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What Are House Books and What Can You Find in Them?

If you've come across a family member's passport from the interwar period, you may have noticed stamps and records related to their place of residence. If the address mentioned is Riga, then you're in luck – the archives hold a huge collection of Riga's house books, which contain a wealth of information about the residents.


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Riga in early 20th century. (Source: Zudusilatvija.lv)

In the Latvian State Historical Archive, you can find house books from two distinct periods: the Russian Empire and the interwar Latvian Republic.

House books were introduced in the Russian Empire starting from the 18th century, but the house books of Riga have survived from the late 19th century. The duty of registering the population was entrusted to the pristavs (chiefs of police) of the city police stations and the same order was kept in the indepentendt latvia after WWI. When changing their place of residence, residents were obliged to register at their police station. Even if a family temporarily moved to a rented room by the sea during the summer or a young person went to work on a farm for a few months, these changes were recorded in the house books.

Each address, meaning each house, had its own house book (often multiple books over time). These registers contained a considerable amount of information, making them a valuable resource for genealogists:


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House book from the Russian Empire period. (Source: Raduraksti)

Each address, meaning each house, had its own house book (often multiple books over time). These registers contained a considerable amount of information, making them a valuable resource for genealogists:

  1. Arrival Date and Place: Information about when and from where a person arrived at the mentioned address. Notably, the previous address was also recorded, providing a new lead for research.

  2. Name and Patronymic: Full names, father's names, family status, and age were recorded. The father's name is no longer given in the inter-war books, but precise birth dates were included.

  3. Family Members: All family members, including children, were listed.

  4. Religion: In the Russian Empire period registers, religious affiliation was noted.

  5. Occupation: The individual's occupation was documented.

  6. Residence Permit Number or Passport Data: In pre-revolutionary times, most Latvian newcomers in Riga received their permits from their civil parishes of origin. During the interwar period, whenever an individual obtained a new passport, their information was updated in the home registers with the new document number.

  7. Departure Details: Information on when and where a person left. This data can provide new leads for further research.

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Interwar Period House Book (Source: Latvian Historical Archive))

House books also included details about the property owner, as well as group and land plot numbers, providing clues for researching the history of the house.


A small portion of Riga's home registers from the Russian Empire period is available on the Raduraksti website. However, the archives hold many more Riga house books (Fond 2942), available in the reading rooms. Interwar period house books exist not only for Riga but also for other Latvian towns, which can be found in Fond 2110.


House books from the Soviet period are kept in other archives, but that's a story for another post.

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