Since I have never spoken to anyone in my family who has been to Burgenland or heard any stories about it I have to rely on other's outside my family to supply the stories about life in that area. One way for me to get to know my ancestors, and the place they lived, is by examining church and civil registration records.
I've filled in some blanks regarding life in Burgenland (when territory of Hungary) by looking at both the civil registration and church records.
The story of pre-Austrian Burgenland, or more specifically the southern part that I've been researching, is that of an area in fluctuation. We see a growing population during the early church record keeping period with individuals and families migrating in from Styria, and other parts of Austria, and Hungary into this area. My Bierbauer ancestors were migrants to Borosgodor from Styria. Migration to this area was encouraged due to depopulation after the Ottoman invasions.
Here is an example of some of the migration that occurred in the mid 19th century as found in a church marriage record:
This older couple stated they were born in Styria, Austria, but now lived in Borosgodor, Hungary. My great-great grandfather Joseph Bierbauer witnessed this marriage, and he was also born in the parish of Sinabelkirchen, Stryia, Austria. He also migrated to Borosgodor, Hungary (now Inzenhof, Burgenland, Austria).
It was quite unusual for a couple in their 70's to marry let alone live to be that old in 19th century Burgenland.
Living ConditionsLiving conditions in southern Burgenland were very difficult in the 19th and early 20th century as attested to by the high childhood death rate. Living into your 50's was considered old age as seen in the death records. The illustration below is from my great-great grandmother Maria Bierbauer's death record long form:
Aggkori vegkimerülés would translate to senile exhaustion. She was 55 years old. She died of old age due to exhaustion.
Mostly the youngest children died during the smallpox epidemic in the parish of Felsoronok. Many under 5 years old. It could be the older children and adults were vaccinated, or already had the disease and were immune? Since not everyone who contracted smallpox died there were certainly many more cases than the 55 deaths.
Early vaccines for smallpox used in the 18th century were dangerous. Thomas Jefferson was vaccinated, as were his children, and a few of his slaves. At that time vaccination required quarantine, and a recovery time from a mild form of pox which developed from the vaccine. Better vaccines were developed by the 1870's. Areas with high vaccination rates escaped the brunt of the 1870's epidemic.
Infectious disease was the most common cause of death in the 19th and early 20th century Burgenland.
Social StructureThe allasa, or social standing in the Burgenland community, had a lot to do with land ownership in rural Burgenland. Small landholding peasants were at the bottom of the social hierarchy.
In the pre-1895 Felsoronok church records my ancestors are always referred to as inquilinus. Nearly everyone in that rural parish was categorized as inquilinus. These people were peasants with small landholdings. Before the 1848 land reforms in Hungary they were tenants of the Batthyany family. After the land reform of 1848 they received title to their land.
One of my ancestors is referred to as an agricola, latin for farmer. The way I understand it is he would have owned more land than an inquilinus. His status in the community would have been higher according to this classification.
After 1895 Allasa (meaning standing or occupation) was recorded in the Hungarian language, instead of Latin as in the church records. At this point the rural population was either categorized as Foldmives or Foldbirtokos. Foldmives were peasant class small landholders. My ancestor Peter Kurta was classed this way on his death certificate, as were his parents. My Koppel and Bierbauer ancestors generally referred to themselves as Foldbirtokos, meaning landowners. The fact they were classified this way doesn't always mean they owned land, it's also a social status above the lowest peasant class. It is a sort of a middle class status during the Hungarian period.
More OccupationsMany homes and other buildings in Burgenland were constructed of bricks. We can see brick makers and bricklayers in the civil registration records. Flor Kalman was a brickmaker, and Richard Gerger was a bricklayer.
Out MigrationOut Migration from Burgenland began in the late 19th century. The small landholdings of Burgenland peasants could not sustain the growing population. The population of Inzenhof, for instance, was in the 600's, and fell to the 300's. Many Burgenland migrants made their way to the United States during the late 19th and early 20th century.
Another option for Burgenland migrants was relocating to urban Austria where jobs were more plentiful. Josefa Baldauf was a female cook in Graz in 1908.
Some information about Church and Civil registration recordsChurch baptismal records provide the village or town of birth. Child's name. Date of birth and baptism. Address of parents. Whether they were male or female (which is helpful in case the name doesn't make the sex clear). Whether legitimate or not. Parents names, and godparents names. The name of the priest performing the baptism. A cross by a child's name, and corresponding date, indicates that child died, soon after, to a few years after birth.
Church Marriage records provide the dates of marriages. Name of the couple. Occupation of the husband. Occupation of the wife's father. Addresses of couple before their marriage (house numbers not on the earliest records). Their religion. Whether married before or widowed. Ages of bride and groom. Names of witnesses. Parents names. Name of the Clergy officiating the marriage.
Sometimes the church marriage records give a place of birth if not at the same as the place where they lived when married.
Here is an example of a marriage record which gives the place of birth of my great-great grandmother Maria Bierbauer. She was born in Sytria, Austria, and not where she lived when she married.
Church death records contain the least information generally. If an adult male dies, his name, and date of death are provided, but not the name of his spouse. Village or Town he lived in. House number on later registers. Age at death. Cause of death. Occupation. Date of burial. Name of clergy officiating at burial.
If a female or child died then the name of their husband or parent is also given, and that persons occupation is also given.
How soon after death someone was buried can tell you about burial customs in the area for that particular religious group. Burial a day or two after death was generally the rule for Catholics. During winter it may have been longer period between death and burial.
The cause of an ancestors death can also be informative. When I saw that one of my ancestors died of Typhus I assumed it was because of the poverty of the family that she had been infected with it. This disease is acquired through body lice. When I learned that Thomas Jefferson's daughters also came down with Typhus while in Paris I changed my opinion regarding inferring poverty and filthy living conditions as the sole cause of infection.
Here we have an example of a church death record. My ancestor Maria Wolf died the 26th of March 1871 of Typhus. Since she is female her husband's named is given. His name is Joseph Jost. Joseph is listed as an agricolae. She is buried two days after her death on the 27th.
Catholic Church records online for today's Burgenland only cover the time period ending in 1895, when civil registration records then record these events. These records are also online at FamilySearch.org.
The 1895 Civil Registration records end in 1920 when Burgenland is ceded to Austria after WWI.
The civil registration records often contain more information than the church records.
From 1895 to 1907 a long form was used to record registrants information. These records are very detailed. When multiple registrants were listed on a single page the information was not always as detailed.
Civil registration birth records in the long format contained the name of the child towards the bottom of the form, which can be confusing.
The top of the long civil registration gives the name or names of the persons reporting the birth, and their addresses and occupations.
Here we see Janos Kurta and his wife Anna Jost are reporting the birth of their granddaughter Maria Koppel. Janos is said to be a foldbirtokos or landowner. They live at 17 Borosgodor.
The center of the form contains the names and information of the parents.
Below you see the father's information
allasa (foglalkozasa)- standing (job)
szuleteshelye-place of birth
My great-grandfather's standing is given as Foldbirtokos or landowner.
Next on the form is the mother's information.
Below is the information for my great-grandmother Maria Kurta
The same information as provided for her husband regarding her vital statistics.
Below is the information for her daughter Maria's birth.
napjanak del(untan): time of day afternoon (Maria was born at 7 in the afternoon)
megjegyzes- comment. Bejelento az anyai nagy anya- (Maria's birth) Announced by the maternal grandmother.
The birth information on the long form is quite informative. Knowing what time of day my great-aunt Maria was born is interesting because like her I was also born around 7 in the afternoon. The most helpful information is the fact her birth was announced by her grandmother named at the top of the form, Anna Jost. As I've stated in previous blog posts her mother Maria's church birth entry is wrong. It stated her mother was Anna Scharl. This birth record is more evidence that record is wrong, and her name was Anna Jost.
At the bottom of the form the person reporting the birth was supposed to testify to reading and understanding what was written above, and attesting it was a true statement of the facts.
Since Anna Jost, Maria's grandmother, apparently was illiterate and was not a fluent Hungarian speaker she stated she was more comfortable with German (nemetul). The document was reviewed for her in German, and she signed it with 3 X's.
None of my ancestors married in Burgenland in 1895, or after, so I have not gleaned anything about my own family from these records. The records appear to contain basically the same information as the church marriage records. Some do provide additional information about the language spoken by the marriage party.
The Civil Registration death long form is laid out much the same as the birth long. The death record has the additional information regarding the time of death, and name of parents if known.
My 3 times great-grandfather Peter Kurta died in 1896 in Borosgodor.
Peter Kurta died at house number 3, in Borosgodor. A house in which he lived with his wife all of his adult life. His wife's name is correctly stated as Anna Muik.
His father's name is correctly stated as Antal Kurta. Mother's name is given as Katalin Jost. I have Catherine Jost, but it's close enough. Both of Peter's parents are said to also be from Borosgodor, which is correct. The status of, or job, of his father is Foldmives or peasant farmer. And apparently his Jost grandfather was also classified as Foldmives.
Peter's son Janos Kurta reported his death, as seen by his name at the top and in the comment below, which states his son announced his death. He was living at house number 17 in Borosgodor when he reported his father's death. This was his home until his own death in 1919.
Unlike Anna Jost, Janos Kurta could sign his name. I don't know if this is actually his signature or a copy made by the clerk?
This is just a small sample of the interesting information that can be found by examining the church and civil registration records.
Below are the names of those who died in Felsoronok parish during the smallpox epidemic, and those who died in the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918.