Latvian Genealogy Primer – Part 2

Second Step: What Latvian resources are there online?

The main resource to look at for tracing ancestors in Latvian territory, regardless of their religious or ethnic affiliation, is Raduraksti. This is a project created by the Latvian State Historical Archives to digitize Latvian records so that they can be viewed from anywhere in the world.

Keep in mind this is simply a digitization, not a transcription – you will need to look page by page at the records to find what you’re looking for. I have created a number of guides and tips for looking at these records – just click on the blog tags to the left, particularly “records” and “tips”.

The key piece of advice here is don’t give up – it might look daunting, but the more you look at the records, the more you learn the terms and the styles of handwriting, the better you’ll fare. Keep a German or Russian dictionary handy.

Raduraksti provides several types of basic records – birth, marriage and death records in the form of religious records, so you will need to know the religion of your ancestor; 1897 census records (though these are far from complete); and revision lists, covering the period 1796-1858, with some later supplements, that are also not complete, but serve as rudimentary census records.

Some projects do exist in terms of transcribing these records into searchable databases. I started doing so on this website, but I have now folded my work in with Ciltskoki.lv. This website has thousands of transcriptions, however it was created for an intended audience of Latvian speakers, so English translations within the website are very rudimentary, if they exist at all. I am working with the website owner to create an English interface.

Those looking for their Jewish roots in Latvia would do well to visit the website of Christine Usdin here, where she has transcribed many of Latvia’s Jewish congregations’ records. JewishGen also has many transcriptions here.

Third Step: What Latvian resources are there in Latvia?

All sorts! While the online records will provide you with a skeleton of a family tree, the records available on-site in Latvia will put meat on the bones.

What kind of records are available depend heavily on the particular region you’re researching. Generally speaking, cities will have more records than the countryside, but you will also have to sift through more records to find your ancestors, because cities are, obviously, larger population centres, and alphabetical indexes can be scarce. Vidzeme province – the northern province of Latvia – also has, generally speaking, better preserved records than the other parts of Latvia. I’m not entirely sure as to why this is, but if I had to take a guess, I would say it is because the First World War caused a lot of damage in Kurzeme, the western province, and this could have resulted in a loss of certain types of records.

Examples of what kind of records can be found in the Latvian State Historical Archives:

  • Interwar-era passports;
  • House books;
  • School records – both interwar and pre-WW1;
  • Parish population registers for the late 19th century;
  • Land records for individual farmsteads;
  • Court documents, both civil and criminal;
  • Police and prison records;
  • Lists of people deemed to be under police surveillance, typically for membership in illegal political organizations;
  • Documents regarding WW1-era refugees from Latvian territory to Inner Russia;
  • Consular documents from interwar-era Latvian embassies around the world;

… and much much more!

Do explore my website more by clicking on the tags at the side, to see the variety of sources I’ve discussed and records I’ve profiled. For more steps and details for getting started, please see my post Getting Started with Latvian Research.

As always, if you have any questions, contact me! Leave a comment here, and I will respond to you by email, or email directly to (this is an image to prevent spam, you will need to type it into your email program).

Best of luck with your searches!

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4 comments on this post.
  1. Pauline:

    brilliant postings thank you

  2. Latvian Genealogy Primer – Part 1 « Discovering Latvian Roots:

    [...] Latvian Genealogy Primer – Part 2    Forename Friday – Ziedīte [...]

  3. Margret McPharlin:

    DOES ANY ONE KNOW HOW I CAN FIND MY GRANDPARENTS BURIAL PLACES. I KNOW MY GRANMOTHER DIED IN RIGA, BUT UNSURE WHERE MY GRANDFATHER DIED. ….MY GRANDFATHER WAS JANIS GRASIS AND DIED IN 1950..MY GRANDMOTHER WAS ALISIA.( MAYBE SPELLED INCORRECTLY)..REMARRIED NAME IS BRUVERIS..DIED IN RIGA IN 1990s………..ALSO MY AUNT ZENTA VERONICA. HER MARRIED NAME MAYBE GRINBERCA. I FOUND A LISTING FOR HER IN “FIND A GRAVE” AS BEING BURIED IN 2 MEZA KAPI MEMORIAL NO 83423045. I AM UNSURE IF THIS IS HER BUT THE BIRTHDATE 1949 AND THE DEATH DATE 1968 MATCH UP. IS THERE ANY WAY TO FIND OUT MORE INFORMATION ON THIS..I NEED TO CONFIRM IF SHE IS MY AUNT. SHE HAD 2 SONS (POSSIBLE A 3RD CHILD) JANIS AND DAINIS..THE LATTER HAD A DAUGHTER ZENTINA, AND 2 WIFES, THE LAST WIFE WAS SANDRAS..THEY BOTH DIED AND DAINIS HAD MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES AFTER THAT ( POOR MAN) DAINIS AND ZENTINA LIVED WITH MY GRANDMOTHER IN RIGS .POSSIBLY IN VARPU STREET?
    I HAVE BEEN SEARCHING FOR MY RELITIVES FOR MANY YEARS AND WILL BE SO THANKFULL TO HAVE SOME CLOSURE.
    MY FATHER JULIUS GRASIS IS NOW 87 AND UNWELL AND REALLY WANTS TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED TO HIS FAMILY. HE WAS A DISPLACED PERSON IN GERMANY AFTER BEING IN A PRISONER OF WAR CAMP THERE….HE MET MY MOTHER AND THEY IMMIGRATED TO AUSTRALIA. THE NAME SANDRAS IS AM MALE NAME, SO SHE WAS NOT A SANDRAS, I AM UNAWARE WHO THEY ARE REFERING TO. I HAVE PHOTOS, IS IT POSSIBLE TO POST THEM HERE? THANKS

  4. Doris Meyer:

    My mothe’s family fled Riga in 1917 via train to Germany. Prior to that,they hid in an attic of an aunt at Ein Park Platz (German spelling). Her name was Gerta Aurora Meyer, born July 20 ,1911. Lutheran religion. Father was business man (possible CEO). Maternal family name was from a grandfather who was a Baron from Germany, sent by Kaiser Wilhelmina.

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