The Jewish Families of Dvinsk
[Latvian: Daugavpils; German: Dunaberg]
Commissioned and Donated by
Arlene Beare and Mike Getz on behalf of the Latvia SIG
Introduction by Constance Whippman
This database is an amalgam of information from three separate sources held
in the collections of the State Historical Archives in Riga, Fond 4936.
The earliest entries date from 1876, but the lists were worked on and updated
throughout the period up to 1917, the eve of the First Latvian Republic.
The lists were originally compiled for the purpose of establishing liability
for tax and/or military service. In addition information has been added
from lists of Jewish Merchants and Petit Bourgeois (small shopkeepers and
business owners) who were registered as part of the Dvinsk/Daugavpils
Jewish community during this period.
The database consists of some 8,300 entries and refers to some 14,000
named individuals when father's names (patronymics), maiden names or other
family connections are included. The data has been professionally
extracted in Riga from the original lists in Russian (handwritten Cyrillic).
These lists give a good coverage of Jewish families of the period.
They are not fully comprehensive but they are an excellent starting point
for any one searching family connections in Dvinsk or the Dvinsk area.
How do I use the Database? The Entry Fields Explained
The database contains a number of "fields" which set out the data contained
in the original list.
This refers to the family surname.
Because the list is transliterated from Russian, it is useful to use
the "Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex" search option to ensure that all
family names with a similar sound are identified and displayed.
For example, Russian makes no distinction between the "G" and the
"H" sounds. Thus the surname 'Hurwich' may be spelled 'Gurwich'
and each form is accurate depending on the transliteration system
is employed. Where a surname for the same family is found in
two forms, then these are included in the database separated by a
forward slash, e.g. 'DIMANSTEIN / DIMANDSTEIN'.
In the case of a married woman the maiden name is
sometimes recorded. If so, it is included in a separate column.
The search system picks up maiden name entries as well. Maiden names
are important in establishing and researching the female line of descent,
something which is often more difficult than following male lines of descent.
This refers to the name by which a person was known.
Hebrew and Yiddish name forms are common. Occasionally,
names such as "Leopold" or "Max" which are neither Yiddish or Hebrew
are encountered, although these are still the exception.
This column can be particularly useful as it gives the patronymic or
father's given name according to the Russian style of name construction.
A Patronymic takes research back a further generation.
Where there are multiple entries for a large family such as Lurie or
Jakobson look at the patronymic. With luck it should be possible
to create provisional family trees since brothers in one generation
may each have children so that the various family lines can be distinguished.
Age (in year):
This is the age of the person in the year stipulated.
For example "12-1876" indicates that the individual was 12 years old in
the year 1876 when the list was initially compiled. There are many
entries indicating age after 1876 such as 42-1890 which means that that
civil servant updating the list has noted the person's age at the date
of amendment. Not all entries have age information, but where it
is available it is obviously of considerable interest.
In some cases a person is marked off the list with the year of death
indicated. Occasionally just the word "died" with no date has been
entered. Obviously all of the people in this list have now died,
but we have retained the original format.
This includes a variety of information on family connections,
second marriages, notations that an individual had become a widow, etc.
Read and enjoy.
This is the place where the person resided when the list was drawn up.
The great majority of entries are listed as Dvinsk/Daugavpils, as most
people both lived and were registered where they actually resided.
However in a number of cases the person is listed as resident in say,
Courland, though registered for tax and recruitment purposes in Dvinsk.
Discrepancies in this field can provide important information about new
geographical areas to pursue when looking for family roots.
It also indicates that despite the fact that Dvinsk was within the
Pale of Settlement (unlike Courland), there was more movement of peoples
both in and out of this important commercial settlement than has sometimes
Place of Origin:
This is a particularly interesting field which makes it clear the diversity
of origin of the community of Dvinsk.
There are many entries from shtetlach in Kovno gubernia (now in Lithuania),
Vitebsk gubernia (now in Latvia, Russia and Belarus), and other parts of
Russia. The variety of backgrounds and cultural traditions was
a feature of Jewish Dvinsk.
Type of list:
This indicates whether the information was extracted from the main
"Family List" - compiled for a number of reasons including tax and
liability to military service - or from the special "Merchants List".
Each of the lists comes from Fond 4936 held in the collection of the
State Historical Archives in Riga. The original documents
are written in Russian Cyrillic.
The Jewish Community of Dvinsk (Daugavpils):
Dvinsk (now Daugavpils, Latvia) was one of the leading Jewish cities of
the Russian Empire and a centre of high Jewish culture and debate.
At the time of the lists forming this database, it was part of the Russian
Gubernia (province) of Vitebsk, and its commercial importance was well
established. Jewish gravestones found in the area date from the
17th century are evidence of an early Jewish presence.
In 1910 the city numbered 111,000 of which 50,000 were Jews.
Unlike its immediate neighbour Courland, Dvinsk was within the
Pale of Settlement. Its ethos derived more from Russian, Lithuanian
and Polish influences than from Courland which was broadly German in
character and cultural background as a result of nearly 700 years of
de facto domination by the Baltic Germans.
According to the Jewish Encyclopedia (Funk & Wagnalls),
commerce and manufacturing in Dvinsk were largely in Jewish hands.
The 1893 census showed 330 industrial establishments owned by Jews and
99 owned by non-Jews. The census records only 741 Jewish artisans,
but this figure has been challenged by Herman Rosenthal in his article on
Dvinsk published in the Jewish Encyclopaedia (1916), citing
"private investigations" as the source for the claim that in 1898 there
were 4,862 Jewish artisans including 2,193 Masters, 1,700 journeymen
and 909 apprentices.
The most important trades followed by the Jews were tailoring (1,210)
and shoemaking. Some 32 factories are identified including button
manufacture, a sawmill, match factory, tannery etc, all owned by Jews
with a total of 2,305 employees recorded. A further 684 day-labourers
are noted. Dvinsk was one of the chief artillery depots of the
Empire and many troops were garrisoned there.
The poverty of the Pale was a feature of Dvinsk Jewish life and it is
estimated that 30 percent of Jewish families applied for aid from the
community in 1898. There were numerous Jewish aid societies recorded,
including a Mutual Aid, founded in 1900 and with more than 1,200 members
by 1901. A loan fund was established in memory of the Merchant
M. Vitenberg. Loans, secured by personal property, were advanced
without interest. Other charitable institutions included a society
for aiding the poor founded by the Jewish governor, with an income in 1899
of some 8,917 Roubles, soup kitchens, a charitable dining hall, a bikkur
holim, a dispensary and a lying-in hospital all organised and run by
the community. These testify to the traditions of self help and
community organisation that reflect the high value placed on charity to
those less fortunate.
Dvinsk was an important centre of Jewish thought and culture and nurtured
a number of Rabbis known and respected throughout the Jewish world.
Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Kuk [Kook] of Palestine was a pupil of Reb Reuvele
Simcha HaKohen, Rabbi of Mitnagdim for 39 years, while
Rabbi Yosef Rosen served as the Chassidic rabbi for 50 years.
Both were formidable Talmudic scholars and vivid personalities.
A wonderful account of Dvinsk Jewish life and culture seen through the
eyes of the young Sarah Feige Foner who lived in Dvinsk for part of her
childhood can be read on line at
Her account "Memories of the Days of My Childhood or a Look at the City of Dvinsk",
published in Hebrew in Warsaw 1903, gives a lively account of the impact of the
Haskalah (Jewish enlightenment movement). Her account of the struggles
between the followers of the Hassidim and the Mitnagdim and the extremes this
sometimes took is a treasure. It also contains many references to specific
individuals and rabbis in the Jewish community during the period including
many names found in this database.
Finally, the important American painter Rothko was born in Dvinsk from a
Dvinsk family and a family portrait of the Rothkowitz family from which he
was descended can be seen at
Further reading on this important and most Jewish of Russian cities
can be found in the Latvia SIG
Newsletter – See: Vol. 1, No’s 1,2 and Vol. 5, No’s. 1,2,3 -
which contains the "Jews in Dunaburg" extracted from the
Jews of Dunaburg, published in 1993 by Z. I. Yakub.
See also Dvinsk, the Rise and Fall of a Town, by Yudel Flior
(translated from the Yiddish by Bernard Sachs), Johannesburg, Dial Press
Unfortunately this book is out of print but it is an excellent evocation
of the flavour of Jewish life in Dvinsk at the turn of the century and above
all records the enduring affection of the writer for his home town following
his emigration to South Africa in 1928.
The project has been nearly a year in the making and represents
a major database effort by the Latvia SIG for the
benefit of Jewish families all over the world. Particular thanks is
due to Arlene Beare, the President of the Latvia SIG, who recognised the
importance of this data for family historians and who together with Mike Getz,
former President of the Latvia SIG commissioned the work.
Their donation will be valued by many generations to come who now have
access to this material. Michael Whippman has provided computer
support and further data entry. We are indebted to our web masters
Michael Tobias and Warren Blatt.
If you have any further inquiries about the work of the Latvia SIG please
feel free to contact either Arlene Beare,
the President or Mike Getz, the Project
Director for the Latvia SIG. If you would like to subscribe to the
Latvia SIG Newsletter and become a member the details are available on the
Latvia SIG website.
All Latvia Database Co-Ordinator
Copyright ©2001, Latvia SIG