Hungary Jewish Records

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Jewish Records [Zsidó anyakönyvek es okmányok]

Jewish Records refer to records about Jews (non-vital) and records of Jewish births, marriages, deaths, and conscription books (vital). Non-vital Jewish records were created as Jewish communities kept account books, bought property, or had dealings with rulers and local governments. Jews in Hungary generally did not keep vital records unless required to do so by law. Beginning in 1788 Jews were required to keep records of births, marriages and deaths in German under Catholic supervision. Because these records were required for conscription and taxation purposes, Jews often evaded registration. The law was reemphasized several times during the early 1800s. Most Jewish communities did not actually start keeping records until the practice was again codified into law in 1840. In 1885 the Hungarian Royal Ministry of Cults required that Jewish vital births, marriages, and deaths be recorded in vital registers which included several congregations in a subdistrict rather than in registers of each individual congregation. Exceptions were allowed when individual congregations paid to have their own registrar. With the beginning of civil registration in 1895 Jewish registers ceased to be official state documents.

Written evidence proves the existence of Jews in Hungary in the tenth century though they likely were present as early as Roman times. Until the 1700s they were regularly expelled from the Hungarian Kingdom, but were always allowed to come back again. Their legal status was determined by specific royal decrees. Hungary experienced a great influx of Jews from Poland and Russia in the early 1800s, many of whom settled in the northern Hungarian counties. In 1781 the Emperor Joseph II issued the Toleration Patent which recognized Judaism and Protestantism throughout the empire. This began the gradual process of Jewish emancipation. Jews did not use fixed surnames until 1788 when another patent required them to adopt and use German surnames. In the mid 1800s a Jewish prefect was established. He represented the Jews before the Hungarian royal administration and was responsible for the regular collection of the Jewish tax. The Jews had to pay extra taxes for their protection. After 1840 Jews were allowed to settle in the whole territory of Hungary (with the exception of mining towns). In December of 1867 Hungarian law recognized the Jews as fully equal in both civilian and economic life. Most of Hungary’s Jews were forced out or murdered during the Nazi Holocaust.

Time period: Records pertaining to Jews and Jewish congregations exist from the 1500s. Some Jewish vital records exist from 1788 but most do not start until 1840. Jewish congregations continued to maintain registers into the 1920s or even later. These records continue into the 1940s when most Jewish congregations were destroyed in the Holocaust.

Contents: Non-Vital - These generally contain information about royal dealings with specific Jews; also information about Jewish congregations, rabbis, names of members of the congregation; and economic activities. Vital - Births - name; sex; date and place of birth; parents’ names (sometimes grandparents) with occupation, age and residence; names of witnesses. For males the date of circumcision is given. Marriages - names of groom and bride, date and place of marriage, age, place of birth, residence, previous marital status, occupation, often parents’ names for both groom and bride; names of witnesses. Deaths - name of the deceased, date and place of death, cause of death, residence, age, occupation, marital status, spouses’ name, often birthplace of the deceased. Conscription books - Lists of names of those members of the congregation eligible for conscription as of a specific date with birth date and residence.

Location: Vital records of Jews are in county archives under direction of the National Archives of Hungary [Országos Leveltár] in Budapest. Non-vital Jewish records are found in county archives as well as district and city archives.

Research use: Establish individual identity. Excellent for family and relationship linkage. They identify names of parents, prove other relationships, and are very useful for linking generations.

Accessibility: Jewish vital records are accessible for research by correspondence or researchers can get permission to research the records in person at the archives. Research by correspondence is often quite slow and costly. Other types of Jewish records are very difficult to access, even by on-site research.

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