Records after 1905

In the interwar period, everyone in Latvia needed to have an internal passport. These passports provided the basic details on a person, such as birthdate/place, father’s name, address, occupation, etc. When moving to a new home, it was necessary to register this with the local authorities and have a stamp placed on the passport providing this new information. Stamps were also made to confirm that someone had voted in an election or paid various types of local taxes. For women, it also listed the birth of children. Thus these passports can be a source of all sorts of useful information for the genealogist. However, the collection is not comprehensive – the most extensive collection is available for Rīga (fonds 2996), but some exist for other Latvian cities as well (fonds 2258).

Was your ancestor an international traveler in the interwar period? Numerous external passports and passport applications are also available (fonds 3234, abstracts 24, 32, 33). I found the passport application that was made on my grandfather’s behalf so that he could spend a semester in Sweden to do his practical work (what we’d probably call a co-op or internship these days) while studying at an agricultural secondary school. I knew he had studied agriculture and that he had spent time in Sweden as part of his studies, but I didn’t know where in Latvia he had gone to school, since his family moved all over the country – with the information this passport application provided, I was able to get his full set of secondary school marks, as well as a copy of his diploma.

Did your ancestor immigrate to Latvia during the interwar period? Document collections on immigrants, both legal and illegal, as well as citizenship applications, might be able to provide more information. In the time period directly after the First World War, there were many non-permanent residents in Latvia that needed to be sorted out and either repatriated or settled – refugees, prisoners of war, and so on. Many people fleeing from the Soviet Union chose to settle in Latvia. Documents on legal immigrants and citizenship acquisition can be found in fonds 3234 abstracts 2 and 5, documents on refugees, POWs and illegal migrants in fonds 3234 abstract 1a and 13, and documents on loss of citizenship and expulsion from Latvian territory in fonds 3234 abstracts 21 and 23. Since all of my ancestors were already in Latvia at this time, I only took a look at the abstracts, but since they are mostly organized by surname, it should be easy to find if your ancestors are in them or not.

For emigration from Latvia during World War 2, and subsequent time ancestors would have spent in Displaced Persons Camps, see my post on the International Tracing Service.

House Books

As well as addresses being recorded in internal passports, the movements of people were also recorded in “house books” kept for each address. These books recorded the names of the people, birthdates, supporting document numbers (usually those of internal passports), when they moved to this address, previous address, when they left this address, and the address they moved to. It is thus theoretically possible to follow a family’s moves around the country using only house books. However, like the internal passport collections, the house book collection is far from comprehensive. The books exist mostly for the interwar period, though some individual books may extend beyond those dates (both backwards and forwards). For Rīga, consult fonds 2942, for the rest of Latvia, fonds 2110.

… and more!

What kind of job did your ancestor do? There might be documents relating to trade unions they could have been members of, social clubs or even employment files. If you know where specifically they worked, you could find information on the company that could mention your ancestor. I was able to find two employment files for one of my great-grandfathers – one for his time with the police force (fonds 5604), another for his time as a justice of the peace (Rīga district court, fonds 1536).

Did your ancestor change their name? Throughout the interwar period, but especially in the late 1930s, there was a push for Latvians who had names that were not of Latvian origin to change them to something Latvian-sounding. Records for surname changes can be found in fonds 3234, abstracts 1 and 31, though they appear to be arranged by pre-change surname, so if you don’t know what the earlier surname was, it could be a challenge. I will be addressing the topic of name changes and regulations involved in this in a post later this week.

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