Tips For Researching Ancestors From the Slovakian Area of the Former Austro-Hungarian Empire

from the original article titled "Slovak Roots: Getting Started"

© 1995 by John A. Hudick

edited by: G. Gressa

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This step is vital to your success. Begin by questioning older family members - your parents, your aunts and uncles, anyone and everyone. Be sure to write everything down no matter how silly it may sound at the time. Many times a seemingly insignificant piece of data can lead to a major breakthrough! Women most often have better memories than the men, so begin with them. The elderly sometimes need to be prompted with questions to jog their memory - so plan ahead and write down what you have questions about. Be aware of spelling and pronunciation differences. I searched many years for the village "Repid" without success until a relative now living in Ukraine forwarded a document to me showing the spelling as "Rzepedz". An excellent resource is the chapter entitled "Root Seekers Guide To The Homeland" contained in "Our People - Carpatho - Rusyns And Their Descendants In North America", by Dr. P.R. Magosci (this section may go on-line in the near future pending copyright permissions)....

Other sources may be the original Immigration Passport issued in Europe. Persons from Slovakia traveled on Hungarian passports, those from Bohemia and Moravia traveled on Austrian passports - search (with permission, of course) boxes that your older relatives may have stashed away. Immigration Passenger lists also listed the town of origin. If you know the date they arrived in America, you may be able to this information on microfilm either through the LDS or National Archives.

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Church records.

There are usually three church records kept for a person, Birth or Baptismal record, Marriage Record, and Death Record. Many times these records are written in Latin and the priest can help you with the translation. I have seen various records from churches in Pennsylvania containing the names of parents, spelled using Ukrainian, Slovakian, Hungarian and Latin languages. These records also contain the villages of origin in the old country. When requesting documents, ask the priest if it would be possible to make a photocopy of the original record. Unless you request a photocopy, he may only transcribe the necessary, not all, information on to the official document.

Always include a donation to the church when you make a request. How much? This all depends on how much work you expect the priest to do for you. A simple record, maybe $10. Something where he has to spend time looking for the record if you can't supply an exact date, maybe $20-25.

Perhaps you will be fortunate enough to stumble upon birth records and marriage records of the immigrants. My great Aunt Justina (then living in Ukraine) had written back to her home village and requested her birth certificate in 1931 for some purpose, perhaps having something to do with the impending Soviet invasion of Ukraine...only speculation. Her birth certificate was written in Latin & Cyrillic. This document listed the village name, house number, parents names, grandparents names and witnesses (who turned out to be cousins). If the document is not typewritten, your biggest problem will be deciphering the hand writing. They are usually written in script, which can be difficult to decipher.

Death Records can be very helpful. They list the birth place, the names of the person's parents, sometimes their place of origin, amongst other information. Unfortunately the information can be incorrect because the information listed on the death certificate comes from someone else who may have given wrong information. It's worth a try. You can get copies of the death certificate from the Department of Vital Statistics from the state where the person died. There is a fee for this service which can be anywhere from $3 to over $10.

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The place to write to for genealogy research in Slovakia previous to 1900 is the State Archives in Bratislava or Prague. The request/ research /billing cycle takes five months from your request to when you get the information.

State Regional Archive Centers

Archival Records previous to 1895-1900 are stored at regional state archive centers.

For the old county of Zemplin and Saris, they are stored in Presov. For the old county of Szepes (Spis), they are stored in Lubica. It is unknown if these centers are open to the public, however, I have read though that by either making prior arrangements or by having the right connections, it is possible to visit and look at the records.

The cities that have regional offices that have the old records are in:

Presov & Lubica

Local Parish Records

The records from 1895-1900 to the present are still with the priests of the local villages. These record books which are nearly 100 years old are the ones they still use to record births, deaths, and marriages today.

The record book column titles may be in Hungarian. The entries may be written in either Slovak or Rusyn/Cyrillic.

People have not had good success with writing to the local parishes for information. Consider that priests are not researchers, they are priests. Also they may have to care for more than one village, and can be quite busy. People (myself included) have tried writing letters to priests and enclosed money as a donation. Needless to say, none of the letters appear to have been received. It's almost like the USA return address addressed to a Church is a flag to suggest there is money inside. Deal with the archives listed below - or better yet - make the trip "home" and visit in person.

Civil Records

Many village mayors have a book - "Family Register", which the Communist government required them to keep. The names of each family and children are listed by their address. This record keeping started about 1948. This is a good way to check to see if any of your family still lives in the village.

Archives Addresses:

For records in the Slovak Republic send your request to:

Odbor archivnictva MV SR

Maria Spankova

Krizkova 7

811 04 Bratislava

Slovak Republic

Slovenska genealogicka spolocnost

Milan Sismis - predseda

Novomeskeho 32

036 52 Martin

Slovak Republic

Matica Slovenska

Ustav pre zahranicnych Slovakov (Foreign Slovaks Institute)

Frantiskanska 2, Bratislava

Slovak Republic

tel. (+42 7)335.374

E-Mail Addresses for Matica Slovenska

For records in the Czech Republic send your request to:

Archivni Sprava

Obrancu Miru 133

166 21 Praha 6

Czech Republic

When requesting information:

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The following publication will give exact locations of towns. Keep in mind that quite often there are more than one town with the same name.


Official Standard Names approved by the United States Board of Geographical Names Division of Geography, Dept. of the Interior. (A cross reference from old town names to new.)

This book is on film in the LDS library. Look under the index "HUNGARY, GAZETTEER, Title"

There is also a copy in the Library of Congress, Map and Geography reading room and may also be available via the Inter-Library Loan Program - check with your local librarian.

I personally have had great luck with topographic maps. Check the cartographic section of larger public libraries - The Detroit Public Library has a fine collection. Topographic maps are also available for purchase from various sources and range from $10-$20 per section. I am unable to provide specific ordering information as this is a non-commercial site and my provider forbids these types of links - try the various internet search tools.....

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United States census records are available for viewing at either the LDS Family History Centers , larger public and University Libraries or at the US National Archives Centers located around the US. Only the census records from 1790 to 1920 are currently open to the public. (Records are sealed for 70 years to maintain the privacy of individuals still alive). The 1890 census was mostly destroyed by fire in about 1921. The 1930 census won't be available for viewing until the year 2000.

National Archives Centers are located in:

You will first have to determine the area that your people were living in during the census you want to search. The librarian can help you determine which rolls to search. Begin by searching the soundex index microfilms for the appropriate state - this will point you to the proper page of the census that contains your immigrants records. Be aware that the indexing is far from perfect. I could not locate my ancestors anywhere in the index, but knowing that they resided in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania in 1920 - I searched the 3 microfilm rolls of actual records LINE BY LINE until I found them (most tedious). It turned out their records were incorrectly listed in the index due to sloppy handwriting by the enumerator.

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I have had great success with Naturalization records however your individual success my vary because not all immigrants became naturalized.

There is an excellent book written on researching the naturalization records:

Locating your Immigrant Ancestor, A Guide to Naturalization Records by James Neagles and Lila Lee Neagles - Everton Publishers, Logan, UT

Instead of duplicating the wealth of information available at the National Archives, I suggest you check out their genealogical holdings by visiting their WWW Server . Passenger lists and arrivals, census, and naturalization records - are detailed here (no actual records) but instructions on how to get the films containing the records you are seeking.

Becoming a citizen was a three step process and each step generated documents, some of which still remain at the COUNTY COURTHOUSE in the county where the immigrant resided when applying for citizenship. Look for the "Declaration of Intention" - this will contain a wealth of information, including date of arrival and on what ship, as well as the exact spelling of the village of origin and if you are lucky - the photo will still be attached! If they are not at the courthouse - they will be at the National Archives.

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The Mormon church has a substantial collection of Records available. They have been photographing records all over the world for the past 60+ years (and continue to do so in East Europe), and these records are available to the public.


Previous to 1918, Slovakia was a part of the Austria-Hungary Empire, and was a part of UPPER HUNGARY. The records for Slovakia are listed in the index under "HUNGARY". Since the revolution in 1989, the Mormon church has resumed filming more of the local records in Czech and Slovak Republics, and they now are being listed under CZECHOSLOVAKIA". A number of the records previously listed under "HUNGARY" now have a duplicate listing under "CZECHOSLOVAKIA".

You should check both indexes.

Bohemian and Moravian records are listed under Austria.

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Special thanks to Mr. Hudick for the wonderful information - the original complete unedited version of this article is available at :

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