Connecting with Living Relatives

All that aside, back to how to meet relatives! The most straightforward method would be to arrive at an ancestral property and knock on the front door, and see if you’re related. You’ll probably want someone along who speaks Latvian for this, especially if you are in the countryside, where many people living on the farmsteads will be elderly and thus not likely to speak English. If someone is home, you might make a new connection immediately. If not, then you can leave a note in the mailbox and hope that someone gets back to you. Important caution: If you are approaching houses, particularly in the countryside and small towns, beware of dogs. Many Latvians who live in single-family homes have dogs in the yard, and they can be vicious. If you drive up and there is a dog, you are better off waiting in your car and honking the horn a bit to get someone to come out of the house and corral the dog than trying to negotiate your way to the front door around the dog. Always watch out for your safety first!

The next place to meet relatives (and dog-free!) is the local cemetery. Unlike Western cemeteries, which are often almost completely abandoned except for when a service is taking place, Latvian cemeteries will often be full of people. Well-maintained family grave plots are a point of pride, and it is not unusual for people to make regular visits to take care of them. Several times a year there will also be “kapu svētki” – “cemetery celebrations”. Special attention is paid to the grave flowers/decorations/etc. in the days leading up to the celebration day. Then on the day, there will be a religious service, followed by a picnic (sometimes potluck buffet, depending on the place) and socialization with other locals. While you could run into a relative in a cemetery by chance on any day, if you go on a kapu svētki day, the chances of meeting a relative will rise exponentially. If you don’t meet anyone at the cemetery, you can also try leaving a note on the cemetery message board, and you could make a connection that way as well.

So those are the best ways I would suggest for connecting with living relatives. Of course, you can also take approaches such as finding surnames on Facebook or in phone books, but unless you have a very unusual surname, this can be more hit and miss.

Do you have any other recommendations on how to find living relatives? Post them here!

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2 comments on this post.
  1. Michael:

    I’ve singed up for a my heritage account and I have already found some German relatives! What do you think of familysearch.org though? I note that its free and I’ve found a few links there in the past, also it seems to have been recently upgraded to incorporate personal family trees…

  2. Antra:

    FamilySearch can be hit and miss. They don’t have any actual Latvian records online. I haven’t looked at their new family tree system, but it could all depend on who you’re looking to find. You might find some relatives on FamilySearch, but the big Latvian traffic is on MyHeritage, so if you’re looking to make European connections, that is the place to go. The next one after that that I’d suggest would be Geni.

    Taking my surname, for example, which is an extremely common Latvian surname:

    3 results on FamilySearch FamilyTree

    ~75 results on Geni.com

    ~425 results on MyHeritage

    Now, FamilyTree is newer, but still, the results don’t look promising, at least for now. Now, there are the older records that are user-submitted to the LDS Church, and extractions from the IGI, but those are often rife with errors, non-standardized place names and many other problems that can make getting a match difficult.

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