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Jewish Records refers 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 Austria generally did not keep vital records unless required to do so by law. Jews did not receive legal recognition until the Edict of Toleration in 1781. 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 and but most Jewish communities did not actually start keeping records until the practice was again codified into law in 1840. The laws requiring records of births, marriages and deaths were reemphasized several times during the early 1800s and the practice was well established the 1860s. Jewish congregations continued to maintain registers into the 1930s when persecutions became severe. Most Jewish congregations were destroyed in the Holocaust but the records were preserved in archives.
Jewish communities are documented in the Czech lands since the tenth century, though Jews were likely present as early as the second century A.D. Most of the Jewish population was in the city of Prague which had both Ashkenazic and Sephardic communities. A Jewish charter was issued by the King of Bohemia in 1254 introducing some protection, but various forms of persecution existed for centuries. In 1726 Charles VI attempted to reduce the Jewish population by his Family Laws which permitted only the eldest sons of Jewish families to marry. This only encouraged Jews to disperse over the countryside. The Edict of Toleration in 1781 guaranteed freedom of worship but other modernizing policies associated with the reforms of the era cost the Jews their internal autonomy and forced Germanization. During the Nazi occupation of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, 78,000 out of the existing 92,000 Jews in the Czech Republic (85%) perished in the Holocaust. Most surviving Jews left after the war.
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 regional archives [státní oblastní archívy]. Non-vital Jewish records are found in district [okresní] and city [městské] 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: Jewish vital records are accessible for research by visiting the archives in person or by hiring a private researcher. Other types of Jewish records are very difficult to access, even by on-site research.