Welcome to the newly designed Latvian Surname Project!
What is the Latvian Surname Project?
The Latvian Surname Project is a constantly growing database of Latvian surnames. It is intended to serve as a resource for English speakers researching their Latvian ancestors. It also aims to provide an overview of Latvian surname trends in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. And now - you can participate yourself!
What makes the Latvian Surname Project different from other surname databases?
It focuses exclusively on Latvian surnames. Many surname databases available on the Internet contain very few, if any, Latvian surnames, and these surnames are often incorrectly attributed or defined. As more and more people turn to the Internet to do genealogical research, this resource is intended to fill that niche.
How can I browse the site?
What does "possible place name borrowing" mean?
Latvians were a predominantly agricultural people in the nineteenth century, and therefore lived in the country, either on their own farms or as tenant farmers on a lord's estate. Prior to the abolition of serfdom in the nineteenth century, it was rare for Latvians to have surnames. They were referred to by their given name and the place that they lived. Upon the abolition of serfdom, many people chose the name of their farm or estate as their surname. This does not mean that all surnames marked as "possible place name borrowing" are in fact derived from farm names, only that the name does appear as a farm name in Latvia, so such a possibility does exist.
What does "attested" mean?
This means that I have seen the name in records for that specific parish. This does not mean it occurs exclusively in that parish, only that in my journey through the records I have not yet seen it elsewhere.
What spellings does this website use?
For the surname database, I use the modern-day Latvian spellings. There are two reasons for this: One, these spellings are standardized. Prior to the spelling reform, surnames were not standardized, and could be spelled in any number of ways. In time, older spellings will also be provided. Two, it is for the benefit of readers who do not speak Latvian, who may not know the pronunciation rules that make it easier to match up modern-day name spellings with non-standardized ones.
My surname is Latvian and it isn't listed!
I welcome surname submissions of any Latvian surnames that you may have, keeping in mind the following:
1) It would be preferable if the surname is attested in a specific location, sometime prior to 1905. 2) Unless the name is attested there prior to 1850, do not submit names with the attestation "Rīga". Most Latvians in Rīga migrated there from somewhere else, therefore surname roots are most likely in those other places.
How can I participate on here?
First you will need to head over to my blog and leave me a comment there, saying you would like to contribute to this resource. If you're already a long-time commenter on my blog, I will recognize you and provide you with an account as soon as I can. If you are a new contributor to my blog, I'll ask that you tell me a bit about your interests in Latvian genealogy to prove that you're not a bot or a spammer prior to being provided with an account.