A question a lot of people ask: What is this “List of Latvian Inhabitants (1918-1940)” on Raduraksti? This new free email course will help answer that question!
When you first started using Raduraksti, you probably zeroed in on the “Databases” option first, versus the “Virtual Archives”. This was probably for a variety of reasons – it is first on the list, plus, for someone new to researching Latvian genealogy, a database – which to many implies the ability to put in a search term – sounds more appealing than digitized documents.
So then you click on Databases, and what you get is the (to date) sole option to look at: “List of Latvian Inhabitants (1918-1940)”. When you see this, it sounds fantastic – a list of everyone in Latvia, perhaps? This will definitely give me information on my ancestors!
Unfortunately, that name is misleading. It is not a list of all inhabitants of Latvia – it isn’t even close. It is a database of one specific document collection at the Latvian State Historical Archives. This collection is the Rīga internal passport collection, fond 2996 if you go to the LSHA here in Rīga. It contains the annulled internal passports and other passport-related information of a large number of Rīga residents, but like most any collection, it still doesn’t have everybody. If someone didn’t need a passport replaced, then they wouldn’t have returned their old one to the government. Or if they lost it, or if it was destroyed somehow, it also wouldn’t appear here (though some in this collection are in quite a sorry state).
Now, you may be thinking – what use is this then? I know my ancestor wouldn’t have been able to afford to travel abroad, they wouldn’t have had a passport to begin with! This is not true. These are *internal* passports – that is, identification documents that everyone over the age of 16 was required to carry with them – the early 20th century equivalent to an ID card. Your ancestor would have had one. The question is whether it appears in this database or not. If they didn’t live in Rīga at any point in their lives, don’t despair – a passport for them could still be out there. It just won’t be in this collection.
But if you’ve done a search here and come up with your ancestor’s name – great! There’s something on them available. And now thanks to the FamilySearch organization, these passports are starting to go online. At time of writing, they’ve got most of the first half of the alphabet up, along with sporadic entries for later letters, and hopefully soon they’ll have all of them available. There are also indexing efforts underway in the Latvian genealogy community to create a name index, because the way the documents are organized on FamilySearch is not by name.
So now you’ll be asking – how do I access them? What do I need, and more importantly, how do I read and understand them? That’s what I’ll be answering next week as I launch my free email course on Understanding Internal Passport Records (yes, I’ll be talking about the records that are available for outside of Rīga as well!). Sign up below, and on Monday we’ll start exploring these records and what you can learn from them. I hope you’ll join me!