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THE "GAP"; NOTES ON RECORDS & ARCHIVES FOR BANAT
The Banat Middle Age archives0, particularly those up to the 18th century, suffered significant damage over time. Fortunately, the post 1716 records regarding the history of the Banat, under the domination of the House of Habsburg, have survived in better condition. Though the Timisoara archives experienced important losses during 1889 and 19191, both the Romanian and foreign source document materials stored in the archives and libraries can be obtained. This allows for a well-grounded investigation of Banat history and can also be used successfully in genealogical research. The church books and alternative sources allow us to research family history in the Romanian Banat back to the beginning of 18th century .
The only existing microfilms2 for the Banat area, and therefore the only used in genealogical research3, were made in 1940 by Dr. Friedhelm TREUDE4 [B 16.09.1908, Hemer, Märkischer Kreis, Westfalen, Germany; D 30.10.1975, Hemer]. Studying history at the University of Münster in Germany, he was deeply involved in researching the history of Germans [also known as Schwaben - in Hungarian language sváb, in Serbian svaba or as şvabi in Romanian language - or Donauschwaben5] in the Banat. In 1938-’39 he won an award for his manuscript6 "Westfalen und die theresianische Banatbesiedlung 1763-1772". Subsequently, at the beginning of the 2nd World War, the former "Deutsches Ausland-Institut" / DAI, an academic think tank founded in 1917 in Stuttgart, asked him to make films of the Banat's Roman Catholic church books for the parishes where the Schwaben were colonized first. The aim was to research the origin of all settlers and to set up a card index regarding the ancestors of all German people in foreign countries. DAI took the initiative to film the church books from Banat at the suggestion made by Dr. Josef KALLBRUNNER [B 1881; D 1951], at that time director of the "Hofkammerarchivs" in Wien.
During 1940, Dr. Friedhelm TREUDE traveled7 through the Banat's villages and, together with his staff, filmed the church records of only 140 Roman Catholic Parishes8. These films are now at the "Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen" [i.e. "Institute for Foreign Relations" / IfA9] in Stuttgart-Germany. The Family History Library [FHL] of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints obtained copies of these films after the 2nd World War. Mainly, it seems, in the '60's from IfA.
The original church records were not taken to Germany in 1940. These and the archive documents regarding the Donauschwaben villages in the Romanian Banat [and other Romanian, Serb or Hungarian villages existing in the region of Romanian Banat] can be found in the National Archives of Timisoara, Arad or Caransebes. All the church books [for all the religions!] for the Romanian Banat villages are available in Romanian archives and/or parishes.
Sometimes the research is difficult, and there is no "golden" rule! Every primary source of information must be checked [including the civil registration], in order to have success10 in genealogical research:
- the National Archives branch from Timisoara, Arad, Caransebes [church records before 1900],
- the parishes in the villages [records after 1895],
- the archive for the Bishopric of Timisoara13 [for the second copy of the church records after 1895],
- the mayoralty from the villages [for the first copy of civil registration for period after 1895],
- the County Civil Registration [where the second copy of the civil registration is kept].
After the 2nd World War, the church or state authorities transferred some parish records to archives existing in Timisoara, Arad, and Caransebes because the villages were depopulated11, or for other administrative or political reasons. In a very few cases it is possible that, over time, original books or part of them, disappeared or in some cases were destroyed. Only a few of the records were lost during the 2nd World War or in the first years of the communist regime. In fact, no one [not even the communists!] planned to deliberately destroy these records and archives in Romania. Based on our experience10, we can tell that records were no more often destroyed in Romania than in Hungary, or in other Central European countries. Stories regarding destruction of records on a large scale are just a myth12.
It seems that there are some "unfit" years among the three sources: the National Archives from Timisoara / Arad / Caransebes, the FHL and the IfA. Dr. Treude filmed the church records from the beginning, in most cases, around 1770-1790-1833, many from the 1720's, and up to 1791/1850, even the 1870s; apparently, whenever the first book of records began or ended7. That is the explanation for the "gaps" that exist in many cases, when only FHL microfilms are used in research.
For example, the FHL microfilm for the village Satchinez [Knes/Temeskenez/Knez/Knees/Knies] ends in 1852, while the records in the National Archives from Timisoara cover the period up to 1906. Records up to the present are available on site.
In the case of Varias [Warjasch/Varjas], the FHL records end in 1852, but records at the Timisoara National Archives continue up to 1881, and records up to the present may be obtained, on site, in Varias.
For Mercydorf [Carani /Merczyfálva /Mercifalva] we have the following:
- Church records available at FHL: B 1734-1832, M 1734-1843, D 1734-1839, 1843.
- Church records available at the IfA, Stuttgart: B 1737-1832, M 1734-1843, D 1734-1843.
- Genealogical Records available in Timisoara: 1734-1900, with records up to the present being available on site.
For Sannicolau Mare [Großsanktnikolaus/Deutschsanktnikolaus/Nagyszentmiklos/Semiklosch/Niklos]:
- Roman Catholic Church records available at FHL cover the period between 1753-1819.
- Church records available at the IfA, Stuttgart: B 1753-1842, M 1753-1843, D 1753-1851.
- Genealogical Records available in Timisoara: B 1753-1900; M 1753-1902, D 1753-1896, with records up to the present being available on site.
And a 62 years difference means 2 or 3 generations!
These examples can continue [check also the conditions for research in Timisoara Town14] for all the records existing on microfilm at FHL in USA or IfA in Germany.
Generally, the records covering this "gap" between 1830/1850–2000 can be found in Romania. The National Archives branches from Timisoara / Arad / Caransebes have records. Some Catholic Church records for the Diocese of Banat, mainly for the period after 1895, are in the archives of Bishopric-Bishop's Office in Timisoara, or on site [in the Banat villages, in parishes and mayoralties records].
The Catholic Church introduced the obligation of registering all christened and married people after the Trent Council, in 1563. The registers for deceased persons started to be kept in 1614. Other religions, like Orthodox, Calvinists and Lutherans introduced these registers in 1790, followed by the Unitarians in 1848. The Orthodox, as well as the Jewish people, also kept registers for newborn, married and deceased people. Since 1829 all religions have been required to keep two copies of these registers and to periodically forward the duplicate register copy to the municipal archive authorities or to the superior church authorities. [Unfortunately, not all the religions followed this obligation "religiously"!].
The Law from 1894 stipulated that starting on October 1st, 1895, the civil status duties in Banat, Transylvania and Hungary were subject to the Austrian-Hungarian State authorities.
The Civil Registration Service in Romania was established as follows:
- May 1st, 183l in Walachia /Valahia, Tara Romaneasca;
- January 1832 in Moldavia /Moldova;
- October 1st, 1895 in Banat & Transylvania /Ardeal, Transylvanien, Siebenbűrgen, 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.
The archives after 1902 are theoretically closed in Romania, however, there are some "wickets" that allow accessing these vital records. The stipulations of the "Law Of The National Archives "[Law No. 16/April 12th, 1996, Appendix no. 6] states the following:
"List of due dates for accessing documents regarding national interests and the citizens’ rights:
-medical documents, 100 years after their creation;
-civil status documents, 100 years after their creation;
-personal files, 75 years after their creation;
-documents regarding a person’s private life, 40 years after his/her death;
-documents regarding the national security and integrity, 100 years after their creation;
-documents regarding crimes, 90 years after their creation;
-documents regarding the foreign policy, 50 days after their creation;
-documents of private owned companies, 50 years after their creation;
-fiscal documents, 50 days after their creation;
-notary and juridical documents, 90 days after their creation".
Of course, for cases when up to date research is required, there are other methods/sources available to access vital information. For example, in the villages it may be possible to gather information from cemetery tombstones, access the Romanian Police database, search into 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 archives. The distance and language barriers can be surpassed only with the help of the Romanian researchers.
Note: Due to technical reasons, I do not use spelling with special characters having diacritic marks [brave for A and cedilla for S and T, etc.].