SHORT COMMENT ON THE "SECOND COPY" PROBLEM IN BANAT
Since 1828, in all the Kingdom of Hungary [Banat included], all religions have been pledged to keep two sets of church registers and to forward periodically [each year] the duplicate register copy to the “törvényhatóságok levéltárába” [i.e. municipal / county archive authorities1].
This stipulation was introduced by the Law no. XXIII from 1827 issued by the Hungarian Parliament (orszaggyules) and sanctioned by king Francis I. The full text of the law [in Hungarian language]:
1827. évi XXIII. törvénycikk az egyházi anyakönyveknek másod példányban a törvényhatóságok levéltárába helyezéséről s ott leendő őrzéséről
Azon zavar megelőzése végett, mely a honlakosokat nemzetiségi leszármazásuk megállapitásában, az egyházi anyakönyveknek valami véletlen eset miatt történő megsemmisülése vagy megromlása által fenyegethetné, határoztatik, hogy:
1.§ Az illető lelkipásztorok, minden valláskülönbség nélkül, a kereszteltek, házasulók és elhalálozottak anyakönyveit ezentul két példányban szerkeszszék; minden év végével pedig az illetékes törvényhatóság törvényes bizonysága az egyik példányt vegye át, irja alá, s ilyenképen az illető törvényhatóság levéltárába vigye be.
2.§ Az anyakönyvek ezen példánya azonban a törvényhatóságok levéltáraiban zár alatt tartassék, és ne legyen egyébként használható, csak akkor, midőn az egyházak birtokában levő anyakönyvi példány valamely baleset következtében elveszne, vagy megromlanék; azért is
3.§ Mig az egyházak anyakönyvei megvannak: kivonatot azokból mindenki, a kinek szüksége van rá, ezután is az illető lelkipásztortól kérjen és nyerjen, és csak azok megsemmisülése után lehessen az illető levéltárakhoz folyamodni.
The situation regarding these second copies is very complicated in Banat and the big question -because there are some [not so many!] parishes in the romanian Banat where some [not so many!] of the original KB’s2 were lost during the time and this second copy would be a true gold mine- is were are today these second copies on the church records covering the period 1828-1895?
We were able to see and use in research some of these second copies of Roman Catholic records [for example, some years -the second copy is archived by years, separately for the B, M, D- for the village of Jam or Caransebes town] at the Romanian National Archive’s Branch in Caransebes. Also, the Romanian National Archive’s Branch in Timisoara had some years for the village of Darova. The main characteristic of these records is the fact that these do not cover completely the whole period of time. For example, the second copy for the Caransebes records covers only B / M / D for 1876, 1878, 1880-‘87, 1890, 1893. Fortunately, in Caransebes’s case, all the original KB’s survived also.
During the time, we did searched for these second copies on the church records for the romanian Banat, mainly Roman Catholic church records, in all the possible places:
▪ The second copies of the KB’s for Banat region cannot be found in the Archives of Bishopric-Bishop's Office from Zrenjanin or Timisoara because these ecclesiastical authorities / dioceses never had them; these copies were forwarded to the secular authorities from the beginning [starting 1828].
The Archives of Bishopric-Bishop's Office [Timisoara's Diocesan Archives] from Timisoara has copies only covering the period after 1895 [when the civil registration started and there exists good records at the village’s mayoralties]. The Archives of Bishopric-Bishop's Office from Zrenjanin has only copies for the period after ~1910. Szeged diocesan archives have neither first nor second copies before 1920.
The fact that for the period after 1895 exists such records in the Archives of Bishopric-Bishop's Office from Timisoara is explained by the fact that starting 1.10.1895 [according to the Law no. XXXIII from 1894 ] the civil registration was introduced in Banat [in fact, in the whole Hungary] and the secular authorities did not needed anymore copies on the KB’s [which, until 1.10.1895, were used also as civil registration]. So, the parish priests started to forward the copies to Timisoara’s Bishopric. From here, after WWI, the records for the villages belonging to the serbian Banat were transferred to Zrenjanin.
According to the 5.01.2004 issue of the Banater Post, at a meeting kept in November 2003 at the Dokumentationzentrum der Landsmannschaft der Banater Schwaben in Ulm it was announced publicly that the center received the permission to digitally film the copy duplicates of the KB’s existing in the Archives of Bishopric-Bishop's Office from Timisoara / Diocesan Archives. The article indicates that these KB’s copy duplicates all start in 1895 and only the romanian Banat will be covered. This extensive project will take some years to complete. In the end, the results will be made available on CD-Rom at the Dokumentationzentrum der Landsmannschaft der Banater Schwaben in Ulm, Germany.
▪ In today’s archives belonging to the Timis County’s Council [which has a separate archive for the second copy of the civil registrations which started 1.10.1895] no trace of this second copy on the church registers can be found.
▪ No trace either in the Civil Registration office’s Archives from Timisoara’s Mayoralty.
▪ Some traces of these second copies are to be found in “Fondul Prefectura Judetului Timis-Torontal /i.e. Timis-Torontal County’s Prefecture Fund” from the Romanian National Archive’s Branch in Timisoara. But this archive did not survived very well during the time.
According to one book3, “arhiva prefecturii are multe lipsuri datorita dizlocarilor de dinainte de 1919, constituind deci un fragment de fond /i.e. prefecture’s archive has a lot of minuses (i.e. is incomplete) due the displacement which occurred before 1919 and constitutes only a segment of a fund” [page 120].
By “displacement which occurred before 1919” the book is referring to the fact that archive funds for the 18th-19th centuries were taken to Serbia during the Serbian domination [between 9/14.11.1918 – 27/28.07.1919] of Banat. Unfortunately, nobody knows for sure what exactly was robbed [or how extensive this robbery was!] by the Serbs from the romanian Banat’s archives or what happened latter with all this stuff and were it is kept today. The Serbs never fully cooperate with the Romanian authorities during the time in clarifying all the aspects [for example, the values robbed from the Banat’s Museum4 between May-June 1919 were never returned]. We think that this is probably5 also the most logical explanation for the disappearance of the second copy records covering the period 1828-1895.
Some of the archives were destroyed in Timisoara in 2 stages: during a paper recycling in the 1930’s and during a bombarding in the WWII which hit heavily one wing of the Archive’s building. Again, nobody knows for sure what exactly was lost during these two unfortunate operations.
The Romanian National Archive’s Branches in Timisoara tried to use some of the records found in “Fondul Prefectura Judetului Timis-Torontal / i.e. Timis-Torontal County’s Prefecture Fund” to reconstruct the missing records from the “Colectia de Stare Civila / i.e. Civil Status Collection” fund [this is the name of the fund under which all the KB’s are kept]. This is the explanation why some [only a few!] of the second copies can be used today in genealogical research. Unfortunately, these do not cover all the gaps existing due missing records.
Even today some of these second copies are spread between the village’s mayoralties papers because the priests were forwarding these copies to the villages mayoralties and these authorities had the duty to forward them to the comitat(us) municipality archive. But it seams that they did not do a thorough job at that time and some of these records remained between their papers. This is the explanation why exists some gaps [i.e. missing years] even in the existing second copies. Some of these village mayoralty’s archives are still on site. Others are already gathered in the Romanian National Archive’s Branches but nobody knows the exact situation for each village / mayoralty / parish.
From all these facts, only one conclusion emerges: the second copy on the church records covering the period 1828-1895 in the romanian Banat cannot be used as a working tool in genealogical research on a large scale and it is quite possible that we will never find out the whole truth regarding these copies.
1] “törvényhatóságok” means the elected bodies governing the pre-WWI Hungarian counties, major cities and other special country subdivisions. In Banat's case we have:
-the counties of Torontál, Temes, Krassó-Szörény [Arad and Csanád could also be included here] and
-the cities: Temesvár, Pancsova (after 1873), Versec (after 1870), Fehértemplom (between 1873-1876), Karánsebes (between 1873-1876) and the Nagykikinda kerület (between 1870-1876) [Arad and Szeged could also be included here].
This dispersion of archive holders is another difficulty in finding even the right place where the second copy of the KB's were forwarded during the time.
2] KB is an abbreviation for the german “Kirchenbuch” meaning “church books” or “church registers”.
3] "Indrumator in arhivele statului Banat /i.e. Guide to the Banat State Archives", vol. I, Directia generala a arhivelor statului / i.e. Department of State Archives, Bucuresti, 1965.
4] opened publicly in Timisoara in 1877.
5] The confirmation of our suspicions came in the summer of 2006 when an American researcher reported publicly that in the Serbian Archives from Novi Sad exists Roman-Catholic church records -for B, M, D- of the Romanian villages Grabaţ / Grabatz and Gotlob / Gottlob covering the period 1826-1895. Because the original Roman-Catholic church records for both these villages are in the National Archives from Timişoara, the existing records in the Novi Sad Archives are belonging to these elusive "second copy".