Austria Beginners Corner What's the Next Step?
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Before doing family history research in Austria, you will need to find:
- the actual name of an ancestor
- the date of birth, marriage, and death (can be estimated)
- the place of origin
- the religion of an ancestor
Determine the actual name of an ancestor
A serious problem for some researchers is to determine the actual name of their immigrant ancestor. Some ancestors adopted Anglicised names: this occurred often with given names and to a lesser extent with surnames. Surnames may have changed during wartime when immigrants found themselves in a new country now at war with their former homeland. Sometimes these changes may have occurred in more than one generation.
Determine the date of birth, marriage, and death
If you cannot find an exact date, you may estimate dates based on other information. You need at least the approximate year of an event. You may use standard genealogical approximation. From a marriage date, you can estimate that a man was married at age 25 and a woman at age 21. You can also estimate that a first child was born one year after the parent's marriage and that subsequent children were born every 2 years after that.
Determine the place of origin
In Austria, most records used in family history research are kept on a town or parish level. Therefore the exact town of origin must be known before research can begin. Most of the time, the place of origin in Austria is found in sources created in the country of immigration. These records should be searched for the ancestor, possible relatives, and other associated persons. Austrian place names may often be misspelled in foreign sources. Difficult names were shortened and diacritic marks omitted. A gazetteer, which is defined as a geographical dictionary, is an essential tool for identifying places. Look up your place name in the gazetteer to be sure that it is spelled correctly. There are online gazetteers such as www.genteam.at GenTeam.
As mentioned earlier, Austrian place names are often misspelled in foreign sources. If you still cannot determine correct spelling of your locality even after you searched the gazetteers and the Internet, you may need to post to a discussion board or mailing list for help.
Determine the religion of an ancestor
Until the 1900s, vital records were kept by church parishes or Jewish congregations. The records of different religions were kept separately. If you are not sure of your ancestor's religion, start by searching Roman Catholic records. Catholicism was the dominant religion in the former Austro-Hungarian Empire. Not every village in Austria had its own parish. Often, several smaller villages belonged to one parish. Use a gazetteer to determine the proper record keeping jurisdiction.