Back to Baltics
8/26/2010
Follow these eight steps to trace your Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian roots.
Each of the Baltic states—Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania—has its own cultural identity. But all three countries, bordered by the brackish Baltic Sea to the west and largely overshadowed by Russia to the east, have in common a tumultuous history, characterized by centuries of foreign occupation and domination interspersed with brief interludes of independence. 

Despite the occupations and other turmoil, many records in the Baltic nations have been well preserved—you just need to look in the right places. Start discovering your Baltic roots by following these eight fundamental steps. 

1. Start on this side of the Atlantic.
You may be tempted to go right for the “good stuff”—the records housed in archives, churches and town offices in the old country. But your chances of success over there depend on how well you do your homework here. Start by talking to your relatives to learn your immigrant ancestor’s correct name and hometown. Be careful not to buy into family lore too much, though. For instance, you may find that an ancestor immigrated through Baltimore or even arrived in Canada—not New York, as your aunt told you.