Orthodox Names of Converted Lutherans

Updated: Mar 1, 2019

In the 1840s, many Latvians in Vidzeme Region converted to Orthodox Christianity. They received new, Orthodox names. How to identify your converted ancestor?

Limbaži Orthodox Church. Photo by Ints Lūsis

When I first learned that my great-grandfather’s name was Aleksandrs, and his sisters were called Olga and Tatjana, I was truly surprised. Were they Russian? But the truth is that they were descendants of those many Latvians in Vidzeme Region, who converted to Orthodox Christianity in the 1840s. The reason was the mistaken belief that they would receive lands in Russia. You can read more about it here.


My focus here is on names of Lutherans who converted and were given Orthodox names, because this can cause confusion when trying to identify your ancestors in Orthodox Church books. 


Your ancestor Fricis, has suddenly become Fyodor , and Ilze has become Elizaveta. It is not an easy task to identify them.

I accessed the scanned book “Overview About the Lutherans Converted to Orthodox Christianity” ("Ведомость о присоединившихся из лютеран к православию"), available on the University of Tartu website, and noted the most common Latvian names with their newly adopted Orthodox names. The book has an overview of converted persons from 1847 -1854, but the list doesn't seem complete.


In the table below, the names in Russian are written as they appear in the book, but the Latvian names are given in Modern Latvian. In some cases, there are two Orthodox names corresponding to one Lutheran name. It appears that converted Lutherans were free to choose their own name, and no general rule existed.




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