I make many references to LVVA’s Raduraksti. It is the best resource for people researching their Latvian family history if they’re not able to go to the LVVA itself. The collection of documents available there is growing – recently they also added revision lists for some towns and cities.
But the website can be a bit difficult to navigate if you don’t speak Latvian. The main headings are available in Latvian, English, German and Russian, but when you get to the records part of the site, category headings are only available in Latvian.
So this post will help you navigate through them!
As of today, January 14, 2010, there are three categories of documents that appear when you click “Contents”:
- Baznīcu grāmatas (Church books)
- Dvēseļu revīzijas (Revision lists – lit. “Soul revisions”)
- Tautas skaitīšana (Census – lit. “Counting of the people”)
“Baznīcu grāmatas” further subdivides into:
- Baptisti (Baptists)
- Ev. lut. (Lutheran – most Latvians are Lutheran, if you do not know your ancestor’s religion, starting here would be your best option)
- Pareizticīgie (Orthodox)
- Rabināti (Jewish)
- Reformāti (Reformed)
- Romas katoļi (Roman Catholic)
- Uniāti (Eastern Catholic)
- Vecticībnieki (Old Believers)
After choosing a religion, there will be another choice screen – some religions only have one of the options, others will have both.
- “Apdzīvotās vietas” (Inhabited places) – choose this option if your ancestor lived in the country or in a small village. Then once you select your ancestor’s place of residence, it will present you with a number of nearby congregations that your ancestor could have been a member of. When I first began my searches for my great-grandfather Arvīds Francis, I was confused when I couldn’t find him in the records for Limbaži, since I was told that they lived in the area. When I learned further that he grew up in Nabe parish, I went to look at the options for Nabe, and was given three congregations to choose from: Limbaži, Lēdurga and Turaida. I eventually found him in Lēdurga, where his farm was listed as the one in Nabe parish that I was familiar with.
- “Draudzes” (Congregations) – if you know the specific congregation your ancestor was a part of, or if they lived in a city, choose this option. Many cities are listed in the “Apdzīvotās vietas” section, but some, such as Jēkabpils, Krustpils and Rēzekne, are not, and can only be accessed through the “Draudzes” category. If in doubt, check both categories.
Once you have found your congregation, documents are available by date and by type of document. “Dz” – birth/baptism, “L” – marriage, “M” – death/burial are the three most common abbreviations to help you choose the proper document. Additionally, “l” is “Latvian congregations” and “v” is “German congregations”.
On to “Dvēseļu revīzijas”. At time of writing, there are only five cities listed – but I’m sure more will be added over time. Each of these cities has a variety of lists available, some with very long descriptors, which I won’t translate here. But a list of terms that comes up frequently in these descriptions, to help you navigate:
- saraksti (lists)
- nodokļi/nodokļu maksātāji (taxes/taxpayers)
- iedzīvotāji/brīvie iedzīvotāji (inhabitants/free inhabitants)
- amats/amatnieki (trade/tradesmen)
- kristīgie/ebreji (Christians/Jews)
- tirgotāji/zemnieki (merchants/peasants)
- pilsoņi/ārzemnieki (citizens/foreigners)
And finally, “Tautas skaitīšana” – at the moment, this contains only the 1897 All-Russia Census. Whether there plans to digitize the other two censuses – 1935 and 1941 – I do not know. This collection does not contain the entire All-Russia Census, but only the surviving documents from the Latvian parishes, some Estonian ones and some parishes that are now a part of Russia. Unfortunately, “surviving” is an important word here, since many parishes are not available.
Three terms important to know are:
- pagasts (parish)
- pilsēta (town)
- miests (small village)
Often, there is the town/village proper, as well as the surrounding country territory that was called by the same name – for example, the town of Limbaži, and the surrounding Limbažu parish. Therefore, in these records, if your ancestors lived in the country, go for “pagasts”, if they lived in town, go for “miests” or “pilsēta”. If you don’t know, or they lived on the outskirts of town, check both.
I hope that this guide makes your searches on “Raduraksti” more fruitful!