Sunday, February 12, 2012

Using Hungarian census records in Slovak (and Hungarian) genealogical research

Those of us researching our Slovak ancestors suffer from a scarcity of record types, relying heavily on parish records and occasionally (if we’re lucky) census records. Understanding records—the reasons they were created, their limitations, their peculiarities—help us to wring as much information as possible from the documents we find. Knowing where record groups can be accessed, or conversely for what regions they are no longer extant, can save us time and effort.

A recently-published article should be read by anyone expecting to search for or work with census records of the former Hungarian Empire. Authors Peter Ori’s and Levente Pakot’s working paper, “Census and Census-like Material Preserved in the Archives of Hungary, Slovakia and Transylvania (Romania), 18-19th Centuries,” can be downloaded at

The fifty-seven page paper is divided into three sections: a discussion of the various censuses, a bibliography, and a comprehensive listing of census materials in archives.

The authors’ focus is identifying extant census materials of enough detail that they can be used for demographic studies of household composition. In the first fifteen-page section of the paper, they explain: their reasons for discussing only certain parts of the Hungarian empire; the various censuses and enumerations; the intentions of each census (e.g., was it to count the entire population, was it to identify males for military purposes); factors affecting the likely accuracy; the concept of “household unit” in a particular census. Five maps are helpful illustrations of the areas named as different censuses are discussed.

A bibliography of just over two pages lists works in English and Hungarian concerning censuses and demographics; Hungarian titles are translated into English. Several of the English-language articles will be attractive to researchers wishing to learn context of their ancestors’ lives, such as “Different Household Formation Systems in Hungary at the End of the 18th Century: Variations on John Hajnal’s Thesis.”

The third section of the paper is basically a detailed finding aid for extant census materials. Archive by archive, the authors describe the types of census-like records, the years covered, the number of villages covered (sometimes by name), the types of data in the records, and more. Contact information for each archive is included, and online record access is noted where it is available.

Those doing Slovak research will find Ori’s and Pakot’s paper a good supplement to the various Hungarian census resources offered by Bill Tarkulich and others at