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How to find relatives in Estoniaƒ

by Urmas Haud


After having read my Riisa page many persons all over the world are sending me similar questions and therefore I have tried to look for a solution. Unfortunately, I cannot give any very good references. The easiest and the cheapest way is to post your problem to our genealogy mailing-list. The probability of getting a detailed answer is very small, however, as the circle of readers of this list is relatively small.

If you suppose that some of your relatives are still living in Estonia, you may succeed in obtaining some more information about them from Estonian Population Register, as I suppose that looking for relatives may be an example of a justified interest for access to personal data.

If you are interested in general resources you can use over the WEB, you may start from the home-page of the Estonian Genealogical Society. You can learn also about the origins of your own surname with the help of Onomastika (in Estonian). If you know that some of your relatives have been sent to Siberia or repressed in other ways during or after the Second World War, you may be interested in looking into the Museum of Occupations, giving different lists (unfortunately only Introductions in English and most text in Estonian, but they contain lot of data about many persons)

You may check some Estonian family trees on the WEB, or try to look over the Internet for people in Estonia, who have the surname you are interested in, and then try to contact them over the Internet, by phone or by ordinary mail. You may start the search in Estonian E-mail addresses catalogue. To use this catalog, you must know three words in Estonian:

It is sufficient to fill in the surname field and click on search. You may have a look also into the Estonian private phone directory (becoming more and more useless with every year). If you need help with the Estonian language, you can use the WEB-dictionary.

The shortcoming of this method is that many unrelated persons may have the same surname. Therefore, more promising are the following ways. If you know that some of your relatives have lived in Estonia and you want to find other relatives, still living in Estonia, then for such problems there is a special solicitor bureau, where everyone can ask for help. Their address is

        Välisõigusabi Advokaadibüroo
 	Müürivahe 41
 	10140 Tallinn

Their phone is (372) 644 4411 and fax is (372) 644 5124. Here 372 is the code for Estonia, 2 is the code for Tallinn and the rest is the local phone number. In address ä and ü denote respectively a and u with umlauts and õ denotes o with tilde (letters from Estonian alphabet). Their e-mail address is mahhov@adv.ee.

They will help you to find some closest relatives living in Estonia and with their help you can dig deeper. There is a fee for this service and it depends on how complicated the case is. It will be helpful if you know the name, date and place of birth and congregation to which he/she belonged, of at least one person of interest who lived or lives in Estonia, but often less information will do as well. The expected cost of the help for looking for relatives is about US$400. This law office may research also your family history back to 1790-1810 in which case the fees will also be about US$400 or more.

Estonian Biographical Center in Tartu, Estonia, offers professional help of genealogical research or finding your relatives in Estonia. Also it will do any kind of archival research (farm or village history, real estate history, research on Estonian organisations etc). Their address is:

	Estonian Biographical Center
	(Eesti Isikuloo Keskus)
	Tiigi 10-51
	51003 Tartu
Their phone and fax number is +372 7 420 882 and cellular phone number +372 52 88 329. Email: info@isik.ee. Their home page is at http://www.isik.ee/english.

They charge an hourly fee (see http://www.isik.ee/english/#prices for current rates).

Director of Estonian Biographical Center is a professional genealogist Fred Puss who has BA degree in archival studies from the University of Tartu.

If these possibilities are too expensive for you, then theoretically there is also a cheaper way - if you know which region of Estonia your relatives are from, you can write a letter or e-mail, or call to the corresponding regional Family registry office and ask for their help. For this you need not to pay, but officially they need not answer to you either (and often they do not).

If you are planning to visit Estonia, then you can visit the National Archives of Estonia, including the Estonian Historical Archives at:

	Eesti Ajalooarhiiv
	J. Liivi 4
	50409 Tartu
(phone +372 738 7555, fax +372 738 7588) and in their reading rooms do your research by yourself without any payment. Starting from May 2005, this research may also be done over the Internet using the virtual reading room, which offers through the Saaga project a collection of digitalised archival sources. In order to view these digitalised images, you have to register as a user of the "Saaga" environment by filling out a registration form and then log into the system. To have some idea what kind of documents you can find there, you may first have a look on the following examples.

Finally, there are also some possibilities to obtain genealogical information about Estonians from sources outside Estonia. For general reading you may have a look on the home-page devoted to the book "Estonian Experience and Roots" (ethnic Estonian genealogy with historical perspective, social influences and possible family history resources) by Sigrid Renate Maldonado, or access the page of Federation of East European Family History Societies, which contains many links to different sources of information on Eastern European region. If you are willing to pay some amount of money for getting genealogical information, you may visit Family Tree Maker Online and you can get access to personal records of 470 million persons. The same site contains also links to more than 45000 WEB pages of genealogical interest.

Yet another way to get started in genealogy is to go to your local Family History Center at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon church - you do not have to be a Mormon) and in the locality catalog check if they have microfilmed the records from the region you are interested in (they have done it for several regions in Estonia - some overview of regions, microfilmed in Estonia is given in e-mail by Arvo Tars, or you can start direct search at FamilySearch). You can then order the film for four week at relatively moderate price to cover postage. Start with the earliest period you have solid information about, especially the parish, then work backwards from what you find. Most of the records before 1918 are in a mixture of German and Estonian, with a short period from 1890 to 1918 also in Russian.

With best regards,

Urmas Haud

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