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About Passports and Passport Books

Updated: Apr 5

Passports are among the most coveted documents for family historians because they contain photographs. Where and how to search for passports from the interwar period?


Historical passport
Latvian Passport from the Interwar Period. Source: Familysearch.org, LNA LVVA

To be fair, it must be said right away that not all passports contain photographs. There are no photographs in passports form the Russian Empire period. There is also no single fund or collection where Tsarist era passports can be found, so I will not write in detail about them.


The newly established independent Republic of Latvia began issuing passports in 1919, and these passports do contain the owner's photo. These passports are better preserved and more frequently found.


What information is contained in the passports?

Passports issued up to 1926 contained more information; later passport booklets were issued with less personal information. The following information can be found in interwar period passports:


  • Name, surname, and father's name. After 1926, the father's name was no longer included in the passports.

  • Affiliation with a civil parish. Usually, a person belonged to the same parish before World War I, so this information is significant for further research. For women, parish affiliation was determined by their husband or father.

  • Date and place of birth. It's important to remember that the date in the passport is usually according to the new calendar, but one should look for the old calendar date in church records.

  • Residence. Passports were stamped with each change of residence. This information allows further research in house books or census records.

  • Nationality. This was declared by the individual according to their own understanding. After 1926, this information was no longer included in the passports.

  • Occupation. This information is not available in later passports.

  • Children. Parents' passports would list children under the age of 15. At the age of 16, they were issued their own passports. Initially, temporary regulations provided for issuing a passport from the age of 14.

  • Military service. For men, it was noted whether they had served, were discharged, etc.

  • Documents on which the passport was issued. This may include information about previously issued passports, refugee certificates, baptismal certificates, etc. Sometimes, this information is very useful because it allows finding earlier records in passport books.

  • Notes on marriages, births of children, death. These stamps were included in passport booklets issued after 1926.


Raduraksti passport database

Most researchers are already familiar with the "Latvian Inhabitants' Passports" section of the Raduraksti database. This database primarily consists of the Riga prefecture's passport collection, so it mainly includes passports for residents of Riga and its district.


However, not all Latvian residents are in this database! It's important to remember that passports ended up in the archives in two ways – either the owner exchanged the passport and returned the old one to the issuing authority, or the passport was returned after the owner's death. Many people's passports remained in their possession after the occupation of Latvia, and others took them along when evacuating. These passports have not made it into the archive.


If you find your relative's passport in the Raduraksti database, know that it has been digitized and published on the Familysearch.org website. To access the digitized passport, you will need to purchase a Ciltskoki.lv access code and obtain a direct link to the digitized document.


Sometimes, however, it can be disappointing to find that the file does not contain a passport with a photograph, but only a certificate on the basis of which the passport was issued. The certificate does contain the name, surname, and birth data, but lacks a photograph and other information.


Of course, passports can also be viewed in person at the Latvian State Historical Archives.


Passport issuing authorities

During the interwar period, various institutions issued passports – in Riga, it was the prefecture; in rural areas, it was the respective parish councils; in other cities, it was the police authorities.


Passports issued by parish councils sometimes are kept in the respective parish council's (Latv. pagasta valde) fund, but unfortunately not always. These have not yet been digitized.


Passport books

When an institution issued a passport, the information was also duplicated in a so-called passport book. This is a chronological register by the date of passport issuance. It includes the same information as the passport, including the photograph.


Many of the passport books have been preserved and are located in the respective issuing institutions' funds, for example, the Riga prefecture's fund (2996.f.), Liepaja police institutions' fund (5050.f.), Ludza district police institutions' fund (1412.f.), Daugavpils prefecture's fund (1398.f.), etc.


Passport books are also digitized and can be viewed on Familysearch.org, and to view them, use Ciltskoki.lv > Dokumenti> Dokumentu saraksts no FamilySearch > choose Pasu grāmatas.


Unfortunately, searching by surname in passport books is not yet possible. To find an entry, you need to know the passport number and issuance date.


Paying attention to details, a passport will give you many clues for further research!

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