An affiliate of
Latvia Internal Passport Database 1919-1940
by Arlene Beare and Paul Cheifitz
Between 1919 and 1940 all residents of Latvia over the age of 16 were issued with Internal Passports, as a legal form of identity, in order to travel within the borders of the country. Internal Passports were issued in the place of residence. Initially the applicant filled out a detailed application form and handed it in to the local commissioner involved in issuing these documents. These application forms do not seem to have survived. At least two photographs were included with the application.
The Internal Passport, with photograph, was then issued to the applicant. Later, these forms were tabulated in Internal Passport Issuance Books, where varying amounts of information was included, and the second photograph was affixed. The Internal Passport Issuance Books were maintained by the local authorities and often, but not always, updated when the subject changed their status in some way. Not only do these documents contain vital information relating to their subjects, but in many cases, these are the only surviving photographs of these people, many of whom were victims of the Holocaust.
Dore Solovei, aged 12, applied for an Internal Passport in Rezekne on 28 May 1924. Thus far she is the youngest applicant whom we have noted.
Passports for travel abroad were not used to any great extent before 1920. Many left Latvia without passports or bought documents at the quayside before leaving. Although this collection only refers to Internal Passports, these documents, do, very occasionally, contain visas from foreign countries together with entry and exit stamps from these countries.
Family Search in cooperation with the Latvian State Historical Archive have filmed the surviving Internal Passport Issuance Books as well as a collection of Internal Passports handed in to the Riga Police. Arlene Beare has conducted a pilot study has into the databasing of Jewish Passport holders in both of these collections focussing on the town of Jekabpils.
Although there are 700’000 surviving records it must be noted that this is only a fraction of the original number issued between the years 1919-1940.
Internal Passport Issuance Books
Internal Passport Issuance Books survive in varying numbers for the following towns/cities:
We are very grateful to Mark Maymind and Shoshana Grinbaum who have edited our database.
Each town/city maintained its own set of Internal Passport Issuance Books. Data entered varies from book to book and place to place. Entries are chronological but some books have date overlaps. Each book usually contains the handwriting of three or four different authors and the legibility varies greatly. Generally, the author appears comfortable with Latvian however some struggle often substituting Russian letters in places. Spellings vary greatly as the Latvian language went through changes in codification. In some areas Latgalian has crept in. Within a family, often listed in sequence there can be two or three different spellings of the same surname. Each entry in our database is linked to the original document on Family Search
Riga 31 March 1922. Sara Gordin. It is noted that she married Mr. Haikin in 1923.
We have extracted information under the following headings:
Riga 25 March 1922. Neuch Ginderov. Died 17 May 1922.
Individual entries often contain additional notifications entered when the status of the applicant changed. These include marriages, deaths, cancellation of Latvian citizenship, and cancellation of Internal Passports. Often when a second passport was applied for this is noted in the original entry and a second photograph is affixed to the page. In other cases multiple applications are given their own entry.
Ludza 7 October 1921. Juda-Leiba Widan applied for a second Internal Passport on 21 November 1924. It is noted that in 1938 he was “deprived of Latvian Citizenship” as he had left the country illegally.
Internal Passports handed in to the Riga Police
This unique collection of files contains original Internal Passports and related documents collected by the Riga Police during the interwar years. There are approximately 40’000 files extant referring to Jews. Each file usually contains an expired Internal Passport which was carried by the passport holder wherever they went. Each change of address is noted as well as change of civil status, i.e. marriage, birth of children, death. Military service and voting in local and general elections are also recorded. Again, valuable photographs of passports holders are preserved. Due to the nature of these documents and the fact that they were used on a regular basis there is a variance in their quality.
Arlene Beare has extracted 1478 of these files relating to Jewish Internal Passport holders who were born, registered, or lived in Jekabpils for some period, but later made Riga their home. Her database, edited by Mark Maymind, is the first extract of Jewish records from this collection. Arlene and Mark are now working on passport holders from Daugavpils (Dvinsk).
One Page Passport:
(Faivis Mowsa Widan – issued Ludza 15 Nov 1920)
One Page Passport with French Translation
(Roche Preil, daughter of Solem Lindau – issued Riga 4 January 1922)
Internal Passport Book
Each time a person moved to a new house or stayed in another location, even on vacation, for just one night, this was noted with a stamp in the Internal Passport. Using these addresses, one might choose to visit our relative’s home in person or with Google Streetview. We can also consult the surviving Riga Household Registers which are in the process of being filmed and placed online and see with whom our relatives were staying. The Government used these records to keep a check on the population and to see where each person was at any given time.
(Registration of new address – Fridrika iela no 3/5, Jurmala on 17 Jun 1929)
Each vital civil event is recorded. These references include the stamp of the Rabbinate involved together with the date and place on which the event occurred. Often these dates are hard to trace using other records and this might be the only reference to such an event we locate. The names of new spouses can lead us to further documentation. If available, their Internal Passports should also be checked.
(Riga Prefecture stamp: Hana Mendelson married Mendel Nodelman at Riga on 15 March 1930)
(Notation from Riga Rabbinate: Rahele Panes, died at Riga on 1 January 1940.)
Children under the age of 16 are most often listed in their mother’s passports but in some cases in their father’s too. Here we see…
(Four children of Leib Makwitz: daughters, Haja, Sora-Riva and Mindel, and son Jankel)
Database Fields for Passports handed in to the Riga Police:
Jekabpils - Complete - 1486 Passports - Arlene Beare
The Passport Number refers to the Single sheet passport number. New Passport number refers to the number in the Passport Book that contained many pages. There may be up to 90 images but usually the number of images is 22 to 40 Images.
Place of Permanent Residence may be the place the person was born in and where they remain registered. This reference to “Registration” refers back to the system used by Czarist authorities to track families for purposes of taxation and military conscription. The family might have been registered in a town in the late 1700s and never changed their place of registration although they left that town many years before. As the passports were handed in to the Riga Police it appears that the majority of people were living in Riga at the time they handed them in. Place names have been recorded as they appear in the passport. This may mean that you need to search on Google if you do not recognise the name of the place. They are often names of small Districts and by looking them up you will find the name of the large Town or District they belong to e.g. Jelgava or Daugavpils.
Children’s names are occasionally crossed out because they are over the age of 16 and then applied for their own passport. They no longer needed to be in the passport of the parent.
Where there are blanks in the database there is no information. Where there is a “?” it is because the writing is illegible.
Some photographs are in poor condition. There is a photograph on the single sheet passport and also one in the new passport book. This may be the same photo or the person may be older in the new book. You might also refer back to the Passport Issuance Book to see whether there is a better quality copy of the photo. Some of these records were poorly photographed and the Archive will be able to provide you with a clear scan of the original if this is the case.
The notes contain extra information taken from pages in the passport book. Researchers are urged to look at all the images as there are documents in the new passport book that contain information that is not in the notes column and may be important to the family member researching. They need translating as they are either in Latvian or Russian. There are some documents in French that are copies of other documents in the passport. They often describe the physical characteristics of the person such as hair and eye colour.
Searching the Database
This database is searchable by clicking here.
© Latvia Research Division,2021