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G is for German

What’s next in the Family History Through the Alphabet challenge? Germans!

Germans and the German language have a long history in Latvia. Ever since the first bishops of Bremen came to Latvian territory in the late 12th century to Christianize the local populations, Germans have been coming to the Baltics. Today, however, they are mostly tourists, [...]

Sorting Out Ethnicity

So you have established that your ancestors lived on Latvian territory. But what were their ethnic origins? Latvia has been a multi-ethnic territory for centuries, so the distinctions between ethnic groups might not always be so clear in the old records.

There are, however, numerous ways in which to establish someone’s ethnic identity. They are not [...]

Surname Saturday – Time for Dinner!

When Latvian peasants were choosing surnames after emancipation from serfdom, they were strongly encouraged by the German and Russian rulers to choose names in their own language, and were forbidden to choose names of local nobles or famous people.

While not all obeyed this directive and chose German names (or had German names assigned to them [...]

Important Latvian/German/Russian Words

Language can be one of the biggest obstacles to tracing Latvian genealogy. However, it is not an insurmountable one. Most records follow specific patterns, and once you know what to look for in the patterns, you can easily find what you are looking for.

Most Latvian religious records are not in Latvian. They are usually in [...]

Changes in Orthography

What happens when you apply the orthography of one language to a fairly unrelated language?

A right mess, that’s what.

As mentioned before, up until the 1890s most church books in Latvia were written in German. German is, as its name implies, a Germanic language. The Germanic language family also includes English, Dutch and Danish, and is [...]

Languages in the Records

If in the course of your research you have come across a Latvian ancestor, and you do not speak Latvian, you may feel like you have hit a big stumbling block to continuing your research.

Good news! The block may not be as big as you think. You may not need to know any Latvian at [...]