Communal Courts

March 1, 2019

In February 2019, a new crowd-sourcing project by the National Archives of Estonia has been launched. A public crowd-sourcing platform called “Communal Courts” aims to offer an easy access to the court cases of the 19th century’s daily life in Estonian villages as well as to publish some new thrilling data for the family researchers. Everyone can contribute to the crowd-sourcing at

Archival records of the communal courts cover the period from the 1820s to 1891. Communal courts dealt mostly with approvals of agreements and solutions of inheritance matters next to the administration of justice. As the communal courts were the courts of first instance, many of the concerns had a direct link to daily lives of peasants – smaller arguments, violations and claims, but also offences and defamations which all give a colourful picture of highly interested manners of the 19th century.

The National Archives of Estonia preserves about 2000 minute books of the communal courts. All the books have been digitized and linked to the web-based crowd-sourcing platform. Crowd-sourcing is used for making those minutes available online by transcribing the digitized records. There are different tips and guidelines as well as sample transcriptions available in order to facilitate and speed up the transcribing process while the language of the minute books can be a bit difficult for contemporary users.

Everyone is welcome to visit the platform online – read the minutes, transcribe the texts, and your contribution stays there over time!