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The Genealogical Research Division of

Riga Passport and Travel Documents Registration List 1900

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

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 unmarried.
  • 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 made.
  • Maiden Name: Unfortunately for genealogists, maiden names were seldom recorded, but where they exist on the original documents they are included in the database.

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 or Belarus.

    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".

  • 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
January 2002

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