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FAQs about Available Records for Lithuania

Where do records for Lithuania exist?

Records for Lithuania exist in a number of local and regional archives in present-day Lithuania, in other archives of the former Soviet Union, and in various organizations around the world such as YIVO in New York City. There is a list of Archives and Repositories from which LitvakSIG obtains data on this website, along with links to pages on each repository with contact and other relevant information including a general description of their holdings.
Some archives and repositories have online lists of holdings, but most do not or do not have them in English. LitvakSIG has access to and/or has created some records lists for selected archives, e.g. the Kaunas Regional Archives. Donors to District Research Groups and/or Special Projects have access to some of these holdings (via Excel spreadsheets).  See the donations page for more information: contributions to LitvakSIG.

What kinds of records exist about Lithuanian Jews?

Extant records vary by locality, but you can find an overview of the kind of records that are available on this website on the Types of Records in the ALD page or within the Excel spreadsheets contained on the LitvakSIG website (see donors). In addition, you can drill down in that section of the website for more detailed explanations of why these records were created, by whom they were created, and what kind of data is usually in each type of record. Dig even further and you will find many example images and explanations of the meaning of data found on these records.

What are the oldest available records/How far back can I trace my family?

The earliest revision list (actually Poll Tax List) still extant in the Historical Archive (LVIA) was recorded in 1765. The next revision list (Poll Tax) was recorded in 1784. During both of those periods, the revision (poll tax) lists included most of the towns in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, an area stretching from the Baltic on the north to the Black Sea on the south. No surnames are listed as, at that time, the majority of Jews in Lithuania did not have a surname. Surnames begin to show up on revision lists from 1816 at which point some families were using surnames. If you find an ancestor listed in 1816 and his/her age is say, 70, that would take you back to a birth year of 1746. Due to the lack of surnames, however, it is difficult to trace the records further back than that. Family names began to appear more frequently starting in 1834. Metrical books (vital records) were introduced in the Russian Empire in 1835. But if that ancestor’s father is listed, you can reasonably assume that he was probably born 20 to 30 years earlier than his son.

Why are there substantial gaps in the years for which records exist?

Records were kept for many reasons, most of them related to taxation and conscription and not for posterity and genealogy research. Over the years, many were destroyed -- routinely, by accident and by malicious intent as by the Germans during WWII.
What exists today is a shadow of the former wealth of information. LitvakSIG’s mission is to identify Litvak records, have them translated and to make them available to LitvakSIG contributors and eventually to the public through the LitvakSIG All Lithuania Database.

Where can I find lists of people killed in the Shoah?

Some records of Jews killed in the Shoah may be found in the Lithuanian Central State Archives. Other sources include Yad Vashem and the United States Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC.

Where can I find lists of burials in Lithuanian Jewish cemeteries?

For information about Lithuanian Jewish Cemeteries consult the MACEVA Lithuanian Cemetery Catalog website, the JewishGen Online Worldwide Burial Registry (JOWBR) and the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies Jewish Cemetery Project – Lithuania . We are always interested in learning about links you have found and would like to add them to our growing list. Please submit the links to our webmaster

Where can I find out if Vital Records exist for my town?

The most complete, up-to-date index of vital records in the Lithuanian State Historical Archive in Vilnius (LVIA) is available on the LitvakSIG Members Site. The coordinator of the group where your shtetl was can help you. You can find information on becoming a Member of LitvakSIG on our Join LitvakSIG page. Here are the Benefits of Membership.

Do the Lithuanian archives contain data for Belarus?

Yes. The Lithuanian State Historical Archives in Vilnius holds revision lists for the present day Disna, Lida, Oshmiany, and Vileika uyezds (districts) of Belarus. LitvakSIG has translated and entered data from some of these records for these districts into the All Lithuania Database. In addition, many records from these districts have been entered into the BelarusSIG database on JewishGen.