The National Archives Of Estonia Opened Its Full-Text Search Platform Using AI

October 28, 2022

On 18 October 2022, the National Archives opened its full-text search platform based on a software program called Transkribus.

Transkribus allows anyone to teach their computer to ‘read’ historical documents by relying on machine reading. All that is needed is a reasonably accurately written text to train the computer. The more varied the handwriting in the sources, the larger the dataset required to train a working text recognition model. In this web environment, you will find the following collections of sources:

• Birth metrics of Orthodox congregations 1838–1926

• Tartu City Council minutes 1902– 1940

• Petitions for the Swedish GovernorGeneral of Estonia 1630–1707

All the birth metrics of Orthodox churches preserved in the National Archives from the 1838 reform of metrics until 1926, when the obligation to keep civil status records in churches ended with the Family Law Act, have been collected in this database. The birth metrics indicate the date of birth and baptism of the child, the name of the child, the names and origin of the parents, together with their status or profession, and the names of the godparents. Text recognition has been used to make searchable a child’s name and information related to their parents. All people baptised in the congregation, including converts, were recorded in the birth metric. The spelling of the name in the metric can, at times, differ greatly from the modern one, depending on the nationality of the clergyman or priest who kept the metrics. Thus, there are names written in both Estonian and Russian. Among place names, you can also find German-style variants of the name.

The Tartu City Council met for the first time in 1878 in accordance with the City Act established the year before. As a result, city governance became more democratic and transparent, with all taxpayers receiving the right to vote, although wealthy Baltic German landlords remained dominant at first. The City Council minutes perfectly illustrate the change in governance. A lively discussion between the city commissioners reveals the reasons for urban development and hints at other directions in which Tartu could have moved. The database contains minutes starting from 1902 when meetings of proceedings began to be recorded on a typewriter. The minutes from 1902 to 1917, when Tartu and the rest of Estonia were part of the Russian Empire, are in Russian. The minutes from 1918 to the 1940s were prepared in Estonian, with the majority from 1918 being in German due to the German occupation during World War I.

In the Governorate of Estonia or Northern Estonia, Swedish rule was established by the Livonian War in 1561. The rest of the territory of Estonia was conquered during the 17th century. The Swedish era in Estonia ended with their surrender to Russia in the Great Northern War in 1710. The King of Sweden was represented by the Governor-General, in whose hands civil, military and legal power was consolidated. It was also his role to represent the province in the motherland of Sweden. As such, the Governor-General was a desired recipient of petitions. Accepting petitions and forwarding them to the correct instances for resolution was one of the most important tasks performed by the Governor’s office. Finally, the Governor-General approved the adopted decisions. Since not all the petitions’ records have been digitised, only a portion of the petitions from 1630–1707 can be found here.

Welcome to use the full-text search for the collections of the National Archives!