Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture

Seeking information about your Lithuanian ancestry?  Let us help you with your search.  Genealogy consultations and services are available to Genealogy-Level Museum Members.

  • 6500 S. PULASKI ROAD
    CHICAGO, IL 60629
  • TEL.: 773.582.6500
  • FAX:773.582.5133
  • Open 10 AM - 4 PM Daily
  • Closed Christmas, Easter &
    New Year's Day
  • Directions

Genealogy Department

Lithuanian Immigrant Family
The mission of the Genealogy Department is to collect, catalogue and preserve vital records and documents pertaining to the immigration history of Lithuanian Americans. The origins of this department, one of the Museum's most dynamic, can be traced to the vision of exceptionally talented volunteers and the energy of dedicated staff members working together to organize voluminous materials. Over the years, this core of devoted individuals took dispersed and remote information from a variety of sources and labored to make it all accessible. Scholars can now utilize these materials to research a number of fields: sociology, demography, and immigration. Most frequently, however, the resources gathered within the department are used by people researching their family histories. the resources include archives, death notice files, cross-indexed searches, ancestral town information, translations, and a host of other genealogical references. They are literally the tools of the genealogical trade. By combining these resources with the guidance of a capable and knowledgeable staff, hundreds of people have discovered the rewards of genealogy - exploring, connecting, appreciating, and identifying with a very personal past.

Museum staff provide consultations for Genealogy Members

Many people of Lithuanian ancestry request assistance from the Museum when they begin to research their own Lithuanian family names or ancestral places of origin. Sometimes the expertise the Museum's Genealogy Department provides is linguistic in nature. The Museum staff can assist in deciphering historical immigration documents, particularly handwritten records, such as passports and immigration papers. These written materials are not always legible because handwriting styles and the spelling of Lithuanian words have changed significantly over time. Prior to World War I, Lithuania was part of the Russian Empire and documents were issued in Cyrillic script. In such instances, the staff can assist with the translation of these records. If names have been shortened and "Americanized" over time or in circumstances where spelling was altered through transliteration, the Museum staff can help ascertain what the original Lithuanian surnames or place names might have been. "While we cannot always guarantee that we will find the information you are seeking, we can at least give you enough information to help you focus your genealogical research and avoid some common pitfalls" says Karilė Vaitkutė, who heads the Genealogy Department at the Museum.

Genealogy Membership Levels:

If you would like assistance from the Balzekas Museum staff to research your ancestral name or town in Lithuania, please select a membership level from the following PayPal menu. To review the benefits of each level, please read the descriptions below:

Basic Genealogy Membership - $125 annually*

Entitles a member to all the privileges of the Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture FAMILY MEMBERSHIP, including free admission to the Museum, invitations to all programs, gift and program discounts, 10% discount on translation service, subscription to the Lithuanian Museum Review. It also entitles a member to:

  • One Basic Surname Search - A search of the indicated name in the following sources: Obituary Collection "Naujienos" newspaper; Master File; Minor File; indication of spelling variants of the indicated name; etymology of the indicated name; list of addresses of people with the same last name in Lithuania today; search through available internet resources, such as, etc.
  • One Basic Ancestral Town Search - Includes location indication on the map and photocopies of the location description from the following sources:
    • Encyclopedia Lituanica (in English)
    • Lietuvių Enciklopedija (in Lithuanian)
    • Lietuviškoji Tarybinė Enciklopedija (in Lithuanian)
    • Mažoji Lietuviškoji Tarybinė Enciklopedija (in Lithuanian)
    • Lietuvos Baznyčios ("Churches in Lithuania" - in Lithuanian)
    • Mūsų Lietuva (Our Lithuania – in Lithuanian)

*NOTE: Online searches for digitized birth, marriage, and death records in the Lithuanian State Historical Archives are available based on accessibility. The records are in Old Russian, Polish, and Latin. A search and translation of one record is an additional $100.

Patron Genealogy Membership - $350 annually*

Includes a BASIC GENEALOGY membership, plus up to four Basic Surname Searches and four Basic Ancestral Town Searches. Staff members will research these additional resources:

*NOTE: This membership is highly recommended for those who want to research more than one family member, e.g. a husband and wife, or a grandfather and his parents, etc.

Benefactor Genealogy Membership - $1,000
(A one-time payment)

Includes all benefits of BASIC and PATRON Genealogy Membership plus these additional sources used for research:

  • Digitized birth, marriage, and death records from Lithuania (if available);
  • Library Publications and Articles (Authors)
  • Nobility File
  • Heraldic & Coat of Arms Research
  • Artist File
  • Photo Archives
  • Jurgis Gimbutas Collection (Photos of towns and cities in Lithuania)
  • Individuals decorated with Medals by the Lithuanian Government
  • List of exiles to Siberia
  • List of Lithuanian military men

Genealogy Services for Non-Members:

Non-member genealogy services are à la carte:

  • Obituary check: $25
  • Obituary translation: $40
  • Determining the right spelling of a name: $25
  • Determining the right spelling of a location: $25

Location indication on the map: $25

  • Online search for digitized birth, marriage, or death records in Lithuania: $150 (based upon availability)
For non-member genealogical services, select below:

Please contact Karile Vaitkute, Director of Genealogy Department, at or 773-582-6500 during regular business hours.



First Wave of Immigration - Exhibit

The Museum's extensive archival materials about Lithuanian immigration to America are used to provide materials for genealogical  and historical research and for exhibitions, such as the "First Wave" exhibition at the Balzekas Museum in 2008. The exhibition documented the lives of Lithuanian immigrants to America.





Karilė Vaitkutė - Geneology Department Chair

Karilė Vaitkutė
Director, Genealogy Department
Editor, Lithuanian Museum Review


The film opens with a view of the steam ferryboat "William Myers," laden with passengers, approaching a dock at the Ellis Island Immigration Station. The vessel is docked, the gangway is placed, and the immigrant passengers are seen coming up the gangway and onto the dock, where they cross in front of the camera.
From a contemporary Edison film company catalog: EMIGRANTS LANDING AT ELLIS ISLAND. Shows a large open barge loaded with people of every nationality, who have just arrived from Europe, disembarking at Ellis Island, N.Y." Duration: 2:20 at 15 fps.

From the Lithuanian Museum Review, Nov. - Dec., 2011

Neringa Češkevičiūtė in the Balzekas Museum Review
Neringa Češkevičiūtė examines archival documents at the Lithuanian National Archives

From the Lithuanian Museum Review, an excerpt from an interview with Neringa Češkevičiūtė, the Director of the Departments of the Documents of the Institutions of the Russian Empire at the Lithuanian State Historical Archives:

Q: What else besides birth, marriage and death records can be found in the Lithuanian State Historical Archives?
Vital records are only one percent of all the records kept in our> Archives. It holds all the Lithuanian history from the 13th century to 1940. The Archives are set up according to the institutions, department, offices that were open and active during the course of history of Lithuania. Every one of these departments, institutions, offices is a separate collection. The collections are numbered. For example, records of St. Paul's Church is one collection, records of Grand Duke’s Chancellery is another collection, and so on. We have more than one thousand two hundred collections. The files would add up to seventeen kilometers in length. Our collections are enumerated in the website

The Departments of the Documents of the Institutions of the Russian Empire at the Lithuanian State Historical Archives holds records for the period from 1795 to 1918. The interview was published in the Lithuanian Museum Review, a publication of the Balzekas Museum. A subscription to the Museum Review is available to Museum Members. Read more of the interview here ...