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Letter to a Relative

Finding living relatives is not the task of a genealogist, but I have agreed to help in this matter a few times. What are the options for contacting relatives in Latvia if you do not know their address?


Lady in historical rooms writing a letter
Created by Dall-E

I must admit right away that the protection of personal data in Latvia is quite strict, and there are no public phone or address books available nowadays. However, there is one way, knowing enough information, to try to contact someone through official channels.


Of course, the first recommendation would be to search for information on the internet. You can check if the person you are looking for is on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, or other platforms. However, not everyone, especially older generations, will be found on social networks.


You can also check if the relative is mentioned in any newspaper. This can be done at www.news.lv. This site contains a 20-year archive of newspapers, including about 100 Latvian newspapers. Here, news might appear if the person has died. Perhaps a city or parish where the person lived or lives will be mentioned. The site is only in Latvian, and the name and surname must be written with Latvian diacritical marks.


Often, the latest news known about possible relatives comes from the 1941 census. People who were very young children at that time might still be alive. This census included birth data, which is very important for trying to find someone nowadays.


In 1992, the Register of Physical Persons of Latvia was created. Since then, there has been a unified electronic database that compiles information about citizens and foreigners living in Latvia. If your searched person died before 1992, there would be no information in the register, but information about people who died later is preserved.


This database is not publicly accessible. If you know the person's name, surname, and date of birth, you can submit a request to the Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs (OCMA, or PMLP in Latvian) and ask to find out if such a person can be identified in the Register of Physical Persons.


If the OCMA identifies the person, it does not mean that you will be able to find out their contact information! These data are protected, and the only thing you can do is ask the administration to send your letter to this person.


The service can be requested:


  1. If you are a citizen of Latvia, then use the e-service on the Latvija.lv site.

  • Choose the service "Forwarding a letter to a searched person."

  • First, ask to check if the searched person is found in the population register. Justify that you are looking for a relative's contacts for genealogical research.

  • When you receive a positive response, then you can attach your letter to the relative and pay for the service (currently 7.50 EUR plus postal expenses for forwarding the letter.)

2. If you live abroad and are not a citizen of Latvia, first write an email to OCMA (pasts@pmlp.gov.lv), and provide all the information you know about the person you are searching for.


  • Then OCMA will first check if the person can be identified in the population register.


  • If successful, they will send you both an invoice (7.50 EUR plus postal expenses for letter forwarding) and further instructions on how to proceed with your letter to a relative.


In your letter to relatives, write and explain why you would like to contact them and leave your contact information. Sometimes people are afraid and do not want to make contact because they do not know what foreign relatives want from them. Therefore, it is important to explain whether you want to learn about other family members, perhaps interested in photographs of ancestors, or simply want to restore lost family ties.


The next steps are in the hands of the recipient. If they live at the declared residence and receives the letter, they might write back or call you.


But sometimes people do not live at their declared residences and receive letters late. Sometimes, for various reasons, people do not want to contact relatives. Unfortunately, there is nothing that can be done in such cases.


In my experience, there have been both successful and unsuccessful cases. There are people who have called back and met with their relatives. There was a case where the person's descendants called a couple of years after the addressee had died. And there have been cases where there was no response, and it was not possible to find out anything.


In any case, it is worth trying, because if successful, you will gain not only new relatives but possibly learn a lot of additional information about your family.

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