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Getting started (in Austrian Genealogy)
The following is a quick guide to genealogical research in Austria via the Internet. Your comments and suggestions for improvement of this list will be greatly appreciated.
- There are two important considerations before you start researching in "Austria":
- Was it really Austria ?
Remember that the Austro-Hungarian Empire of the late 19th century included many areas that are separate countries today. Most people who start researching an immigrant ancestor who is listed on a US census and being " born in Austria" discover that they should be researching in Poland, Ukraine, Romania, the Czech Republic, or Slovenia, etc. You have to start by tracing the Immigration & Naturalization records with the aim of establishing the town or village of origin.
- If so, you will probably need to consult the church records.
- Most of these (in today's Austria) have not been filmed by the LDS.
- You need to know the religion before you start researching.
- You need to know the parish.
Keep in mind that there are other valuable local sources such as the provincial or city archives. However they will not do your research for you. Either you go to the archive or you commission a researcher to do it for you.
- If you are researching an immigrant ancestor, check these excellent summaries:
- Consider joining the Austria-L Mailing List
- Discerning Austrian Marriage Record Entries [ by Kent Stuetz,
Southern Waldviertel Family History Project ]
- Read Tracing Your Ancestors in Vienna by the City Archives of Vienna. Very good guidelines especially if you are researching Vienna.
- Beginner's Guide to Austrian-Jewish Genealogy
- Review the German Genealogy's Tips for Researchers, the Frequently Asked Questions list and consider joining the soc.genealogy.german newsgroup.
Much of this information applies to Austria too.
- Need a dictionary ? Problems reading old documents ? Click here.
- If you're new to genealogy, check the USGenWeb Project's Information for Researchers.
Finding a surname (person of Austrian origin)
Getting confirmation & documentation
- Recent records (post 1938) are maintained by the civil authorities. See: Personenstandsurkunden (in German).
- Establish the person's religion. All pre-1938 records are held by the respective churches.
- Detailed information about ealiest baptism, marriage and death records in the individual parishes can be found in reference books such as Handy Guide To Austrian Genealogical Records by Dagmar Senekovic (published 1979 by Everton Publishers, Inc. and available from Storbeck's for $ 5.50 plus shipping/handling).
- A number of useful publications are also available from IHFF
- Personal visits to the parishes or snail mail enquiries are the only solutions at present; see tips & advice.
- If the person served in the military, try the war archives.
Use the Family History Library Catalog™ for lookups.
See the list of LDS Austria microfilm and publication holdings.
Austrian Census Data
The Statistisches Zentralamt in Vienna has the RESULTS of the census
(Volkszaehlung) in the Austria Empire (without Hungary) in 1869, 1880,
1890, 1900 and 1910. Here you can find e.g. statistical information about
number of inhabitants and houses per village/town -- but NO NAMES of
The source documentation (the enumeration sheets) was largely destroyed
in the Palace of Justice fire in 1927. Some documentation is still
available at the Staatsarchiv in Vienna but most of it is badly damaged
(by fire and water), is difficult to handle, nearly impossible to read
and may not be photocopied.
However, there is some good news:
The FEEFHS - Federation of East European Family History Societies has published some interesting findings concerning the
Austrian census in former Galicia:
Tips & Advice
German is the language spoken in Austria; letters to Austrian institutions are more likely to be answered if they are written in German. Check the form letters and translation services.
See the LDS German Letter-Writing Guide.
Remember that research costs time and money. When making snail-mail inquiries, as a matter of courtesy, always enclose 2 international reply coupons and an addressed envelope.
Problems reading old documents ? Click here.
Genealogical research in Austria tends to be difficult for a number of reasons:
- Genealogy has a slightly negative "flavour" in Austria. It is often associated with the misuse of genealogical research during the Nazi era and many Austrians unfortunately consider it as old fashioned and as a pastime for nobility and would-be-aristocrats.
- Austrian data privacy laws are very strict; lookups are difficult and frequently require valid powers of attorney, proof of descent, etc.
- The boarders of Austria have changed over the centuries. Austria used to be a large empire; today Austria is a small country and a member of the European Union.
This and other considerations are well described in the introductory pages of IHFF (a commercial research company located in Vienna).
I will attempt to answer e-mail queries but keep in mind that I do this as a hobby. I, like many of you, am not a professional researcher. In any case your queries will be posted for the benefit of other users.
Important: researching can be difficult -- but never give up. If you're down, just click on the smile: