Real Estates and Buildings



  1. Introduction
  2. What kind of data about buildings and real estates can one find in archives?
  3. Buildings Register
  4. The agricultural census lists of 1939
Archive sources present abundant joy of discoveries and findings for people who want to know whom their home farm or house earlier belonged to, how their home looked like in the past or what building was in its place previously. You can find data about the owners of real estates/buildings, plans of buildings and more detailed descriptions of buildings.
What kind of data about buildings and real estates can one find in archives?

In the real estate offices fonds there are lots of materials about juridical actions concerning real estate owners and real estates. Altogether there are eight fonds: Kuressaare Real Estate Office (Kuressaare kinnistusamet, EAA 5164), Narva Real Estate Office (Narva kinnistusamet, EAA 3187), Pärnu Real Estate Office (Pärnu kinnistusamet, EAA 4614), Rakvere Real Estate Office (Rakvere kinnistusamet, EAA 4187), Tallinn Real Estate Office (Tallinna kinnistusamet, EAA 2840), Tartu Real Estate Office (Tartu kinnistusamet, EAA 2381), Viljandi Real Estate Office (Viljandi kinnistusamet, EAA 3760) and Võru Real Estate Office (Võru kinnistusamet, EAA 3416). The best surveyal information can be found in real estate registers that are preserved in these fonds (missing in the fonds of Kuressaare’s Real Estate Office). A good review on the real estate offices’ materials gives a booklet compiled by Vello Naaber «Kinnistusametite materjalid Eesti NSV Riiklikus Ajaloo Keskarhiivis» Tartu, 1975.

Information about Tallinn, Haapsalu and Lihula town real estate and of Estonian manors can be found with the help of Real Estate Register.

Descriptions of buildings can be found in the fonds of magistrates (town councils) (evaluation or taxation files from different years), insurance companies (insurance policies and insurance contracts) and loan offices. Especially numerous real estate loan files may be found in the fonds of the Estonian Mortgage Bank (Eesti Hüpoteegipank, EAA 2110).

The Register of real estate insured by the Estonian Mutual Fire-Insurance Company gives overview about the policies kept in the Estonian Mutual Insurance Society (Eesti vastastikune tulekindlustuse selts, EAA 3761).

Information about the location of buildings is also offered by different maps.

Earlier building projects can be found in the fonds of the Estonian Gubernia Building and Road Commission (Eestimaa kubermanguvalitsuse ehitus- ja teedekomisjon, EAA 33), Livonian Gubernia Building Department (Liivimaa kubermangu ehitusosakond, EAA 298) and Estonian Gubernia Draft Chamber (Eestimaa kubermangu joonestuskoda, EAA 46). Many building projects of Tartu and Pärnu have also been preserved (in the fonds EAA 3569 — Pärnu Town Council, EAA 2623 — Tartu Town Council).

The buildings in Tartu — descriptions of plans and the plans themselves can be seen in the database of Tartu projects.

Plans of buildings that were compiled and approved in the period between the two world wars can be found in the National Archives in Tallinn in the first place, in the fonds of several institutions engaged in building. Plans may be found also among the documents of town and country councils’ building departments.

Different plans from 1952−1993, both of dwelling-houses and business buildings, are in the fonds of RPI Eesti Projekt (EAA 5294) and Projekteerimise Instituudi «EKE Projekt» Tartu osakond (EAA 5364).

Much information about buildings and also their owners can be found in the files of building registers, preserved in Tartu, also in Rakvere and Valga. These files have access restrictions.

The list above is not exhaustive, separate building plans can be found in many other fonds.

When searching for information in National Archives in Tallinn, one has to turn to the same sources that were described in the local history column. Loan files kept in the fonds of Rural Credit Bank of Estonia (Eesti Maapank, ERA 3653) may serve as an example.

Cadastral registry and land use planning office of the ministry of agriculture (Põllutööministeeriumi Katastri ja Maakorralduse Osakond, ERA 62) — lists of taxable lands and land classification files of farmlands that are sorted by districts, rural communes and manors (there are about 117 000 land classification files, but almost not at all of Tartu district farmlands), land readjustment files.

Map collections of Cadastral registry and land use planning office of the ministry of agriculture (Põllutööministeeriumi Katastri ja Maakorralduse Osakonna kaardikogu, ERA T-3) — all-Estonian schematic grid map in scale 1:10000, compiled in the second half of 1930s and in the beginning of 1940s, does not cover most of Saaremaa and part of Valga and Petseri district, and also the towns; in addition there are plans of farmlands and manors all over Estonia. The latter are sorted by districts and communes.

State forest board of the ministry of agriculture (Põllutööministeeriumi Riigimetsade Valitsus, ERA 63) – files of farms from all districts given on lease by the state (ca 80 000): lease contracts and descriptions of the leased property. If the leaseholder bought the farm he was using then the file is usually closed by a sale and purchase contract and a loan contract and further information can be found in the loan file kept in the fonds of the Rural Credit Bank of Estonia. The fonds ERA 63 is organised by districts, communes and manors.

Settlement office (Asundusamet, ERA 1650); Land offices of districts or land readjustment committees have all been involved in land readjustment (in all 11 fonds). Unfortunately the whole data about all districts has not been preserved. In these fonds you can find land readjustment files both for individual farms and larger land readjustment areas (one whole village, a former manor), applications for getting land, land readjustment plans, minutes and resolutions of committee meetings.

In the fonds of the Ministry of Education (Haridusministeerium, ERA 1108, inventory 13) there are plans of schoolbuildings, blueprints and notifications, sorted by the districts. Plans of buildings and building sites situated in towns and boroughs are held in the respective town council’s fonds.

The fonds of the statistics office of the town of Tartu (Tartu Linna Statistikabüroo, ERA 3021) preserves detailed descriptions of the buildings in Tartu from 1922. Information about farmsteads is also offered by farmstead lists. About country households in the period after the Second World War one can find information in the household books preserved in Historical Archives and in regional departments of the State Archives.

The motion pictures and photographs of the Film Archives offer rare opportunity to see places and architectural objects so to speak live in their own time. Johannes Pääsuke — the first Estonian filmmaker — documented the counties of Tartu and Võru already in 1912-1913. These are at the same time the oldest film clips held in the Film Archives.

Since the 1920s several so-called sightseeing movies were made of different spots in Estonia («Across Estonia with a Film Camera», «Do You Know the Country», «Ruhno», «Tallinn Harbour», «Pictures from Saku», «Lake Peipus», «Summer Resorts Are Inviting» etc.), and also in the newsreels the scenes of action have mostly been recorded. When searching in the information system of the Film Archives FIS one should enter the place name of interest into the field of keyword.

The publication "Catalogue of the Eesti Kultuurfilm" and its place name index can be helpful as well.

Photos of places can be found in various collections of the Film Archives. The greatest number of photographs connected to different locations are gathered in the photo collection of the Society of Estonian Regional Studies of the Estonian Academy of Sciences: 4872 photographs from the end of the 19th century until 1940. Many of these were used in the miscellany «Estonia» (it appeared in print by counties in the 1920s-1930s).

Buildings Register

Buildings registers (in Estonian Hooneregistrid) were formed on the basis of the offices of technical inventarisation or of their legal successors in 1994 by the local governments. Also the State Central Register of Buildings Registers was founded. Regional buildings registers were given the task of guaranteeing the rightness of transactions with the buildings belonging to legal and natural persons; the State Buildings Register’s main task was to keep account of the buildings that are in use; it’s controller was the Ministry of Economy and Communication.

According to the Building Act, the following information was entered in the register:

  • data of the building, among these: essential technical data and data about the physical share in the meaning of the Apartment Ownership Act;
  • data of the location of the building;
  • data of the persons connected with the building;
  • data of the owner of the building;
  • data about mortgages connected with the building that is movable property;
  • data about arrests and prohibitions connected with the building that is movable property;
  • data connected with cultural memorials.

The work of the Buildings Register was terminated on 31 December 2003, when the data from register’s database and it’s functions were transferred to the State Register of Construction Works. Materials of the regional buildings registers were given over to the National Archives in Tartu, Rakvere and Valga.

NB! The files of Buildings Register have access restrictions.

The agricultural census lists of 1939

In June 1939 a general agricultural census took place in Estonia «in which census will be taken of agricultural properties, manpower and the state of the branches of production» (Agricultural Census Act — RT 1938, 97, 835).

In the course of the agricultural census two kinds of census lists were filled: lists of land and lists of farmsteads. List of land was filled for every land unit in the cadastre, list of farmstead was filled for every farm (independent economical unit whose size is at least 1 ha and which is used for production of agricultural goods).

List of land described land units taken into land cadastre, maybe more from the legal point of view than the real state of affairs, but often the land unit in cadastre corresponded to a really working farm. The list of land recorded the situation of the land unit (district, commune, village or manor), name and number (for example «Rootsi nr A-19») and the number of the real estate. The information about the owner of the land unit was also recorded: the name of the owner marked in cadastre, if there was another, factual owner (not the «present» owner in the cadastre) then his name was recorded too, also his way of acquiring the land unit and the names of people using some parts of this land unit. On the list of land the pieces of land that the land unit consisted of were also recorded (their size and in which way the land unit was divided into hayfields, pasture and forest land).

The list of farmstead reflected the real use of the land. It recorded the name of the farmstead and its size (the land that belonged personally to the farmer, also the land he used by lease, service agreement or on some other ground). Then followed the account of farmland’s division by the use (arable land, hayfield, pasture land, and forest land), by the field cultures, by the number of the fruit-trees and berry-bushes, by the use of fertilizers, by farm animals, by agricultural machinery, by agricultural equipment, by buildings and forests. In the end of the count list there was data about the population (farmer’s family members living on the farm and outside, also farm-hands living on the farm; children under 8 years were counted by number), about the education of the farmer, about the way he had acquired agricultural experience and about the time he had worked on a farm; also about the sale of farm products, about butchering the animals, about the grain reserves and about day or piece workers that were not counted before.

Data about the farms which size was under 1 ha (one did not fill farm lists for these) was assembled on lists of smallholds, that recorded only the smallholder’s name, the number of fruit-trees and berry-bushes, the size of the land used for gardening and the number of animals. There were also questions about the main income source of the smallholder, because the size of the land was too small to provide the living. In the towns there were also many smallholds, because the houses with gardens were classified as smallholds. In addition to above-mentioned lists there were also special lists also for the agricultural machinery and fishing, but in small number.

The census lists of the agricultural census of 1939 exist for the most of Estonian land-units. Estonia was divided into census districts, usually there were three or four of them for one municipality. The municipalities made the lists of land units, where the land units were recorded by census districts, in a census district often by villages or manors. In addition to the size of the land unit, it was also recorded if it was used as a number of farms (how many farm lists were filled). To find a right census list, one has to know the name of the land unit, advisably also the size and the location.

The census lists of the 1939 agricultural census are preserved in the National Archives in Tallinn in the fonds of State Statistics Central Office (Riigi Statistika Keskbüroo, ERA 1831).