Finding places in Lithuania
One of the challenges in finding information about one's Lithuanian ancestors
is figuring out their place of birth, death or marriage in Lithuania. Usually this
information is available to descendants of Lithuanian emigrants from ships'
manifests, naturalization papers, social security applications, draft cards and
the like. Unfortunately, in many cases the Lithuanian names of the geographical
locations got severely mangled, as they were written down "by ear" by
English-speaking officials. On top of that, due to long periods of Russian and/or
Polish rule, use of the original Lithuanian names was suppressed, leading to
use of Russified or Polonized location names, further adding to the confusion.
If you are searching for records from Russian Empire times, note that references
to Kowno/Kovno/Kaunas, Suwalki/Suvalki, and Wilno/Vilno/Vilnius do not necessarily
mean that your ancestors came from that specific city, but that the place they
came from was in the corresponding governorate (gubernya, губерния) - a unit of
administrative division during that time. The three governorates mentioned above
covered the territory of modern-day Lithuania, apart from the south-western part,
which was part of Prussia.
This page provides links to some resources which may be helpful in matching
the historic location names linked to Lithuanian emigrants to corresponding
modern Lithuanian geographical names.
Geographical Dictionary of the Kingdom of Poland
Geographical Dictionary of the Kingdom of Poland and other Slavic Countries,
published between 1880 and 1902 (in Polish), contains a comprehensive list of
geographic locations with descriptions, including the Lithuanian ones.
The original site
hosting the dictionary has very limited search capabilities, only exact location
search is supported. One can also use this site to jump to a specific page in
a volume, so it can be used to perform a binary search for a location.
Wikipedia page for the dictionary has an alphabetic index (partial) for
easy navigation. Click on pokaż next to the letter or prefix to navigate.
While using this resource it's useful to remember a few rules which were
applied when converting Lithuanian names into Polish ones:
- The Lithuanian letter Š is usually converted to SZ.
- Lithuanian Č is converted to CZ.
- Lithuanian V usually becomes Polish W.
- Traditional Lithuanian plural endings like -ai, -iai,
-ės get converted to -i or -y ending. For example,
Čekiškės becomes Czekiszki.
Lists of inhabited places
Lists of inhabited places, issued by the government of the Russian Empire,
are available in the electronic format for the governorates of Kaunas (Kovno)
and Suwalki. Those are pretty comprehensive, and include even the obscure
locations with only few residents, however they are in Russian.
List of inhabited places of Kaunas governorate (1902), in DJVU format.
Smaller and faster to browse, however may require a separate DJVU viewer.
The lists are organized in alphabetical order by
uyezd, so if you are
not sure about which uyezd the place belonged to, you have to check all
Same as above, in PDF format. Larger and slower to browse, but you
probably already have a PDF viewer installed.
List of inhabited places of Suwalki governorate (1888), in PDF format.
This one has an alphabetical list of locations at the end, so it's a bit
easier to find, if you don't have further details (like
about the place.
- The list inhabited places of Suwalki governorate is now also available
in transcribed form for easier searching.
List of inhabited places of Wilno (Vilnius) governorate (1905),
in PDF format. Lists are organized by uyezd and volost'. Unfortunately,
there is no common alphabetical index, so if no further details are known,
one needs to scan through the entire book for possible matches. Document
quality is not great.
Lietuvos apgyventos vietos ("Inhabited places of Lithuania") is an
inhabited places list from 1923, published on
epaveldas.lt. Two nice things about it: it
is in Lithuanian (issued after Lithuania has become independent in 1918),
and has a full alphabetical index in the end, making it easy to find places
without prior knowledge of where they are in Lithuania. Distances to the
nearest railway station and post office are provided, making it easier to
locate the villages on modern maps.
Shubert's maps of the Russian empire
These are detailed maps of the Russian empire from the end of 19th century.
Due to their scale (3 versts to 1 inch, a verst being an obsolete Russian unit of
length equal to 1.0668 km or 0.6629 miles), they are also known as "three-verst
maps" (трехверстовка). The maps are available online, start
here, then click on the individual
maps sheets. Territory of modern-day Lithuania is covered by sheets 10-1 to 10-4,
11-1 to 11-4, 12-1 to 12-4 (approximately).
This site has a very nice
which contains an overlay of old Russian Empire map from 1872 (might be actually
same Shubert's maps described above) on top of the modern maps. Use the opacity
slider in the top-right corner to make more of the modern map visible.
The lithuanianmaps.com contains an
impressive collection of maps of Lithuania and surrounding areas going back to
16th century. Includes some detailed/high-resolution maps.
For finding really small Lithuanian villages and settlements on modern Lithuanian
map, maps.lt is known to work better than other
online map providers. It also offers a search which will try to offer alternatives
if an exact match cannot be found.
Google maps are occasionally useful due to
their auto-completion feature. If you don't know the exact spelling, you can type
"Lithuania" followed by a space and the beginning of the place name you are
interested in into the search box. If you are lucky, you might get a relevant
auto-completed result. One pitfall with Google Maps is that if there are multiple
matches for a particular place name, it will only return one of them (by focusing
the map on it), while maps.lt, for example, returns
the locations of all matching towns/villages.
Questions, comments, suggestions? info at gen wooyd org