The Courland Family Lists
Developed and Donated by the
· Recruits Enlistment Registers|
· Bausk Family Census Lists for 1874
· The Database Fields
· How do I find more about listed family members?
· Further Projects / Acknowledgements
· Search the Database
This database consists of material extracted from a number of separate lists: Names of adult family members extracted from official Jewish Military Recruits Registers from the ten major cities of Courland, together with an 1874 family census list from Bauska. Nearly 8,000 entries (over 11,000 named individuals).
Recruitment Lists were lists drawn up on the order of the Tsarist Government to serve as the basis on which individuals were selected for military service. This process did not only apply to the Jewish community but affected all inhabitants irrespective of religion or nationality. The Registers relating to the Jewish community were kept separately because the Jews were considered a separate nationality as well as a separate religion. Similar registers existed for the other major community groups.
The original lists are handwritten in German. Each family unit is identified by a family number and the members of the family and their ages are listed. The family number is cross-referenced to the Oklad [tax] number for the family in the same district or region.
It was important that a comprehensive picture of the family was obtained because there were exemptions from military service in the case of only sons, a sole surviving son where the eldest son had died, sons of widowed mothers etc. These exemptions changed from time to time as recruitment policy changed but the lists provided the official factual basis from which the authorities charged with enforcement of recruitment policy worked.
This database concentrates primarily on the adult members of the households and does not generally record child entries from the original list. The purpose of the database was to give a good coverage of identified families for initial research with a view to finding further details either from the Latvian State Historical Archives or from other sources that will be coming on line, in particular the official Russian Government Gazette for Courland, known as the Kurlandia Gubernskya Vedomosti or the "Vedomosti".
The Vedomosti contains many lists of many Jewish military recruits chosen to serve. In addition there are regular reports of recruits failing to appear as directed for military service or who are subject to arrest because they have fled from military service. Some, but by no means the majority, of these reports relate to Jewish conscripts.
These contemporary news reports are fascinating sources for the family historian as they often contain descriptions of the wanted person and other family details. The Courland Research Group is currently indexing all Jewish entries in the Vedomosti and have completed the years 1853-1858. That database, which includes further material relating to Jews and military services will be on line shortly.
The fact that many Jews served loyally in the military can be seen from the Jewish Inhabitants of Riga Database. If you search on "soldier" you will see the names of many retired soldiers registered in Riga - some in receipt of a pension - and many of the Jewish entries listed in the Courland Duma Voter's lists as being in receipt of a pension are, in fact, retired soldiers.
For further general information on military service in Imperial Russia, see the JewishGen InfoFile "Military conscription in 19th century Russia". Some of the background in this file relates to Jews living in the Pale of Settlement to whom special rules applied. These rules did not affect the Jews of Courland or Riga, who were allowed to live freely outside the Pale, provided they were lawfully registered in a specific town.
For further reading, see "Residents' Lists and the Russian Military Draft", by Vilius Botryius with Daniel Rozas, in Avotaynu, XVI:1 (Spring 2000), pages 20-22.
This list was created in 1874 as part of a census of local inhabitants carried out at the same time in a number of Courland communities. The original is handwritten in German Fractur Script and forms part of the holdings of the Latvian State Historical Archives in Riga. The original list contains children as well as adults and the format is not very different from that used in the Enlistment Registers referred to above, although the purpose for which the list was compiled was different.
The database consists mainly of adult members of the community, both male and female, and makes it possible to identify the Jewish families living in the area in or about 1874. Part of the value of the list is that it was amended from time to time up until the early 1900's as individuals died or moved abroad. In the case of some entries it is possible to find information of particular importance from a family history point of view. For example, annotations to the original 1871 list include the following:
This kind of information not only opens new avenues of for individuals searching for family roots but it also provides important information about the social history of the Jewish communities of Courland, emigration and travel. This database is an ongoing project and it is anticipated that entries will be added as new towns are extracted. The goal is to provide not only a rich source for family historians but also to create a resource that will provide data of general interest to historians of the Jews of Courland.
The lists were compiled on a family basis and the original lists allocate a number to each family. The family numbers in the case of Bausk have not been recorded in the database although they do exist in the original list. Noting the family number helps you to distinguish between direct ancestors and collateral family in the form of potential Aunts, Uncles, Cousins etc.
The Oklad referred to the families tax reference number. Tax lists were very comprehensive and the inhabitants of each town and community were allocated an Oklad number. Each family is cross-referenced so that the original list compiler would have checked the information supplied against the information given on other occasions. Like family numbers, the Oklad number can help to distinguish separate family units with the same name.
This refers to the family's surname. These were German in form so that, for example, families which later became Israelson will be spelled Israelsohn in the these lists. Despite a policy of Russification in the Empire from the 1860's onwards, it is a remarkable feature that these official lists are all in German rather than Russian. Courland retained its character as a Baltic German province and the enduring use of German for administrative purposes until the end of the century is notable.
In the case of a woman, her name at birth. This helps to trace female lines of the family which are typically more difficult to establish. Unfortunately only a low percentage of maiden names are recorded, but they are included where available.
This refers to the person's first or given name or names. Many of these are of Hebrew or Yiddish origin. The original spelling has been retained even where it is inconsistent in the original document.
Over 2,000 entries in the database include the first names of the entrant's father, thereby giving you 2 generations in respect of the family. This is consistent with the Russian practice of recording the patronymic as part of the official name or family identity. In some cases, this information used together with the Family and Oklad numbers can help to establish collateral branches of the family and to help fill in family trees.
This column gives you the entrant's age in the year specified. For example, "34 in 1874" tells you that the person was 34 years old in 1874. Occasionally the column gives the person's date of birth although this is rare.
This field will sometimes give you an exact date of death, but more typically simply the year of death. In the case of Bausk entries, this column sometimes includes additional information such as the place of death. If the date of death is later than the date of the list this means that the original list was amended at a subsequent date on the basis of information supplied to the registrar presumably from family members or friends.
The modern name form is used, in keeping with JewishGen policy. This will help you search the JewishGen Family Finder to see if anyone else is searching this name in the locality. Where other town or cities are mentioned such as in the place of death the original entry is preserved and the name is not updated.
Remember that Recruits Enlistment Registers were undertaken by locality. The fact a person is registered in say, Friedrickstadt [Jaunjelgava] does not mean that the family lived inside the town of Friedrickstadt. Although they may have done so, it is also possible that they lived in the general registration district of Friedrickstadt. Unfortunately the original lists do not record addresses.
This tells you what sort of list the information comes from.
This is the category number assigned to the document in the Riga archives and can help to locate the documents relevant to your family.
Each of these lists helps to build up a picture of the Jewish families of Courland. In order to obtain further information about children and/or obtain other information relating to specific individuals you will need to write to:
The archives now have a policy of charging a preliminary search fee of $50 before embarking on research, plus an additional fee for each family member located. They provide a highly professional service and will bill you on completion of the work. Their expertise in identifying and tracing the Jewish families of Courland, indeed of Latvia as a whole, is remarkable. Before asking them to carry out work for you you may wish to read more about the experience that individuals have had with the archives by clicking on the JewishGen Discussion Group message archives and carrying out a search for "archive" and "Latvia" or "Latvian".
This database has been made possible by Sponsorship and Donations. The Courland Research Group has carried out some of the research personally but the database has been created professionally by researchers in Riga to whom our special thanks is recorded.
Many towns and villages remain and sponsorship for these lists is sought. In particular the lists of the Jews of Courland's capital, Mitau (now Jelgava) is very large and cannot be undertaken without substantial additional funding. Important lists exist for Tuckums, Frauenberg, and numerous other local registries. If you are able to help and would like to sponsor a Family List in honour of your family or to mark a special family occasion such as a wedding or Bar Mitzvah please contact Martha Lev-Zion, Treasurer; or the database co-ordinator Constance Whippman. There will be a formal dedication page in which your contribution will be recorded.
As ever we acknowledge the remarkable patience and forbearance of our webmaster Michael Tobias. Warren Blatt has given technical input and support. The Courland Reseach Steering Committee: Paul Berkay, Abraham Lenhoff and Martha Lev-Zion worked hard to bring this database to you. Michael Whippman gave substantial computer assistance in preparing the files.
Constance Whippman, Database Co-ordinator
Copyright ©2000, Courland Research Steering Committee
Last Updated: Feb 21, 2001 WSB
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