Lithuania Internal Passports Database, 1919-1940
Introduction - Historical Background
Prior to World War I in the Russian Empire, individuals were required to have an internal passport in order to travel within the boundaries of Russia. These internal passports were issued by local municipalities, town dwellers administration, or the police. They were of different categories and colors - some were valid to travel only within the guberniya, others "within the Pale of Settlement and to the towns of the Russian Empire where Jews were permitted to reside", etc. The terms of these passports also varied - half a year, a year, two years. Not only Jews, but all the categories of population, including even nobility, needed internal passports for traveling, and these also might have been different.
In 1915, during World War I, the majority of Jews living in Lithuania were forced by the Russians to go deep into the interior of Russia. After the war ended, Lithuania became an independent country, and many Jews returned. Almost 100% of them came from Russia through the Obeliai frontier station, where they obtained a temporary document to cross the border. During a period of one month they had to apply to the authorities for a permanent internal passport. The date of the Internal Passport Application, after 1920, enables one to almost know when they came back to Lithuania.
For the period 1919-1940, every Lithuanian citizen age 17 or older was required to have an internal passport. These passports could only be used to travel within Lithuania. However, these internal passports were not issued for the purpose of traveling - these were personal identification documents every Lithuanian citizen was issued at the age of 17, even if one had no intention of traveling. In the beginning of the 1920s, all the adult citizens, regardless of age, had to obtain internal passports. They had to prove the right to Lithuanian citizenship by producing evidence that they were residents of the territory of Lithuania before World War I.
Why an Internal Passport was Important
An internal passport was very important to those who came to the territory of Lithuania after the war, and wanted to stay there. Even if it was their birth place, Lithuania was a new independent country, separate from the old Russian empire, and an internal passport was required. It also gave them Lithuanian citizenship and, without it, after about 1922 they could be sent back to Russia (i.e. the USSR).
While waiting to receive their internal passport, individuals were required to have a temporary document in order for them to remain in Lithuania. These documents were valid for only a certain period of time. If the internal passport was still not received, the temporary document could be renewed for an additional period of time. However, if the individual kept the temporary document too long because of their own problems, or a delay by the authorities, they received the status of foreigner. This was indeed strange for someone who may have been born in Lithuania.
As a foreigner, they were required to pay 5 Litas per month for each family member in order to remain in the country. This was a large sum during that period of time. Also, there were additional costs for the temporary documents plus fines. This monetary burden “encouraged” individuals to obtain their permanent internal passport and be recognized as a citizen of Lithuania.
Prior to World War I, the Vilnius region was considered part of ethnic Lithuania. After the war, the Polish General refused to give up Vilna and it became part of Poland. Vilna did not become the capital of Lithuania until after the Soviets took over in 1940. (The inter-war capital of Lithuania was Kaunas). This presented a particular problem for those who were born in the Vilnius region and, at the time of the war, went not to Russia but to the territory of ethnic Lithuania. They wanted to live in Lithuania, they needed documents, but of which country? If they had not left for Poland, they finally obtained an internal passport and Lithuanian citizenship only about 1925-1926.
Obtaining an Internal Passport
The system for obtaining a permanent internal passport was very simple in the first years. All a person needed was some document showing where they lived before, during, or after World War I. It could be the passport given them by the Czarist authorities as the resident of Kovno Guberniya before World War I; the document given in some place in Russia where they spent the war years, or the Ober Ost passport or Personal Weiss given by German authorities in 1917-1918. Any document that could give information about them and the fact that they were born, or their parents lived, in the territory which became independant Lithuania after the war.
The second group of documents, which could make the procedure easier, was the birth records from the Jewish communities from where they came from. This they had to find during a very short period. Unfortunately, in most cases, these books of Jewish records were destroyed during the war.
The third group was the certificates of marriage, child’s birth, active service, and so on. If people did not have any of these documents, the Internal Passport still could be given on the basis of the Obeliai document (frontier border-crossing station) and the witness of some persons, i.e., neighbors, relatives, friends, etc.
Later on, the procedure became more complicated, because of the availability of more documents on file with the police and so on. However, if a child was 16-17 years old, whose parents had a Lithuanian passport and citizenship, wrote an application to the authorities and the data from the security department was positive, they could get a passport very easily — usually within a month, sometimes even sooner. The same situation existed with changing the internal passport. They just had to mark the reason; marriage and changed surname, lost, or some other valid reason. Later on, the application forms included questions about the Lithuanian language, knowledge, and property.
Later, internal passports were issued to young people coming of age; women, when they changed their surnames after marriage; when old passports were lost, etc. But this is unrelated to traveling. To go abroad, one had to obtain an external passport — issued not by local municipalities or local police, as the internal passports were — but by the officials of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
Contents of the Files
Many of the Internal Passport files contain photographs as well as additional records — applications, affidavits, copies of birth and marriage certificates, etc. Sometimes, when vital records were missing, extracts from revision and family lists were produced to prove one's identity and right to Lithuanian citizenship. Even extracts from otherwise currently missing 1858 revision lists have been found in some files.
The Internal Passport itself consisted of four pages with the basic information; name, surname, date of birth, place of birth, address, nationality, religion, occupation, some special traits (if the person had any), family status, inscription about children, the passport numbers, issue date, photo, the registration stamp about where they lived, and some other short notes.
Here are some illustrations of the types of documents which are found in this collection. Click on the images for a larger view:
The quantity and quality of the documents are different from district to district. Some of them like Panevėžys, Šiauliai, Alytus, etc., have been preserved and include personal files in addition to the issued internal passports. Unfortunately, in many cases, the only files left are just the registration journals, i.e. the internal passport lists, and the personal files no longer exist. None of the registration journals include photos.
In addition to the city of Panevėžys, the files also contain internal passport records from the following towns in the Panevėžys district:
There are no separate files for Skapiškis and Kupiškis. However, many of those who were living or were born in Skapiškis and Kupiškis are listed in the other files.
Files for the city of Kaunas – there are are 27,656 passport cards, not actual passports. The passport cards include photographs and, in many cases, additional records can be found in a separate file.
Fond 402, Inventory 1 — This is a list of internal passports from separate villages of Kaunas Uyezd of different years. The town where they lived is not identified. They could be from Babtai, Chekishke, Garliava, Aukshtoji Panemune, Seredžius, Vandžiogala, Raudondvaris, Zapyshkis, Vilkija, Veliuona, Turzhenai, or Rumshishkes. Kaunas and Jonava cities are excluded, as they were in separate files.
All of the internal passport applications, or cards, for the cities of Kaunas and Jonava and for the Kaunas Uyezd, are located in the Kaunas Regional Archive, and have been added to the searchable database.
Most of the files are arranged by town. However, Šiauliai (Shavl) is different. All of the files for the city of Šiauliai, and the various villages and towns in Šiauliai Uyezd, are filed together. The first few files could be for Šiauliai, the next two for Žagarė, the next three for Šiauliai, the next one or two for Joniškis, Radviliškis, Žeimelis, Lygumai, Linkuva, Pakruojis, or for any one of dozens of shtetlach in the Šiauliai Uyezd. We will not know the complete picture until all of the files have been translated.
The majority of the internal passport files include the place of birth. In many cases, the internal passport applicant was not born in the town where they applied but was born elsewhere. As an example, some of the applicants in the Šiauliai Uyezd were born in Kelmė, Vilnius, Kupiškis, Dotnuva, Raseiniai, etc. This information can be extremely helpful in learning not only where they applied for their internal passport, but also where they were born.
It is expected that all 1919-1940 Internal Passports will have been translated by December 2012, with the exception of records for the city of Vilnius. Those records are estimated to number between 40,000 and 45,000 Jewish files. Time and contributed funds will be needed in order to get all of them translated.
Location of the Files
Lietuvos Centrinis Valstybės Archyvas (Lithuanian Central State Archives)
The Lithuanian Central State Archives (LCVA) has 100,000 Internal Passport Files, 1919-1940, for the city of Panevėžys. Of these, approximately 16,000 files are Jewish applications. Even though the applicants lived in Panevėžys, and their address is given, their place of birth is also included. A large percentage of the applicants were born in many different places in Lithuania as well as in other parts of Russia. One individual listed was even born in the Jewish Hospital in Brooklyn, New York! As you will see, the breadth of the towns and areas included make these Internal Passport files extremely valuable from the viewpoint of genealogical research.
For a copy of actual records contained in a file, contact the Lithuanian Central State Archives at:
Lietuvos Centrinis Valstybės Archyvas (Lithuanian Central State Archives)
In order to find a record, as much basic information on the individual as possible, must be provided:
Every request for an archival search from any person must be sent to the Lithuanian Central State Archive in written form (not by e-mail) and with a personal signature.
The services have to be paid according to the price list. The Acrhives will inform you about the payment after receiving your order. An official archival answer will be sent to the given address within 1-2 months or in a shorter period for a special fee. After receiving a copy of your money transfer, archival research will be started. Bank cheques are not accepted.
Kauno Apskrities Archyvas (Kaunas Regional Archive)
The Kaunas Regional Archive (KRA) has similar records only for the towns of Kaunas (Kovno) and Jonava. For Kaunas, there are 27,656 of these passport cards with photographs, and in many cases, additional records. The Jonava Jewish internal passport applications number 840. For the Kaunas Uyezd, the number of passport cards is 3,846. All of the Jewish passport cards located in the KRA have been added to the database and are available.
The cost of obtaining copies of internal passport applications, and accompanying documents, from the Kaunas Regional Archive (KRA), is:
Kauno Apskrities Archyvas (Kaunas Regional Archive)
Tel: +370-7-323074 Fax: +370-7-323111. Email: email@example.com
For all the other towns in Lithuania, except Kaunas and Jonava, these records are only in the Central State Archives (in fonds of local municipalities).
Pre-1915 Passport records
In the Kaunas Archive, records for internal passports prior to 1915 (i.e. for the Russian Empire period) are very fragmentary — there are just separate files for separate years. They are listed in the Kaunas Archives' Catalog as "pib" - passport issuance book, "pir" - passport issuance records, and "prb" - passport registration book. They are very, very few. As far as is known, there are passport issuance records for all communities of the Kovno uyezd for 1874-1875 (many already in the LitvakSIG's "All Lithuania Database"). Also some separate towns for the very end of the 19th to the beginning of the 20th century, such as a 1914 Ukmergė passport issuance book, 1912-1915 Salakas, and a passport issuance book for Pumpėnai for 1900.
The Kaunas Archive has pre-1915 external passports, but they are few and far between. They only have a few separate files for separate months (such as "records on the issuance of foreign passports in May-June, 1894", etc.). According to Vitalija Gircyte, Chief Archivist of the Kaunas Archive, she has never found any real important information in them. There are some separate files for individuals who applied for foreign passports (in the fonds of Kovno Gubernia administration and Kovno Governor's Office). They can only be found by reading volume after volume of inventories. All these records of external passports pertain mostly to the "upper class" — rich merchants, honorary citizens, doctors and others, going abroad to study, to health resorts, on business, etc.
Similar records probably exist in the Lithuanian State Historical Archive (LVIA) in Vilnius, but not many. I am afraid that the largest part of them is missing. Every effort will be made to find them as well as in other archives in Eastern Europe.
About this Database
As of 3-23-2011, a total of 93,430 Internal Passport records have been translated. About 70% of these records are included in this searchable database. There is an 18 month delay between the time the records are translated and when they are added to the database. To receive the records as soon as they are translated, a $100 contribution to LitvakSIG is required. It is estimated that as many as 150,000 Jewish internal passport files are stored in the Lithuanian archives. Additional funds are needed to translate the remaining documents.
Every effort has been made to include in the database all information of importance. A blank cell is left in the database when information is either missing or illegible. Here are the fields included in this database:
Notes on Lithuanian Surnames
The Lithuanian language adds specific endings to a surname, which indicate whether an individual is single, married, male, female, etc. This information can be very helpful if you receive copies of documents from the Lithuanian Archives.
Lithuanian endings are added to the root of the surname. Several examples are below:
Project Description and Needs
This project can be very extensive and of great importance due to the wealth of data included. Every Jew who lived in Lithuania between 1919 and 1940 had to have an internal passport. The birth places of those listed in the database include most towns and villages located in Lithuania, in other parts of the former Russian Empire, as well as other places of interest.
At the present time, we have five individuals in Vilnius, Lithuania translating and keying the data into an Excel spreadsheet. Adding additional translators would speed up the process, but locating qualified individuals is very difficult. In addition to being capable of translating the data into English, the individual must also be familiar with Microsoft Excel software. The use of archive computers is not allowed, so a laptop computer is also required.
To contribute to this project, please go to: http://www.litvaksig.org/contribute.
Last Update: 23 Apr 2011 WSB