1. Start on this side of the Atlantic.
2. Brush up on Baltic history.
After 1918, Finland was considered a Baltic state, but today Finland is more often grouped with the Nordic countries. (See the September 2010 Family Tree Magazine for more on Finnish research <shopfamilytree.com/
3. Investigate immigration patterns.
Lithuanians were by far the largest of the three Baltic immigrant groups. A number of Lithuanians immigrated to the New World before the American Revolution, but the first significant wave of Lithuanian immigration began in the late 1860s. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, an estimated 300,000 Lithuanians journeyed to America. Then the immigration tide slowed considerably because of World War I and US-imposed quotas.
4. Find Baltic buddies.
5. Note the names.
Common Estonian surnames include Tamm, Pärn, Sokk and Kask. Estonian men tend to have first names ending with the letter o (as in Arno, Eino, Ivo and Ülo). Other common given names include Jaak, Jaan, Peeter and Rein. Common female names include Aime, Ester, Krista, Leida and Mari. Learn more by visiting Pronunciation and Meaning of Estonian Names.
6. Grasp the geography.
7. Find foreign records.
- Metrical books: These church registers of births, marriages and deaths were first recorded in the 1700s.
- Census records: The 1897 census was the only universal census in czarist Russia. Estonian censuses exist for 1860 to 1917. Estonian and Latvian personal registers for 1926 to 1940 also exist.
- Military records: As of 1874, all 21-year-old males were eligible for military service. Look for conscription lists of those entering or drafted into the military.
- Revision lists: Called Seelenlisten and kept from 1795 to 1858 to support a national Russian poll tax, these lists are comparable to a census, listing each individual’s name, age and relationship to the head of household.
Other records such as resident books (compiled in Estonia and Latvia), nobility and genealogy collections and passport applications (available for Latvia only) may provide additional personal or genealogical information.
8. Go online.
From the November 2010 issue of Family Tree Magazine.