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1897 All-Russia Census

Commissioned and Donated by
Arlene Beare on behalf of the JewishGen Latvia SIG

Introduction by Constance Whippman

The “All-Russia Census” of 1897
What has survived for Latvia?
What is and isn't in the Database
Format of the 1897 Census
Understanding the Entry Fields
Transliteration and Town Names
Obtaining Further Information
Acknowledgments
Search the Database

This database consists of 25,305 entries, extracted from the “All-Russia Census” of 1897, for locations now in Latvia.  The addition of the Daugavpils data completes this project, to extract and index all surviving information from present-day Latvia.

This database owes its existence to the generosity, perseverance and research interests of Dr. Arlene Beare, who commissioned the data, and to members of the JewishGen Latvia Special Interest Group (Latvia SIG), and to all supporters who donated to the 1897 Dvinsk Project.

The “All-Russia Census” of 1897 — What has survived for Latvia?

The primary purpose of the 1897 Imperial Census (Первая всеобщая перепись населения Российской империи) was to collect statistical information on the people of the Russian Empire.  When the Census was set up there was no intention to preserve the raw data relating to individual families, and in most cases the original entry books were either destroyed, disposed of, or simply not preserved, leaving the political turmoil and general upheaval of subsequent 20th century events to take their toll of this otherwise superb source.

The effect of these losses is particularly acute for Latvia.  Insofar as Census material survives it is now centrally housed in the State Historical Archives, Rīga, but sadly, the gaps are many.  Complete 1897 Census data have survived for the towns/cities of Rēzekne, Krustpils, Ludza, Prieļi, and Daugavpils [Dvinsk].  There are useful but only partial data for Rīga, Liepāja [Libau] and Kuldīga [Goldingen], and fragmentary remains in respect of other towns in Courland Gubernia.  Where Census data have survived, the range of information sought by the enumerators makes this one of the most precious genealogical and social resources for the history of Jewish families and communities at the turn of the century.

Phase 1 (2002)
Vitebsk Province
Phase 2 (2003)
Rīga
Phase 3 (2005)
Courland
Phase 4 (2012)
Daugavpils

Surviving data from Rēzekne (Rezhitsa) and Krustpils (Kreuzburg).

Approximately 3,500 entries.

Surviving data from the capital city of Rīga.

Approximately 2,000 entries.

Surviving data from the towns of Jaunjelgava (Friedrichstadt), Jēkabpils (Jakobstadt), Valdemārpils (Sassmacken), Talsi (Talsen), and Tukums (Tukum).

Approximately 1,500 entries.

Surviving data from the city of Daugavpils (Dvinsk).

Approximately 18,300 entries.

The first two towns for which the data have been commissioned and completed are Rēzekne [also known variously as Rezhitsa/Rechitsa, Rositton] and Krustpils [also known as Kreysberg/Kreuzburg], both located in the former Russian Empire Gubernia of Vitebsk.  The database entered Phase Two in January 2003, with the addition of surviving census data from the capital city of Rīga.  There are 2,058 entries from Rēzekne, 1,486 entries from Krustpils, and 1,912 from Rīga.  In 2005 (Phase Three), we added 1,500 records for five towns in Courland Gubernia.  In 2012 (Phase Four), we have now added 18,381 entries for Daugavpils [Dvinsk].

What is in the Database and What is Not

The database concentrates on the head of the family, his spouse and adult children, but does not record the full details of every family unit.  Occasionally there is a record of younger children, but not all siblings are consistently extracted.

The database not only provides an excellent research tool for researching specific families who lived in these Latvian communities, but also provides considerable insight into the structure and fabric of the Jewish community as a whole.  The database contains entries for all classes of society – from peddlers to the distinguished 72-year old Rabbi Itzik Zion from Ludza [Liutzin] and his wife Hawa, age 71, born in Krāslava [Kreslavka].  The database is full of human detail, such as the name of the town's Jewish wetnurse, one Rosa Lokert, born in Kovno, Lithuania.  The database contains the full range of occupations from tradesmen, teachers, synagogue attendants, schochets, shoemakers and, at the other end of the spectrum, one Beile Kurland, aged 29, the proprietor of the local house of prostitution, apparently providing services without any legal intervention.

Format of the 1897 Census

  • Three copies of the Census material were made, one for the Head Census Commission, a second one for the Provincial Administration and another for the city or town administration.  It is the fact that multiple copies were made that holds out at least a hope that further material has survived in archives other than the State Historical Archives in Rīga.
  • The Census is primarily in handwritten Cyrillic [the Russian alphabet] and is difficult to read [the raw data were not intended to be retained].  Parts of the Rīga and Courland entries are in German script.
  • The first page of the Census gives the place of the Census: the province (gubernia), district (uyezd), town or village.
  • The material is organized by town of compilation, and then by the street address of each inhabitant and/or the business address.  Although the names of streets have changed and most if not all of the old Russian names have been replaced by Latvian names, it is usually possible to establish the equivalent modern name for a given address.  Looking at the pattern of occupation it is possible to see the dispersal of Jewish homes and businesses throughout the non Jewish community.  For addresses in Krustpils researchers may wish to refer to the maps of Jēkabpils and Krustpils that can be found on the Jēkabpils KehilaLinks page for these twin cities.  You will need a simple Russian alphabet like the one provided by JRI-Poland.  By taking the alphabet key you should be able to sound out the street names and identify the building addresses.
  • Despite the fact that organisation is not by surname, there are no surname indices or finding aids — until the creation of this database.
  • The data recorded were organised in 14 columns, in a standard format that was used for the whole of the Russian Empire.

Understanding the Entry Fields

This is a particularly rich and interesting database from the point of view of social history.  The entry fields are:

  • Surname, Given Name(s):  The first and last name(s) of the individual.
  • Patronymic (Father's Given Name):  In virtually every case, a patronymic is given.  This immediately provides names of two generations of the family.  Where a patronymic is given, the surname of the father will normally be the same as the individual line entry.  By a careful examination of all database entries relating to a given name, it is often possible to connect three and sometimes four generations.
  • Age (in 1896/7):  Knowing the age in a given year allows for a tentative calculation of the year of birth.  It assists in arranging individuals sharing a family name into likely generations and generally to distinguish parents, grandparents and children.  Where ages are given that depart from this format, it is because the original list was amended; such changes are clearly indicated.
  • Place of Birth:  This is important information for further research, since you can then look at the metrical records for the correct town at the Latvia State Historical Archives or elsewhere.
  • Place of Origin:  The Russian Empire distinguished between the place of birth, which was a matter of fact, and “Place of Origin”, which represented the place with which the family was legally associated and first registered.  For approximately 35-40% of the individuals represented in the database, the “Place of Birth” and “Place of Origin” are different.
  • Occupation:  The original list does not record this information for every family or individual, but where the information is given, it is included in this database.  Occupation can give some idea of social standing, educational attainment, economic position and the skills that they brought with them on emigration.
  • Comments:  This information includes relationships between individuals and occasional other personal details.
  • Address:  This gives the town name (Rīga, Rēzekne, Krustpils, Talsi, Jēkabpils, Tukums, Valdemārpils, Jaunjelgava, or Dvinsk), and the registered street address for each individual, where it has survived, and generally the name of the owner or principal householder at the address.  It can give details as to family groups, indicated by those living together.  The addresses allow you to trace where the family lived and to obtain further information from from contemporary maps or other sources.  Efforts have been made to keep the historical accuracy of the original source, so that although modern names are used for the primary town of location, (i.e.: the Census source town), the addresses and town of origin for a particular individual have been retained in their historic form as originally recorded.  The town and province names can be updated to modern equivalents by using the JewishGen Communities Database.  There are numerous town references from all over the Russian Empire, and also some from other European towns and cities.
  • Fond Number:  The 1897 "All Russian Census" forms part of Fond 2706 at the State Historical Archives [Latvijas Valsts vēstures arhīvs] in Rīga. 

Transliteration and Town Naming Conventions

The original sources are in handwritten Cyrillic, although many of the names are clearly German in name and origin.  The melting pot of the Jewish communities can be seen in the wide range of names with obvious Polish, Russian and Yiddish origins.  There are many German sounding names, many with their roots in German-administered Courland, which shared an immediate border with Vitebsk Gubernia.  Spelling varies enormously, and it is good practice to try to say the name out loud, remembering that J is often pronounced as Y, and that G and H are interchangeable.

Because the database includes information about where families originated, there are a wide range of geographic references.  Where possible we have endeavoured to follow the JewishGen standard format of using the modern name of the shtetl or town, although it has not been possible to ensure that all place references reflect the most up-to-date names.  Especially in the case of smaller places, errors may have crept in and historic names may been retained inadvertently.  Researchers can investigate place name information further by using the JewishGen Gazetteer, which provides a range of names, including the modern one, plus an online generated map.

Obtaining Further Information

You may wish to seek further information about your family from the Latvia State Historical Archives, which holds records prior to 1906 and some from the later period as well.  See information on the JewishGen Latvia SIG website.

For more details about the 1897 “All-Russia Census”, see:

  • "Materials from the 1897 All-Empire Russian Census Held By the State Historical Archives in Latvia", by Alexandrs Feigmanis, in Avotaynu XI:1 (Spring 1995), pp. 15-16.
  • "The Russian National Census of 1897", by Thomas K. Edlund, in Avotaynu XVI:3 (Fall 2000), pp. 29-39.
  • The background information and historical context are dealt with in depth in the introduction to the Lithuania 1897 Census Database.
  • Wikipedia article "Russian Empire Census".

Acknowledgments

We are indebted to the unceasing work of Arlene Beare, who has been the driving force behind the extraction and databasing of this remarkable source.  The JewishGen Latvia SIG has offered continuing support over all phases. 

In addition, thanks are due to Abraham Lenhoff, David Zeidman, Stanislav Gorbulev, Warren Blatt, and the late Michael Whippman, all of whom worked on Phase I of the Project.  Janice Sellers contributed her HTML skills to the Rīga update.  A special thanks to our webmaster Michael Tobias, who has worked under great pressure to create the on-line searchable database and completely revamped its layout and display features, thereby not only enhancing its readability but also ensuring that the format most closely parallels the actual documents from which the information was extracted.

Thanks to Stephen Weinstein for adding the linkage to the images on the Raduraksti website, and to Warren Blatt for his editing of this introduction.

Finally, we are grateful to JewishGen, which provides the infrastructure to make the JewishGen Latvia Database available worldwide, and we urge your generous support for its work.

The Introduction to this large project was originally written by Constance Whippman, and is now revised and updated by Arlene Beare in June 2012.

Copyright ©2002, 2005, 2012 by Arlene Beare, Constance Whippman, and the JewishGen Latvia SIG.
Initial introduction and material January 2002; updated and revised January 2003, February 2005, and June 2012.
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