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The Holy Roman Empire was the major political entity in the heart of Europe between 1500 and 1806. Austrian Empire begin in 1814 and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, or the Dual Monarchy, after 1867. The Empire lasted until the end of World War I in 1918.
The kingdoms and crownlands of the Austrian Empire
The Austrian part of the dual monarchy did not have its own historic name and was officially called the "kingdoms and crownlands represented in the imperial parliament." It came to be known as Austria, or Cisleithania, which refers to "the lands on this side of the Leitha River", from the perspective of Vienna. The river formed part of the boundary of Austria and Hungary. Cisleithania comprised Austria proper, Bohemia, Moravia, Austrian Silesia, Slovenia, and Austrian Poland. The Hapsburgs ruled there as Austria's emperors.
The kingdoms and crownlands of the Austrian Empire were:
- the Kingdom of Bohemia
- the Kingdom of Dalmatia
- the Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria
- the Archduchy of Austria, which included Upper Austria and Lower Austria
- the Duchy of Bukovina
- the Duchy of Carinthia
- the Duchy of Carniola
- the Duchy of Salzburg
- the Duchy of Upper Silesia and Lower Silesia
- the Duchy of Styria
- the Margravate of Moravia
- the Princely County of Tyrol, including the Land of Vorarlberg
- the Coastal Land, including the Princely County of Gorizia and Gradisca, the State of Trieste and the Margravate of Istria
The lands of the Hungarian Kingdom
Transleithania, which refers to “the land on the other side of the Leitha River” included Hungary, Transylvania, Croatia, and part of the Dalmatian coast. The Hapsburgs ruled it as kings of Hungary after 1867.
The lands of the Hungarian Kingdom were:
- the Kingdom of Hungary, with Transylvania and Vojvodina (Banat, Batschka)
- the Kingdom of Croatia and Slavonia
- the State of Rijeka
Bosnia-Herzegovina was jointly administered by the empire's two halves.
Names of the Dual Monarchy in languages of its citizens officially recognized:
- Bosnian: Austro-Ugarska
- Croatian: Austro-Ugarska
- Czech: Rakousko-Uhersko
- German: Österreich-Ungarn
- Hungarian: Osztrák–Magyar Monarchia
- Italian: Austria-Ungheria
- Polish: Austro-Węgry
- Romanian: Austro-Ungaria
- Serbian: Aустро-Угарска/Austro-Ugarska
- Slovak: Rakúsko-Uhorsko
- Slovene: Avstro-Ogrska
- Ukrainian: Австро-Угорщина/Avstro-Uhorshchina
- Roman Catholic
- Greek Catholic
- Protestant, including Evangelical/Lutheran, Evangelical/Reformed, Mennonite, and Baptist
- abt 1,000 A.D.: Iron plow invented in Lower Rhine region. Resultant increase in food production leads to population growth and German emigration to the east - Bohemia and Hungary - and to the Crusades.
- 1130s: Zipser and Transylvania Saxon colonies founded by Germans (Upper Hungary - Slovakia and Transylvania).
- 1241: Mongol raid devastates Hungary, Slovakia.
- 1335-1350: Black Death (Bubonic plague) begins in Constantinople, spreads to Mediterranean seaports, then to Central and Western Europe. 50-75 % of Europe's population is wiped out. Emigration to the east ceases for a long time.
- 1526: Battle of Mohacs - The Turks defeat Hungary and the Hungarian King dies on the battlefield. The Turks are repulsed in Vienna and the Habsburg monarchy takes over rule of Hungary.
- 1545-1547: Council of Trent - Reform of the Roman Catholic church, beginning of church registers of baptism, marriage, death.
- 1620-1650: Thirty Years' War - Germany and Bohemia are devastated by warring factions - Many church registers lost.
- 1683: Second siege of Vienna by Turks - Turks are turned back and gradually retreat from Hungary; 1686 Budapest liberated; 1688 Belgrade liberated.
- 1700s and early 1800s: Re-settlement of Hungary in the wake of 150 years of Turkish rule. The Banat and Backa are two main areas of 'Danube Swabian' settlements. (New settlers are actually from Alsace-Lorraine, Swabia, Slovakia, Bohemia, Galicia, Sub-Carpathian Rus, etc.).
- 1848: Nationalist revolutions in Western and Central Europe. Vestiges of serfdom finally abolished. Beginning of Hungarian independence from Austria; Czechs and other nationalities gain small measures of cultural independence.
- 1867: The compromise which institutes a dual monarchy. Two independent states which shared a common ruler, as emperor in Austria, as king in Hungary.
- 1914-1918: Austria-Hungary defeated in First World War, split into separate entities based on nationality: Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia created; Galicia goes to Poland; Transylvania goes to Romania.
When Poland was partitioned among its neighbors at the end of the 18th century, the Austrian Empire (later, the Austro-Hungarian Empire) received the heavily Jewish southeastern portion of the country, which it named Galicia. Since internal boundaries did not exist within the Austrian Empire, many impoverished Galician Jews migrated to the capital, Vienna - often with an intermediate stop along the way. By the end of the 19th century, Vienna had become a major center of European Jewry. On the eve of World War II, it had the third largest Jewish population in Europe (after Warsaw and Budapest).
Jewish genealogists with roots in Galicia should look for family branches in Vienna, especially if the family name was relatively uncommon - and many were. This task is made easier by two large collections of records available at the Family History Library, the Jewish birth, marriage and death records up to 1939 and the invaluable collection of residency books (Meldezettel).
The military played a significant role in the lives of the citizens of the Empire. Prior to 1802 a soldier's term of service was for life, although he was not necessarily on active duty the entire time. Those exempt from military service included the clergy, the nobility, certain government officials, and workers employed in mining, iron production, and necessary agricultural occupations.
After 1802 the term of service was reduced to ten years, but many were still exempt from military service. In 1868 a universal conscription went into effect. Every male citizen was obligated to serve three years of active duty with the military. This was modified in 1912 to a two-year term of active service.
The Military Archives in Vienna contain documents relating to the Austrian military from the sixteenth century until the end of WWI. The earlier records contain less genealogically relevant information. Some of the most recent records have been claimed by modem successor nations, notably Hungary and Yugoslavia.
The major collections in the Vienna War Archives have been microfilmed. Indexes to many of the records are available, especially if you ancestor happens to be an officer, staff member or official. In addition to indexes of soldier's names, indexes of regiments and recruitment places are available. Enlisted men can be located when the name of the regiment or military unit, or place of recruitment can be discovered. If the regiment is not known then place and regimental indexes must be consulted.
For more detailed information go to Austria Military Records.
- Felix Gundacker Site
- Maps III. katonai felmeres
- Austrian Empire map on film FHL film number 1045395
How to begin
Once you have found out the name of the place where your ancestor came from, you are ready to look for records that may have been kept for that town. All towns didn't keep their own records. The residents of each town were assigned to a particular parish in the area. Depending on the religion of your ancestor, the events of baptism, marriage or burial for his family members should have been recorded in the town where the appropriate parish was located.
k.-k. or k.u.k.? The Ausgleich or kiegyezés of 1867 and the Origins of the Dual Monarchy by Robert A. Selig
Following are few terms that may be encountered during studying the history of Austria and/or Hungary:
- Habsburg Monarchy named after the ruling family, the House of Habsburg
- Ausgleich or Compromise, of 1867 is defined as the set of constitutional
agreements between the Hungarian Parliament and Emperor Franz Joseph in his capacity as King of Hungary
- Doppelmonarchie or Dual Monarchy
- k.-k. or kaiserlich-koniglich or imperial-royal
- k.u.k or kaiserlich und koniglich or imperial and royal
This article was published in the German Life, August/September 2007 issue.
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