Online Access to 1941 Census

One resource that has appeared online on FamilySearch is the 1941 census – though officially it wasn’t called a “census”, but rather a “register of residents”, though in practice it functions as a census. It was taken not long after the Nazi occupation of Latvia began, so it will be rare to find Jewish or Romani citizens in these lists, as they had been sent to ghettos or camps already. Sometimes they will be listed if another local resident could provide the information on the family, but with notes in the last column stating “missing” or “went out one day and never came back”. These chilling notes remind us that this population survey was taken during wartime, so there will be inaccuracies and incomplete information, as people were often afraid.

Each building has its own page – apartments are indicated in the apartment number column. The heading of each page indicates the region, town/parish, settlement, street number/house name, owner/manager of the building, number of apartments and number of inhabitants.

Each inhabitant is then listed:

  1. Number
  2. Apartment number (if applicable)
  3. Name
  4. Gender
  5. Birthdate/Birthplace
  6. Nationality/Religion
  7. Profession/Employment
  8. When registered at this address
  9. When and from where arrived (to be filled out for those, who moved after June 16, 1940)
  10. Notes

One key item that is missing from this census – relationship to the head of the household. Sometimes this can be inferred by the way people are listed on the page – usually children will be listed after parents, etc. – but approach this with caution until you’ve got other records that confirm this relationship (usually a 1935 census record).

Items 8 and 9 refer to the practice of people being registered by the authorities when they move to a new address.

For Item 9, that date is significant – that was the day the Soviet Union invaded Latvia for the first time. It is possible then that the inclusion of this item on the census is meant to show how many people were displaced by this invasion, and by the Nazi one that would have taken place approximately a month prior to this census.

Now, that said, if your ancestors do appear here, there will be a good amount of information to go on to help you with your research – even if you’ve had little information to go on besides the names of parents and grandparents, this will provide those dates and places that you could be missing, allowing you to go back further in your research by using Raduraksti. If you need help in understanding Lutheran church records, you can check out my course on Lutheran records, called Latvian Genealogy Boot camp, here.

The easiest way to access these 1941 census records is via Ciltskoki. Once you’re registered on the site, click on “RADURAKSTI” in the top bar, go to “Fondu saraksti”, in the drop-down menu select “Tautas skaitīšana”, and in the text box labelled “pilsēta/pagasts” enter in the first few letters of the town or parish you’re looking for (note: these records don’t exist for the city of Rīga). When the list of results comes up, click on the link for the appropriate town/parish. If in the last column there is a green word “apskatīt”, that means that a list of surnames is available – click to view it, this will make your searching easier!

Any questions? Ask them below and I can help!

Riga Tax Lists

More and more Latvian records are going online every day, thanks to FamilySearch and their cooperation with the Latvian State Historical Archives. That’s the good news. The bad news is that sometimes they can be difficult to navigate, because the organization on FamilySearch leaves a lot to be desired. This means that while a lot of records are there, it might be hard for you to find them.

Never fear! I’m here with a series of posts to help you navigate your way through them.

Today we’re going to start with a relatively simple but also vital resource if your ancestors lived in Rīga at the turn of the 19th/20th centuries. And these are the Rīga tax lists.

First important part to remember – the records that are currently available on FamilySearch here are only indexes (Note: You will need to be registered on the FamilySearch website. You can register for free at the top of the page). These indexes are massive enough, scanning the actual records – which may be in the works, I’m not certain – will take a great deal more time. But if you can get the social class and family record number from these indexes, I’ll provide details at the end of the post for getting the full record. To view the index books, click the camera icons on the right side of each entry in the list.

Next important point – these lists only contain people whose registered place of residence was Rīga. This means that a fair number of people who lived in Rīģa, but were still registered in their home parishes in the countryside, will not appear in these lists. But don’t worry, that’s also a useful clue – that means that they haven’t been living in Rīga for generations, but are relatively new arrivals. It was possible to change one’s place of registration, but it wasn’t an easy task, so people didn’t do it very often, probably only when they were sure they wanted to stay rather than returning to the countryside.

Third important point – these records are organized primarily by social class. The exception to this are Jews and Old Believers, who were also enumerated separately from everyone else, and then organized also by social class.

Now, the Russian Empire social class system that was in play at the time isn’t really easy to understand, but what you need to know is that most Latvians registered in Rīga would be found in four of them – цеховой окл., рабочій окл., служит. окл., мѣщан окл., as the Russian titles on the books in these collections will say. The last two will be the most common for Latvians, corresponding roughly to “servant class” and “urban commoner” classes. The second is literally “worker class”, however, judging by the size of these books, they are one of the smaller classes, despite workers being the most numerous. This is probably due to two reasons – one, many of the workers were still registered in their home parishes, and two, they were otherwise registered in the servant or urban commoner classes instead. It was possible to change class – these changes would be noted in the record books.

Now, to read and use these indexes. They are written in Russian, and are thus alphabetical by surname, according to the Russian alphabet. The indexes sometimes list a birth year, but not always. But most important is the family number – this will be the number to the right of the name that is clearly not a birth or death year. This is the one you need to be able to find the full record.

Why would you want the full record? They provide vital statistics about a family – birthdates, death dates, family relationships, maiden names, if someone was registered in the city from the countryside or from a different country, then the information about from where and when they came can also be included. This is the most complete list of a family you’ll find for Rīga for this time period, since they can list several generations on one page.

If you’ve identified your family in the indexes, and you would like me to get the full record for you – please let me know! I will take pictures for you for $10 per family number. Please contact me to arrange this.

Having trouble reading the Russian handwriting? Don’t worry – I have a course on Russian Handwriting for Genealogy that can help you. Click the image below to buy the course!

New Free Email Course: Understanding Internal Passport Records!

A question a lot of people ask: What is this “List of Latvian Inhabitants (1918-1940)” on Raduraksti? This new free email course will help answer that question!

When you first started using Raduraksti, you probably zeroed in on the “Databases” option first, versus the “Virtual Archives”. This was probably for a variety of reasons – it is first on the list, plus, for someone new to researching Latvian genealogy, a database – which to many implies the ability to put in a search term – sounds more appealing than digitized documents.

So then you click on Databases, and what you get is the (to date) sole option to look at: “List of Latvian Inhabitants (1918-1940)”. When you see this, it sounds fantastic – a list of everyone in Latvia, perhaps? This will definitely give me information on my ancestors!

Unfortunately, that name is misleading. It is not a list of all inhabitants of Latvia – it isn’t even close. It is a database of one specific document collection at the Latvian State Historical Archives. This collection is the Rīga internal passport collection, fond 2996 if you go to the LSHA here in Rīga. It contains the annulled internal passports and other passport-related information of a large number of Rīga residents, but like most any collection, it still doesn’t have everybody. If someone didn’t need a passport replaced, then they wouldn’t have returned their old one to the government. Or if they lost it, or if it was destroyed somehow, it also wouldn’t appear here (though some in this collection are in quite a sorry state).

Now, you may be thinking – what use is this then? I know my ancestor wouldn’t have been able to afford to travel abroad, they wouldn’t have had a passport to begin with! This is not true. These are *internal* passports – that is, identification documents that everyone over the age of 16 was required to carry with them – the early 20th century equivalent to an ID card. Your ancestor would have had one. The question is whether it appears in this database or not. If they didn’t live in Rīga at any point in their lives, don’t despair – a passport for them could still be out there. It just won’t be in this collection.

But if you’ve done a search here and come up with your ancestor’s name – great! There’s something on them available. And now thanks to the FamilySearch organization, these passports are starting to go online. At time of writing, they’ve got most of the first half of the alphabet up, along with sporadic entries for later letters, and hopefully soon they’ll have all of them available. There are also indexing efforts underway in the Latvian genealogy community to create a name index, because the way the documents are organized on FamilySearch is not by name.

So now you’ll be asking – how do I access them? What do I need, and more importantly, how do I read and understand them? That’s what I’ll be answering next week as I launch my free email course on Understanding Internal Passport Records (yes, I’ll be talking about the records that are available for outside of Rīga as well!). Sign up below, and on Monday we’ll start exploring these records and what you can learn from them. I hope you’ll join me!



Genealogy Courses – Now Always Available!

As many of you who have been following this blog for awhile will know, I’ve occasionally run genealogy courses via email, so that more and more of you can learn how to do your research on your own. These have been really time-intensive, both for students and for me, so I’ve been looking for a better system on how to do it.

That system is now here! I’ve started using a course management platform, which means that these courses are now available for you to enroll in anytime, and they are self-paced, so you can go at your own speed. No need to get assignments in by a deadline, no need to rush at all, just work at the pace you’re comfortable at.

My first two courses are up and available now – Latvian Genealogy Boot Camp and Russian Handwriting for Genealogy – and more will be coming soon. Soon my regular Beginners’ Course, which is more involved than the Boot Camp, will also be available, and other courses will be too!

Latvian Genealogy Boot Camp is a four-module course that goes through just the basics that you need to know – how to understand names, places and keywords to be able to quickly find your ancestors in Lutheran records. it is available for $67 by clicking here.

Russian Handwriting for Genealogy introduces you to the Russian handwriting found in many 19th and early 20th century Latvian records. Lots of people find it intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be! Here I break everything down letter by letter so that you learn to recognize what you need to know. This is the course that I offered for a limited time via email in May, but now it is available for ongoing signups, and has some bonus material that wasn’t in the email course – the keywords list has been expanded, and the final workbook has forty exercises to test your knowledge instead of ten. It is available for $19, though if you buy by the end of the month and use the coupon code RHLAUNCH2018 at checkout, then you can get it for half price! Click here to get Russian Handwriting for Genealogy!

Is there are a specific topic in Latvian genealogy that you would like to see a course for? Let me know!

New Free Email Course: Russian Handwriting!

I know for a lot of people who are researching their Latvian genealogy, even when they’ve mastered different name spellings, different names for places in various languages, terrible handwriting in German… the one thing that still terrifies them is the thought that they might have to look through and understand records written in Russian, especially handwritten Russian.

But Russian really isn’t that scary! I promise. It is a different alphabet, yes, but that doesn’t make it an insurmountable obstacle. Just a bit of learning, and you’ll get the hang of it!

So to help with that, I’m running another free email course – but this one is for next week only – you can sign up between now and 9am Eastern time on Monday, May 21. Even if you’re not sure if you have the time to commit to it next week, sign up so that you can receive the emails to your inbox, and then you can review them when you have the time – because after next week, the course will join my paid course offerings, and it will not be available for free again!

Just fill out the form below, and follow the directions, and you’re in!

(Sorry, form deleted! Time is up! Keep an eye out for new courses, and for this course to join my paid offerings.)

100 Years Ago – February Diary Entries

Since 2018 is Latvia’s centennial, I am bringing my postings of diary entries in line with the centennial, so that you can see this on-the-ground narrative of someone who was right there in Latvia as the events leading up to independence took place, and also what happened after that.

Since I’ve already posted most of the 1918 entries, I will provide monthly summaries with links to the earlier posts. So here is February 1918!

  • February 6th, 1918 – Alise’s husband Georgs is arrested by the Bolsheviks.
  • February 7th, 1918 – Alise goes to visit her husband in prison, and he was shipped away in the night.
  • February 8th, 1918 – The Germans liberate Valmiera from the Bolsheviks, but make off with a lot of farm inventory.
  • February 10th, 1918 – Still there is no news about Georgs’ fate.
  • February 11th, 1918 – Alise goes to town to pray in church, and learns that had the Bolsheviks still been in Valmiera for a few more days, the rest of the family may have gotten sent away as well.
  • February 12th, 1918 – News comes that some Bolshevik prisoners had been freed by the Germans, but Alise does not know if Georgs is among them.
  • February 13th, 1918 – Still no news, and eldest daughter Trūtiņa wants her father home for her birthday.
  • February 14th, 1918 – Georgs is reunited with his family on Trūtiņa’s birthday.
  • February 15th, 1918 – Alise is overjoyed that peace appears to have come again.
  • February 22nd, 1918 – Alise celebrates the return of much of what was taken from them.
  • February 27th, 1918 – Alise and her family return to their home on Anna estate.

100 Years Ago – January Diary Entries

It has been some time since I posted new diary entries from my great-grandfather’s sister’s (Alise Tešs, maiden name Francis) diary, and I’ve done that so that I could bring them in line with the centennial of when they were written, inspired by the fact that this year – 2018 – is also Latvia’s centennial, so that you can see this on-the-ground narrative of someone who was right there in Latvia as the events leading up to independence took place, and also what happened after that.

Since I’ve already posted most of the 1918 entries, I will provide monthly summaries with links to the earlier posts. So here is January 1918!

Give Latvia the Gift of You

As many of you will know, today is November 18, which means it is Latvia’s Independence Day! This year, Latvia celebrates 99 years, which means that next year – 2018 – is the centennial!

Celebrating a centennial is a big production – there are so many things planned for Latvia next year, and I’ve been wondering what way I can contribute to the festivities. Now, I’ll be unveiling a number of different projects throughout the year, but now on Latvia’s 99th birthday, I want to help you do something for Latvia – helping you learn more about your Latvian heritage!

So from today, November 18th, until Cyber Monday – November 27th – I am offering some substantial discounts on two of my genealogy courses that will be starting in January. Both of these courses will offer you guidance and assistance on getting started with your Latvian genealogy research journey, so don’t miss out!

As an extra gift, if you register by November 27th, on December 12th I will also send you a special gift – my new Getting Started with Latvian Research Organization pack, which will include worksheets, wordlists and organizational tools that will help you get your research organized so that you know what you have, what you need to confirm with original sources, and what you still need to find! This pack will be going on sale on December 12th for $19, but if you book a course ahead of time you will get it for FREE! Having this pack before the holidays means that you’ll be able to question your family members over holiday meals to fill in the gaps you have, so that you’re ready to start your course in January!

So head over to my courses page – there you can sign up for my Latvian Genealogy Boot Camp for $44 (the number of days left until the celebrations of Latvia’s centennial begin, regular price $69), or my Beginner’s Course in Latvian Genealogy for $99 (Latvia’s birthday this year, regular price $129). Hope to see you there!

Free Email Course!

The most important tool in your arsenal in your Latvian genealogy journey is Raduraksti – but are you really using it to its full potential?

If you’re new to Latvian genealogy, the website can be daunting – but don’t worry, I’m here to help!

Starting on February 20, 2017 (for the first time, if you’re reading this after that date don’t worry – you can just sign up to start receiving it immediately!) I’ll be sending out a free five day email course to teach you how to use Raduraksti to its full potential! I’ll explain how to navigate the site, how to avoid common pitfalls, and lead you to where you need to go to get your search started.

So what are you waiting for? Just fill out the form below, and from February 20th onward I’ll be sending out the course, one email per day! Important: After you sign up, be sure to go to your email and CONFIRM! If you don’t confirm your subscription, you won’t receive the emails! (If it isn’t in your inbox, check your promotions/spam folders to make sure it hasn’t gone in there! If it has, be sure to mark my email address as “safe” so that it doesn’t happen again!)



Latvian Genealogy Boot Camp!

So it’s that time of year again – holidays, presents, and soon the New Year! Have you made any New Year’s Resolutions? I know one of mine is to get back to blogging more regularly, since I haven’t really had the time for it this year. But this year I will commit to getting more content out for you!

So what are your New Year’s Resolutions? Have you made one to get on track with your Latvian genealogy? Do you want a no-holds-barred intensive introduction to everything you need to know to get your research going? To read the records, and put all of the information together? Now’s your chance – it is time for Latvian Genealogy Boot Camp!

Just what you need to know to read the records – for historical context, why record types A or B or X exist, how people got farms and surnames and all that, go to my regular beginners’ courses. This is just to get you started into the records themselves.

What we will cover: Recognizing NAMES. Recognizing PLACES. Learning KEYWORDS. Understanding RECORD TYPES. And then put it all TOGETHER!

Five days. Five modules. If you’re ready to commit, and go go go for a week, then this is the course for you! All for the price of $49. First session starts on Monday January 16, 2017.

The course will take place online, and will have a live chat/Skype component, scheduled as suits you, for some one-on-one training.

Register for the course here by filling out the form and clicking the Paypal button below, and then I will get back to you for more details! If you don’t hear from me in two days, please confirm that you entered the right email address below – this is the email address you want course material sent to, not your Paypal login address, that Paypal will ask you for on the next page – and send me an email at the email address above so I know how to contact you best!


Enter email address to send to