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Latvian Abbreviations in Church Books

Last time, I wrote about Latin abbreviations, but this time I want to look at some Latvian abbreviations in church books. It seems that records written in Latvian would be easy to understand, but sometimes they can be quite confusing.


Pastor in his working room
Created by Dall-E

Latvian appears in the oldest church books, written before 1834. In 1832, new church laws for the Lutheran congregations in Russia were issued, and by 1834 church books were already being kept according to the new regulations and uniform format.


However, the examples below come from the 1834-1837 books of the Valtaiķi Lutheran congregation. In this register, Latvian was still used, and the book contains an interesting list of abbreviations used in this specific church book. Similar abbreviations might have been used elsewhere, so it is worth examining them.


Fragments no baznīcu grāmatas

Father (Latv. tēvs) and mother (Latv. māte) are written in German – V. (Ger. Vater) and M. (Ger. Mutter).

Similarly, child (Latv. bērns) is abbreviated in German – K. (Ger. Kind).

However, son (Latv. dēls, Ger. Sohn) and daughter (Latv. meita, Ger. Tochter) are abbreviated in Latvian – dls. (dēls) and m.m. (miesīga meita).


Next are the designations for household members:

Church book excerpt

Farm manager (Latv. saimnieks) – S. In other books, I have also seen the abbreviations smks. and sks.

Farm manager's wife (Latv. saimniece) – Sz. (from the old orthography saimneeze). In the Talsi congregation, sze. was used.

Farm hand (Latv. kalps) – k. The abbreviation klps. has also been seen. In the Talsi congregation, the abbreviation s.w., which I believe stands for "saimes vīrs" (household man, farmhand) or the same servant, was used.

An unmarried farm hand (Latv. saimes puisis or puisis) was abbreviated as s.p. (saimes puisis).

Farm hand's wife (Latv. kalpa sieva) – k.s.

Day-laborer or handyman (Latv. rokas vīrs) – r.w. This is the most unusual and without decryption, it would be difficult to guess what "r.w." stands for. A handyman in this context is a person hired to perform various physical tasks or manual labor, typically for daily or weekly pay.

A handyman (Latv. rokas vīrs) also has a wife r.w.s. (Latv. rokas vīra sieva).

An unmarried day-laborer (Latv. rokas puisis) – r.p.

Church Book excerpt

Similar to a day-laborer (Latv. rokas vīrs) was a tenant laborer (Latv. vaļenieks, Ger. Lostreiber) – wl. Tenant laborers often lived in some small bathhouse and compensated for their dwelling with work.

Free man (Latv. brīvvīrs) – br.w. This term is characteristic of the Valtaiķi congregation because it also included free Latvians – the Curonian kings (Latv. Kuršu ķoniņi).

Tailor (Latv. skroderis) – Sk.

Craftsman (Latv. amatnieks) – Am.

Overseer (Latv. vagars) – Wg.

Forester (Latv. mežsargs) – M.s.


Church book excerpt

Widow (Latv. atraitne, originally spelled "atraidne") – Atd.

Servant girl or maid (Latv. darba meita) – D.m.

Day-laborer girl (Latv. rokas meita) – r.m.

The godparents' abbreviation is formed from the German word Pathen (Latv. krustvecāki) – P.


Finally, an example from a Valtaiķi congregation baptism record where the mentioned Latvian abbreviations are clearly applied. I hope you can decipher it without difficulty!

fragments no baznīcu grāmatas

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