Genealogical Research: Helpful Hints

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Diocesan Archives Eisenstadt

"Back to the roots" - For many people this motto is their motivation to try and find out more about their ancestors. Family history, genealogy, in the first place aims at finding out names and dates of birth and death of people related to each other. There are two basic methods: the research of the ancestors of a person and the research of the descendants of a person. The corresponding forms of visualization of this data are called table of ancestors or table of descent. Many visitors of the Diocesan Archives who want to research their "table of descent" are in fact interested in their table of ancestors. Researching family history is much more than collecting dates of births and deaths. We can see this in the increasing interest in matters of social history, like professions, social status, marriage patterns, number of children, age, causes of death, migration ...

The most important sources are the matricula (personal status records). In 1563 the Council of Trent ordered all parishes to keep written records of baptisms and marriages, and about 50 years later confirmation and death records also became compulsory. These records (until 1784) are denominational records of personal status and are placed under the sole supervision of the ecclesiastical authorities. The Roman-Catholic records include the records of other religious groups (Lutherans ) before these groups started their own personal status records. In 1784 Emperor Joseph II. put the personal status records under supervision of the state. This meant that the priests were obliged by law to keep baptism, marriage and death records, which were and still are also valid for the civil authorities. In Hungary, of which today's Burgenland was a part until 1921, the state started his own personal status records in 1895 (in Austria in 1938). This means that from these dates onwards the parishes only produced ecclesiastical records, which are under the sole supervision of the church.

Additional sources for family history research are ecclesiastical conscriptions, confirmation books or other sacrament records ... Records of the estates, e.g. the so called orphans' books (remission accounts), land registers (Urbaria) ... can also yield good research results.

In preparing a table of ancestors a systematic approach is of great necessity, in order to avoid the need to look through the same records more than once. The first step is to collect data from documents in family property (birth, baptism, marriage and death certificates ...). The questioning of relatives and the inscriptions on gravestones can also lead to valuable insights. With this data, which can be entered into a table of ancestors or a list of ancestors, one can get information back to the generation of the grandparents or even great-grandparents. Older data can be found in the personal status record books, which are deposited in the municipalities' personal status offices (from 1895 until today), prior to 1895 in the parish offices or in the Diocesan Archives Eisenstadt, 7000 Eisenstadt, St. Rochus-Strasse 21.

To access the books stored in the parishes one needs a permit, which has to be requested from the Bischoefliches Ordinariat, 7000 Eisenstadt, St. Rochus-Strasse 21. Be sure to mention the word 'Matrikeneinsichtsbewilligung' (= permission to view church records) as the subject of your letter.

Inquiries about the records stored at the Diocesan Archives Eisenstadt, about the means to research them as well as the mandatory appointment for your visit can also be made by phone (+43-2682/777-235 or 236). Additional information about the Diocesan Archives can be taken from the fact sheet "Diocesan Archives - Diocesan Library - Diocesan Museum" (see below).

It is not possible to ask the Diocesan Archives to prepare personal tables of ancestors, and other genealogical research can only be done at a very limited level. The fee for this research will be calculated from the time spent on it. Preliminary inquiries are free, e.g. the question if a certain surname is likely to appear in the records of a parish in a certain time frame. [Ed note: Due to the current digitization project for the diocesean records, even limited paid research services have been suspended; it is unknown when or if such services will resume.]

And what about the interpretation of the church records? The church records regularly include the date of baptism (sometimes also the date of birth), the parents' names (unfortunately the mothers' maiden names are often omitted), the places of birth and the names of the godparents. In case one already knows the date of birth and thus also the names of the parents of a certain person, or if one just knows the names of the parents, the first thing to do is to look for their entry in the marriage records, because these usually include additional data like: name, age, personal status, parents, places of residence of bride and groom, sometimes additional information about origin, profession and names of the witnesses. As regards the given age of the married couple, one can regularly add or subtract several years. Therefore one should confirm the dates of their birth by re-checking them in the birth records. Then one can go back to the marriage records and in that way research one generation after the other.

In case the church records have indexes, it may be very easy to find your ancestors, but otherwise one has to go through entry after entry, which often is a burdensome and time consuming task. The records are usually written in the so called German script. One needs a little practice to be able to read it. Language problems with Latin or Hungarian entries can be solved rather easily.

Be careful nonetheless! We already mentioned the problems arising from wrong entries of age in the records. Usually the place of marriage was (and is) the place of residence of the bride. The first names have usually been selected from a small group of names, therefore one has to be careful: If you have found the birth record of a certain person, make sure that this person still "was alive" at the date of his or her marriage. For after the death of a child its name usually was given once again. This was especially the case when the name was one of the "traditional names" in the family. The records end at a certain time, in most cases around 1680. Older records are only available for very few parishes (Eisenstadt holds the record with 1613).

What does the Diocesan Archives wish you now? A successful research of your family history, which will certainly yield many interesting results. If you ever don't know how and where to proceed in your research, just give me a call (++43/2682/777-234)! I will try to help you.

17 April 2001
Hans Peter Zelfel
Head of Archives


Diocesan Archives Eisenstadt

7000 Eisenstadt, St. Rochus-Strasse 21
Phone: ++43/2682/777-235 or 236; 234 (Head of Archives) Fax: ++43/2682/777-252
e-mail: Brigitte Gerdenitsch

"When sending an email to the Diocesan Archives, it is always necessary to include your full name and postal address."

Open hours (appointment absolutely necessary) Mondays to Thursdays, 08.30 - 12.00 and 13.00 - 16.30; Fridays, 09.00 - 13.00; Limited open hours during July and August

For the Burgenland, which until 1921 had belonged to the dioceses Gyoer (Raab) und Szombathely (Steinamanger), an ecclesiastical administration was set up in 1922. Its name changed slightly from "Apostolische Administration des Burgenlandes" to "Apostolische Administratur Burgenland" in 1939. The diocese Eisenstadt was created in 1960.

An efficient ecclesiastical administration requires access to the existing documents and files. It is mainly in this field that the Diocesan Archives is working since it has been created about 50 years ago. It gathers, stores and makes available the (historical) documents of the diocesan administration. Apart from that the diocesan archives has to preserve and collect documents which contain information about the ecclesiastical and clerical life in our diocese. For the sake of preservation many parish archives, especially the older church records from most Burgenland parishes, are stored in the diocesan archives. All these holdings of the archives are open to the interested public for research purposes. The archives' library as well as the larger Diocesan Library contain literature about the history of the parishes and the diocese.

Research restrictions: All documents are subject to a 50-year restriction, provided that other laws do not demand a longer period of restriction.

Overview of the inventory:
- Documents of the administration of the diocese (since 1922), specifically Bishop's Office, Parochial Office, School Office, Financial Office, Building Office, Caritas, and Catholic Action
- Parish Archives including deposited records (mostly 17th and 18th century)
- Collections: Sources on Diocesan, Parish and Biographical History; Photo Archives; Liturgical Pictures; Newspapers

Diocesan Library Eisenstadt

For address, phone, fax, e-mail and opening hours see Diocesan Archives

Ca. 14,000 volumes (mostly works of reference, theological and Burgenland-related books)
Ca. 100 journals and newspapers
Special collections: Weinhofer Library (18/19th century), Martin Mersich estate (early Burgenland Croat prints prior to 1921)

Diocesan Museum Eisenstadt

7000 Eisenstadt, Joseph Haydn-Gasse 31
Phone: ++43/2682/62943-2 (only during open hours) or 02682/777-235 Fax: ++43/2682/777-252
e-mail: Brigitte Gerdenitsch

Open Hours (depends on the current exhibit) but typically:
Wednesdays to Saturdays 10.00 - 13.00 and 14.00 - 17.00
Sundays and holidays 13.00 - 17.00
Closed on Mondays and Tuesdays

The Diocesan Museum, established in 1980 in Eisenstadt's Franciscan Abbey, displays ecclesiastical art stemming from the Burgenland region; Statues, paintings, paraments and liturgical devices, objects of popular piety and religious graphics. Of course there is a special focus on Saint Martin of Tours, the patron saint of the Diocese Eisenstadt and the province Burgenland. The exhibition is completed by an overview of the ecclesiastical history of the Burgenland, which through centuries has been shaped by Hungary.

It is not the main aim of the Diocesan Museum to give scientific insights in art history, but in religious and general historical aspects. Therefore the museum must not be experienced as the "natural" home of the artifacts. It shall direct to their lost original context (church building, liturgy, piety) without trying to replace it.

This information has been translated by Burgenland Bunch volunteers, The Burgenland Bunch

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This page was last updated on 20 Nov 2012