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Start with a population census!

Updated: Apr 5

When people inquire about where to begin researching their family history, I recommend starting with documenting known information.

Do you know when and where your grandparents were born? If you know the parish where your ancestors lived, you can locate them in the 1941 population census.

walking people

Usually, grandparents are the generation about whom people still have some information. Most often, we managed to meet and get to know them. We know not only their names but also their personalities. We remember some stories from their lives. So, some initial information will be available.

The next step could be requesting birth, marriage or death records or searching in the 1941 population census. It is crucial to know the parish where your ancestors lived. Often, this information is preserved in the memory of one of the older family members.

The 1941 population census took place during the German occupation in the summer and fall. The original documents are stored in the Latvian State Historical Archives, but scanned versions can be viewed on the FamilySearch website. To find them, use the links on

Chose Dokumenti>Dokumenti no Familysearch>Tautas skaitīšana, 1941.

Screenshot from

Population census data should be searched by parishes. Within one parish, households are listed alphabetically by their names. Each house describes its inhabitants.

  • Birth dates and the ancestral parish. Keep in mind that birth dates may be imprecise, but at least these are data that can be further verified in church records.

  • Ethnicity. Individuals themselves indicated their ethnicity, and no evidence, it seems, was required.

  • Religion.

  • Occupation.

  • When a person was registered in this place of residence. Since the population census was conducted during the German occupation in the summer and fall of 1941, it often contains information that a resident of a house has been arrested and taken to Russia. Notes about former Jewish residents often indicate that they were arrested (by the German authorities). You can also see that some residents registered in the place of residence only in 1940 or 1941. The reason could be troubles with one or the other occupation regime and the need to "hide" in another place of residence.

1941 population census record
Example from the 1941 population census.

The note in the above example says: "On the morning of June 14, 1941, they were detained by the Bolshevik-Chekist gang for deportation to Russia."

  • Where a person came from in this place of residence. The previous address is indicated if the person recently moved to the place of residence.

The 1941 population census does not indicate kinship among household residents. However, it is noted in the 1935 census, which I will write about another time.

Keep in mind that not all documents will be visible online. Due to data protection, access to these documents may be denied. In such cases, you need to visit the Latvian State Historical Archives and examine the documents on-site.

Population census documents are stored in the archive in fond 1308, in the collection of the State Statistical Administration.



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