Ilmārs Mežs, a statistician and historian, intended the dictionary to be a valuable gift for Latvia on its centenary. As a result, a large study “Latvian surnames in archive materials” was created and issued at the Latvian Language Agency in cooperation with excellent specialists – co-authors of dictionaries. The first part summarized the last names of Latgale (the dictionary was issued in 2017), the second part covered Kurzeme, Zemgale and Sēlija, or the historical Duchy of Kurzeme and Zemgale (released in 2019), while the third part explored the last names in Vidzeme (released in 2022).
The work that began started celebrating the centenary of Latvia in 2018 has continued for five years.
This year, in anticipation of Latvia's 105th birthday, a new resource on Latvian surnames was developed. By putting together the last name entries from the study “Latvian surnames in archive materials” and surnames included in the Register of Natural Persons, the Latvian Language Agency has established an electronic dictionary of Latvian surnames (developed by “Efumo” Ltd), which is planned to be supplemented and clarified, the Agency explained.
Historian Ilmārs Mežs said: "With today's technology capabilities, it's not enough that [one needs to look for] the books somewhere in libraries or buy these books. It's much better to have this database of all surnames and undoubtedly we have far more surnames than these historic more common surnames. The new site will now contain all the 210,000 surnames in Latvia today. ”
In this database, you can learn the history of surnames, where they have been common geographically, where and when it was first mentioned, and how many people have had it or still have it.
"This allows many to enjoy the long winter evenings on the internet with this hobby - you can look for relatives. A lot of people don't know where their grandfather, their great-grandfather, is from. Unless it is Bērziņš, Kalniņš, Ozoliņš, [the most common Latvian surnames] you can definitely find a thread where the root of the last name should be sought,” Mežs said in an interview with Latvian Radio.
The electronic dictionary of surnames is available at uzvardi.lv.