Serbia Beginning Research

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Parish registers, 1777-present. The primary religious heritage of the country is Serbian Orthodox, constituting 65% of the population. The remainder of the population is 19% Muslim, living principally in the south, and 4% Roman Catholic, living in the north. They are located in churches, community and historical archives. Transcript copies of registers exist for the province of Vojvodina and are found in the archive of that province.

Civil registers, 1895-present. Civil registration was first instituted in Vojvodina in 1895 when it was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Elsewhere in Serbia & Montenegro, it was instituted in 1946. Civil registration offices are under the Ministry of Internal Affairs, separate from the archive system.

Censuses, 1815-present. Head of household censuses were conducted in 1815, 1824, and 1834. The earliest census listing family members was taken in 1863. Censuses were also taken in 1866, 1874, 1884, and every five years between 1895-1910, then in 1912/1913. Vojvodina censuses are for different years, the earliest being 1728. Early censuses are located in community, historical and provincial archives.

Ottoman population registers. Population registers and census returns were introduced concurrently in 1829-1831. They were amalgamated into a single system of record keeping in 1881-1889. The registers and census returns were kept by officials at the kaza (district) level. The reason for population registration before 1881 was to levy taxes on non-Muslims and to identify Muslims for conscription. Only males were registered. After 1881 all individuals were counted in both the census and the population registers after that date. The registers listed all family members; sex; birth date; residence; age; religion; craft or occupation; marital status, marriage date; health; military status. Some registers may be located in state and provincial archives, while most are probably at the Ottoman Archives in Istanbul, Turkey.

To identify the jurisdictions and localities in Serbia refer to: Imenik mesta u Jugoslaviji (Place names in Yugoslavia). Beograd: Novinska Ustanova Službeni List SFRJ, 1973. (949.7 E5u; film 874,462 item 2).

Archives. Genealogical records are found in archives at different levels:

  • state and provincial
  • historical archives (located in cities)
  • community (obstina)

There are four state/provincial archives:

  • The Archive of Serbia (Arhiv Srbije, Karnedzijeva 2, 11000 Beograd) founded in 1898, has census records from 1840 though most years are fragmentary except for 1863, 1905 and 1910.
  • The Archive of Vojvodina (Arhiv Vojvodine, Dunavska 35, 21000 Novi Sad) has a 973 volume collection of parish register transcripts pertaining to all religions for the period 1826-1895 and the 1869 census for Novi Sad.

At the next level down are the historical archives located primarily in larger cities. There are the primary depositories for older parish registers. Contact information can be found at the site for the Archive of Serbia. Locally, parish registers are found in community (obstina) archives or in the churches themselves. These archives also have early census records.

The principal language of the Orthodox records is Serbo-Croatian written in Serbian Church Slavonic script, derived from old Cyrillic script. The Catholic records are in Latin until 1848, then in Hungarian. Both are written in Roman script.