The earliest Jewish Latvian vital records (birth, marriage, death) date from 1854, and the digitized Raduraksti vital records run through 1909. Other holdings include family lists, the All Russian 1897 Census, and interwar internal passports, passport issuance books, household registers, and 1935 personal cards. The interwar records do not appear on the Raduraksti website, nor do vital records past 1909. The FamilySearch digital collection includes some overlap of census and vital records, and also includes many interwar records. Filming is ongoing. Yad Vashem also has copies of some digitized Latvian passports, categorized as "Personal documents," although their collection is not complete, nor does it always digitize the entire file.
The newly revised inventory of Jewish holdings at the Latvian State Historical Archives is a listing of pre-1920 holdings, many of which are included in the JewishGen Latvia Database. The updates in red include post-1909 holdings that have recently been added to the list, although the more recent ones are not currently digitized. The list is divided by the three historical and geographical areas of Latvia – Courland, Livland and Vitebsk – which were separate gubernias (provinces) under the Russian Empire.
In 2010 the Latvian Archives created a virtual reading room, the Raduraksti website, which provides access to church records (including vital records of the Rabbinate), revision lists from Livland and Courland, surviving copies of the All Russian census, and information on university students. The website was redesigned in February 2020. Several JewishGen Latvia databases link to digital images on the old website, but the links no longer work. Volunteers will be required to begin a project to correct these links, but in the meantime, a workaround is described in the introduction to the Jewish Vital Records collection and in the section “Finding Digital Copies on Raduraksti or FamilySearch” below.
The late Christine Usdin singlehandedly translated a majority of the Latvian Jewish vital records from the Raduraksti website. Her translations, which she did not fully complete prior to her death, make up the bulk of the Latvian Jewish vital records collection, which constitutes a major portion of the JewishGen Latvia database. Many of the vital records for Riga remain to be translated, along with those from a few other areas, and work is in progress to complete these translations. The JewishGen database includes abstracts of the records. Most of the Jewish vital records are in both Russian and Hebrew or Yiddish, which is an advantage for researchers who may not know Russian, but who have a familiarity with Hebrew script.
The JewishGen Latvia Database
The JewishGen Latvia Database incorporates contributions from both the former Latvia Special Interest Group (SIG) and the Courland Research Group. It has grown exponentially during the past two decades. Starting with smaller databases, privately commissioned and translated, the scope of the database has grown to include both adult family members from the All Russian 1897 Census and a substantial portion of the Latvian Jewish vital records. The Dvinsk/Daugavpils Family List database is especially important to Jewish researchers with roots in Dvinsk. Recent additions to the database include passport issuance books from a number of towns, and a database of actual passports turned into the police in Riga. Work on the latter two areas is ongoing, expanding our knowledge of our ancestors during the interwar period. The scope of filming by FamilySearch ensures that there will be an ample supply of records available to be indexed and/or extracted into the Latvia Database for the foreseeable future.
Each component database has an introduction that describes the details of the collection. These descriptions are currently being updated to reflect the most current information. Please be sure to read the database descriptions to understand the years of coverage, as well as what is and isn’t included in the database.
Finding Digital Copies on Raduraksti or FamilySearch
Many records in the Latvia Database include links that point to the old Raduraksti website, which no longer exists. This is the case for both the Vital Records and 1897 Census databases. However, most of these database records include enough information to enable you to locate a digital copy of the record manually. Most of the records are located on the new Raduraksti website, although a few of the census volumes are numbered slightly differently, with an A and B volume. Many of the same records are also available on FamilySearch, which may be slightly easier to navigate, as the catalog is in English. The new Raduraksti website is only in Latvian, and you will need to use the Translate function on your browser to use it if you do not speak Latvian. Most, but not all of the Jewish vital records are on FamilySearch, but there may still be some that are only be available on Raduraksti, and there is the odd volume available on FamilySearch that is not on Raduraksti.
Below is an example of a birth record from the Latvia database. To locate the original record, you need the place name (Dvinsk/Daugavpils), archival number - fond/fund name, fund number, inventory number – circled in red below, year (1891), record number (F235 – Female #235), and image number (144).