Ever wonder how your parents, grandparents or great-grandparents did in school? You may just be able to find out. Numerous Latvian school records are held at the Latvian State Historical Archives, mostly for the inter-war period (1918-1940).
Of course, to be able to use these records, you need to know where they went to school, and roughly when – if you’re not completely certain what their school years would have been, you can search through a wider year range.
I learned when and where my grandmother Zenta Lukina attended high school from her father’s employment file – it mentioned that she had been admitted to the “M. Bekeru private gymnasium” (gymnasium being a type of secondary education in many Northern and Eastern European countries) in Rīga. From this information, I looked up the relevant fond at the archives, and looked at the abstract to see what kind of information could be found.
A variety of items were available for the school, such as books of students’ grades, and in some cases supporting documents for school admission.
Here I found my grandmother’s grades for her second year of secondary education – she had top grades in Religion & Ethics, Geography, Science and Drawing. She did not do very well in her first term of English, but then improved her grade over the course of the year. In addition to the Latvian language, she also studied English, German, Latin and Russian.
While searching through the files of supporting documents didn’t reveal any of hers, the files did give me a snapshot of the school and her classmates. It was a girls’ school, and the students came from a variety of backgrounds – along with ethnic Latvians, the school also had German, Russian and Jewish students. The Latvian students were from a variety of religious backgrounds – predominantly Lutheran, but also Orthodox, Baptist and Roman Catholic. I wonder if the school had a specific religious orientation that they taught in the Religion & Ethics course, or whether they taught about the variety of religions that the students belonged to.
These supporting documents took a variety of forms – copies of birth certificates (both civil and religious), transcripts from previous schools, diplomas certifying completion of primary school. Thus school records have the possibility to provide more than just information about schooling, but about family and possible other places of residence as well.
The availability of school records varies depending on the parish and the specific school. Sometimes only a few years are available – but these could be the years that you need! In terms of archival fonds, some schools are filed separately, while others are filed together with other schools based on the civil parish or wider administrative region.
Have you found information about your ancestors’ school years in your archival searches? Share your stories in comments!