Steps to Latvian Genealogy Success!

Mark your calendars – on October 2nd, I am launching my new subscription program, “Steps to Latvian Genealogy Success”!

Who is this program for?

This program is for people who want to do their own Latvian genealogical research, but are looking for a steady stream of information to help them with that process.

It is less intense than my genealogy courses, but still provides weekly content to help you conduct your genealogical research effectively.

What does this program provide?

Each Sunday, you will receive two different mailings straight to your inbox – the first will be the BMD Newsletter that I already provide as a subscription service for $5/month, wherein I translate one record each of birth, marriage and death records, to help you get familiar with record formats, handwriting and language.

The second will depend on the week:

Week 1: Recognizing Names in Old Records – A case study of a specific name, recognizing its appearance in different styles of handwriting, its spelling variations, possible forms translated into different languages, and where the name is most likely to appear.

Week 2: Analyzing Terminology – Going over a specific word, what it means in historical context, learning to recognize where and when it could appear in records, its translations in different languages.

Week 3: Case Study – A case study on solving a tricky family mystery, and how to get out of what might initially look like a dead end.

Week 4: Periodika or Maps – How to use the online periodical source Periodika effectively, including recognizing common OCR (optical character recognition) mistakes, or how to use old and modern maps to find where your ancestors lived.

Week 5 (if applicable): If a month has a fifth Sunday, then at the beginning of the month I will invite submissions for ideas on what to write about in this last week!

How will the information be provided?

It will be sent straight to the email address you signed up with! No need to register for any new websites, no new passwords to remember. Occasionally there may be a link to a subscribers-only page on my website, but the access code will be provided directly in the email and you don’t need to sign up anywhere.

How much does it cost?

The program is $9.99 per month. You can enroll by clicking this Paypal button here:


Email Address to Send To



To make bookkeeping simple, this is how it will work: When you register, you will start receiving content the following Sunday. If you register on a Sunday, you will start receiving content that day!

If you register NOW, you will get bonus introductory content this coming Sunday September 25th! So go sign up now! And then don’t forget to submit your suggestions for October’s Week 5!

Tombstone Tuesday – Zigītis Zaļlapa, 1926-1936

In this series, I am providing pictures of tombstones from Latvian cemeteries, all with death dates prior to 1945. I do not have any further information on the people mentioned.

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Photo taken by me, August 2015. Click to enlarge.

Top Inscription: “Mūsu mīļais dēliņš” (Our dear son)

Names: Zigītis Zaļlapa, born April 30, 1926, died April 21, 1936.

Bottom Inscription: “Tiko uzausa saulains rīts, te izira sapņu kamolīts.” (A sunny morning just dawned, and here our dreams unraveled)

Location: Sarkandaugava Hill Cemetery, Rīga

Tombstone Tuesday – Mandelbergs Family

In this series, I am providing pictures of tombstones from Latvian cemeteries, all with death dates prior to 1945. I do not have any further information on the people mentioned.

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Photo taken by me, August 2015. Click to enlarge.

Cross Inscription: “Jahn Mandelberg ģimenes kapi” (Jānis Mandelbergs’ Family Graves)

Top Inscription: “Še dus Dieva mierā” (Resting Here in God’s Peace)

Names: Jānis Mandelbergs, born January 14, 1840, died March 23, 1909; Ilze Mandelbergs nee Langenbergs, born October 3, 1840, died June 28, 1909.

Location: Sarkandaugava Hill Cemetery, Rīga

Giving the Gift of Family History

Are you considering giving the gift of family history this Christmas (or other winter holiday)?

If you are, don’t wait until the last minute! Especially if you want the sights of summer included!

If you head over to my Services page, you can see the special Starter/Gift Package I have on offer. This package is ideal as a holiday gift for a loved one, or as a starter package that can lead to more research later on.

For $299, you will receive 8 hours of research, a GEDCOM (genealogy standard computer file) with all of the family information, photocopies of documents found and a photoset of pictures from one of your ancestral locations – anywhere in Latvia! That’s right – I will go out to the village or parish of your ancestors, take photos of the church, main village centre and other important locations. If there’s a local cemetery, I can also take a peek in there for any family members. All of this is included – no extra fees involved!

If this is something that interests you, don’t delay! All the details and contact information are on my Services page. Summer is coming to an end soon, so if you want summertime photos, they will need to be done as quickly as possible!

Also important to note: I will be out of the country from late September to late October, so if you want your project on my fall research cycle, then write to me as soon as possible so that I can schedule it in.

Tombstone Tuesday – Indriķis Austers, 1876-1941

In this series, I am providing pictures of tombstones from Latvian cemeteries, all with death dates prior to 1945. I do not have any further information on the people mentioned.

Photo taken by me, August 2015. Click to enlarge.

Top Inscription: “Še dus Dieva mierā” (Resting Here in God’s Peace)

Name: Indriķis Austers, born March 11, 1876, died September 30, 1941.

Bottom Inscription: “Asaras sējot šķiramies, svētā laimē tiksimies” (Planting tears we part, we will meet again in the holy happiness)

Location: Meža kapi (Forest Cemetery), Rīga

Acquiring Dual Citizenship

Long time no write! I know it has been awhile, but I’ve been very busy with all of my genealogy and museum work, but I am going to try to get back to blogging on a semi-regular basis. I also have some big things coming soon that I hope you’ll be excited about!

Today I wanted to write about acquiring dual citizenship, which is something I get a lot of questions about, so now is a good time to answer them!

What is dual citizenship? Simply put, having citizenship of two countries at once. For our purposes, “dual citizenship” will refer to citizenship of Latvia and another country, and the process of acquiring Latvian citizenship for people who have historical ties to Latvia.

Why would someone want dual citizenship? Well, there are a lot of reasons. Having Latvian citizenship means that you can spend as much time in Latvia as you want, because you won’t need a visa or residence permit to do so. And because Latvia is a part of the European Union, that also means that you would have the right to live and work almost anywhere in the European Union. It also means you can vote in Latvian elections. You can have a real impact on making positive change in Latvia.

The most recent update to the Latvian citizenship law concerning dual citizenship was in 2013, when it was made available again. The possibility for it had been shut down between 1995 and 2013, but thankfully it is back.

There are several important things to note with regards to dual citizenship. The first is that Latvia does not have a simple “by descent” policy like some other countries, where you just need to prove a Latvian parent or grandparent. The second is that depending on the time period your ancestors emigrated, requirements may differ.

If your family left Latvia as a result of the Soviet or Nazi occupation of the country, you will have the easiest time applying for dual citizenship. You will need all of the typical documents proving descent – birth records naming parents, marriage records, etc. – as well as proof that your family left as a result of the occupation of Latvia, and that they were citizens of Latvia on June 17, 1940. It is this last part that is the trickiest, but also the most important to prove. You can provide documentation going back a hundred years of your family living and working in Latvia, but if you don’t have that last part, the process will be delayed (I know because this happened to me).

How can you prove that someone was a citizen on June 17, 1940? Well, you need a document as close as possible to that date stating that they were a citizen. It can be a passport issued in the months and years before, or a housing register stating that they were a citizen, or a birth record if they happened to be born around that time. If nothing else, the Historical Archives provides a service that comes with a letter that you can send to the Citizenship Office that says that they (the Historical Archives) have consulted the registers in their collection of people who lost Latvian citizenship prior to that date, and that your ancestor’s name was not found in those registers. If you need help acquiring such a letter, let me know and I can try to help with that.

So as long as you have all of these documents in order, dual citizenship is a simple process. You don’t need to be able to speak Latvian. It also doesn’t matter what ethnicity your ancestors were, as long as they were Latvian citizens on June 17, 1940.

The other way how you can acquire Latvian citizenship by descent (that is, rather than citizenship by naturalization) is more complicated, but it doesn’t require your ancestor to have been a Latvian citizen on June 17, 1940. Instead, it requires them to have been an ethnic Latvian or Liv (an autochthonous ethnic group in Latvia most closely related to Estonians), and to have lived in Latvia at some point between 1881 and 1940. So this opens up the timeframe a great deal, however, it does require Latvian or Liv ethnicity, as well as ability to communicate in and understand the Latvian language.

In addition to ethnicity and language, of course paperwork is required, proving those connections – birth and marriage records, as well as whatever else could be applicable. Proving Latvian or Liv ethnicity could be tricky, but there are a variety of documents that will state ethnicity, and if nothing else then that can be proven by way of participation in a Latvian community abroad.

For more information and information on how to apply, visit these pages on the website of the Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs website.

Do you have any further questions I might be able to help with? Let me know in comments!

Changes in Course Offerings!

As you will recall, last year I launched my first genealogy course offering – most specifically, a 12-week intensive course on the basics of conducting online research in Latvian genealogy.

Response to the course has been great, but at the same time, the length of the course and the intensiveness of the course over such a long period of time also resulted in a lot of attrition and most people who started the course not having the time in their schedules to finish.

So with that in mind, I’ve decided to revamp the course offerings – breaking the courses down into smaller independent chunks, so people can take the courses that are most necessary for their personal needs.

Now I will be offering THREE separate courses, all playing an important part in helping you learn how to do your own Latvian genealogy research utilizing online resources. Each of the courses will now be FOUR weeks long, with two out of three of the courses being offered each month. Each course will be US$49, and they will be based on the three concepts of UNDERSTAND, USE and INTERPRET.

UNDERSTAND Latvian genealogy records – This course will take you through the context of Latvian genealogical research – not as intensive as my Historical Context course, but it will provide a basic historical overview as it relates to the most commonly used Latvian genealogical records, as well as information on names of people and places and how they changed over the years. There are no prerequisites for this course.

USE Latvian genealogy records – This course will be the most intensive one, but it is also the most vital. This course will teach you how to read the old records – both the old German orthography (first two weeks) and old Russian orthography (second two weeks). We will cover how to pick out names and how to recognize common and important words. There are no strict prerequisites for this course, but if you are completely new to Latvian genealogy research and have little to no familiarity with Latvian history and naming practices, I would recommend taking the UNDERSTAND course first.

INTERPRET Latvian genealogy records – This course will help you put it all together. We will dive into the specifics of the main records – birth, marriage and death records, as well as revision lists. We will locate and analyze records (you can also bring your own) to draw out the important information and put together family trees. This course WILL require previous experience with old German and Russian orthography – which can be fulfilled by either the USE course, or your own study, but if you are coming to the course without having taken a course with me before, I will test your knowledge of orthography and vocabulary to make sure you know what you need to for the course. If you pass this test, you will be allowed into the course, if not, then you will need to take the USE course first.

The first sessions for the UNDERSTAND and USE courses will start on February 1. A full schedule can be found here (please note there will be no courses offered in October and December). As mentioned above, each course is US$49, but if you want to pre-pay for all three, for a limited time (until January 18) this package will be US$129 – save almost $20 from buying them individually! You will then have a year to use all three courses.

Please let me know if you have any questions!

WW1 Diary – December 10, 1918

Eighty-seventh installment from the diary of my great-grandfather’s sister Alise, written during the First World War. When the diary starts, she is living just a few miles from the front lines of the Eastern Front, and is then forced to flee with her husband and two young daughters to her family’s house near Limbaži as the war moves even closer. Her third child, a son, was born there in February 1916. The family has now relocated (again) to a home near Valmiera, and the Russian Revolution is in full swing. For more background, see here, and click on the tag “diary entries” to see all of the entries that I have posted.

If there is mention of a recognizable historical figure and event, I will provide a Wikipedia link so that you can read more about the events that Alise is describing.

I missed posting December 4th’s entry, you can read it here.

December 10, 1918

Today was the first nice day of winter. Quiet, white. Snow is falling slowly and covering all of nature – for a long time the sorrowful land was ailing, dreary autumn storms, not having its peaceful rest, and after a nap it broke: The skies opened and from above the land recieved snow which fell so white, onto the despairing and crying land. And it’s true, the whole world is despairing and crying, our people, what a dark future, how filled with horror and fear and discord, the brothers of our Latvian people one against the other. If only wiht the white snow, and the nearing Christmas, would come real peace on Earth and goodwill towards men, and after the tears and sorrows the land could sleep in comfort, and no injustices could touch that holy peace. White snow is also covering Mother’s burial mound. My thoughts take me to the old Lēdurga cemetery, where I sit next to Mother’s grave, if only I had wings, I would fly there, for the longing to be there is very great. White snow like a sheet, wrapped around all of nature. The days of life, how they rush, how they come and then they end! White snow like a sheet, wraps up our lives.

WW1 Diary – December 4, 1918

Eighty-sixth installment from the diary of my great-grandfather’s sister Alise, written during the First World War. When the diary starts, she is living just a few miles from the front lines of the Eastern Front, and is then forced to flee with her husband and two young daughters to her family’s house near Limbaži as the war moves even closer. Her third child, a son, was born there in February 1916. The family has now relocated (again) to a home near Valmiera, and the Russian Revolution is in full swing. For more background, see here, and click on the tag “diary entries” to see all of the entries that I have posted.

If there is mention of a recognizable historical figure and event, I will provide a Wikipedia link so that you can read more about the events that Alise is describing.

December 4, 1918

Oh, what times! So many divisions, so much anger between people… there is so much freedom, and with it – terror. The Latvian Provisional Government is working, but its enemies – the Bolsheviks – are not standing still, they want to destroy our citizens, take their unity and want to bring back the old slavery to Latvia. Their warpath to Latvia has already started. Taking Pskov demanded many sacrifices, because the White Guard along with the German troops are preventing the Russian Bolsheviks from attacking us. The Bolsheviks that are already here are holding meetings, where they decide how to torture and oppress the intelligentsia, how to confiscate estates, how to take away other property, and put them to work in simple jobs. Their newspapers are full of threats and bloodthirsty words. Most of the manor lords have left, leaving most of their belongings in the hands of fate, to save their own lives. Rīga is full of newcomers and prices cannot be described. For a small room people are asking 80-100 rubles per month. Bread is 200 rubles and who knows what else! There are rumours that the English are heading to Tallinn, Rīga, to save Latvian residents from the Bolshevik terror and destroy them.

I got a letter from home that made my mood even worse. No one can get past Mother’s death. Mother is missing here, Mother is missing there. The pain is in everyone’s hearts, like a painful tumour. Even though it is not as hard for me, since I am away from home, I can still imagine their pain, where every day every path, every little thing, reminds one of dear Mother.

WW1 Diary – November 28, 1918

Eighty-fifth installment from the diary of my great-grandfather’s sister Alise, written during the First World War. When the diary starts, she is living just a few miles from the front lines of the Eastern Front, and is then forced to flee with her husband and two young daughters to her family’s house near Limbaži as the war moves even closer. Her third child, a son, was born there in February 1916. The family has now relocated (again) to a home near Valmiera, and the Russian Revolution is in full swing. For more background, see here, and click on the tag “diary entries” to see all of the entries that I have posted.

If there is mention of a recognizable historical figure and event, I will provide a Wikipedia link so that you can read more about the events that Alise is describing.

November 28, 1918

I was in town, and there are worrying rumours – apparently bands of Bolsheviks are gathering for robbery and murder, and in our thoughts we think back to the summer of 1914, and the questions of would have the late Austrian kaiser Franz Joseph have declared war on little Serbia after the assassination of Franz Ferdinand? Or would German kaiser Wilhelm II have declared war on Russia, and would have Russian Czar Nicholas II issued sufficient mobilization requests, if they would have known what fates awaited their thrones and countries? Probably rather this horrible feeling would have forced them to find a path to agreementn and not to lead the world to such a horrible war along with their own fates. Crowns, thrones, until now so respected and celebrated, no longer play any roles. It looks like this war has removed 30 rulers from their thrones. And good!

Now there are worker-soldier committees everywhere. Our land, our homeland, has been proclaimed as an independent state – a free Latvia! Red-white-red flags were everywhere in town. Everywhere freedom – press strikes – meetings – trips – freedom. A moment at the wheel – the Farmers’ Union with its program to reduce land holdings of large landowners, introduce an 8-hour workday, etc. The President is agronomist Ulmanis and many others are all in their own departments. Between them, other parties are also growing. All sorts of parties are publishing their newspapers, where they are confusing people, like in the Bible. All sorts of meetings, where the results are plastered all over poles around town. Freedom!

Pastor Beldavs, in his Bible study, explains the Revelation of John and the predicted end of the world. The arrival of Jesus Christ is also being proclaimed in the churches, people are singing the songs of the End of Days. The pastor is urging people to wake up, wake up Christian people, prepare your candles, so that oil is not lacking in them. May God help us, may God help Free Latvia in its path, may God also cut off the Bolsheviks from their murder and pillaging.