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Jewish Records refer to records about Jews (non-vital) and records of Jewish births, marriages, and deaths (vital). Non-vital Jewish records were created as Jewish communities kept account books, bought property, or had dealings with rulers and local governments. Records pertaining to Jews and Jewish congregation exist from the 1500s. Jews in Hungary generally did not keep vital records unless required to do so by law. Beginning in 1788 Jews were required to keep records of births, marriages and deaths in German under Catholic supervision. Because these records were required for conscription and taxation purposes, Jews often evaded registration. The law was reemphasized several times during the early 1800s. Most Jewish communities did not actually start keeping records until the practice was again codified into law in 1840. In 1885 the Hungarian Royal Ministry of Cults required that Jewish vital births, marriages, and deaths be recorded in vital registers which included several congregations in a sub-district obvod rather than in registers of each individual congregation obec. Exceptions were allowed when individual congregations paid to have their own registrar. With the beginning of civil registration in 1895 Jewish registers ceased to be official state documents.
Written evidence proves the existence of Jews in Slovakia in the tenth century though they likely were present as early as Roman times. Until the 1700s they were regularly expelled from the Hungarian Kingdom, but were always allowed to come back again. Their legal status was determined by specific royal decrees. Hungary experienced a great influx of Jews from Poland and Russia in the early 1800s, many of whom settled in the northern Slovak counties. The Jewish religion was not officially recognized in Hungary until the Toleration Patent of 1781. This began the gradual process of Jewish emancipation. Jews did not use fixed surnames until 1788 when another patent required them to adopt and use German surnames. In the mid 1800s a Jewish prefect was established. He represented the Jews before the Hungarian royal administration and was responsible for the regular collection of the Jewish tax. The Jews had to pay extra taxes for their protection. After 1840 Jews were allowed to settle in the whole territory of Slovakia (with the exception of mining towns). In December of 1867 Hungarian law recognized the Jews as fully equal in both civilian and economic life. Most of Slovakia’s Jews were forced out or murdered during the Nazi Holocaust.
Non-Vital: These generally contain information about royal dealings with specific Jews; also information about Jewish congregations, rabbis, names of members of the congregation; and economic activities.
- Births – name; sex; date and place of birth; parents’ names (sometimes grandparents) with occupation, age and residence; names of witnesses.
- Marriages – names of groom and bride, date and place of marriage, age, place of birth, residence, previous marital status, occupation, often parents’ names for both groom and bride; names of witnesses.
- Deaths – name of the deceased, date and place of death, cause of death, residence, age, occupation, marital status, spouses' name, often birthplace of the deceased.
Location: Vital records and some non-vital are in state archives. Non-vital Jewish records are found in district and city archives.
Research use: These records are a prime source for information about the vital events in an individual's life. They contain information that can be used to compile pedigrees and family groups and to perform temple ordinances. They identify children, spouses, parents, and sometimes grandparents as well as dates and places of vital events. They establish individual identity and are excellent sources for linking generations and identifying relationships.
Accessibility: The Genealogical Society of Utah has been microfilming Slovak archive vital records since 1991. Although the microfilming is not complete (Bratislava, the last archive, is currently being filmed), most of the films are now available through the Family History Library. Slovak church registers are also accessible to those who hire a private researcher to visit the archives for them or who can visit the archives in Slovakia themselves and research the records in person.
Jordan Auslander has compiled an index to Jewish vital records in Slovakia which is arranged by town name. It indicates what years exist for births, marriages, and deaths. It also gives the archive where these records are held:
Auslander, Jordan. Index to Jewish vital statistic records of Slovakia. Teaneck, New Jersey: Avotaynu, 1993. (FHL fiche 6414537).
Slovak Jewish Heritage Site
The Slovak Jewish Heritage Center has an Internet site that is devoted to providing information about major Jewish sites in the Slovak Republic. The material covers a range of topics including synagogues, former educational and other communal buildings, cemetery chapels, and selected cemeteries.
You can download a brochure, Slovak Jewish Heritage Route,which provides colorful photographs of Jewish buildings in 21 Slovak towns.