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Jewish Inhabitants of Riga, 1885/1886
"The Riga Police Lists"

Commissioned and Donated by Arlene Beare and the Latvia SIG

This database consists of entries for 2,646 Jews registered as living in Riga in 1885/1886.

These lists were compiled by the Police in Riga in 1885/1886.  The original list, organised by suburb and district of residence, was a comprehensive inventory of Jewish families.  The Jews were considered a separate Hebrew nationality ["Ebraier"] and like other foreign nationals had to be registered with the police authorities.  Unfortunately the lists only survive in part so that there would have been substantially more adult Jews living and working in Riga than appear in these lists.

The surviving parts of the list now form part of the holdings of the Latvian State Historical Archives in Riga.  These Police Lists cover two Fonds, numbers 7358 and 51.  The lists are hand written in Cyrillic, with some German annotation.  Taking into account the fact that the list includes reference to the father's name as well as the person registered, there are over 4,000 named individuals referred to in this database and in many cases two generations.

The Database Entry Fields

  • Surname -
    In some cases alternate forms or spellings are given separated by a slash ("/").

  • Maiden Name -
    In some cases a married woman's maiden name is given.  Both Surname and Married name can be searched on the soundex system.

  • Given Name -
    This entry field gives the person's given name or names, as set out in the Register.

  • Father -
    1,544 of the 2,646 entries give the registered person's father's name, effectively giving access to two generations.

  • Age -
    This entry field gives the age of the person in 1885/1886, when the list was initially compiled.

  • Place of Origin -
    A wide variety of places are mentioned.  It is not clear whether this refers to the place of birth or the place where the person lived immediately prior to being registered in Riga.

  • Town -
    All entries are marked as "Riga", as this is a list of the Jewish inhabitants of Riga.

  • Comment -
    This column provides a variety of information, in some cases including occupations, information on whether the person was retired, divorced or widowed etc.

  • Fond Number -
    This number helps the archivists at the Latvian State Historical Archives in Riga locate the original information when inquiries are made.

What does it mean if my relative is not listed?

The list is a starting point but it is not definitive. Parts of the list have not survived, so some families who were living in Riga are not traceable through this search.  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, or Lithuania.

It may be that your family was not yet in Riga or that they were living "informally" in Riga but not registered officially. Jews often retained their registration in their town of origin while living in a different place entirely and that is one of the many challenges for genealogists and family historians whose roots are in the Baltic areas.  Be sure that you also search the Riga Tax List Database, and use all possible variants of spelling.

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 spelled "Wepman".

What does this List tell us about the Jewish Community of Riga in 1885?

This list is a rich source for the history of the Jewish community. Of the 2,646 officially registered inhabitants, over 400 or 15% are connected to the military in some way: either soldiers, retired soldiers or widows of soldiers.  Other registrants provided essential services, such as Hinde Loewenberg, aged 30, midwife.  The wide variety of places given as "Place of Origin" give some feel for the cosmopolitan nature of the Jewish community settled in Riga in this period.  For more information about the Jews of Riga, visit the Riga ShtetLinks Page, set up and maintained by Arlene Beare, which features new information on a regular basis.

Where can I get further information about persons appearing on this list?

Neither the Latvia SIG or 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.  For further information contact:

Ms. Irina Veinberga, Head of Department
Latvijas Valsts vēstures arhīvs
(Latvian State Historical Archives)
Slokas iela 16
Rīga LV 1007
Latvia

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 residents of this area is unrivalled.

Acknowledgments

Mike Getz [USA], the past president of the Latvia SIG and Arlene Beare [UK], the founder of the Riga Shtetlink Resource, commissioned and compiled this list with advice and encouragement from the archivists in Riga, which was greatly appreciated.  Our knowledge of the Jews of Riga has been greatly increased by this wonderful donation.  Michael Whippman [UK] contributed computer skills in preparing the lists for publication.  Our enduring thanks as always to Warren Blatt for support and encouragement and most especially to our webmaster, Michael Tobias.

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.

Constance Whippman, Database Co-ordinator
Copyright ©2000, The Latvia SIG.
Last Updated: May 19, 2001   WSB

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