Sites of Interest




Straw Hat Visual  -  Singing Revolution

Estonian databases of interest to persons of Estonian heritage living outside Estonia  

by Helgi Leesment


The databases listed below were featured at the Baltic Heritage Network Summer School in Alutaguse, Estonia  July 2013.  As the Alberta Estonian Heritage Society representative there,  this list, with my added comments for English speaking users, forms part of my report to the members of the society.


Databases vary greatly in set-up and use.  Some may seem frustrating at first; but it is merely a matter of trying different ways to do the searches until an effective method is discovered.  Estonians have a stubborn streak; put that streak to good use in approaching these databases!


Look for a possible EN, ENG, a British flag, dropdown menu or something similar somewhere at or near the top of the screen, then click on that to get started on an English language page.


Most of these databases offer some parts in English but the detailed contents generally are in the Estonian language with a few major exceptions.  Keep in mind that photos and maps have no issue with language, so searches on family and place names are definitely worthwhile doing whether or not you speak Estonian.


Online free translations such as offered by Google can be of help, though these machine translations tend to be awkward and occasionally misleading.  Assistance from Estonian speaking persons may be helpful at times.


May you find something interesting and worthwhile about your heritage as you use these databases containing amazing types and amounts of information!


PS  The remainder of this article has a variety of fonts and colours; these have no meaning.   They just happened as I edited the article; will eventually find out how to make it all one colour and font.  Right now we are all somewhat unfamiliar with details of the editing software on this type of website.




MUSEUMS & ARCHIVES   -  Museums Public Portal

A word or family name entered into this search engine automatically looks through the holdings of over 60 Estonian museums  -  a hugely efficient time saver.  The results tell you which museum has the photo, document, map or whatever. 

Click on „Objects“ to see a listing of the individual musems involved and/or to connect to one of your choice. The museums include major national memory institutions as well as local ones of interest to Albertans; for example:  Estonian History, Agricultural  and National museums plus regional museums from places that are the home districts of many Alberta Estonian ancestors, such as Järvamaa, Pärnu and Võrumaa.  -   Archival Intormation System (AIS)

The database of the National Archives of Estonia and Tallinn City Archives

Excellent guidelines upon clicking on „In English“; however the final stage of the searches are in Estonian, so translation assistance may be needed.  Aiming to make the database more accessible for English language speakers, it is currently undergoing major changes to be implemented sometime in 2014.

Users can search for documents preserved in the archives, such as personal or business letters, invoices, photos, maps, loans, court records, real estate transactions, job records, etc.   Records date from the 1500’s to the 21st Century.  For background information


(For example from HL:  by merely typing in a family surname, I became aware of an uncle’s school records, a real estate dispute involving my grandfather and a thesis my father wrote at university.  The actual documents are not available online, but copies of them can be ordered for a fee, or, when in Estonia, a person may be able to view the originals.) 

Estonian Literary Museum (ELM) 

Eesti Kirjandusmuuseum (KIRMUS)

A rich resource:  to browse the English language introductory webpages, start with a click on the British flag,  then on  „General“,  next proceeding to any of the five listed departments. Generally speaking, the above mentioned website leads to explanations about the collections, whereas the companion website  

leads directly to the centralized searchable archival information system and file repository of this institution.  Within some subcategories, there are links to a variety of relevant national and international databases.  However, the website   functions entirely in the Estonian language.

Despite its name, the holdings of the Estonian Literary Museum (ELM) are far broader than just literature. As the central archive of Estonian literature, folklore, ethnomusicology and cultural history in general, the ELM collects, preserves, studies and displays the national cultural heritage of Estonia. Formats of the eventually identified material can be original manuscripts, pamphlets, maps, music scores, photos, personal correspondence, art materials, sometimes scanned or digitized copies of these, and electronically created items as well as standard books and periodical articles. The holdings also include a vast array of sound and video recordings.  Currently there are approximately 430,000 items indexed in the combined total databases.  Computer indexing is on-going, with a considerable amount of material still accessible only via onsite paper-based catalogue files. 




Online holdings of the National Library of Estonia

This link provides access to the holdings of all the major libraries in Estonia, including the National Library and academic and research institutions. Lists books and periodical titles (for individual articles inside those periodicals see the ISE database).  There is a choice of accessing libraries either in Tallinn or Tartu, as the major collections are located in both cities:


 English search pages available. 

ISE searches for periodical/magazine articles, mostly appearing in materials published in Estonia. Related to the Ester catalogues of the major Estonian libraries. Has English search page.    -  VEART 

One of several specialized databases of the Academic Library of Tallinn University.  Contains selected current articles published in the Estonian media of several countries outside Estonia focusing on issues and activities of Estonians living abroad.  Use the dropdown menu at top right to choose English. Coverage from journals begins with 1944. Coverage from newspapers begins with 1990.

Includes material about the Alberta Estonian community as published mainly in the Toronto and New York Estonian newspapers.

If the URL is present in the citation, a click will get you directly to the article.  You need to be in either the „As a workform“  or „Bibliographically“ mode to see this direct link.

The heading „Keel“ indicates language of the article  -- although that is also obvious from language of the title or „Pealkiri“.        -  VEILU

One of several specialized databases of the Academic Library of Tallinn University.  Bibliography of fiction published since 1944 in foreign languages by Estonian authors living abroad.  Use arrow in dropdown menu to choose „English“. 

(Note by HL:  Despite its description as consisting of fiction, I did see some non-fiction memoirs and other autobiographical works listed here...)


PEOPLE   Väliseesti isikulooline Andmebaas 

Expat Estonians Database

Otherwise known as VEPER, this database contains biographical information on thousands of notable expatriate Estonians current and past, based on printed materials such as newspapers, magazines and books.  Unfortunately it does not have any English access, nevertheless, it is worth exploring with translation help when needed. 

Click on “Nimekiri“  =  list of names, then choose the pertinent letter of the alphabet to see personal names.  Clicking on a name opens a page with information about that person.

Should you wish to add a person or request corrections, contact director Eve Siirman  ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ).    Immigration History Research Centre (IHRC)

Located at University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN.  It houses materials about immigrants to the United States, including Estonians.  A large part of the Estonian archives previously collected at the Lakewood, NJ  Estonian facilities, was gifted to this collection.  It should be noted many Canadian Estonians have sent their family archive materials to the Lakewood resource centre.  At the IHRC, much of the recent indexing and other work related to Estonians has been accomplished thanks to archivists temporarily sent there from Estonia; however much more needs to be done.  Considering the diminished state of US economics, funding for this archive has been drastically reduced to one full-time archivist dealing with materials for all of the vaious ethnic immigrants to that country, therefore service is understandably difficult to obtain.




The Estonian National Archives has begun a huge undertaking that will enable searching through foreign databases having Estonian-related materials.  At the moment the Archival Information System (AIS) has partial indexes to files housed in Latvia and limited areas of Russia (Petersburg, Moscow, Novgorod and Pihkva; no mention of Crimea at this stage) spanning from the 1500’s to mid 20th Century.   As may be expected, the documents themselves are mostly in the Russian or German languages.  This source of information might become of interest to those Albertans whose forefathers lived at some point in regions now forming parts of Russia or Ukraine.

The AIS indexing project will eventually expand to include databases/websites in North America and other locations.