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Church Registers [Anyakönyvek]
Church Registers refer to the records of births/christenings, marriages, and deaths/burials recorded by churches (also First Communions, Confirmations and conversions). At the Peace of Linz in 1645, Hungary successfully forced the ruling Habsburgs to recognize four religions: Catholicism, Lutheranism, Calvinism, and Unitarianism.
Roman Catholic: Roman Catholic parishes were first required to keep church registers in 1563 by order of the Council of Trent. Unfortunately most of Hungary was under Turkish rule at that time and was unable to comply. Only a few Franciscan registers exist from the Turkish period and these start in the 1660s. Most Catholic records begin shortly after the Turks were forced to leave in 1686.
Greek Catholic: In three separate agreements, made during the 1600s, Orthodox ethnic groups (Ukrainian Ruthenes, Romanians, and Serbs) agreed to accept the jurisdiction of the pope while retaining Orthodox liturgy and ritual in order to gain legal status and its accompanying freedoms and benefits. The resulting Uniate churches were called Greek Catholic. Most Greek Catholic parishes began keeping registers in the mid 1700s.
Reformed: Calvinist Protestantism became the dominant religion of Hungarians in the late 1500s. Many Hungarians remained faithful to this religion despite the Counter Reformation efforts by the Habsburgs which began in 1604 and continued into the late 1700s, aiming to reassert Roman Catholicism in Hungary. The keeping of Reformed church registers began in the early 1700s after the Turks were replaced by the Christian Austrian government.
Lutheran: Lutheranism was accepted by many Germans in Hungary at about the same time Calvinism was adopted by the Hungarians. Their church registers begin in the early 1700s with the departure of the Turks.
Unitarian: Unitarianism (anti-trinitarianism) was introduced to Transylvania in the mid 16th century. Unitarians were considered heretics in many other lands but were legally recognized by Hungary after 1609. Unitarianism is identified with the Hungarian minority in Transylvania.
In 1730, Hungarian Catholic priests were ordered to record non-Catholics in their church register books. A new format for the records was introduced in 1771. In 1781 the Emperor Joseph II issued the Toleration Patent which recognized Protestantism and Judaism throughout the empire. After 1784 the Emperor Joseph II declared church registers to be official state records. Protestants were officially required to maintain registers under Catholic supervision. Imperial law also required that the church registers record births, deaths and marriages separately for each village in the parish. In Hungary, Protestants were authorized in 1787 to keep their registers independent of Catholic control.
Time period: The oldest church registers date from the 1630s, but the earliest entries in the registers of most parishes were made in the 1686-1740 time period. Church records continue to the present.
Contents: Christening registers - infant’s name, name and surname of father and mother, christening date (most also give the birth date); sometimes names of grandparents; names of godparents. Marriage registers - names of groom and bride, date of marriage, often include ages, residences, occupations, previous marital status, names of parents, sometimes the birthplace; names of witnesses. Burial/Death registers - name of the deceased, date and place of death and burial, place of residence; sometimes cause of death, names of survivors, occasionally the date and place of birth.
Location: Church records are the property of the state and are stored in the archives of the various Hungarian counties under direction of the National Archives of Hungary [Országos Leveltár] in Budapest.
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: Hungarian church registers are accessible for research in person by permission. It is possible to acquire individual certificates but the process is quite slow and costly.
Examples of Church Records
Kereszteltek anyakönyve (Birth and christening register)
Házasultak anyakönyve (Marriage register)
Megholtak anyakönyve (Death and burial register)
Church Records Headings Translations
Church Records Headings in Hungarian with English Translation
Church Records Headings in Hungarin/Latin/English:
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