Bulgaria Beginning Research

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Church records are primarily from the Bulgarian Orthodox and Roman Catholic religions, dating back usually to 1850 but some Catholic books back to at least 1797. A few parish registers have been gathered into state archives or the national museum but most are located in the churches.

Civil registration was instituted in 1893. The records are located at the district archives in each of the twenty eight districts of Bulgaria. In 1920, family registers were used for vital information. The Family History Library has microfilms of civil registration for the districts of Sofia and Plovdiv and these records usually cover 1893-1912 time period.

The first national census was conducted in 1880 just after liberation from Ottoman rule. The name lists for all 19th century censuses have not been preserved. Ottoman census records for the period 1831-1872 were enumerations of males compiled not as population counts but for fiscal and military purposes.

Administratively, Bulgaria is divided into twenty eight districts. Each has an archive where civil registration and some church records are preserved. Contact information can be found on the Bulgarian Archives website. Most church records are still located at the churches and may also be in monasteries.

To identify the jurisdictions and localities in Bulgaria refer to: Michev, N. and P. Koledarov. Rechnik na selishchata i selishchnite imena v Bulgariia, 1878-1987 (Dictionary of villages and village names in Bulgaria, 1878-1987), Sofia: Nauka i izkustvo, 1989 (FHL book 949.77 E5m).

Bulgarian is a southern Slavic tongue and is written in the Cyrillic script. Records were kept in Bulgarian, Turkish, Greek, and Old Church Slavonic. A good genealogy site is BulgariaGenWeb Project.

The Family History Library holds very few Bulgarian vital records. The Library has microfilms of civil registration for the districts of Sofia and Plovdiv only that usually cover 1893-1912 time period. The Library has some history and genealogy books from the following districts: Blagoevgrad, Burgas, Khaskovo, Lovech, Mikhaĭlovgrad, Razgrad, and Varna.