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RESEARCH FOR YOUR SLOVAK ROOTS IN ROMANIAFamily history research is not really a search for ancestors but a search for records about them. Therefore, genealogical research cannot be undertaken without having knowledge about ancestor's religion and the history of the place where they lived.
Short History: In time, Slovaks colonized few western regions in today România1 - the plains of Arad County and romanian Banat2 [today Timis and Caras-Severin Counties], the mountain regions in Bihor and Salaj Counties, some mining regions in Satu Mare and Maramures3 Counties, as well as few places in NE Bucovina [today in N-NE of România].
Generally speaking, it is considered that Slovaks settled down on România's present territory in 3 different periods of time [waves]:
- First period - 18th and 19th centuries, as part of the second migration wave [the first wave was the settlements of Slovaks in northern Hungary and partially southern Hungary]; they settled down in villages around Arad Town and in Banat. These were mainly of Evangelic believe4.
- The second period, in form of a primary migration of Roman Catholic Slovaks, started in 1790's, by setting up localities in Bihor County: Varzari, Budoi-1828, in the mountain region of Plopis; later, in the first part of the 19th Century, other localities were set up in the same Bihor County: Sinteu, Serani-1813 or Salaj County: Fagetu-1830, etc. The Slovaks living in villages in Bihor and Salaj Counties were almost isolated from the other minorities, setting up so-called "closed" communities. For the Slovak's in Arad County and Banat is also significant that they settled down in regions already populated by other nationalities and they did not set up new localities. In the 1860's started the economic migration phenomenon, and namely from the Slovak villages in Bihor and Salaj Counties to Slovak localities in Banat and Arad region.
- The third period, also as a primary migration, took place in Bucovina region, in the second part of the 20th century; the Slovaks settled down in Poiana Micului and Solonet, and after 1945 the Polish inhabitants from the region assimilated them.
Religion: We cannot speak about the Slovaks in România as of a whole. In the villages, there were some "islands" inhabited by Slovaks; these communities had several differences and one of the most important was the religion. Most of the Slovaks from Arad County and the romanian Banat are of Lutheran religion [ie Protestants of Augsburg confession], although those colonized in Brestovat and partially in Tipar were of Roman Catholic believe. According to religion5, the Slovaks are today divided as following: 12.974 Roman-Catholic; 3.688 Evangelic Presbyterians; 850 Orthodox; 587 Greek Catholic; 530 Pentecostals; 503 Lutherans; 133 Evangelic Christians; 121 Evangelical Reformed.
The Bihor and Salaj Counties, which from the religious point of view were [and still are] subordinated to the Roman Catholic Bishopric in Oradea, the newly set up Slovak communities functioned as branches of the existing parishes. Shortly, the larger communities formed their own parishes. This was the case of Budoi [Bihor], which was colonized in 1828, where the independent parish was set up in 1829 [church since 1831] and Sinteu [Bihor], where the independent parish was set up in 1844 [church since 1840].
In the other Slovak communities the independent parishes appeared much later: in Fagetu in 1891 and in Borumlaca [Bihor] only in 1939 [own church only since 1972].
The smaller Slovak communities are still functioning as branches, even if some of them have own churches and are conducting separate church records.
The evolution and life of the newly set up Lutheran communities [ie Protestants of Augsburg confession] in Arad zone and Banat6 have been determined both by the autonomy of this church and the favorable economic conditions of the region in comparison to Bihor and Salaj. Every new Slovak community built immediately a praying house and shortly a religious school. In Nadlac's case, the colonized Slovaks brought with them a priest and a teacher. Therefore, the church books started to be kept already in 1802, although the church has been built only in 1821-'22.
In the case of larger communities, shortly they built also own churches [Mocrea -1791, Butin -1818, Nadlac -1822, Vucova -1858, Tipar -1892], and the smaller communities visited the existing German Evangelic Church or lived confessional in the praying houses.
At the end of the 19th century in Nadlac have been colonized few families of Greek Catholic religion from Eastern Slovakia. Under the communist regime the Greek Catholic church was abolished and part of the parishioners switched to the Orthodox religion and others to the Lutheran religion. After 1989 some of them, mostly the Orthodox's, return to the Greek Catholic church.
After the Second World War, part of the evangelic Slovaks turn to the Pentecostal religion, and today they represent a stable religious community.
New Settlements: the high number of new-born children, the uninterrupted flow of colonists and the social differences resulted in new migrations and set up of new Slovak localities. Already in 1815 the Slovaks from Nadlac set up the village Pitvaros, and between 1843-'44 the villages Albertka and Ambrozka, then Nagybanhegyes [all in today Hungary], and in 1897 many Slovak families migrated even to Bulgaria, mostly in Gorna Mitropolija.
Important changes in the life of Slovak communities take place between 1946-'48, after the numerous re-emigration to Czechoslovakia, when more then one third of the Slovaks leave România [in 1930 there were 50.772 Slovaks [together with Czechs] and in 1956 there were only 23.331 Slovaks].
The agricultural co-operatives in the field regions [Arad and Banat plains] attracted in the 1960's Slovaks from Bihor and Salaj counties. Most of them settled down in localities already inhabited by Slovaks [Nadlac, Butin, Vucova], but also in new places as Fântânele, Manastur [Arad], Topolovatul Mare and Iosifalau [Timis]. Out of professional reasons the number of Slovaks in cities like Arad, Timisoara, Resita increases as well.
Today: The estimated number4 of Slovaks in România is 20.672, which mean less then 0,1% of the total population. 91,5% of them declared Slovakian to be their mother's tongue. Most of them live in different regions of Transylvania and Banat [57,7% in villages and 42,3% in cities], especially in Bihor , Arad , Timis , Salaj , Caras-Severin , Hunedoara  and Satu Mare Counties.
Genealogical Research: The church registers [for all the religions!] for villages/parishes are available today in the romanian archives7 and/or on site, in the still existing parishes. In a very few cases it is possible that, in time, original books or part of them, disappeared or in some cases were destroyed. Only a few records were lost during the 2nd World War or in the first years of the communist regime. In fact, nobody [not even the communists!] planned to deliberately destroy these records and archives in România. Based on our experience, we can tell that records were no more often destroyed in România than in Hungary, or in other Central European countries. Stories regarding destruction of records on a large scale are just a myth.
Research in România is difficult [mainly for a foreigner8], and there is no "golden" rule! Every primary source of information has to be checked out [including civil registration] in order to be successful in genealogical research:
- the National Archive's branch7 in every romanian county [church records before 1900],
- parishes existing in villages [records after 1895],
- archives of superior church authorities [for the second copy9 of the church records],
- mayoralty in every village [for the first copy of civil registration10 for the period after 1.10.1895],
- each County's Civil Registration Office [where9 the second copy of the civil registration is kept].
The Civil Registration Service in România was set up as follows:
- May 1st, 1831 in Walachia [ie Valahia, Tara Româneasca];
- January 1832 in Moldavia [ie Moldova];
- October 1st, 1895 in Banat & Transylvania [ie Ardeal, Transylvanien, Siebenburgen, Erdély].
In Walachia and Moldavia the registers were held by the Orthodox churches until December 1865, when the registration was taken over by civil offices.
Theoretically, the records and the archives after 1902 are closed in România due to the stipulations of Law of the National Archives11 [Law No. 16/April 12th, 1996, Appendix no. 6]. However, there are some "wickets" that allow access to these vital records10.
Of course, for cases when up to date research is required, there are other methods/sources available to access vital information. For example, in villages it may be possible to gather information from cemetery tombstones, the romanian police database, the romanian phone company's database, etc.
We can conclude that serious genealogical research can only be conducted by taking into account all the romanian archives12. The distance and language barriers can be surpassed only with the help of romanian researchers.