Riga Passport and Travel Documents Registration List 1900
Commissioned and Donated by
Arlene Beare on behalf of the
Introduction by Constance Whippman
This extensive resource on turn of the century Riga was commissioned and
donated by Arlene Beare and arises out of her longstanding research interests in
this city. Her specialist web resource on Riga is well-known
and is an invaluable adjunct to this introduction for those seeking more general
information about the Jews of Riga. The original documents, in Russian Cyrillic
with German annotations in some cases, form part of the holdings of the State
Historical Archives in Riga and are contained in Fond 51.
This database consists of some 12,500 entries and contains references and
family links to more than 20,000 named individuals. Patronymics are almost
always included, giving immediate access to two generations. Each entry is
evidence that the individual travelled and resided in Riga but was not
recognised among the permanent registered inhabitants of the city.
The term "Passport" is used generally and refers to any sort of
travel or identity document. These documents were issued by the relevant
authorities in the place of origin and were proof of identity and entitlement to
travel. These passports did not necessarily imply any intention to travel
abroad, as the system of internal passports was highly developed in the Russian
Empire. Although the system of police registration of temporary residents in a
borough or district is not required in either Great Britain or the United States
it has been traditionally required in European cities and the requirement still
exists in many areas today.
There is no way of knowing from the database how long the individual stayed
in Riga. Some are listed as "on transit"; others have come to Riga to
work and it can reasonably be assumed that they stayed for substantial periods
of time without necessarily changing their formal registration from their place
of origin. The database is rich in social and personal detail and includes
details on adoptions, marriages, widows and second marriages, occupations and
other family links. Precisely what information is recorded varies from person
to person but the vast majority have personal detail of considerable interest,
including the address where the person or family was staying in Riga. The
frequency with which individuals had to re-register varied from case to case.
Typically it was every 3 months, although some had to register only yearly or
occasionally less frequently. It is difficult to see what principle, if any,
applied to individual requirement as to frequency of required re-registration.
The database does not reflect subsequent re-registrations as this does not
provide any further family detail.
The database is a particularly rich source for Jewish emigration and movement
at the turn of the century and the variety of places of origin give testimony to
the cosmopolitan atmosphere and Jewish cultural diversity in Riga, called, at
the time, "the Paris of the North". Some indication of the
comparative wealth of the city is reflected in the fact that some 46 Jewish
goldsmiths are registered, presumably working in the city. The Jewish actors
of the famous Kartavov Russian Theatre Troop are individually listed, as are
students at various institutions, doctors, professionals, teachers, artisans,
hundreds of tailors, hatters and shoemakers and more specialist occupations such
as "inkmaker" and "amberturner". These are, of course, the
skills that families brought with them on emigration. It is clear that
substantial numbers of Jews with origins from all over Europe and the Empire
engaged in this "internal" immigration within the Empire and had been
integrated into the economy of what was then the largest and most prosperous of
the Baltic capitals. For others it was the stopping off point for eventual
moves to the USA, South Africa and Great Britain.
This database is a great endowment of a worthy resource and we all owe a
particular debt of gratitude to the ingenuity of Arlene Beare in identifying
this source and its importance to the Jewish history of Riga.
The Database Entry Fields
- Surname: In some cases alternative forms or spellings are given,
separated by a slash ("/").
- Given Name(s): This entry field gives the person's given name or
names, as set out in the Register.
- Father: Virtually all entries give the name of at least one parent,
effectively giving access to two generations.
- Age: This entry field gives the age of the person at the time he/she
registered at the police district in 1900.
- Comment: This column provides a variety of information, in some cases
including occupations, information on whether the person was retired, divorced
or widowed, etc. Where specific information is recorded it corresponds with
the registration record for that person. However, care must be taken not to
assume facts from an absence of information. For example, an absence of
reference to marital status cannot be taken as evidence that the person was
- Place of Origin: The database is noteworthy in the wide variety of
places that are listed in this column. Modern names are used for towns and
cities in what is now the area of Latvia, but historic names are retained for
other areas. The database is particularly rich in those with origins in
Lithuania or Belarus.
- Riga Address: The place where the family stayed in Riga. Many of
these addresses still exist, although the street names have changed from their
Russian version to their modern Latvian names.
- Town: All entries are marked as "Riga".
- Date: All entries are marked 1900.
- Fond Number: This number helps the archivists at the Latvian State
Historical Archives in Riga locate the original information when inquiries are
- Maiden Name: Unfortunately for genealogists, maiden names were seldom
recorded, but where they exist on the original documents they are included in
Frequently Asked Questions
- What does it mean if my relative is not listed?
The list is a
starting point but it is not conclusive. Inevitably, given gaps in the records,
some Jewish families will not be found. Keep searching and keep an open mind.
Be sure to check other sources and do not limit yourself to materials from Riga.
It is highly likely that a generation or two back you will find family
connections in other areas such as Courland, Vitebsk, Latgale, Lithuania, Poland
The Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex facility should pick up a wide range of spelling
variations, but it can be useful to try further variations yourself to cast the
net a little wider. For example, searching the soundex search on "Vipman" will
pick up "Wippman", but will fail to identify "Whippman" as a related name. In
fact these are all spelling variations of the same family, which can also be
- Where can I get further information about persons appearing on this list?
Neither the Latvia SIG nor the Database Co-ordinator have any
further documentation relating to individuals or their families in this list.
The original list is held in the
Latvian State Historical Archives in Riga and they must be contacted
directly for further information about individuals or families mentioned or
copies of documents. Arlene Beare has created a specialist web resource
explaining exactly how to apply for further information
to the State Archives. The archives provide a highly
professional service. Their expertise in identifying and tracing the Jewish
residents of this area is unrivalled.
Arlene Beare [UK], the founder of the Riga ShtetLinks Resource, commissioned
and compiled this list with advice and encouragement from the archivists in
Riga, which was greatly appreciated. Constance Whippman, the Database Co-
ordinator, has researched the historical background and context of the list and
worked generally on the project. The late Michael Whippman [UK] contributed
computer skills in preparing the lists for publication. Our enduring thanks to
the html skills of Abraham Lenhoff and most especially to our webmaster, Michael
Tobias, and to JewishGen, which provides the complex infrastructure to make the
All-Latvia Database available throughout the world.
Sponsorship and Volunteering
The Riga lists would not have been possible had it not been for a substantial
financial donation as well as all the hard work that went into compiling the
list. For further information about donations, please contact Arlene Beare or
Mike Getz, Treasurer. If you would like to join the database volunteer
effort please contact Constance Whippman,
the Database Co-ordinator. You will be warmly welcomed.
Copyright ©2002, Arlene Beare, Latvia SIG