Hungary Letter Writing Guide
The lands of Hungary contributed great numbers of people to the waves of European Emigration from the mid 1800s to the early 1900s. These were not just Hungarians, but also Romanians, Germans, Jews, Slovaks, Ukrainians, Serbs, and Croats. Many settled in the United States, Canada, and Australia where, generations later, their descendants now begin the task of seeking their Hungarian heritage. This paper is intended to briefly introduce you to the essential sources and strategies needed to discover your ancestry from Hungary.
The Family History Library has an excellent collection of records from the present-day Hungary and Slovakia. Some of these rolls are available for immediate access at the Family History Library, including: Jewish records for all areas, Church records of Slovakia, and Church records of the city of Budapest. Many other microfilms can be obtained within 24 hours at the Family History Library. Others can be ordered within a few days. If you are visiting the library in Salt Lake City we recommend you order microfilms at least a month before you come. You can also order and use Hungarian microfilms at any of the many family history centers. These records are written in Latin, Hungarian, and German. Some records of minority groups are written in Serbian, Slovak, Croatian, old Church Slavonic, Hebrew, and Romanian. The library has genealogical word lists in German, Latin, and Hungarian to help you in reading these records.
If your ancestor is said to be from Hungary it likely refers to the old historic kingdom of Hungary. Since 1918 the territory of Hungary has been distributed between modern Hungary and the new nations that surround it. The following review of Hungarian history is intended to give perspective in understanding your Hungarian heritage.
The Magyars (Hungarians) moved into the Danube Basin in the early ninth century, conquering the Slavic and Romanic peoples who lived there. The Hungarian Kingdom was established in the year 1000. Most of Hungary fell under Turkish occupation in 1526. The remaining areas, along the western and northern edges became the domain of the Habsburg dynasty of Austria. At the end of the 1600s the Habsburgs drove the Turks out of Hungary.
Protestantism had won wide acceptance in Hungary in the 1400s and 1500s; Calvinism prevailed among the Magyars while the Germans and some Slovaks became Lutherans. The Habsburgs were devout Catholics. They imposed harsh measures against non-Catholic religions. Although much of the population was reconverted to Catholicism, the Emperor eventually had to reaffirm Hungary's religious and political freedoms in 1645. Four religions were given legal recognition in Hungary: Catholic, Lutheran, Calvinist Reformed, and Unitarian.
In 1848 Hungary unsuccessfully rebelled against Austrian rule. Then, in 1866, Hungarian nationalism was recognized by the creation of the dual Austro Hungarian monarchy.
Following the First World War in 1918, the area of the Hungarian kingdom was reduced to one third of its pre-war size; Hungarian territory was given over to Romania, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, and Austria (minor border adjustments with Italy and Poland). At the end of Second World War, in 1945, part of Czechoslovakia's portion was ceded to the Soviet Union republic of Ukraine. Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia broke into smaller republics in 1990-1992, 1993, and 2003, further fragmenting the former Hungarian territories.