A new book is published – “Latvian surnames in archive materials: Vidzeme”

The Latvian Language Agency has published the third and last volume of its surname dictionaries. This book examines the surnames found in the historical territory of Vidzeme whose history goes back at least several centuries. To write this book its authors examined approximately 16 000 surnames (and even more spelling variants of these surnames). The book contains approximately 9 500 separate entries and a list of almost 6 000 surnames that are less common. The book contains detailed information about the surnames, engaging introductory articles (authors of the introductions: Ilmārs Mežs, Muntis Auns, Otīlija Kovalevska, Irēna Ilga Jansone), informative maps, and pictures.

In 2017, the LVA published a book on the common surnames in Latgale, in 2019 it published its second volume (in two parts) that covers Kurzeme, Zemgale and Sēlija (or the historical Duchy of Kurzeme). The last volume on Vidzeme was published in 2022. The author of the idea, demographer Ilmārs Mežs, said: “About ten years have passed since I began collecting and compiling surnames. During this time, I have held in my hands the census records of approximately one and a half million inhabitants of Latvia. If I were to stack all these folders in one room up to the ceiling, there still would not be enough space for all the materials we have studied. And now, this work is finished, and we can present the readers with the last volume in this series which covers the surnames in Vidzeme.”

The research underneath this work is truly tremendous, and it testifies to the fact that Latvian surnames form a peculiar, unique system. The book provides each name with linguistic, geographical, and historical context. As people’s interest in their origin and family history grows, they often turn to surnames to look for answers, so this study will prove useful to researchers and the population at large who want to discover the history of their family, parish, city, or village, thereby also acquiring a better understanding of their lives today.

The book can be purchased at the Latvian Language Agency and will soon be available in bookstores.