Slovakia Genealogy Research Strategies
Mormon's Family History Library (FHL)
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' (Mormon) Family History Library (FHL) is based in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA. It holds the largest genealogical collection in the world. This page focuses on FHL resources of interest to East Slovakia genealogy researchers. Some important points about the library and it's local centers, known as "Family History Centers" (FHC):
4/11 Update - Since 2010, the pace of digitizing records in Slovakia to their online portal has significantly increased, to the point that the vast majority of records for Slovakia have been digitized and posted to the web. They are presently adding large eastern towns to the index (Presov, Stropkov, Snina, Svidnik, Trencin, Bardejov, Michalovce, Sabinov). These are being added to daily.
4/11 Update - The large cities (Bratislava) and (Kosice) will be the last to be filmed and digitized. The effort for cities is vastly more complex and the FHL has decided to postpone those until last.
4/11 Update - In 2010 the FHL reached an agreement with the Czech Republic to begin filming historical vital records. The effort has proceeded, with many regions filmed and two regions digitized. The holdings change daily. At this point, Northern Moravia is actively being digitized and the Southern Bohemia section has been digitzed. Northern Bohemia is actively being filmed, but not yet digitized.
General Notes on the FHL/FHC Operation
The reader is referred to other fine web sites which describe this excellent library and how it operates. The Mormons produced a good FHL FAQ generally describing its' holdings, operations and locations of local FHC.
Comments about the National Sovereignty of Records or, "Who's got the Records?"
It is a generally held principle of diplomacy that records related to the territories of a present-day sovereign nation are the rightful property of that nation. Consequentially, most treaties recognize this right and insist upon the transfer of territory records to the new sovereign nation. This becomes an important issue for researchers looking for records. related to settlements. In the case of territories of present-day Slovakia moved around quite a bit during the 20th century. As a result, not all records "made it" to the Slovak Republic State Archives. I have discovered that documents relating to certain towns have remained in the Hungary Archives. Consequentially, when the Mormon FHL filmed records in Hungary, it picked up Slovakia records in the process. The FHL has done a fine job of cross-referencing such items.
Former Zemplin/Zemplen County records - Upon the reformulation of Czechoslovakia borders in 1946, the old Magyar county of Zemplin was severed in two: The southern half is now in present-day Hungary (and still called Zemplen county!) The northern half of old Zemplin county is now northeast Slovakia. No pieces are in present-day Hungary or Ukraine.
General FHL holdings of interest to Slovakia Researchers include:
Church and population census records will be the most productive tools for genealogical researchers.
Church records for all major faiths in Slovakia have been filmed or are being filmed at present. Major faiths include: Jewish, Evangelical/Lutheran, Reformed/Calvinist, Roman Catholic, Greek Catholic and Orthodox. Records are organized by village. Some villages have been consolidated. Not every congregant had a church of his/her faith in their village, so consider nearby villages in your search. Description of records and samples along with present-day church information
Go to the FHL Catalog to search for records available for villages in Slovakia. Search by village name. Ensure that you are using the present-day village name.
Various population census records have been filmed. Most are very limited in scope or region. The 1869 census is extraordinarily complete for the nation at large and consequentially an extremely valuable resource for family research.
1869 Census Survey of 1869 Magyar Census Data for Slovakia at the Family History Library Since the filming and cataloging of Slovakia records is an ongoing FHL effort, records for not all villages have not yet been filmed. Villages are added on an ongoing basis. Therefore, I spent some time in October 2002, investigating changes to 1869 Magyar Census Slovakia holdings over the prior 12 months. This describes my approach and the results. This line item details of the census are not available electronically or on any web page.
The FHL has organized these records under the top-level heading of "Slovakia". They are not organized in the FHL index by village name.
1857 Census A partial census of selected villages. Not much use unless yours is one of a few villages listed.
Military records are usually an unimportant resource for genealogical researchers. They provide little or no relationship information and very little personal information. However, in the course of learning about the ancestor's past, the inevitable questions about military service arise.
Carl Kotlarchick has just provided his 2011 comprehensive guide to locating military records for the Austro-Hungarian Empire. set of pages which describes military records, shows examples, describes availability.
Carl writes: I recently became aware of a new website that provides information about WWI soldiers. The National Library of the Czech Republic has digitized and placed on line, casualty reports from the war. These reports provide information about a soldiers unit, his birth place and date, type of wound or whether he was killed or captured, and the location. This is enough information to then locate what his unit was doing during the war. ... I found so many discrepancies between Steve Blodgett’s published information and the one from Wrede that I finally just put together charts for each region of the empire.
This is pretty exciting news because as you know, the personnel records for Hungarian soldiers after 1867 have been destroyed. So, now there is a way to finally obtain information on the service of a WWI soldier. And since many men were wounded or captured in this war, many people should be able to find their relatives.
Certain Tax and Census records relative to landowners have been filmed. They usually only contain landowner names, which are often times royalty. They most often do NOT contain a list of everyone else living on the land, but may contain the name of the head of household.
1828 Landowner Census for Slovakia - A census of property holders was taken in 1828. It only lists landowners, and does not include the majority population. These documents are available at the FHL. John Adam has developed a village place-name cross-reference for this census. 1828 Sample Pages
Other documents of varying usefulness have been filmed by the FHL. These include histories, specific family accounts, references, guidebooks, etc. In most cases, these are "non-circulating" documents and films, available only to users of the Salt Lake City FHL center.
CZECH REPUBLIC - Digital Records of Regional Archives are being filmed and released to the Public NOW!
This is very exciting times for Czech Republic after a very long wait. "Filming" is underway in all are three of the state regional archives: Trebon, Litomerice. and Opava. They will never be on actual microfilms - at least as far as we know - but they are digital images and will be available online. There are three Czech projects going right now, one for each regional Archive
Trebon (Southern Bohemia) started being posted to Pilot in 2009. Alternately, you can go to the State Archive Web Site to look at the images posted by the Trebon archive themselves. (2009)
Litomerice (Northern Bohemia) This Regional Archive is not posting their image to the internet, but The FHL began posting them in the year 2009.
Opava (Northern Moravia) Began being posted in 2010
Note 1: "This is a preliminary description provided to allow immediate microfilm access." When you see this note in a catalog entry, it means:
Note 2: For all records, the catalog entry copyright date indicates the year or years when the items were microfilmed.
Note 3: For Czech and Slovak Republic: Filming versus Digital Images - Apparently any further recording of records will be done digitally, there will be no new microfilms produced, at least in this region. During this transition, many items that were already filmed, but not catalogue indexed will still be entered into the Family History Library as microfilm.
Sources: Family History Center Cataloguing staff.
With the creation of the state of Slovakia in 1993, the Mormon FHL immediately requested permission to film records of genealogical significance. The government of Slovakia was extremely receptive to the request. With a minimum of conditions, the FHL sent a microfilm team to the Slovak State Archives branches and began filming in about 1996. The FHL marches to it's own drummer and is quite reticent about disclosing its plans. This allows the FHL to shift priorities and plans, as many country projects compete for limited filming resources. In general, it's fair to say that a) none of the categories (church, census, military) is complete for the entire country, b) most records are filmed from "east to west" and c) most large cities have not been filmed or catalogued.
Since the FHL does not provide a mechanism to identify new record additions, nor do they announce them, I have resorted to querying the FHL for an occasional update. The results of my findings are listed below. Since the FHL began digitization in 2008 it has become much more difficult to keep up with the pace of change. At this time (2010) I've put a moratorium on these updates and ask researchers to directly check the Pilot site for villages of interest.
Keyword Search - A Useful Feature
As reported by Avotaynu in August, 2003, the Mormon's have made a major update to their online FHL (Family History Library) Catalog.
Firstly, they have updated their online catalog so that it is now current. Previously the online catalog had been as much as 18 months out of date.
Secondly, they have added a "keyword search" feature. In my early experimentation, I have found this to be quite useful. It allows the searcher to locate words located anywhere in the index, not just limited to title, place name, surname or subject.
Many times the village name we seek is buried in the film description and is not findable using the FHL tools. For our region, the Magyar census in particular had been a big problem since it was not indexed by village. For this reason John Adam and myself had created independent census indices for finding villages.
Now, if you enter a village name (for example) into a keyword search, it appears to find all entries that reference this village (or any term). Using the village of "ZBOJ" as an example, not only are the church records listed, but all census references as well. (In the past, it only identified the church records.) You may still have to scroll through several film titles to find the specific one (census records in particular are renown for having hundreds of films beneath one title), but you will now have some confidence that a reference to the keyword of interest is cited somewhere in the title holdings.
Of course, your mileage will vary, as not all villages have census or church records on file.
Keyword searching can make your FHL search much easier and provide you with an opportunity to uncover other documents you may have missed earlier.
Credit to West Howard for clarifying Mormon church property descriptions.
FHL INDEXING OF PRESOV-REGION RECORDS (Volunteers Needed)
The FHL (Family History Library) informs me that they have been busy digitizing microfilms (converting microfilms into files that are computer-readable) from the PRESOV region. In a few short weeks, they will be make those files available for general researchers (like you and me) to participate in the indexing of these records.
Indexing involves reading the image (from the convenience of your home or office computer) via the internet, and transcribing the data - events, names, dates into a typewritten form. Once that data is entered, the FHL will use it to create search-able indexes for surnames, village names and other critical elements.
This is very exciting since it brings us much closer to the goal of having the microfilm images available to us via the internet. This "next generation" project is happening much faster than I imagined and I am delighted to see it's progress.
They ask the public (you and me) to sign up to help on a particular active "project". A project is a set of records, such as birth records for a certain country, city, archive or state. You can "vote" on which projects they should start next. Right now, there is one project for the Czech Republic and dozens for the USA, and many more for other parts of the world. You are then assigned a batch of records and asked to type ("transcribe") selected fields (first name, last name, dates, parents, etc.) into the FHL database. There is a second person entering all the same records, and then they have an "arbitration" process to identify the "correct" name. The arbitrator is a third person.
If you want to get a feel for what the indexing project is like, or to sign up now, check out their indexing web site. You will see the many projects already underway, you can also register now and download the necessary software
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