearch, you will need to register. Access is free, and you do not need to add your family tree information to use the site, but you need to be signed in to view the records. In order to find documents from the non-indexed record collections, you will use the FamilySearch catalog. If you are already a user of FamilySearch, you are familiar with the Search > Records function. To access the vital records and census records, you will use the Search > Catalog function, entering search terms for the place you are interested in.

Once you find the place, most vital records are found under the subject heading “Jewish records,” not “Church records.” One exception is the town of Vishki, which for some reason, is listed under “Church records” (FamilySearch has been notified of the cataloging error). Census records will be listed under the subject heading “Census.” There is a video that provides a high-level overview of the following search process for Jewish vital records and 1897 census records on FamilySearch.

Vital Records

To search for the sample record below on FamilySearch, use the catalog to find the location.

The birth record is from Dvinsk – present day Daugavpils – so follow the steps below that show how to do a location search for Latvia, and then for Daugavpils, and how to then find the volume LVVA/5024/2/272. First, use the catalog search from the main menu: Search > Catalog.

After entering the place name “Latvia,” there will be a screen that says “Places in Latvia.” Once you click on “Places in Latvia,” there will be a list of places presented. In this case, select “Daugavpils” and hit “Enter.” Look for the subject heading “Jewish records.” If you don’t find it, you will need to click on the entry “Places within Daugavpils.” At that point, you should see the subject heading “Jewish records.” Note that not all places are cataloged consistently, and you may not need to go down the extra level to find the subject heading.

When you click on “Jewish records,” you will find an entry that says

Latvia, Daugavpils, Daugavpils, Jewish records, 1868-1908.

When you click on the entry, you will be taken to the catalog entry for all the Jewish vital records for Daugavpils:

There will be a long list of volumes following the catalog entry. This is a partial list:

The sample record is LVVA/5024/2/272 from 1891. The easiest way to find the record is to do a browser search for the year “1891” and look for Births within the hits.

The entry will appear in the format below:

Daugavpils, Daugavpils, Latvia - DAUGAVPILS JEWISH Births, LVVA-005024-0002-000272, 1891.

Note that FamilySearch uses hyphens instead of slashes between the numbers and also uses leading zeroes, but the numbers will match the Latvia database record. Once you find the volume you need, check for the camera icon to the right of the entry, and click on it (if there is no camera icon, it means that the volume is not yet digitized and uploaded). This will take you to the thumbnails for the entire volume. The first thumbnail will match the format described in the Latvian State Historical Archives overview, showing the archival numbers, place, year, and type of record (Dz for births).

Now enter “144” into the image number:

Click on the highlighted image, and you will find the birth record.

Zoom in on the page. The heading above the two columns on the left is “No.” in Cyrillic, which looks like its English counterpart, indicating the sequence number. The two columns below indicate the sex and the numerical sequence of the birth. In Jewish records, the females are numbered in the first (left) column and the second column is for males (note that this is reversed for non-Jewish records). The left page of the vital register is in Russian, and the right side is in Hebrew/Yiddish. The first record on the is for Female #235, and both the Russian and Hebrew side confirm the birth of a daughter named Khaya Sora Minsk.

This method can be used to locate any of the vital records in the Latvia Database. However, be aware that there may be discrepancies between the holdings on Raduraksti and on FamilySearch (and in one instance, a researcher discovered a volume on FamilySearch that was missing from the Archives’ website). If you can’t find the Jewish records for a location on FamilySearch, they will likely be on Raduraksti. However you may want to check the “Church records” subject heading just in case of a cataloging error.

1897 Census

If you have the archival number, locating digitized copies of 1897 All Russian Census records from the Latvia Database is easier to do on FamilySearch than on Raduraksti. The downside is that not all census records have yet been filmed by FamilySearch, so it is worthwhile to keep checking the website as new records are added. As mentioned in the section on Raduraksti, the Latvia database records are not consistent in the way they record the archival number. The database entries that show the full archival numbers do not show digitized image numbers, rather, they list the handwritten page number on the document itself. However, not all of the database records include full archival references. In some cases only the volume number is indicated, which requires that the user be able to read Russian handwriting and browse for the correct household. In other cases only the high-level fond/fund (archival category) is listed, and this is of little use without the volume details.

On Raduraksti, the archival volume information is buried at the end of the census district description, only showing the lieta number, whereas FamilySearch lists the full LVVA number at the end of the description. The method for finding the census records is similar to the process detailed above for vital records, except that 1897 census (and revision list) records will be under the subject heading “Census.”

Here is a sample record from the Latvia Database collection "All-Russia 1897 Census – Latvia":

The archival number is LVVA/2706/1/42, page 397. As with other records in the database, only the adult members of the household are indexed. The first column of this record shows an address in Dvinsk (Daugavpils). Follow the same process described above to locate a vital record from Daugavpils. As with the vital records, you need to search “Places within Daugavpils” to find the subject heading, although this time, the subject is “Census.”

When you click on “Census,” you will find an entry that says

Latvia, Daugavpils, Daugavpils - Census (1)

Latvia, Daugavpils, Daugavpils, census, 1897

Author: National Archives. Riga (Lativia)

Click on the link to get to the catalog entry:

Allow the list to load and then ensure that the volume you need is there – the archival number is LVVA/2706/1/42, so validate that the first number (the fond/fund) is included in the entries, and then search for “42.” As on Raduraksti, the entry includes the district description, but FamilySearch also includes the full LVVA number:

Click on the camera icon to access the entry. The first record will confirm that you are in the correct volume:

Now browse for page 397. The page numbers are handwritten in the upper right corner of each page. It is a trial and error process, but going to image 397 brings you to page 390, and you can manually page to the image, which is found at https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-C3QB-PWNJ (you must be signed in to view the entry).

The census record shows that the Veinberg (“Weinberg” in the database record transliteration) household not only consisted of the husband and wife found in the database, but also their two children, a son Samuil (6) and a daughter Meri (3), and two servants.

You will need to be familiar with the Russian language to read and understand census records, or ask somebody with Russian language skills to assist. FamilySearch has a “How To” guide called “Reading the 1897 Census,” which will be helpful for those who can read handwritten Cyrillic, but don’t necessarily know the language. It also explains the layout of the census records and has links to other “How To” guides regarding Russian genealogical documents and terminology, which will be helpful to Russian speakers unfamiliar with this type of document.

Interwar Resources

The interwar collections on FamilySearch include internal passport application books, internal passport files turned into the Riga police, 1935 personal cards, house registers, and military recruit lists, among many others. The Latvia Research Division has two projects to index internal passport issuance books and internal passports turned into the Riga police, which comprise the Latvia Internal Passports Database, 1919-1941. The database records include links to the records on FamilySearch.

The remainder of the FamilySearch records have not been completely inventoried. The number of records is overwhelming, especially the 1935 personal cards that were filled out as part of the 1935 census. Ciltskoki is actively pursuing several indexing projects for these records, including links to the corresponding files on FamilySearch. This is a work in progress, and the site is continually updated as records are indexed. There is a wealth of information on FamilySearch categorized as ”Latvia, Rīga, Rīga, census : National Statistical Bureau, 1935,” that includes a wide variety of materials, not necessarily from Riga, including conscript lists, vital records which seem to have been requested by people during this time period (e.g., sending for their birth or marriage records), 1935 personal cards. As records are surveyed and indexed, this section of the webpage will be updated with the latest findings.