European Ancestors – Researching in Lithuania

Courtesy of Wikipedia

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Lithuania gained its independence after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1990. Lithuania has a population of around 3 million people. The official language is Lithuanian, but also spoken is Polish and Russian.

Records of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania between 1765 and 1784 were written in Polish before the second partition of Poland, and records written after 1782 in Russian.

The Lithuanian State Historical Archives holds material from the 13th Century up until 1918 when the Declaration for Independence was made.

Here the records of state institutions, religious communities, popular organisations and families are held. Also in this archives material also reflect the history of Russia, Belarus, Poland, Ukraine, Latvia and other countries.

At the moment, the archive reports that it holds in excess  of 1,360 million items that have been preserved. That is a phenomenal amount given how much turmoil the country has historical experienced.

The Archive advises that documents they hold are in 8 major record sets:

  • Documents of the various offices of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania dating back to 15th–18th Centuries
  • Records of offices and organisations of Vilnius, Kaunas and Suvalkai Governorates of Russian Empire, and records of commissions responsible for the liquidation of offices to be evacuated to the Soviet Russia (1792–1918)
  • Records of offices in Lithuania relating to the period of occupation by German Empire (1915–1918)
  • Records of confessional institutions and communities operating in Lithuania between 15th–20th Centuries
  • Records of private persons and families  from 15th Century until 1941
  • Documents collections between 15th and 20th Centuries
  • Collections of microfilms of documents and collections of digital images of documents between 13th and 20th Centuries
  • Civil vital records from 1940–15 August 2007

Also maintained are the vital record books for birth, marriage and death of the different religious communities and churches of today’s Lithuania dating up to 1940 and civil registration records up to 2008 year; documents about the nobility of different families from Vilnius ( Vilno ), Kaunas ( Kovno ) and Augustavas Gubernias.

There is no computer data-base in the archives, meaning that searches are being undertaken by hand.

As you might expect, there are some restrictions on access to more recent records. Article 20, part 5 of Law on Documents and Archives for the Republic has laid out fixed restrictions on access to the documents which contain information on person’s private life, as well as to structured sets of personal data 30 years after the person’s death. In the event of failing to determine the date of death a term of 100 years from his birth is imposed.  If neither the date of birth nor the date of death of a person is determined, the access shall be limited for a term of 70 years from the creation of the documents.

There is also material in the special archives relating to individuals who were identified as being convicted for political purposes. Deportation of individuals to remote areas of the former USSR, German deportation during the Second World War. Filtering of individuals who were identified as permanently living outside of Lithuania. Also are records relating to the mandatory military service under the Soviets from 1944 to 1990. A list of Roman Catholic church records that have been digitised can be found HERE.

About Julie Goucher

Genealogist, Author, Presenter, native Guildfordian, avid note taker and journal writer. Lover of Books, Stationery & History; Surnames, Butcher & Orlando One-Name Studies. Pharos Tutor for all One-Name Studies/surname courses as well as Researching Ancestors from Continental Europe.
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