Finding Latvian Archival Records on the Raduraksti Website

by Marion E. Werle

In 2010 the Latvian Archives created a virtual reading room, the Raduraksti website, which provided 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 completely redesigned and relocated in February 2020. Unlike the old website, where the user had a choice of languages, the current Raduraksti website is only in Latvian. This is an image of the Raduraksti homepage:

Unless you are a Latvian speaker, you will need to use the Translate function of your browser. You should keep the translation function active EXCEPT when viewing the lists of cities and towns, which may not show up correctly if translated. The major headings on the home page are: Church books (Baznīcu grāmatas), Audits of Souls (Dvēseļu revīzijas), Home books (Mājas grāmatas - Riga house registers), Census - 1897 (Tautas skaitīšana), Memory Stories (video memoirs - Atmiņu stāsti), Passports of Latvian residents (Latvijas iedzīvotāju pases), University of Latvia Students (database of students between 1919 and 1944), and Deported residents of Latvia (deported by USSR 1941-1953). Church books include vital records for all denominations, including Jews (translated as “Moses believers” or “The believers of Moses,” depending on the browser). Audits of Souls include various family, revision, guild, merchant, and other lists, including a number of Jewish lists, many of which are in German. These lists are not part of the JewishGen Latvia Database. The other major category of interest is the 1897 Census images.

The first step in using the Raduraksti website is to create a userid and password. With the translate function of your browser, this will be an easy one-time process. Once you are a registered user you may stay signed in and access the various categories of records.

Vital Records - Baznīcu grāmatas

Jewish vital records, filled out by the local rabbinate (crown rabbis of the Russian Empire), are included under the category of Church Records (Baznīcu grāmatas) on the Raduraksti website. The file path in Latvian is Baznīcu grāmatas > Mozus ticīgie > Rabināti, or Church records > Moses Believers (or believers in Moses) > Rabbis (Rabbinical records). After you click on the Rabbinical records, be sure to change your browser option back to Latvian – some city names will have bizarre translations otherwise.

This is the JewishGen Latvia database example from the previous page.

Raduraksti records are categorized under the current Latvian names of the cities and towns. Find the city where the vital record event took place, in this case, Daugavpils. Click on the location, and find the year and type of record you are looking for. The record categories are Dz (Dzimušie - births), L (Laulātie - marriages), M (Mirušie - deaths), and Šķ (Šķirtie - divorces). The birth record in the example above would be found under “1891 Dz,” as shown in the partial listing below.

When you click on the year and category, the next page will show thumbnails of the requested volume. The archival information will be summarized under the heading, and should match the archival number circled above. Click on the first thumbnail. It will summarize the archival information, city, year, and category of information, which should all match the information in the record from the Latvia Database.

On the top left, there will be a sequence number showing the frame number and the total number of frames. The sample record is frame/image number 144, so you can overtype the number and navigate to image 144, which is at https://www.raduraksti.arhivi.lv/objects/1:4:13:2022:2025:8064#&gid=1&pid=144 (note that you need to be signed into Raduraksti to view specific records).

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. Zoom in on the page. 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 methodology 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). Since filming and cataloging is still in process on FamilySearch, Raduraksti may have a more complete collection of Jewish vital records.

Audits of Souls - Dvēseļu revīzijas

This is a collection of various lists for Courland and Livland. They have not been translated or indexed. The documents under the Cities (Pilsētas) category include a number of lists, mostly in German, pertaining to Jewish residents. These categories are visible and searchable if you turn the Translate function on in the browser.

1897 Census - Tautas skaitīšana

In theory, locating digitized copies of 1897 All Russian Census records from the Latvia Database should be similar to locating vital records, but in practice, it is more difficult. The 1897 census records in the database were privately commissioned and translated by the archivists. 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, which is of little use in locating the correct record.

The 1897 census volumes on the website are arranged by city and then by district. The “case” (lieta/volume) number is located at the end of the neighborhood description in the listing. For a larger city, the census can encompass multiple volumes. In addition, some volumes have been subdivided into two parts, which may not be reflected in the database archival reference. To locate copies of census records with a full archival reference, it may be easier to use FamilySearch to locate the record, assuming that the city or town has been filmed (FamilySearch filming and digitization is still in progress and not complete). For towns not yet filmed by FamilySearch, follow the procedure below.

Here is a sample record from the component database called “All-Russia 1897 Census – Latvia”:

In this example, 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). To find the original, click on Tautas skaitīšana (Census), which brings up an alphabetical list. Under “D,” select “Daugavpils pilsēta” (Daugavpils city). This will bring up a list similar to United States Census enumeration districts. Each description is followed by the number of a lieta (case or file) in parentheses. In our example, it is the third number, which is 42. You can either skim the list, or do a “find” on the page for the number 42. You will find the following description:

  • Kalēju; Dzirnavu; Piekrastes; Šosejas; Lēģeru; Jaunā; Februāra; Mazā; Dzelzceļa; Baseina; Maskavas; Dvorjanskaja; Šilderes Oficieru; Zaļā iela (42. lieta) *

Click on the description, which will bring you to a page with the digitized thumbnails for lieta 42. Check the first thumbnail:

This will validate the correct volume, LVVA/2706/1/42 for the year 1897. Now you need to browse for page 397. The page numbers are written in the upper right corner of each page. This is a trial and error process, but going to image 397 brings you to page 390, and you can manually page to the image at https://www.raduraksti.arhivi.lv/objects/1:8:1839:7144#&gid=1&pid=404 (you need to be signed into Raduraksti to view specific records).

The census record shows that the Veynberg (“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.

Passports of Latvian Residents – Latvijas iedzīvotāju pases

This is an index to archival Latvian passport holdings, based on passports turned into the authorities in Riga. The search engine is difficult to use, and there are easier ways (see Ciltskoki Website) to access both the list of names and the actual passport images (digitized on FamilySearch). See the previous section on the Latvian State Historical Archives for more information on passports and passport issuance books.

You may use a trial and error approach on this Raduraksti index, which will let you know the Latvian spelling of the surname you are searching, as well as some basic biographical information. However, this section of Raduraksti does not include any links to digitized passports.