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Lithuania-Unique Aspects of Family Tree Documentation

Use of Present-Day Place Names in Family Tree Documents for Ancestor Events in "Lithuania"


Non-Use of Historical Place Names.

In the past, it has been traditional in genealogy to include the place-name nomenclature that existed at the time of the ancestral event.

  • An example of using the historical place-name nomenclature would result in the following for the 1883 birthplace of my grandfather: Abokai (village), Telšiai (district), Kaunas (province), Russian Empire. 
  • Similarly, I could use the following historical place-name nomenclature for the 1775 baptism of my ggg-grandfather: Lieplaukė, Samogitia, Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. 

Although those historical place names may be interesting, I believe that they convey far less information than using present-day place names (and my Lithuanian grandparents wouldn't have liked the allusion that the Lithuanian lands were considered to be a part of "Russia").


Use of Present-Day Place Names.

I instead use the present-day nomenclature because it lends itself to pinpointing the location on the many detailed present-day maps of Lithuania now available online.


When entering a location of an ancestor event into a family tree, I use the following format:  
                       (name of village or town), (name of municipality), (county), Lithuania.  
     Example: "Abokai, Plungė, Telšiai, Lithuania".

There is a position that the name of the county should no longer be included because this government administrative level lost its administrative powers in 2010, and now exists only as a territorial boundary.  I continue to include the name of the county because the county boundaries still exist in present-day Lithuania and they are helpful in identifying locations, and inclusion of such a level is traditional in genealogy.

There is a position that the name of the parish should be included in the place-name nomenclature because it was the entity that maintained the birth, marriage and death records at the time of the ancestral event. That is a very good reason to include it, and I may do so someday, but I currently don't use it.

I haven't yet had to face the situation for names of ancestral places that were once in "Lithuania" but are not in present-day Lithuania [but I'm getting close; nineteenth-century Lithuanians from villages in present-day Belarus often had their children baptized in my grandmother's church in Tverečius].

I use present-day nomenclature for stating the locations of ancestor events. This turns out to be very convenient because there are many such maps available online, such as:


The following map and description is based on information in the current (Nov 2016) Wikipedia article on "Administrative divisions of Lithuania", which is a good summary description of this topic.



















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Counties and Municipalities of Present-Day Lithuania

(Source: Wikipedia; Administrative Divisions of Lithuania (Nov 2016))


The overall territory in the map above is the Republic of Lithuania.  The country is known as "Lietuvos Respublika", which translates into English as "Republic of Lithuania".   The Lithuanian word for "Lithuania" is "Lietuva".  ("Lietuvos" = "of Lithuania".)  In the modern era, the Republic of Lithuania was formed after Lithuania (then called Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic) declared its independence from the Soviet Union in 1990.


The first level of territorial (but since 2010 no longer administrative) subdivision of the country is called the "apskritis" (plural "apskritys").  This word can be translated as “district” but it is has become the general practice to translate this as "county" when referring to a present-day "apskritis".   There are 10 "apskritys" or counties in present-day Lithuania, with names and boundaries as shown in the map below.  


Each "apskritis" (county) of Lithuania is divided into "savivaldybės" (singular: "savivaldybė").  This word is normally translated as "municipality".  The names of the municipalities are shown in the map above.  In the map above, some of the smaller-area municipalities are indicated by numbers.  The key to the numbers is as follows:

  1.    Vilnius city municipality

  2.    Kaunas city municipality

  3.    Klaipėda city municipality

  4.    Panevėžys city municipality

  5.    Šiauliai city municipality

  6.    Alytus city municipality

  7.    Birštonas municipality

  8.    Palanga city municipality

  9.    Visaginas city municipality

  10.  Neringa municipality


Some of the municipalities are simply called municipalities, but others are called district municipalities or city municipalities.  It is said that municipalities with “district” in their titles have boundaries that roughly correspond to those of districts that existed under Soviet rule.  The municipalities with “city” in their titles are basically the smaller-area higher-population municipalities that represent some of the larger cities.


Each “savivaldybė” (municipality) within Lithuania is divided into “seniūnijos” (singular: “seniūnija”). This word is normally translated as “elderate” or “eldership”.


Additional Information about the counties, municipalities, and elderships is available online.  I have found that the more-detailed information is available on Lithuanian-language websites.  (I'm sure that someday we'll all be able to "auto-translate" easily from Lithuanian into English, but that day hasn't yet arrived.)  For more detailed information about towns and villages in Lithuania, I usually start on the Lithuanian-language page on Wikipedia for "Lietuvos apskritys".   This brings up a list of the ten counties.  If one clicks on the name of a county (e.g. "Telšių apskritis"), that brings up a page about the county, including a list of the municipalities ("Savivaldybės) within that county. If one clicks on the name of a municipality (e.g., "Plungės rajono savivaldybė), that brings up a page about that municipality, including a list of the elderships (Seniūnijos) in that municipality.  If one clicks on the name of an eldership (e.g., "Žlibinų seniūnija (Žlibinai)"), this brings up a list of settlements ("Gyvenvietės") within that eldership.  The first name on that list is "Abokai", which was my grandfather's birth village.  The table shows that it had a population of 8 in 2001.  It also shows that the village "Kalniškiai" (where his father died in 1913) had a population of zero in 2001.  [The village Kalniškiai doesn't show up on most current maps; but it can be found on circa-1920 maps.]


Other topics related to names of Lithuanian towns and villages:




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