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

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.


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