[This post is written for the 24th edition of the Carnival of Central and Eastern European Genealogy, hosted by Al's Polish-American Genealogy Research.]
The topic for this Carnival is Tips, Tricks and Websites.
I’ve already outlined the websites useful for Latvian research, but I’ll list them here again, with some other potentially useful websites:
- LVVA’s “Raduraksti” – the most useful Latvian genealogical website, with images of parish registers from all over Latvia for a variety of religions, in addition to the Latvian districts of the 1895 All-Russia Census.
- ROOTS=SAKNES – provides a lot of historical context and background to Latvian research.
- Ciltskoks – a blog (in Latvian only) on Latvian genealogy research.
- Ciltskoks.lv – the main website that goes along with the blog above. It bills itself as an Internet portal that has a focus on genealogy, but I have only started using it, and have not seen much in the way of genealogical discussion.
- 1188.lv – Telephone directory for modern-day Latvia (“personu katalogs” for personal directory, default is business), which may help locate living relatives. Registration is required to view phone numbers, but names and regions are visible without registration.
Now on to the tips and tricks!
- Invest in dictionaries translating to German, Russian and Latvian. Most older Latvian documents are in German or Russian, while post-1918 documents will be in Latvian.
- Familiarize yourself with Russian handwriting – it looks very different from typed Russian. Additionally, German-language records may be in Kurrent or Sütterlin handwriting, which can be quite different from standard Latin handwriting.
- Russian records will sometimes have the name recorded in German as well. Comparing the Russian spelling of the name with the German spelling of the name can help determine its Latvian spelling. For example, my surname, Celmiņa, will often be spelled “Zelmiņ” in German, but in Russian – “Целминь”. The “Ц” indicates that it would be spelled with a “C” in Latvian.
- Be prepared to spend a lot of time on your research. Unlike many basic US, Canadian or British records, Latvian records are not indexed, and may take many hours of scrolling through microfilms or clicking through Raduraksti images, deciphering handwriting, to find just one piece of information.
- Do not assume that if someone has the same surname, that they are a relative. Latvian surnames were only granted in the 19th century, and this process took many different forms – they may have been chosen by the now-bearers of the name, they could have been assigned by a local official, they could have been a former nickname/occupation/manor name/farm name/location-based name. All of this can lead to the same surname being used by many unrelated groups.
- Find out as much information as you can from living relatives – due to lack of indexes, it is imperative to know what parish relatives were from. For common surnames, it is further necessary to know as much as possible about a person – middle names, occupations, birthdates, etc. since there may be several people with that name in the parish.
- Utilize different record sources – the availability of parish registers on “Raduraksti” differs from the availability of parish registers through the LDS Family History Library. If the time period/parish you’re looking for isn’t available at one, consult the other.
Thanks for reading my first Blog Carnival entry! If you want any help deciphering handwriting, or in converting surnames between languages, just let me know and I can try to help you!