Latvia Jewish Records

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Historical Background[edit | edit source]

The history of the Jews in Latvia dates back to the first Jewish colony established in Piltene in 1571. Jews contributed to Latvia's development until the Northern War (1700–1721), which decimated Latvia's population. The Jewish community reestablished itself in the 18th century, mainly through an influx from Prussia, and came to play a principal role in the economic life of Latvia.

Under an independent Latvia, Jews formed political parties and participated as members of parliament. The Jewish community flourished. Jewish parents had the right to send their children to schools using Hebrew as the language of instruction, as part of a significant network of minority schools.

World War II ended the prominence of the Jewish Community. The Holocaust killed 90% of Latvia's Jewish population. Under Stalin, Jews, who formed only 5% of the population, constituted 12% of the deportees.

Today's Jewish community traces its roots to survivors of the Holocaust, Jews who fled to the USSR to escape the Nazi invasion and later returned, and Jews newly immigrated to Latvia from the Soviet Union. The Latvian Jewish community today is small but active.[1]

Maps and Gazetteers[edit | edit source]

JewishGen Gazetteer[edit | edit source]

  • The JewishGen Gazetteer is a useful online gazetteer for locations in Eastern Europe. Note that wild card searches are not supported. To view an entry page, click on the Jewish star to the left of the town name. Entry pages provide jurisdictions for before WWI, the interwar period, after WWII and modern-day. Alternate names and Yiddish and Russian spellings are also included. In the center, you'll find a map and a list of additional Jewish communities located nearby. Finally, under Additional Information and in the green box at the top, you'll find links to references and additional resources that may help you in your research.

Genealogies[edit | edit source]

JewishGen Family Finder[edit | edit source]

  • The Family Finder is a database of both ancestral hometowns and surnames that have been researched by their descendants world wide. The Family Finder allows you to connect with others who are researching similar ancestors and origins and collaborate your research. To add the surnames and locations you are researching, click on Modify (Edit your existing entries) or Enter (Add new entries). Type in the surnames and/or locations of interest and hit Submit. To search the database and see if you can connect to family members and other researchers, choose Search (Search the database) from the Town Finder home page. You can search for a surname and/or a town. Search results will appear in a chart format giving you the surname, town, country, and researcher information (often includes contact information) and the date they last logged into JewishGen.

1897 Census[edit | edit source]

The 1897 Russian Imperial Census was the first and only census carried out in the Russian Empire. The census enumerated the entire population of the Empire (excluding Finland), but after statistical data was gathered, many of the census returns were destroyed. There are, however; surviving census returns for many locations throughout Latvia. Use the resources below to help you determine if census records survive for your ancestor's shtetl and how to access them. Use the Reading the 1897 Census "How to" Guide to learn how to read census records.  

JewishGen (indexed records)[edit | edit source]

1897 Census records have been indexed and are available through the JewishGen Latvia Database.

Raduraksti (digital images)[edit | edit source]

Images of 1897 Census records are available through Raduraksti, the Latvian State Archives virtual reading room. The website is free, but requires registration. For help reading the original records, see the Reading the 1897 Census "How to" Guide.

FamilySearch (digital images)[edit | edit source]

There may be records available through the FamilySearch Catalog. Census records are catalogued at the uyezd level.

a. Click here to access catalog entries for Latvia.
b. Click on Places within Latvia. You may need to click on a district and then select the Places within feature again.
f. Click on the Census topic. Click on the blue links to view specific record titles. Look for a title containing something like Переписные листы 1897.
e. Some combination of these icons will appear at the far right of the listing for the record. 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. A camera with a key on top means the record is viewable but with certain restrictions that may mean the record can only be viewed at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, a Family History Center, or FamilySearch Affiliate Library. Take a look at the Family History Center Finder to discover a location near you.

1897 Census Finding Aids[edit | edit source]

Census returns may also exist for other locations, but images or indexes may not be available online. Use sites such as Archive Fonds of the First 1897 All-Russia Census or the Catalog of Surviving Census Sheets in Archives of Russia, Ukraine, and Other Countries to help you determine if census records exist for your area. These sites are in Russian, but can be easily navigated using Google Translate. If you are using the Google Chrome browser, just right click anywhere on the page and click Translate to English. If you are using a different browser (Safari, Firefox, Edge, etc.) you can still use Google Translate, but it requires a few extra steps. Go to translate.google.com and change the language settings to translate from Russian to English. Paste the URL of the site you would like translated into the Russian box and then click on the link that shows up in the English box. This will take you a translated version of the site.

Revision and Family Lists[edit | edit source]

Revision lists are enumerations of the taxable population (most Jews in the Russian empire fell into a taxable social class). There were ten revisions taken sporadically from 1772-1858. These records are a foundational source in genealogical research as they provide names, ages, and relationships.

Supplemental Lists, also known as Family Lists, can be found ranging from about 1860 through the end of the nineteenth century. They are similar in format to revision lists and are often grouped with revision list records in an archive.

JewishGen (indexed records)[edit | edit source]

Many revision list records have been indexed and are available through the JewishGen Latvia Database.

Ancestry (indexed records)[edit | edit source]

Raduraksti (digital images)[edit | edit source]

Images of revision list records are available through Raduraksti, the Latvian State Archives virtual reading room. The website is free, but requires registration. For help reading the original records, see the Reading Russian Language Revision List Records or the Reading German Language Revision List Records "How to" Guides.

FamilySearch (digital images)[edit | edit source]

There may be records available through the FamilySearch Catalog. Census records are catalogued at the uyezd level.

a. Click here to access catalog entries for Latvia.
b. Click on Places within Latvia. You may need to click on a district and then select the Places within feature again.
f. Click on the Taxation or Census topic. Click on the blue links to view specific record titles. Look for a title containing something like Переписные листы 1897.
e. Some combination of these icons will appear at the far right of the listing for the record. 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. A camera with a key on top means the record is viewable but with certain restrictions that may mean the record can only be viewed at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, a Family History Center, or FamilySearch Affiliate Library. Take a look at the Family History Center Finder to discover a location near you.

Vital Records[edit | edit source]

Throughout the Russian Empire, birth, marriage, divorce, and death records were required to be kept by the Jewish community beginning in 1835. Jewish records were generally kept in a tabular format with the left-side of the page in Russian and the right-side of the page in Hebrew. Vital records are available online in both indexed and digital image formats.

JewishGen (indexed records)[edit | edit source]

Many vital records have been indexed and are available through the JewishGen Latvia Database.

Christine Usdin's Translations (indexed records)[edit | edit source]

Christine Usdin translated many Jewish birth, marriage, divorce and death records and made them available in the Riga Rabbinate Vital Records and the 1897 Census database.

Ancestry (indexed records)[edit | edit source]

Raduraksti (digital images)[edit | edit source]

Raduraksti, the Latvian State Historical Archives website, has Jewish records available for the following locations: Aizpute, Bauska, Daugavpils, Glazmanka (now Gostiņi), Grīva, Grobiņa, Ilūkste, Jaunjelgava, Jēkabpils, Jelgava, Kuldīga, Liepāja, Ludza, Malta (now Silmala), Piltene, Rēzekne, Ribinišku (Riebiņi), Rīga, Sabile, Saldus, Sasmaka (now Valdemārpils), Skaistkalne, Subate, Tukums, Varakļāni, Ventspils, Viļaka, and Višķi.

For help navigating the Raduraksti website, please see the Raduraksti: Online Vital Records "How to" Guide.

FamilySearch (digital images)[edit | edit source]

a. Click here to access catalog entries for Latvia.
b. Click on Places within Latvia and a list of towns will appear.
c. Click on your town if it appears.
d. Click on the "Jewish records" topic. Click on the blue links to view specific record titles.
e. Some combination of these icons will appear at the far right of the listing for the record. 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. A camera with a key on top means the record is viewable but with certain restrictions that may mean the record can only be viewed at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, a Family History Center, or FamilySearch Affiliate Library. Take a look at the Family History Center Finder to discover a location near you.

Cemeteries[edit | edit source]

  • BalticGen has a Latvian Jewish Cemetery Index available, which includes names of people buried in select Latvian Jewish cemeteries. Some tombstones do not have surnames, and the indexes provide only the given name, patronymic and the year of death.
  • Lo Tishkach European Jewish Cemeteries Initiative has a large database of European Jewish cemeteries and mass graves.
  • Latvia's Jewish Cemeteries inventory was put together by the Cultural Guide to Jewish Europe. The website shows locations of various Jewish cemeteries throughout Latvia and provides details and information on existing tombstones.
  • JewishGen Online Worldwide Burial Registry contains more than three million names from cemeteries and burial records worldwide.
  • Jewish Roots, database of tombstone inscriptions in former Russian Empire countries. The site should be searched in Russian.

Yizkor Books[edit | edit source]

Yizkor books are memorial books commemorating a Jewish community that was destroyed during the Holocaust. Books are usually published by former residents and records the remembrance of homes, people and ways of life lost during World War II. Most books are written in Yiddish or Hebrew, but in recent years, many have been translated and made available online. Take a look at the JewishGen Yizkor Book Project to locate a translation or Yizkor book for your locality of interest.

Holocaust[edit | edit source]

It is estimated that about 70,000 Latvian Jews perished in the Holocaust. There are many resources available online to assist you in your Latvian Holocaust research:

  • JewishGen Latvia Database
  • Jews of Latvia: A Project, Names and Fates 1941-1945 The Latvian Names Project, under the direction of the Centre of Judaic Studies at the University of Latvia, seeks to identify and preserve the memory of those that were lost during the Holocaust. The website is available in English, Latvian, or Russian. To access the database, click on Surnames and select your surname from the list. A prewar residence city is required, but given name and year of birth are optional. Search results can include information such as birth date and place, death date, prewar residence and additional details about their fate between 1941-1945. For additional instructions about using the database and the type of information you might find, click here. The project is not yet complete, so check back often if you do not find what you are looking for.
  • Rumbula: The Holocaust in Latvia contains memorials, accounts, photographs, and more.
  • European Holocaust Research Infrastructure Online Portal offers information on Holocaust archival material held in institutions in Europe and throughout the world.
  • Arolsen Archives, also known as the International Center on Nazi Persecution, is one of the largest archives on the victims of Nazi persecution. Many of their holdings are available to research online.
  • Yad Vashem Central Database of Shoah Victims' Names is a database of victims of the Holocaust.

Additional Records - Finding Aids and Record Inventories[edit | edit source]

Jewish Roots[edit | edit source]

The Еврейские Корни (Jewish Roots) site is an excellent resource to help you locate archival documents. The website is in Russian, but if you are using the Google Chrome browser, simply right click anywhere on the page and select Translate to English. Search using the name of the town (find the Cyrillic spelling of the town on JewishGen Town Finder) to see what archival records might be available for your location. In addition to the database, use the Forum to connect with other researchers and find other potential resources for your location.

Reading Records[edit | edit source]

Latvian Jewish records are most commonly written in Russian and or Hebrew. You may see later records written in Latvian. Use the resources in the list below to help you learn how to read the records. You may also consider using a free translation service FamilySearch Community (Be sure to post in the Russian Empire Genealogy Research group or tag @RussianEmpireGenealogyResearch in your question) or JewishGen View Mate.

Russian[edit | edit source]

Hebrew/Yiddish[edit | edit source]

Latvian[edit | edit source]


Additional Resources[edit | edit source]

The following is a list of additional websites you may find useful in your Latvian Jewish research:

Sources in Print[edit | edit source]

Bogdanova, Rita. and Ruvin Ferber. "A Website List of Latvian Jewry Prior to World War II." In AVOTAYNU Vol. XXIV, no. 3 (Fall 2008); pp. 9-11.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Wikipedia contributors, "History of the Jews in Latvia", in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Jews_in_Latvia, accessed 16 June 2020.