Summer is the time for travel, and perhaps you, as Latvian descendants, are planning to visit Latvia. How can you quickly find the first information about your ancestors?
Here are four simple tips to get you started with your research:
If your ancestors emigrated during World War II, it is very likely that they spent some time in refugee camps in Germany. Documents about individuals who were in these camps can be found in the Arolsen Archives. They hold registration cards with birth dates, family members' names, and often information about when and where the person emigrated to. However, not all emigrants can be found in this database. Many people chose to live outside the camps, in private households. Additionally, not all documents have been digitized yet.
Look for information in the periodika.lv - database of historical newspapers. You can search by name, surname, or even farm names. Try different spelling variations since the Latvian language has changed over time. You might find information about lost passports, allocated land plots, accidents, obituaries etc. Sometimes, there is truly valuable information, such as published diaries or lengthy obituaries. Unfortunately, extensive biographical obituaries were not published during the Soviet period.
If you want to find your ancestors' burial sites, search the cemety.lv website. Many Latvian cemeteries have been digitized, and you can view cemetery plans and even photographs of monuments. You can search by name and surname, but keep in mind that sometimes only the family name is indicated on the monument, not each individual's name (e.g., "Bērziņu family"). Remember that not all cemeteries have been digitized, so in some cases, you will need to visit the location and talk to the cemetery manager.
Check if any of your family members have created a family tree on geni.com. Genealogy research is popular, and many people have created family trees on platforms like geni.com or MyHeritage. Geni.com is more popular in Latvia because it is for free. This might be a quick way to reveal information about a wide range of relatives.
Happy researching and enjoy your trip to Latvia!