Finding Your Ancestor's Farm on a Map

Updated: Sep 19, 2018

Most people are curious to see exactly where their ancestors lived. Does the farm still exist? Or what is in its place?

18th century Map of Courland, LNB Collection

Lithuanianmaps.com


Although the title suggests Lithuanian maps, the site itself has a large collection, including Latvian topographic maps from the 1920s—1930s.


Below is an example of the farms that once belonged to Ūziņi (Usingen, in German) estate. (Map 034 Platone, Lithuanianmaps.com)



Without some knowledge of Latvian, it is not easy to identify the names from the 1811 revision lists.

On the map, you can see the farm called Kūpeņi, which is most likely Kuping farm in the 1811 revision. However, neighbouring farms, Mazkūpeņi and Mžsr. (forester) Kūpeņi, could also have been the Kuping farm in 1811.

Some other examples of farm names in 1811 and the 1930s: KaschookKažoki StrautineekStrautnieki Budeneek – Būdnieki Mege – Meķi Salnen – Salnēni Swilpen Krug – Svilpes Gexte was a farm that belonged to the Bewert Schwedhof Estate in 1811, and has since been transformed into Jeksti.



The Database of Geographical Names

If you know the Latvian spelling of a farm’s name, you can use this database (Vietvārdu datubāze).

This database is in Latvian only. You can search by entering at some characters in the section called "Nosaukuma daļa" (Part of the name). In this case, I entered “Saln” as part of the “Salnēni” name:



You will get a list of all names containing that part of the name. Sometimes the farm itself , no longer exists, but a lake, forest, swamp or some other natural landform, may still have the name and help you locate the place of a once existing farm.


By clicking on "skatīt" (see) you will at first get all the information on that name. If you click on the globe icon (Atrašanās vieta kartē – Location on the map), a map will pop up. It is likely the most detailed modern map available showing even buildings, and it can be enlarged. See the example below:



Vesture.dodies.lv


If you know the approximate location of the farm, you can use this website which allows you to click on various historical maps.

Maps from the Soviet Period (in Latvian "Padomju") are very useful because many farms were destroyed during WWII and the Soviet era. If you find a farm on one of these maps it means that it still existed in the 1970s and 1980s, possibly even to 1990s.


Topografija.lv


This is another similar website that allows to choose between layers of historical maps. It is in Latvian only and allows you to search by name. To choose a historical map, click on the small list icon on the upper right-hand corner, and then check the "Vēsturiskās kartes" (Historical maps) box. The 1930s map is called "Latvija 1:75 000" and the Soviet period maps are called "PSRS kartes". Below is an example of the "Salnēni" farm on the "Latvija: 1:75 000" map:



Latvian National Library

Except for the collection of historical maps on this site, not many detailed maps are available online from nineteenth century and before. The maps here are of larger areas such as the historical regions of Livonia, Courland and Semigalia. You will not find detailed maps of individual estates, but the city plans are very useful if your ancestors lived in Riga, Jelgava or Liepaja. It is difficult to search by a location name, since the maps are listed by their original titles in German, Russian, or Latvian. You can use the option “Select an area with polygon tool”, marking the area you are interested in, as below:

You will get a list of all maps that include this area. Below is an example of the same, previously mentioned “Salnēni”, farm on a map from the LNB collection. (Vidzemes un Kurzemes speciālkarte, 1893, LNB collection)



Latvian State Historical Archive


Latvian State Historical archive (LVVA) contains many documents, including maps that are not published online. They can be found in many different fonds. Below is an excerpt from the Usingen Estate's map, showing the “Salnēni” farm as it was in 1869 (or farms, because at that time, there were three). (LVVA, fonds 183, series 166, file 540)


If you would like to have a paper copy of historical maps I, recommend Jāņa sēta Online Shop. They are not only the best in creating and developing maps of the Baltics, but they also sell many reprints of historical maps. See Genshtab.

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