Klaipeda District Research Group
The Klaipeda District Research Group (DRG) of LitvakSIG obtains records from all shtetls (towns) in the Klaipeda Uyezd (district) of Lithuania. The shtetls in the district include Klaipeda (Memel) itself, Priekulë (Prökuls), Ðilutë (Silute, Heydekrug), Rusnë (Russ) and Smalininkai (Schmalleningken). The most significant town in the district, by far, was Klaipeda, a port with a prominent role in international trade over many years, particularly in timber.
We access records, translate them, create a database of them, and distribute the data to our contributors as Excel spreadsheets via our contributors-only website http://donors.litvaksig.org/site/klaipeda. As part of LitvakSIG’s overall mission, our group data is made publicly available in the LitvakSIG All Lithuania Database (ALD) after our contributors have had at least 18 months of access. The ALD access is via a search form on the web. ALD searches return the information on all matching records, but do not give access to the underlying spreadsheets.
Our work is funded by our contributors. We are grateful for their contributions, which enable us to obtain the data in the first place, and make it accessible to the public via the ALD. We are also grateful for donated translations, such as several that we have received from Ruth Leiserowitz. Our contributors are people who are researching ancestors from any shtetl in Klaipeda Uyezd and who have joined together to make the most of our shared resources. Since many of our ancestors lived in one place but worked, were officially registered, owned property or assets, or had relatives in other places nearby, it is only by researching on a broader geographic scale that one can be sure where a family was really "from" and that one has searched thoroughly. This consideration is especially relevant to Klaipeda researchers for the following reason. Until World War I, this area was part of Prussia. At various times, the Prussian authorities closely regulated the ability of Jews to live and work in Memel (the German name of the town now called Klaipeda). As a result, quite a few Jews appearing in Memel records were born elsewhere, or may have departed Memel at some point and turned up elsewhere, or had family members living in other districts. The Jewish vital records of Memel contain many references to places outside of the Klaipeda uyezd, such as Telšiai, Darbėnai, Gargždai, Kretinga, and Plungė, among others - as well as places farther afield. The same is true of the Internal Passport records from the interwar period. Thus, the Klaipeda researcher is encouraged to take a wide view.
Thanks to the complicated political history of Klaipeda, relevant records have been located in Germany and Poland as well as Lithuania. Our goal is to translate them, wherever they are found.
The most substantial files we have posted to date are the vital records of Klaipeda (town), 1874-1915, and the internal passport file. Surname lists for both of these record sets are posted below. They include the great majority of surnames being researched by Klaipeda researchers on the JewishGen Family Finder.
We hope you will consider becoming a qualifying contributor at the $100 level or more to the Klaipeda District Research Group. A $100 contribution provides access to all of our data for five calendar years, including any new data added during the five year term. Instructions on how to contribute may be found here. If you have questions, you may contact the District Coordinator Russ Maurer.