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Hungarian Genealogy: Research Tip #7

The theme of today's tip is: Identifying Nobility & Using Their Resources

Discovering a branch of noble ancestors in your Hungarian ancestry can be pretty exciting! When I began my research around 12 years ago, I was delighted to find that my 2nd-great-grandmother, Eszter Tóth, was a noblewoman; this helped to partially prove some family stories that had been passed around for a few decades.

The most important word concerning Hungarian nobility, is "nemes". Nemes literally means 'noble', in Hungarian. It was very common for nobles to be cited as such in church parish registers, with the notation of either "Nemes" or its abbreviation of Ns. You can see an example of "Nemes", in the image to the right; the father is stated as "Tóth László Nemes". The child being baptized in this record, Károly, is my 3rd-great-grandfather.

For most people, to be able to go anywhere or find anything of interest pertaining to your family's nobility, you MUST research as far back and as much as you possibly can into your family, within the church parish registers. For those lucky few who descend from the more elite nobility, you will likely be able to research a few generations, and then easily find your family's pedigree charts and tables in numbers Hungarian nobility publications.

Luckily enough for myself, my noble Tóth family seemed to stay around the Tiszadob area in Szabolcs county. Combined with the Reformed church parish registers and various census and taxation documents, I was able to research my specific Tóth line back to a Mihály Tóth living in Tiszadob in 1725. With all of this information, I began to "hit the books".. the Hungarian nobility books!

Unfortunately for me, Tóth is an extremely common surname; one of the most common surnames in Hungary. That being said, I knew it was going to be a large haul to tackle the substancial amount of nobility information pertaining to the Tóth surname. I would have to weed through all the families to find my one correct family. And I will show you how I did that! The first book I referred to, was Magyarország Családai (Hungarian Families) by Iván Nagy. There are at least 27 different Tóth families in this publication. There was one family that could be a potential match, but they resided in Dombrád; so I eliminated that possibility.

The next publication to check is Magyar Nemes Családok (Hungarian Noble Families), by Béla Kempelen. There are over 120 Tóth families in this publication. That number is extremely daunting, so without knowing more details it would be impossible to find MY family. The next fantastic resource I looked into, was Magyarország Vármegyéi Es Városai (Hungarian Counties and Cities), by Sámuel Borovszky. Within this publication, you can browse noble families within specific counties. I immediately paged to the noble families of Szabolcs county, and low-and-behold, there was a fantastic piece of information! The publication stated that my Tóth family had received their nobility from King Rudolf, and it was recorded in Külső-Szolnok county (modern-day Heves county area), and that Miháy Tóth was a residing in Tiszadob in 1725.

Conducting research within the microfilmed records via the LDS, I found nobility records pertaining to Szabolcs county and I reviewed the data to find anything pertaining to my Tóth family. Within these records, I found the 1725 entry mentioned for Mihály Tóth.

With this key piece of information I was able to find information in Turul, the publication issued by the Hungarian Heraldry & Genealogy society. It was found in 1895's volume 3, in an article that highlighted the noble families whose armalis (patent of nobility) was preserved and recorded in the Lelesz convent in the former Zemplén county. It stated that four Tóth brothers (Imre, Benedek, Jakab & Ambrus) were granted their nobility by King Rudolf in 1580, and that it was recorded/preserved in the Lelesz convent. The Tóth's that were living in 1750, were István son of Mihály and Mihály son of István.

Now knowing all this information, I contacted the proper archive in Slovakia that covers the convent of Lelesz in the former Zemplén county, Hungary. They were able to supply an AMAZING fully digital version of the patent of nobility that was preserved in the Lelesz convent. This document was created in 1580 and was preserved in the convent in 1583, and has been preserved beautifully to the point that you can actually see the shine of the gold leaf in the lettering and the coat of arms on the armalis. Stunning.. absolutely stunning.

So when you discover nobility in your family tree, take all the proper steps to thoroughly document every piece of information you find and to thoroughly check all possible resources. You won't regret it!


  1. Szegeny halott ferjem utan meg nekem is megvan a Kempelen Konyv a nemesi csaladokrol.Ferjem a hires ,s sajnos fiatalon Nemetorszagban1989 Oktobereben megolt Dunai Akos iro volt.Tisztelettel;Ildiko


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