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Finding Information About Baltic Germans in the Russian Empire

Updated: Apr 5

Have you got German-Baltic ancestors? In such situations, it's quite possible that some family members moved away from the Baltics and chose to live and work in Russia.

With the annexation of Vidzeme and later Kurzeme to the Russian Empire, Baltic Germans found themselves adapting to the situation. They seized opportunities to apply their knowledge and skills in various capacities, both in the military and administration. Baltic Germans also made notable contributions to the fields of science, culture, and education during this time.

When tracing the history of Baltic Germans within the Russian Empire, one valuable resource to start with is Erik Amburger's database

Erik Amburger Datenbank

Compiled by Professor Erik Amburger at the Leibniz Institute for East and South-East European Studies in Regensburg, Germany, this database contains records of approximately 100,000 foreigners who lived in the Russian Empire. It doesn't focus on Baltic Germans alone, it includes data about individuals from other nationalities as well.

It's important to note that this database does not contain information about Latvians, with a few exceptions for those who might have studied in Dorpat (today Tartu, Estonia) or Russia.

The Amburger database is primarily in German, but you can search for information even if you don't speak the language. Simply enter the surname of the individual you're researching in the "Name" field. The results will be displayed, and you can click on each entry to access more details about the person.

Data in the Amburger database is drawn from a wide range of sources, including newspapers, books, and reference collections. You'll find these sources listed at the end of the database table under "Quellen." While you may encounter various abbreviations in the source references, you can locate full references in a separate section of the database titled "Quellenverzeichnis".

Once you've identified a source in the Amburger database, you can dig deeper to uncover additional information. For instance, if the database mentions a particular news source like the "St. Petersburg Evangelical Sunday News," you can find digital copies of this newspaper on

laikraksta galviņa

The original newspaper announce may contain supplementary details that are not present in the Amburger database. If the database provides information about marriage or death years, the newspaper publication will reveal which church hosted the marriage or registered the death.

The Amburger database may also reference collections of student reference books from the University of Dorpat (Tartu), such as the "Album Curonorum." Curonia, the oldest student corporation in the Baltic Germans from Kurzeme region, was founded in Dorpat. The corporation's historical commission gathered and published information about former Curonia members. Digitized versions of these albums are available online and offer valuable biographical insights about Curonia members.

university building
University of Dorpat on a Postcard

Since the University of Dorpat was the only university in the Baltic provinces for a long time, a significant number of educated German-Balts had studied there, and information about them can be found in one of the university's reference collections.

But these are only a few examples. The database contains references to many different sources and it is always worth looking further into the source given. Many of sources might be available online in digital form and provide additional information.



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