The Estonian Biographical Center, Ltd. was founded in 2000. Among our various purposes, the main one is to collect historical biographical data about Estonians and other people who have lived in Estonia. Also, our center offers various services relating to biographical and archival research.
Although the archives in Estonia provide information to private persons regarding questions they are interested in, the amount of information is limited to a form of archival notice and the archives do not perform extensive researches (such as genealogical research). The Estonian Biographical Center is the only establishment of its kind in Estonia.
Family history research or genealogy is the main and most popular service provided by our center. Although there are now many original sources available on the Internet for searching by oneself, finding the sources you need and fully understanding them requires at least some knowledge of Estonian history, local customs, place names, Estonian, German and sometimes Russian and Latin languages and old Gothic script. For that reason you may choose to let this part of the work to the professionals. That leaves more time for you to interview your relatives, work on your family tree, organize data, prepare the family history chronicle for publication to others, actually visit your ancestral sites etc.
The following is an overview of the services offered by the Estonian Biographical Center. Please re-visit our website from time to time. We plan to create a web page which will have much information of use to those who prefer to do their research on their own rather than use our services.
We offer the following services:
Compiling a family tree.
(parents, grandparents, great-grandparents etc of the person
researched). Includes each person's date of birth, marriage and death,
profession and the names and years of birth of children. Most ancestral
trees can be extended back to the first half of the 18th century. Often
we do no not find the dates (years) of death at first, because the
sources list the years of birth (actually age of persons), but finding
the date of death requires extra research. If you prefer that we find
out exact birth and death dates of your ancestors rather than more
names of your ancestors, please let us know.
- Descendants of most ancient male ancestor found.
Usually we suggest to start that kind of tree with the ancestors who
received the surname (thus being born around 1800), because finding all
descendants of a person who lived 100 years earlier might take very
- Descendants of an ancestor who received the surname (surnames were given to Estonian peasants in the period 1822-1835) and carried this surname. This does not include the families of daughters.
- One-line descendants of most ancient male ancestor found (the ancestor, his children, children of one child etc - includes the siblings in each generation, but not their children).
Any other kind of family
tree (for example, a combination of the above - all ancestors back to
the fifth generation (including you, i.e up to your
great-great-grandparents) and all their descendants).
Here is one sample report of combined ancestral and descendants research. The research was done in 20 hours. View in PDF format. To open the file you need a free software Adobe Acrobat Reader.
More sample reports in Estonian are available in Estonian:
- Ancestral research done in 5 hours 10 minutes: view
- Descendants' research done in 18 hours: view
- Biographical research about one person done in 5 hours: view
- Farm history done in 10 hours 50 minutes: view
Searching for relatives in Estonia and abroad.
Biographical data of a
specific person or detailed family research:
family origin, school records, work records, place of residence, family members, size of salary in different years, photographs (of persons and houses), autographs, membership in voluntary organizations, possible living neighbors (who could talk about the lives of your deceased relatives) etc.
History of a family name:
ancestors in the paternal line (or the line where the name comes from) up to the person who received the surname (usually we find data about persons who were born in the middle of the 18th century), names and relationships of all those who received this name in this manor (according to the law only relatives could receive the same surname), statistics and overview about giving the names in this manor (incl information about the manor owner), and the possible origin and the meaning of the name. This kind of research takes 5-10 hours.
History of a farm, village, manor, building, establishment, state establishment, private firm, society etc.
Searching for photographs of persons and buildings; searching for old plans, maps and documents.
Transliteration (from Gothic manuscript or Russian) and translation of documents.
Information about persons of non-peasant stand.
We have one service especially for those who are looking for information about persons of non-peasant stand (mostly Germans) in Estonia who carried one certain name. We will search major genealogical collections, databases, card-files, registers and indexes for any occurrences of that name. We will give the client a list of everything that was searched and indicate whether the name was found in those collections or not. It then depends on the amount of information found how much time it takes to write out, analyze and send the information to the client. Minimum time for this kind of order is three hours (includes about 100 sources), but we could use ten or twenty hours - the more time we have the more sources we can search through.
If you are not planning to visit Estonia yourself, we can undertake the research for you and provide you with:
Photographs or videotapes of places where your relatives lived or where they are buried.
Videotaped or audiotaped interviews with your living relatives, or people who knew your ancestors (with translation into other languages if necessary).
If you are visiting Estonia yourself, we can help you with:
Planning your own research in Estonian archives.
Traveling to your ancestral (or any other) region in Estonia; identifying the homes of your relatives; visiting cemeteries and graves of your relatives
Interviewing people in the Estonian language.
We charge an hourly fee. The client sets the
number of hours we may use for the research. Minimum order is three
hours. As the first research hours are the most effective ones, then:
One hour up to 15th research hour costs EUR 15 (approximately USD 16.80, CAD 22.20, AUD 23.25, SEK 143.55, GBP 10.98).
One hour from the 16th research hour onwards costs EUR 12.50 (approximately USD 14.12, CAD 18.52, AUD 19.48, SEK 119.62, GBP 9.15).
The payment can be done when ordering the research from us (down payment) or when the research has been finished. The latter option might be in your favor if your domestic currency exchange rates has meanwhile increased against the Euro and would be unfavorable for you if it has decreased.
Please keep in mind that a family tree is never only yours alone - it may be possible to share the costs with relatives who might also be interested in the information. The results you get from us have lasting value, you can hand it over to your descendants.
It is possible to order information regarding one particular or event or fact only, but our minimum charge is for three hours work. Of course - the more time we have, the more information we will be able to find. However, a family history research is usually never completed.
Upon receipt of the information that you have and the questions of what you are looking for, we can provide an estimate of how long the research might take. We cannot give exact answers to questions such as "I would like my family tree to be researched, how much does it cost?"
It is difficult to predict how much time the research will take because families are of very different sizes and the resources at different locations in Estonia have been preserved quite differently. We always ask the client to set a time limit for research. Then, after having received a report with the information that has been found so far, it is possible to extend the research. For example, you could at first order a research for 5 or 10 hours and then, after having received the report, you could order another 5 or 10 hour research to get more information. However, then you would have to wait for another six months for the continuation report to be ready. Many people have asked us - how many hours should I order. Thus let it be said that our statistical average order is a 15 hour research. However, it is certainly always the case - the more time we have for the research, the more information we find.
The amount of information you will get depends upon several factors:
1. Preserving and access for use of source materials.
Not all the church books, birth, marriage and death registrations
(since 1926) etc are accessible to researchers yet. About half of the
archives of the commune governments (including lists of commune members
and commune inhabitants) have been destroyed. Military materials, that
can be used as a substitute, have been fully preserved only about the
previous Tartu and Pärnu counties, almost fully about the "old"
Harju county. Military materials of other counties that could be used
for genealogical research have been almost completely destroyed. Older
soul revision lists (soul revisions were made during 1782-1858) of the
Livonian province (Southern Estonia) have not been preserved for all
manors, but the Estonian province (Northern Estonia) is fully covered.
However, in many areas very many materials have been preserved and are
accessible to researchers.
2. Confession. Materials of the Russian Orthodox congregations have been preserved not as well as of Lutheran congregations. And already when the congregations registered vital events they did not keep as good registers as the Lutheran congregations did. Sometimes church records of families of smaller confessions (Jewish, Baptists etc) are difficult to find.
3. From what time to begin. If the person from whom we start the ancestral research was born around 1870, then finding information about most of his/her ancestors takes about 15-20 hours. If he/she was born in around 1900, then he/she has two parents, both born around 1870 and thus twice as many ancestors can be found and it takes about twice as much time. Certainly the ancestral tree is not complete even then, as it would be possible to trace the lines further back in time and to find more biographical information (and to verify birth-marriage-death information) about the ancestors already found. If the region where the ancestors lived was the same for all lines, then it takes less time (it is possible to research several lines at the same time). We always suggest setting your preferences - which line are you interested at first, which line then etc.
4. Size of the family matters when performing a descendant research. If a couple had 2 or 12 children then the couple could have 10 or 50 grandchildren, respectively. So it makes much difference and it takes more time to research larger families.
5. Movements of the family. When the family was mobile and moved often (myths about Estonian families having lived in the same farm for centuries are not true in most of the cases) then it takes more time.
Because of all those reasons we cannot provide a service for other than an hourly fee.
As it is not always possible to find all the
information from archival documents straightaway (we do not just print
family trees out of the computer :) ), please give us as much notice as
possible - several months if possible - if you have an upcoming event
for which you need that information (for example, a family reunion or a
visit to Estonia). Sometimes we have to request information from places
other than public archives - local church, vital statistics offices etc
and this takes much time. Because of very many orders usually we set a deadline
of approximately three-four months from the date an order is placed. It
depends also on the complexity of the assignment. Three-four months might not
be the time we complete the report, but a time when we inform you about
a new deadline.
For placing an order, please let us know the following (the most important questions are 1-3 and 8):
1. What kind of research you want us to do (specific questions or what kind of family tree).
2. Please give us the information you have (you may send copies of documents by fax, email or mail) - please note that the place of someone's residence or origin is more important than exact birth date; even someone's children's death records may give us a clue about his/her place of origin - so please give us information about all the children you know; it might help us to find a person's origin if we know where he/she worked (or his/her profession), or lived or died. Please let us know how you are related to the person(s) about whom you want information. Not only that he/she was your grandmother, but please give us names of the persons through whom you are related to him/her (for example: he was my mother Ella's father). If you are not related, please state your purpose of getting the information.
3. How many hours we may use for the (initial) research - it is always possible to request further hours once you have received the first report. By that time we will also know better what sources exist and which sources have not survived relating to the the questions you are interested in. Please keep in mind that paying from outside of Estonia requires some extra costs from your side (see Payment). Minimum order is three hours.
4. What part of the research we should do first should the hours you set not be enough to complete the whole research - what are you most interested in.
5. In which language the report should be created (Estonian or English).
6. Your full address (required for tax reasons and for possible requests for personal data from some offices or archives).
You pay when the research has been completed. We send
you the report only when we have received the money. There are several
ways you may pay our invoice. Some methods cost us money, so we have to
add the corresponding sum to your invoice:
1. With a bank transfer (bank transfer usually takes from two to four days to a week)
a) "whole sum to the receiver" - we have no expenses,
b) regular international transfer - our expenses of receiving are EUR 5.75, approximately (depending on the day's exchange rate) USD 7.42/CAD 7.53/AUD 7.30/GBP 4.80/SEK 51.24 plus 20% VAT,
c) transfer from Estonian or EU banks in Euros - we have no expenses;
2. In cash (in our office or by mail) - we have
3.Western Union - we have no expenses; Western Union is the quickest way to pay (money will be sent and received in seconds or if you send the money to a bank account, then in a few days). If paying with Western Union please fax or email the payment details (your full name, transfer control number; please do not set a secret question and answer when sending money). Or fax number is +372 742 0882.
4. VISA or EuroCard/MasterCard credit card - ask for details (for example for a payment for an 5 hour order our costs are EUR 3.21, approximately USD 4.42); for a 10 hour order EUR 5.65, approximately USD 7.80 etc); for a 15 hour order EUR 8.10, approximately USD 11.18 etc). Speed of receiving a credit card payment depends on you - if you fax us the payment form, then we send you the report at once, if you send it by snail-mail, you will receive the report after we have received the letter.
you have any questions now after reading this page, please feel free to
send your inquiry in Estonian, English, Russian, German or Finnish to email@example.com or call us at +372 742
0882 (also a fax number) or +372 528 8329 (cell phone number). At the
moment we reply only in Estonian or English. Our mailing address is:
Estonian Biographical Center