Latvia Emigration and Immigration

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Offices and Archives to Contact[edit | edit source]

National Archives of Latvia
Šķūņu street 11
Riga, LV-1050

Telephone:+371 20043706
Raduraksti: Databases for Genealogical Research

Finding the Town of Origin in Latvia[edit | edit source]

If you are using emigration/immigration records to find the name of your ancestors' town in Latvia, see Latvia Finding Town of Origin for additional research strategies.

Latvia Emigration and Immigration[edit | edit source]

"Emigration" means moving out of a country. "Immigration" means moving into a country.
Emigration and immigration sources list the names of people leaving (emigrating) or arriving (immigrating) in the country. These sources may be passenger lists, permissions to emigrate, or records of passports issued. The information in these records may include the emigrants’ names, ages, occupations, destinations, and places of origin or birthplaces. Sometimes they also show family groups.

Historical Background[edit | edit source]

  • At the beginning of the 13th century, Germans ruled large parts of what is currently Latvia. Together with southern Estonia, these conquered areas formed the crusader state that became known as Terra Mariana or Livonia. I
  • The first German settlers were knights from northern Germany and citizens of northern German towns.
  • After the Livonian War (1558–1583), Livonia (Northern Latvia & Southern Estonia) fell under Polish and Lithuanian rule.
  • In the 17th and early 18th centuries, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, Sweden, and Russia struggled for supremacy in the eastern Baltic. After the Polish–Swedish War, northern Livonia came under Swedish rule. Riga became the capital of Swedish Livonia and the largest city in the entire Swedish Empire. In Latvia, the Swedish period is generally remembered as positive; serfdom was eased, a network of schools was established for the peasantry, and the power of the regional barons was diminished.
  • Under Swedish and largely German rule, western Latvia adopted Lutheranism as its main religion. Meanwhile, largely isolated from the rest of Latvia, southern Latgallians adopted Catholicism under Polish/Jesuit influence.
  • in 1795, all of what is now Latvia was brought into the Russian Empire.
  • Most of the Baltic Germans left Latvia by agreement with Nazi Germany. In total 50,000 Baltic Germans left by the deadline of December 1939, with 1,600 remaining to conclude business and 13,000 choosing to remain in Latvia. Most of those who remained left for Germany in summer 1940, when a second resettlement scheme was agreed. The racially approved being resettled mainly in Poland, being given land and businesses in exchange for the money they had received from the sale of their previous assets.
  • The Soviet Union incorporated Latvia on 5 August 1940, as The Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic. The Soviets dealt harshly with their opponents – prior to Operation Barbarossa, in less than a year, at least 34,250 Latvians were deported or killed. Most were deported to Siberia where deaths were estimated at 40 percent.
  • During World War II, Latvia was invaded and left under the control of German forces by early July of 1941. More than 200,000 Latvian citizens died during World War II, including approximately 75,000 Latvian Jews murdered during the Nazi occupation.
  • In 1944, when Soviet military advances reached Latvia, heavy fighting took place in Latvia between German and Soviet troops, which ended in another German defeat. Anywhere from 120,000 to as many as 300,000 Latvians took refuge from the Soviet army by fleeing to Germany and Sweden. Most sources count 200,000 to 250,000 refugees leaving Latvia, with perhaps as many as 80,000 to 100,000 of them recaptured by the Soviets or, during few months immediately after the end of war, returned by the West.
  • Between 136,000 and 190,000 Latvians, depending on the sources, were imprisoned or deported to Soviet concentration camps (the Gulag) in the post war years, from 1945 to 1952.
  • An influx of new colonists, including laborers, administrators, military personnel and their dependents from Russia and other Soviet republics started. By 1959 about 400,000 Russian settlers arrived.
  • As of March 2011, Latvians form about 62.1% of the population, while 26.9% are Russians, Belarusians 3.3%, Ukrainians 2.2%, Poles 2.2%, Lithuanians 1.2%, Jews 0.3%, Romani people 0.3%, Germans 0.1%, Estonians 0.1% and others 1.3%. 250 people identify as Livonians (Baltic Finnic people native to Latvia). There were 290,660 "non-citizens" living in Latvia or 14.1% of Latvian residents, mainly Russian settlers who arrived after the occupation of 1940 and their descendants.[1]

Emigration From Latvia[edit | edit source]

  • The majority of Latvians whom left Latvia in WWII reside in North America (the US and Canada), across Europe mainly in Eastern countries and the former USSR with just as many in Western Europe and Scandinavian nations, and the rest in former Latvian lands in the Baltic states (Estonia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia and Belarus). The most Russified of the three Baltic states, Latvia struggles with the issue of national identity after one million ethnic Russians and other Russian speaking people settled there since 1940.[2]
  • Knomad Statistics: Emigrants: 342,300. Top destination countries: the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, the United States, Ukraine, Ireland, Germany, Lithuania, Belarus, Norway, Canada.[3]

"Other significant population centers:"[4]

  • United Kingdom: 124,000
  • United States: 96,070–102,000
  • Germany: 40,480
  • Canada: 30,725
  • Brazil: 25,000
  • Ireland: 19,933
  • Australia: 20,509
  • Russia: 18,979
  • Norway: 11,723

"Populations 1000 to 10,000"

  • Sweden: 8,798
  • Ukraine: 5,079
  • Denmark: 3,799
  • Spain: 3,711
  • Estonia: 3,329
  • Finland: 3,232
  • Italy: 2,689
  • France: 2,602
  • Lithuania: 2,300
  • Netherlands: 1,400
  • Kazakhstan 1,123

Records of Latvian Emigrants in Their Destination Nations[edit | edit source]

Dark thin font green pin Version 4.png One option is to look for records about the ancestor in the country of destination, the country they immigrated into. See links to Wiki articles about immigration records for major destination countries below. Additional Wiki articles for other destinations can be found at Category:Emigration and Immigration Records.

For Further Reading[edit | edit source]

There are additional sources listed in the FamilySearch Catalog:

References[edit | edit source]

  1. "Latvia", in Wikipedia,, accessed 26 July 2021.
  2. "List of diasporas", in Wikipedia,, accessed 26 July 2021.
  3. "Latvia", in KNOMAD, the Global Knowledge Partnership on Migration and Development,, accessed 26 July 2021.
  4. "Latvians", in Wikipedia, accessed 26 July 2021.