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Hungarian Genealogy: Research Tip #10


The theme of today's tip is: Conducting Research In Church Parish Registers

A pattern has begun to emerge in the Hungary Exchange Facebook group, where members have only been using indexed data found on various websites such as FamilySearch.org and Ancestry.com. As fantastic as this information is, you cannot use this raw indexed data as a definitive and primary source. You need to view and analyze the actual documents where the indexed data came from, as it'll hold very important information about your ancestors and it may hold crucial clues to moving your family tree backward. This post will be my way of urging my fellow researchers to view these important records now rather than later. Procrastinating will likely lead you to having a family tree chock full of errors.

Spellings Errors:
We are only human and we make spelling errors all the time, especially when it comes to a foreign language. Data indexed on FamilySearch.org and Ancestry.com is no stranger to this. I come across simple spelling errors so often in the Hungarian baptismal databases that I begin to wonder who actually indexed these records, and it's very clear that non-Hungarian speaking indexers completed the tasks. Always be cautious of entries where your ancestor's names appear with inconsistencies, as it likely may have been indexed or spelled wrong.

Father's Occupation:
Details about the father's occupation will not appear in the indexed data online. This is one thing, along with may others to be found below, that will only be found when viewing the actual records. Knowing the father's occupation could help with correctly identifying various records relating to the family and especially his death record. In most cases, the men of the family weren't always recorded with their wive's names, so it becomes very important to know more details about the individual.

Family's Social Standing:
Information about the family's social standing is not only important, but it could be exciting. Finding that a specific female ancestor comes from a noble family could open up a wealth and variety of records available directly associated with noble families of Hungary. Social standings can often go hand-in-hand with the occupations of family members, but it's not always the case. A very common example is a family of noble origins, yet are simple poor peasants.

Having a family with noble origins opens up documents and records that could span back to the 13th century. Of course, tracking back to these families can be difficult but it could also be very rewarding: you could descend from kings and queens, or you could descend from notable figures such as Attila the Hun.

If a family is of non-noble origins there is still a wealth of information to be found, yet you my be limited with how far back you can research. There are numerous censuses that were taken in Hungary and countless taxation documents exist for all of Hungary, both at the national and county level.

Places:
This one is extremely important. Just because a family attended a specific parish does not mean they actually lived in that town. A parish could have presided over numerous neighboring towns and reviewing the actual documents will display what town or village the family were residing in. Other than in larger towns, it was uncommon for an individual town to have a church for each religious denomination. The parish records will usually show not only the town they resided in, but also the exact house number. If it's a much larger town it'll also include either the street name they lived at or both the street name and the house number (like common traditional addresses that we're familiar with now).

Religion:
Reviewing the parish records could show that the father and mother were of different religious denominations, such as Roman Catholic and Reformed. Inter-marrying amongst different religions wasn't uncommon in Hungary, especially in the highly population areas such as Budapest, Győr, Miskolcz and Debreczen. There was even inter-marriage into the Jewish faith. Knowing the religion of both parents is essential to accurately locating their marriage records, as most marriages occurred in the religious parish that the bride was residing in. Another thing to make note of when the parents belong to different religions is their children's baptisms. In most cases, the sons were baptized in the father's religion and the daughters were baptized in the mother's religion.

Illegitimate Children:
An illegitimate child appearing in your family tree will likely occur. It's very common and it happened to almost every family some way or another: a sibling, an aunt or a cousin may have had an illegitimate child. One thing I have definitely noticed in the databases on FamilySearch.org and Ancestry.com, are that illegitimate children are sometimes being indexed as legitimate children. In some cases a widow will have a children years after her deceased husband has passed away and she would be listed as his widow. An example would be: néhai Nagy István özv. Kis Mária (deceased Nagy István widow Kis Mária). An entry like this does not necessarily mean that Nagy István is the father; it simply means that Kis Mária was his widow. You must pay attention to the legitimacy column and whether it states the child was legitimate or illegitimate. Additional information will be found in the death record for the deceased Nagy István. Finding his death record and determining when he died in comparison of when the child was born, could reflect whether it could be his child or not. If the child was born anytime within roughly eight months of his death, then the child is likely his. But if it's anything more than nine months, then the child is definitely illegitimate and does not belong to Nagy István.

Godparents/Sponsors:
This category could be a gold mine of family information which cannot be found in the indexed records online. Any of the godparents or sponsors could have been a relative of either side of the family: the father's or mother's. They could be an aunt or uncle, a cousin or even a grandparent to the child.

Notes:
The last column, which is usually a "notes" or "observations" column, could be loaded with details about the individuals. If it's a baptismal record, it could mention the date the person died or details about their marriage, including the date, place and who they married. If it's a marriage record you're looking at, it could provide details about the groom's military service, details about the groom and bride's birth and even possibly details about their divorce later down the road. I've also seen mentions on a marriage record where it talked about the illegitimate children of a couple, that had then become legitimatized after the marriage occurred.

Comments

  1. Great tip. I have spent countless hours looking at microfilm. I was stuck on my research from family search and ancestry until I ordered the microfilm from family search. Names were misspelled in the database. I was able to find the correct spelling on the microfilm

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