Latvia Research Tips and Strategies
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The first steps in getting started with Latvian research depend on what information you already know about your ancestors.
If your ancestor was born in Latvia prior to 1905, and you know where they were born, you can start immediately with religious records. These religious records are available online through the Latvian State Historical Archives online digital archive called Raduraksti. As the Family History Library has very few records from Latvia, this new website with about five million images of genealogical records is a source of both information and joy. The images include church records of Lutheran, Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Baptist, Greek Catholic, Reformed Protestant and Jewish faiths, and also revision lists and 1897 census records of the Russian Empire. The word raduraksti means genealogy. You must register to see the images, but registration is free. The site has useful instructions in English, including lists of abbreviations and some vocabulary.
To enter a database: After the home page is up, you will see some words on the top of the screen. Click on “Contents”. It will give you three choices. If you choose “Church books”, you will get a list of various faiths.
Having chosen the right faith, you will have a list of districts from which you can find a wanted area or parish. In “Revision Lists” and the “1897 Census” you likewise click down through choices of localities to find the wanted area. Knowledge about the place of origin of ancestors is obviously necessary.
The language of the records: Lutheran records are mostly in German. The use of Russian is prevalent, but not consistent, toward the end of 1800s and beginning of 1900s. In Independent times Latvian is introduced. Both Greek and Roman Catholic records are written in Latin, Polish and Russian. The revision lists are in Russian and the 1897 Census is mostly in Russian, but German and Latvian occur.
The field in the upper right hand corner provides three possibilities: The left most arrow indicates the direction you can turn the pages, the middle rectangle indicates the number of pages in each record and you can input a page number you want to move to, the three rectangles on the right allow you to enlarge the picture.
If your ancestor was born in Latvian between 1906 and 1921, you will need to write to the Registry Office Archives of the Latvian Ministry of Justice to order a birth certificate.