National Archives of Estonia (Rahvusarchiv)

National Archives of Estonia (Rahvusarchiv)


The National Archives of Estonia (Rahvusarchiv), holds a majority of the archival records of Estonia, including copies of those that may also reside in other repositories. Some southern Estonian towns were part of Livland gubernia during the time of the Russian Empire - Tartu/Derpt [Rus, to 1893] /Yur'yev [Rus, 1893-1918], Viljandi/Fellin, Võru, and Pärnu, so there is some overlap with the Latvian State Historical Archives, although some digital resources appear both on Raduraksti and in the Estica Section of the EA (see below).

The Rahvusarchiv has an excellent website, including a portal to online resources in its Virtual Research Room (VAU). Along with a wealth of online resources, the Archives also offers limited genealogical research services. There are two physical reading rooms in Tallinn and Tartu, but the Virtual Reading Room will provide the remote viewer with a wide range of information.

As with most archival websites, you need to set up a userid and password to view digital documents. Although the website is in Estonian, most pages have an option to be viewed in English (or you can use the Translate feature of your browser). The portal to the digital materials is found on the VAU page:

Among other categories, the photo and maps sections are worth investigating. SAAGA is the section of the VAU that holds the digitized documents. As of 2017, the collection held 17.5 million digital images.[1] An inventory of Jewish archival fonds (groupings) held by the Archives may be found on the website’s Genealogy page.

Archival Fonds – General Searches

The archival listings follow a naming convention that begins with a three-letter abbreviation for the archive name, with each component separated by a period, beginning with the fond number, e.g., ERA.1107.1.199. Each of the archives has its own abbreviation, for example EAA is for the National Archives in Tartu, ERA for the National Archives in Tallinn, VAMA for the National Archives in Valga. According to the EA website, documents from the period before 1917 are mostly held in Tartu, whereas materials for later years are in Tallinn, Valga, and Rakvere.

VAU has a search engine for “Archival fonds in Tallinn” (this includes fonds that were moved to Tartu in 2017). You may use “ERA.nnnn” (where nnnn) is the known fond number) in the Reference Code (Viitekood) field. You may use a keyword in the Title (Pealkiri) field, e.g., Juudi will search for all Jewish fonds.

There is also a separate search for the archival fonds in Tartu, although it may also not reflect post-2017 relocations of records between Tartu and Tallinn.

The AIS section of VAU is a general search engine, not restricted to the archives in Tallinn or Tartu, and is the recommended choice to show current holdings. Using the keyword “Juudi” from the main AIS screen yields 300 entries in ERA, EAA (Tartu), and TLA (Tallinn City Archives). According to the Tallinn City Archives, digitized versions of church books, guilds, and cities from the city archives may be found on SAAGA.

A researcher may also use the SAAGA search engine with the search term “Judaica” to find another long list of digitized Jewish holdings.

Jewish Vital Records

To locate Jewish vital records, click on “SAAGA” and go to Church Records. The Jewish records will be found under “Other confessions' church records kept in the public archives,” and then under the individual Jewish community. The categories are:

Narva Jewish Congregation (1911-1926)

Rakvere Jewish Congregation (1921-1926)

Talinn Jewish Community - select the first link, “Meetrikaraamatud” - various

Tartu Jewish Congregation (1897-1926)

Valga Jewish Congregation (1919-1926)

Vijandi Jewish Congregation (1917-1926)

Võru Jewish Congregation (1883-1926)

The detailed lists of holdings vary by community, but most will be divided into Birth, Marriage, Death, and Divorce, and then divided by year within each category. Some of the listings may be in Russian (use the browser translation feature, if necessary). The Estonian Jewry Archives also has a spreadsheet called "Jewish vital records in Estonian archives" (fourth entry on the page) that breaks down Jewish vital records by town, year, record type, and archival number.

1897 Census

Within the Rahvusarchiv’s Virtual Research Room (VAU), the Estica section of SAAGA includes digital copies from “a selection of Estonian material from foreign archives,” including, but not limited to, the Latvian State Historical Archives (LVVA).

The LVVA listings include:

Tartu and Saaremaa census sheets - Record LVVA.2706.1.250 1897

Saaremaa census sheets - Record LVVA.2706.1.251 1897

Correspondence of the Võrumaa Census Commission and Saaremaa Census Sheets - Record LVVA.2706.1.252-1 1897

Saaremaa census sheets - Record LVVA.2706.1.252-2 1897

The Raduraksti website section for the 1897 census shows that LVVA holds volumes for Tartu County, Võru County, Pärnu county, and Arnsburg (Abrokas pagasts), encompassing LVVA/2706/1/249 (parts 1 &2) - Pärnu, LVVA/2706/1/250, LVVA/2706/1/251, and LVVA 2706/1/252 (parts 1 & 2). These volumes do not appear to be indexed in the JewishGen Latvia database.

Jewish Population Registers

The series of Jewish population registers on FamilySearch is from the Estonian archival collection fond 1107 (Jewish Minority Cultural Government of the Republic of Estonia, 1919-1940). The specific volumes (towards the end of the SAAGA listing of the fond) are as follows:

List of Jews living in Estonia, volume 1 - ERA.1107.1.198

List of Jews living in Estonia, volume 2 - ERA.1107.1.199

Alphabetical Index to the List of Jews Residing in Estonia, Volume 1 - ERA.1107.1.200

Alphabetical Index to the List of Jews Residing in Estonia, Volume 2 - ERA.1107.1.201

In addition to the population registers, fond 1107 contains 213 digitized volumes, in Russian and/or Estonian regarding the Jewish community during the interwar period.

Citizenship and Passport Applications

ERA.1.1.xxxx contains passport applications/files. SAAGA has an alphabetical list of names, with links to their passport files.

SGAA also has an alphabetical list of people who have citizenship files (ERA.14.2.xxxxx).

There are digitized copies of these files on FamilySearch, but researchers need to access each file individually to find the name of the person – the files are neither indexed nor listed alphabetically as they are in the SAAGA section of the EA website.

Genealogical Research Services

The Estonian Archives provides an array of resources for researchers to use on their own. However, the archives will do limited research. They will respond to queries about family events (e.g., BMD) for people who lived in Estonia before World War II. To submit an inquiry, fill out the online form with the required information. Responses can be via email, postal mail, or in-person pickup.


This summary barely scratches the surface of the breadth of contents of the Estonian Archives and its website. Researchers are urged to spend time searching for further resources that may reveal their family’s history in Estonia.

[1] Tõnis Türna “Online Access to Estonian Archives: State of the Art,” ICARUS-Meeting #19, slide show ( : accessed 16 August 2021.