Through the website Periodika, the Latvian National Library offers digital scans of newspapers from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Most newspaper editions available are from the 1920s and 1930s.
The user interface is available in Latvian and in English, though, obviously, the newspapers themselves are in Latvian (with the exception of one German-language and two Russian-language newspapers). They are also searchable – but with a few things to note:
- They have been digitized for search purposes by OCR (optical character recognition) – this means that it isn’t perfect. If you rely only on searches, you might not find everything you are looking for. If you know what you are looking for and when, it is also a good idea to scan through the paper yourself to see if the OCR didn’t pick it up.
- Diacritic marks matter. When I looked up the surname of one of my great-grandfathers: “Lukins” gave me different results than “Lūkins” did (but both search results included him, since sometimes the diacritic was used and sometimes it wasn’t). So if the name you are looking for uses diacritics, search for the name both with and without them.
- If the name you’re searching for resembles another Latvian word, put it in quotation marks. When I just searched for Francis (a family surname), without quotation marks, it also modified that to include Francija (France) as a result. But if I put “Francis” with quotation marks, I got closer to results I was looking for without having to wade through articles about France. However, this also runs the risk of leaving out the name when it is declined into various cases, so use this with caution, and run some more searches with the name in its declined forms.
I found articles that referred to three of my great-grandparents, and I’m still looking through all of the Saeima (Parliament) meeting notes that include my great-grandfather Augusts Lūkins, who was a member of the 3rd and 4th Saeima. A great find to learn more about these family members!
Have you found any interesting articles about your ancestors? Do you need help determining diacritic marks or case declensions of your Latvian surnames? Let me know and I can help!