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Preserving the original documents is very important for the archives. For this reason it is permitted to lend out a record only in case it has not yet been digitised. In that way it is possible to guarantee that the records will be preserved as long as possible.

As compiling a family tree presumes an extensive research, it is not feasible for the National Archives to offer that kind of service. Family history research and also other kind of research services are provided by the Estonian Biographical Center. All of us have our own name. It is like a business card which accompanies us through our lives.

Names have functioned as an inevitable means of identification following the development of the written word and records management. However, it has not always been the case. What kind of information can be found on names in archival sources? Pre-family name times. Names can be found in almost all archival documents. Before the II quarter of the 19th century, persons of high status the nobility, the clergy and a few peasants who had been freed in exchange for a variety of services had family names.


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Most Estonians had only a first and an additional name. Some names were really widespread and used all over the country, while others were used only in some areas e. Ingel on the islands and in western Estonia, Hip in Hargla and Karula parishes. Evidently, additional names came into use prior to the invasion of foreign conquerors, which were quite persistent in the 16th century.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, the name system for Estonian peasants was in general as follows: a name consisted of an additional name and a christening name written after it. Other family members received their names based on the name of the head of the household.

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The situation is complicated further by the fact that some families had two additional names at the same time, for example, a man who lived on Makkari farm and was an overseer bore the names Overseer Tomas and Makkari Tomas. The names of people who could roam more freely, such as farmhands and cottagers, could be rather changeable. The structure of the additional names of peasants and townspeople was somewhat different.

According to the town tradition, as a rule, the christening name was written before the additional name [Jaan Kott Bag ]. Only a small minority of Estonians had family names also a surname at the beginning of the 19th century. Giving family names on a large scale took place in the period of the abolition of serfdom. At the same time, giving surnames to subjects of the state was topical in the whole German cultural space.

Giving names started in Livonia. However, in northern Estonia , the Peasantry Law did not deal with the giving of names.

In Livonia, names were given by parish by parish, but in Estonia,these were given withing the boundaries of a manor house. The primary source of giving names in Livonia is the interim reviews of the year documents are preserved in the collection of the review papers of the Governorate of Livonia, EAA. All these are available in digitized format in Saaga.

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A few records of given names can be found in archival document collections e. Unfortunately, all the documents recording the giving of names have not been preserved. Whether the documents of a manor still exist can be checked in the register of soul revision. Less well-known sources are lists of peasants who became free. These were drawn up in the first half of and can be found in the collections of parish courts. But it is true that records of names were kept only in Livonia.

Professor Aadu Must and a working group have compiled the database Onomastics I or of the original whereabouts of Estonian surnames which is mainly based on the interim reviews of and the data included in the lists of surnames of The search result will display the rural municipality and parish where the name was given and a map of its spreading.

The records on giving surnames have been drawn up by towns, municipalities and villages, and these list all year-old or older persons who were given names the new name was automatically adopted by the spouse and children under the age of The card catalogue cards contain surnames in the alphabetical order and the town or municipality where the surname was given and also the number of the surname record are written on the corresponding card.

It is vital to emphasize that the spelling of names may have varied to a great extent in earlier sources until orthography was standardized in the time of the Republic of Estonia. Becoming Orthodox or, vice versa, once again Lutheran contributed to confusion in the re transcribing of names: Leena became Jelisaveta, the surname Ketle was modified over several decades and became Kiidli.

Therefore, when conducting a search in the Archival Information System AIS, names register or other kinds of search help, one should definitely try out various forms of the name as the keyword. Also, searching the name when written in the Cyrillic alphabet might provide more search results.

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A rather helpful tool in our searches is the names register which contains mostly surnames indexed based on the church records of Lutheran congregations. Names from the church records of Orthodox congregations have already been added, too. In the future, the database should evolve into a general names register which would facilitate finding information on families of interest in church records regardless of a particular confession as well as other sources most widely used by genealogists.

But when the process was begun, the name changes were formalized in parish courts and the relevant legal documents were sent to the government of the governorate. These collections are worth browsing in order to find information on name changes. However, the sources indicate that sometimes a name was changed in municipality records and it remained in use afterwards.

During the times of the Republic of Estonia the issue of Estonianization of names arose as many of these given in the second quarter of the 19th century were foreign. In the first decade the registration of name changes was quite scarce. The issue of Estonian names became topical in , the year of the th anniversary of giving Estonians family names. Nation was called to Estonianize their names via the press. The focal goal of the campaign became the replacement of German names with Estonian ones. In addition many Russian Smirnov , derogative Loll, Eng.

Stupid , humorous Koll, Eng.

Bogey and animal Oinas, Eng. Ram family names were Estonianized, and also first names Erich became Juhan. Nearly , people changed their names in the mids.


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The official files which contain the information on the changing of names in the period of — can be found in the archives of the Population Facts Department of Estonian Ministry of the Interior Pikk 61, Tallinn; info siseministeerium. The Appendices to the State Gazette can be browsed in larger libraries and the reading rooms of the National Archives. Information on Estonianization can be found in the database Onomastika II.

Tips to Help You On Your Way

A search can be made using the original name or the one given at the time of the name change. The result will display both names and data on time and location. Catholocism prevailed in Estonia as the only confession until the Reformation. Catholicism was banned under the Swedish rule. The renaissance of the Catholic Church began in Estonia in the 19th century.

Tips for searching the census

At the end of the century, congregations were formed in Tallinn and Tartu, the members were mainly Polish and Lithuanian. The church for the congregation in Valga was completed in Anthony congregation in Narva, St. George and St. Clearly, a variety of materials which might be of interest for researchers of family history exist in the congregations.

Although the number of materials of Catholic congregations which are kept on shelves in archives can not be compared to the ones of Lutheran and Orthodox congregations, it is still possible to research the biographic data on persons of Catholic faith with the help of several other sources. Files on people who have converted to another religion can be found in the collections of consistories e.

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When Tartu University was reopened in , many Catholics of Polish and Lithuanian origin came to study and teach here. On the orders of the Emperor, Tartu University employed a priest to conduct the services and his duties also included holding lectures on Catholic religion. This category includes indexes that can help you request copies from vital records keepers, and in some cases the images of actual records.

To narrow your search, estimate birth dates using information found in the Census and in other records. Narrow your search for marriage records by looking at the age and birthplace of the first child. This information can also be found in Census Records. If, however, a transcription or other error hides your record from view, it can leave you scratching your head trying to figure out what to do next.