Estonia Church Records

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For information about records for non-Christian religions in Estonia, go to the Religious Records page.

Online Records[edit | edit source]

Historical Background[edit | edit source]

Historically, Estonia was a largely-Christian country. A large percentage of Estonians belonged to the Lutheran church, the established church. A substantial proportion of the population was Russian Orthodox; there was also smaller groups of Jews, Old Believers, and Baptists.

The Lutheran church began keeping records in the 1680s, although many of the earlier records have been destroyed (mainly through parish fires). Lutherans recorded christenings, weddings, and religious funerals until the 1840s, when part of the population converted to the Orthodox faith. In the 1840s, there was a movement in which many Estonians converted to the Orthodox faith. The information about those who converted (name and date) from the Lutheran church to the Orthodox faith can be found in Lutheran parish registers. The Orthodox faith has similar registers to the Lutheran church. These Lutheran records can be found in the Estonian Historical Archives in Tartu. Church records are generally well kept.

In 1926, the registering of births, marriages, and deaths was passed over to the civil service. Clerics could also perform the registrar's duty if they observed the requirements of the state.[1]

The Church acted as both a religious and civil agent in recording vital events and church sacraments such as baptism and burial. The traditional Christian faith of Estonia is Lutheran. There was a substantial group of Russian Orthodox; and smaller groups of Jews, Old Believers, and Baptists. The priest/rabbi made a transcript for the ecclesiastical court (dukhovnaia konsistoriia) having jurisdiction. Jewish transcripts were filed with the local town council (gorodskaia duma). Old Believer and Baptist transcripts were sent to the provincial administration (gubernskoe upravlenie). The distinction between the original and the transcript is often ignored by Estonian record keepers. [2]

Information Found in Records[edit | edit source]

Birth registers list:

  • child's dates of birth and christening
  • parents' exact place of residence
  • child's name
  • parents' names and social standing (occupation)
  • godparents
  • sometimes mother's maiden name
According to Lutheran tradition, boys got two godfathers and one godmother and girls got two godmothers and one godfather.

Marriage registers list:

  • date of the wedding
  • the names, residences, marital status, social standing, and ages of the bride and groom
  • the parents (and their residences) of the bride and groom

Death registers list:

  • dates of death and funeral
  • last place of residence of the deceased
  • name, occupation and status, gender, and marital status
  • cause of death
  • place of burial

How to Find Records[edit | edit source]

Digital Copies of Church Records in the FamilySearch Catalog[edit | edit source]

Watch for digitized copies of church records to be added to the collection of the FamilySearch Library. Some records might have viewing restrictions, and can only be viewed at a Family History Center near you, and/or by members of supporting organizations. To find records:

a. Click on the records of Estonia.
b. Click on Places within Estonia and a list of towns will appear.
c. Click on your town if it appears, or the location which you believe was the parish which served your town or village.
d. Click on the "Church records" topic. Click on the blue links to specific record titles.
e. Some combination of these icons will appear at the far right of the listing for the record. FHL icons.png. The magnifying glass indicates that the record is indexed. Clicking on the magnifying glass will take you to the index. Clicking on the camera will take you to an online digital copy of the records.

Writing for Records[edit | edit source]

Writing to Archives[edit | edit source]

National Archives of Estonia
Nooruse 3
Tartu, Estonia

Phone: 738 7500
E-mail: rahvusarhiiv@ra.ee

Writing to Local Parishes[edit | edit source]

You will probably need to write to or email the local parish priests to find recent records not turned in to the archives. Use Letter Writing Guide for Genealogy for help with composing letters. Then, use an Estonian translation service.

Lutheran Church Records[edit | edit source]

Writing for Records[edit | edit source]

Historical Background[edit | edit source]

The Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church (EELC) was constituted in 1949, when the previous church hierarchy, Eesti Evangeeliumi Luteriusu Kirik, which was formed in 1919 and headed by bishop Johan Kõpp, had escaped to Sweden in 1944. When the Soviet Union invaded Estonia in 1940, most Christian organizations were dissolved, church property was confiscated, theologians were exiled to Siberia, and religious education programs were outlawed. World War II later brought devastation to many church buildings. It was not until 1988 that church activities were renewed when a movement for religious tolerance began in the Soviet Union.

During the Soviet occupation of Estonia, the Archbishop went into exile, which resulted in the formation of a parallel church, the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church Abroad. Until 2010 this body was independent, with its own Archbishop based in Canada. In 2010 the two churches reunited, and the former overseas church became a diocese of the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church, known as the Extra-Estonian Diocese. As of February 2009, the EELC reported approximately 160,000 baptized members. [3]

Orthodox Church Records[edit | edit source]

Writing for Records[edit | edit source]

Historical Background[edit | edit source]

Estonian Orthodox Church may refer to:

Click on the church name above for history specific to that Orthodox church.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Must, Aadu. "The Sources of Estonian Family History." In Eestlaste perekonnaloo allikad. Estonia: Kleio, 2000.
  2. The Family History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Family History Record Profile: Estonia,” Word document, private files of the FamilySearch Content Strategy Team, 1994-2002.
  3. Wikipedia contributors, "Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church", in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Estonian_Evangelical_Lutheran_Church, accessed 15 April 2020.