Romania Beginning Research
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This article will briefly introduce you to the essential sources and strategies needed to discover your ancestors from Romania.
Beginning research on families from Romania is no different than from any other European country. You must start with what you know and proceed back, generation by generation. The first generations are usually quite simple to research since information is available from your own family, relatives, and local public records. Learn the basics about genealogical research in general and the same principles will apply to research in Romania.
Determine the place of origin
Before you can begin genealogical research in Romania, you must find out who your immigrant ancestor was and his exact place of origin. Since emigration from Romania took place in the late nineteenth or early twentieth century, you will probably find that you will need access to birth, death, and marriage records from Romania within a few generations. To do this, you must determine which town or village in Romania your emigrant ancestors came from, because records in Romania were kept on a local level. You may be able to find out this information from family sources or from old family documents. It may be necessary to look for this information in death records, obituaries, passenger lists, naturalization records, or similar sources where your Romanian ancestor settled.
Modern Romania consists of territories with varied historical backgrounds. The westerncentral area includes Transylvania and part of the Banat, formerly part of the old kingdom of Hungary. The eastern and southern areas include the historic Romanian principalities of Moldavia and Walachia. The eastern coastal area of Dobrudja belonged to Bulgaria under Turkish rule until 1878.
Locate the ancestral home
Once you have identified your family's place of origin in Romania you will need to determine its correct spelling and county. Maps can be very helpful, but gazetteers are of even greater value. A gazetteer is a geographic dictionary, a book that lists all localities and gives sufficient information to uniquely identify a specific locality. The gazetteer of modern Romania is Indicatorul Localităţilor din România [Index of Localities of Romania], written in Romanian; publishing information: Bucureşti: Editura Academiei Republicii Socialiste România, 1974. (FHL book Ref 949.8 E5i; also on microfilm 1181561 item 1). The western area of Romania, called Transylvania, was formerly under Hungarian rule. For these areas you may need to use the old gazetteer of Hungary to determine the former Hungarian spelling as well as the nearest parish or synagogue. Use Magyár Helségnévtára [Hungarian gazetteer] by János Dvorzák, comp. Budapest: "Havi Füzetek," 1877 (FHL book Ref 943.9 E5d; also on microfilm vol. 1 on film 599564, vol. 2 on film 973041).
Find your ancestor in the records
The earliest vital records were kept by churches. In Hungary, Walachia, and Moldavia these church records started in the mid 1700s. Civil registration records were kept and maintained by the Orthodox churches beginning in May 1831 in Walachia and in January 1832 in Moldavia. In December 1865 civil registration in these Romanian principalities was assumed by civil authorities. Dobrudja had become part of Romania in 1878; fifteen years before Bulgaria began civil registration in 1893. Civil registration in Hungary started in December of 1895, which means that the principal source for earlier research in Transylvania and the Banat must be church records. Some vital records of Romania; especially those of the German and Hungarian minorities, are now kept in archives in Germany and Hungary. Some records have been destroyed. Many are scattered in many small archives and private collections; some have been microfilmed and are available through the Family History Library. To determine whether the records you need have been microfilmed, check the FamilySearch Catalog.
The Family History Library has not microfilmed records at the Romanian State Archives. By law vital records are kept in local civil records offices and parish offices for seventy-five years; then they are transferred to the State Archives in Bucharest or the district capital.
Research by mail
Genealogical research may be possible by correspondence. It is necessary, however, to write information requests in Romanian. Use the letter-writing guide to compose your letter and send it to the appropriate address.