Searching for ancestors in Slovakia (Spectacular Slovakia - travel guide)

The family tree of the Mednyánszkys family, made by a Bratislava painter in the first half of the 18th century. (Source: Courtesy of the Slovak National Gallery)

This regularly updated feature on tracing Slovak geneaology includes tips for accessing records.

This article was published in the latest edition of travel guide Spectacular Slovakia.

Tracing the roots of your family tree is becoming easier with digitised archives.

To search the Slovak state archives, however, one still needs to do it the old-fashioned way, negotiating language barriers and a complicated register system, and perhaps even doing a lot of travel.

“Men, women, pensioners in couples or even with other family members come [to the archives] because they often combine their study of the registers with a visit to Slovakia, particularly those regions where their ancestors were born,” said Slovak archivist and former deputy director of the State Archive in Bratislava Jana Schullerová.

There should be English-speaking employees in every archive who are able to help foreigners with their research, Schullerová said. The registers should be available for research on films in the archive’s study room, she added.

However, the archives are only able to provide the results of genealogical research in Slovak, so for speakers of English, German, or other languages, advice on translating services should be sought from the embassy of one’s country.

While the process may be difficult, it can also be rewarding.

“I discovered that my parents are distant blood relatives, a fact my family did not know,” Peter Brindza, director of the State Archive in Trenčín, told The Slovak Spectator.

Perusing Slovak Records

A genealogy search begins at home, experts say, noting that the first step in the process is talking with relatives about family history to make sure where, specifically, their ancestors lived and begin the process of gathering family documents. If it is possible, people should also go through registers of the International Genealogical Index run by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, says Vlado Petrovič, a professional genealogist.

After carrying out their research at home, those who wish to continue should visit a local register office in Slovakia, which carry registers dating back to 1907. Next comes the related regional state archive. If one needs to go further back another option is the State Archive in Bratislava where registers from the 16th to the 19th century are kept.

Most foreigners interested in such explorations come from the United States and Israel. Genealogists say that Slovak archivists are generally able to help English-speakers, but note there is often a language barrier in some local register offices.

“For example, I experienced that a register office employee had a problem with interpretation of records written in Hungarian,” Brindza says. “It should not be a problem for her since [employees] pass a professional training related to this matter.”

Other complications include the lack of information on Slovak websites and the diverse number of offices and archives which may possess the crucial information in people’s research, Brindza says. To minimise complications, foreigners should inform the respective archive office about their visit in advance. If they request a professional to make a genealogic research for them, they should send copies of family documents, Schullerová says.

Sometimes archivists have a problem identifying the home country of the foreigner requesting the research if they provide only an e-mail and not a home address.

People should also realise that genealogical research has its limits and not all relatives can always be found, Schullerová adds.

State archive (Source: SME)

Slovakia within the Empire

Slovakia was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire when people often migrated to what are now several different countries. Today their descendants often have to search for ancestors in several different countries, says Erik Dirbák, genealogist from the State Archive in Banská Bystrica.

“Everything is individual and unique,” Petrovič says. “Sometimes ancestors never left their native village, another time they wandered across not only the whole Austro-Hungarian Empire, but [people] need to search them beyond those borders.” There are cases when experienced genealogists were able to complete research in a single day, but it can also take a lifetime.

“It is a question of what is the goal of research,” professional genealogist Štefan Čonka says. “Whether you want to know who is your eldest ancestor, or you want to know more about how those people lived and made a living.”

Expect to be surprised

Genealogists often discover surprising information, some of it sad, some of it funny.

“In one case, there was a note that a man died because he was heavy drinker,” Brindza said. “Sometimes one finds vulgar names for women of bad reputation.”

article_photo(Source: )

It is interesting to observe the trends in how one’s ancestor’s named their children. People gave extraordinary names to their children in the past, it is not just a recent phenomenon, Brindza says.

“For example, I discovered in one register office in Kysuce [in northern Slovakia] that at the beginning of the 19th century, several children were named Napoleon,” Brindza says.

Genealogy in Slovakia

Archives
In following archives, the parish registers up to around 1895 and other necessary documents are maintained. One can study them personally or ask the archival staff for anything from basic assistance to comprehensive genealogical research. Archives representatives strongly recommend contacting them via e-mail in advance. Some records in registers are written in Latin, others in German, Hungarian or Slovak.

B Bratislava: Štátny archív Bratislava, www.minv.sk
W Ivanka pri Nitre: Štátny archív v Nitre, www.minv.sk
C Banská Bystrica: Štátny archív v Banskej Bystrici, www.minv.sk
N: Levoča: Štátny archív v Levoči, www.minv.sk
N Bytča: Štátny archív v Bytči, www.minv.sk
E Košice: Štátny archív v Košiciach, www.minv.sk
E Prešov: Štátny archív v Prešove, www.minv.sk

Ministry of Interior of the SR – Department of Archives and Registries
If you are not sure which archives to contact, contact: www.minv.sk

Further sources of geneal ogical research
B Bratislava: Slovenský národný archív, www.minv.sk; Vojenský historický archív, www.vhu.sk

Genealogy institutions and webpages
Genealogia, www.genealogia.wbl.sk
A multilingual web page providing useful tips and services for people searching for their ancestors.
Slovak Genealogical-Heraldic Society, www.sghs.sk

Genealogy companies
W Šamorín: Centroconsult, www.centroconsult.sk/genealogy
Specialisation: western and southwestern Slovakia; able to search in all Slovak regions
W Nové Mesto nad Váhom: Konekta, www.konekta.sk
Specialisation: all Slovak regions
E Košice:
-Fratello, www.fratello.sk
Specialisation: all Slovak regions
-Genealogy Tourist Guide Slovakia, www.cisarik.com
Specialisation: all Slovak regions
-Slovak Genealogy Assistance, www.slovakia-genealogy.com
Specialisation: eastern Slovakia; able to search in all Slovak regions

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Topic: Tourism and travel in Slovakia


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