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Parish Records

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We owe a huge debt of gratitude to Mr. Vladimir Mavar who volunteered to translate this article and has done a wonderful job.

[Note: The original of this article uses the term matic"ne knjige throughout. In Croatian, this phrase usually means "parish records"; however, it can also mean "vital records," as kept by the government. In this English translation, we have tried to distinguish between the two at each occurance.]


--by Albino Senc"ic'; as found in Vjesnik #38 of the Historical Archive of Rijeka, 1996, ISSN 1330-2116, pages 315-387. With permission of the author.

After an historical review of vital record maintenance, the author explains the parish record collection in the Historical Archives of Rijeka; in particular, he explains how the subject matter was acquired, the sorting method, and finally the methods of preservation. A list of all parish records is presented, 591 volumes altogether, grouped into 101 specific categories. A simple schematic description is shown for every record. At the end there is a directory of communities along with their corresponding parish districts.

[We have omitted areas of text that do not pertain directly to the interests of genealogists; it is noted when these omissions occur. Only the beginning of the list of parish records is shown because we simply don't have the time to keystroke it; same for the directory of communities. If anyone would like to type out these lists for us, please contact us here.]

1.1 Historical Development

Parish records [matic"ne knjige] are public documents that officially prove the validity of someone's birth, baptism, marriage, death and some other personal information
(1) [footnote numbers are enclosed in parentheses and are in red; the list of footnotes is at the bottom of this article.].

The origins of keeping such records stretch back into Old Christianity. Supposedly, information regarding the number of baptisms and deaths was being gathered by the third century A.D. In the sixth century, Emperor Justinian mandated the gathering of marriage records. The reasons for these mandates was to document members of the Christian provinces. There are examples of parish records from the Middle Ages; recorders for bishops' offices
(2) frequently mention these records. The oldest tradition of keeping records is in the southwestern portion of Mediterranean Europe, where they spread very early on from the center of Christian influence. The oldest preserved Croatian records are also located in the coastal areas, Istria in particular. The following old baptismal parish records are preserved: Umag (1483), Labin (1536), Bale (1538), as well as Buje (1539).

Old parish records written in the Glagolithic script also originated in our area; these records are preserved in the archives of the Croatian Academy of Arts and Sciences (HAZU) in Zagreb. These archives house the oldest [glagolithic] records which are from Dobrinj (1560), Dubas"nice (1585), Punat (1594), as well as Lovran (1573). The parish records from Bas"ka, Omis"alj, Mali Los"inj, Bribir, Kastav, and Volosko are originally from the 17th century.

In the collection of parish records within the Historical Archives of Rijeka [PAR], these are the oldest preserved baptismal records: Osor (1560), Krk (1565), Cres (1571), as well as Rijeka (1594); also included are marriage records from Cres (1583) and Rijeka (1590), as well as death records in Cres from 1584.

The obligation of maintaining parish records relating to baptisms and marriages was mandated by the Trident Council (active from 1546-1563)
(3) at its conference held November 11, 1563. At that time, it was not explained how to maintain the records; only the mandate of obligation was put forth, while the method of maintaining records was deferred to the provincial and bishop levels. In 1614, a Vatican lawmaker (4) supplemented the articles of the Trident Council and regulated the method by which parish records were to be maintained; he also introduced additional obligations: maintaining death records, records of population counts (census) (5), listing members of each individual family, and residential addresses. Since the collection in PAR includes death records that predate the introduction of the mandate (1614), it is obvious that this regulation merely sanctioned the existing practice. The death records for Cres (1584) and Osor (1608) fit this category.

The maintenance of parish records had been mandated by various religious organizations: the Anglican Church led the way, followed by the Roman Catholic Church, as well as other churches. These organizations mandated the method of maintaining these documents based upon their own needs. Thus the oldest mandate which determined the method of maintaining Catholic parish records, the aforementioned Vatican official in 1614, gives the following template of data entry for baptismal records:

"In the year of our Lord ____, on day ___ of the month ___, I _____ the pastor of the church of Saint ____ in the town ___ or province ____ in the church of Saint ____ baptized this child, born on day ___, born of ___ and ___, legal parents from the parish of Saint ___, town of ___. The child was given the name ___, his godfather was ___, son of ___ from the parish or province ___ and the godmother was ___, daughter of ___ from the parish or province ___."

Similar forms were also mandated by the Vatican official relating to maintenance of marriage and death records.

The strengthening of a centralized government with a new mandatory military service, led the Austrian state to realize the usefulness of maintaining parish records, so it became an intermediary in the method of maintaining such records. The Roman Catholic Church, which had maintained parish records to accurately document its followers, were essentially given the additional role of "bureau of vital records". It was in the interest of the state that vital records of its servants be recorded, so [the state] intervened in the affairs of religious communities, demanding they maintain their members' vital records according to state regulation. In this way, through articles of Vienna's Imperial Office from the years 1765, 1770, 1771, 1772, 1774 and 1782, ways to improve vital record maintenance by the clergy is mandated

Finally, Emperor Joseph II mandated, through his Imperial patent of February 20, 1784, a unique method of maintaining parish records by the state. He entrusted Catholic pastors and Jewish rabbis with the task of maintaining the parish records; they were considered to be caretakers of these records who, in turn, satisfied the function of an auxilliary bureau within the state
(8). It was determined by this patent that pastors must maintain three sets of parish records: marital records, baptismal records, and death records for the territories encompassed by their respective parishes. It was further required that vital records be maintained in hospitals, humanitarian institutions, as well as military complexes. These records had to be kept by pastors of the parishes where these institutions were located.

The [above mentioned] patent mandated certain sections which all parish record books had to contain
(9). In this way, birth records had to contain separate sections for the date, place of birth, name of child, faith of child, gender of child, legitimacy or non-legitimacy, first and last names of the parents with mother's maiden name, parents' occupations, as well as the first and last names of the godparents (and their occupations).

Marital records had to contain information about the year, month and day of marriage, the place of residency and street number of the groom, the first and last names of the groom, his faith, age and whether he was a bachelor or a widower, first and last names of the bride, her faith, age, whether she was a maiden or a widow, the first and last names of the best man and bridesmaid, as well as their occupations.

For death records, the following sections were mandated: the year, month and day of death, village of residence and street number, first and last names, faith, gender and age of the deceased. Later, through a decree from the Imperial office in 1788, the following section was added: cause of death when the illness or other cause of death was known.

This patent also mandated the inclusion of the date of birth in the baptismal records. The pastors, however, frequently recorded only the date of baptism in this section, according to the well established tradition which existed before the passing of the mandate. Due to the avoidance of these possibilities (or inaccuracies), in 1812, through a special decree, it was ordered that the date of birth be recorded separately and always before the date of baptism. In reality, both of these dates were listed in the same section until the emergence of new templates for vital records which contained predetermined places for each separate fact

During the French occupation of our territories, civilian vital records were maintained per region by civil servants (from 1812). The pastors had to surrender the parish records that they had been maintaining until that time. This state of affairs, however, lasted relatively briefly, and by 1814 the vital records were returned to the pastors who recorded events which had occurred during this recess or filled in the gaps where necessary

After the French departure, when Austria annexed parts of Istria formerly controlled by Venice, the entire area became subject to mandates brought forth by the Imperial Office in Vienna that had taken effect earlier.

Even though the Patent of Religious Tolerance created on October 13, 1781, recognized the equality of all Christian denominations, the 1784 Patent gives the pastors of the Catholic Church a special role in maintaining vital records. Only their recordings had the power of public certification
(12). In this way, the religious servants of the [other churches] maintained the records for members of their own religious communities, but every year they had to submit information to the Catholic pastors (which they obligatorily had to record in their books).

The Greek Catholic Church (Unijati) was also recognized through the Patent of Religious Tolerance. However, a minister of this religious community had to submit all recorded vital records regarding performed baptisms, marital and death records pertaining to his followers, to the Vital Records Office of the Catholic Church where a valid recording of information was conducted
(13). The Serbian Orthodox Church was recognized in the Austro-Hungarian monarchy through a decision of the Ministry on November 29, 1864 (14).

The vital records of the Jewish community were mandated by the 1784 Patent, even though Bar Mitzvah records were mandated from before. Article #6 of this mandate determined that Jews had to maintain three sets of vital records: birth, marriage, and death. These records were maintained by regional rabbis. However, vital records based upon Judaism did not receive the power of public certification until 1868

All vital records that were mandated by the Imperial Patent of 1784 and subsequent mandates, including records kept by ministers of various religious communities in the function of civil servants, are dubbed "church-state books." For those records that did not belong to any state-approved religion, special books were later introduced that were maintained at the district level
(16). Unlike these special books, vital records that were maintained under the jurisdiction of French laws pertaining to civilians are called "civil" records (17).

A number of countries introduced "civil" records later in the 19th century because modern states wanted to have vital records prepared in a way that suited them best.

After the French introduced civil records in their own territory in 1792, on Belgian soil in 1796, and in the Ilyrian provinces in 1812, their method of maintenance was adopted by other countries: Great Britain (1836), Spain (1870), and Hungary (1895)
(18). The introduction of civil records in Hungary is of particular interest to us because this applies to the city of Rijeka (which was part of Hungary at the time).

An increasing interest in vital records, as well as an attempt to curtail losses of these records, led to the introduction of so-called vital record "indices"
(19) in our area from 1835 onward. These were maintained by the local pastors. They were not maintained as actual vital records, but instead, as independent records [and loose leaf, not bound]. They were labelled according to type, date and region, and were delivered to the bishops' offices where they remain to serve as feedback and backup. Other religious communities, such as the Evangelicals, Jews and the Greek Catholics, maintained vital record indices as well. [These are the so-called Bishops' Records, talked about here.]

In accordance with the 1784 patent, supervision of vital records data entry was conducted by the bishops' offices during their routine inspections of the overall state of parochial affairs. However, as of 1868 the Ministry of Internal Affairs took over the right to supervise the maintenance of these records

Maintaining vital records as thus described, which was mandated by Austrian lawmakers, remained in effect in our area until 1924, when Italy instituted a bureau of civilian vital records which encompassed all areas within its borders. Church authorities in the entire area continued to maintain vital records based on earlier mandates.

The state vital record law of the People's Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, dated April 1, 1946, mandated the maintenance of vital records pertaining to births, marriages and deaths according to state standards, independent of religious preference
(21). From then on, vital records were maintained in accordance with unique templates and principles in all territories of the People's Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, without regard to religion, nationality or gender. So that record keepers could successfully conduct their duties, state entities took over vital records that had until then been maintained by the church, and transferred them to state offices (22). Because these vital records offices required records for mainly the last century, the records dating between 1860-1946 were kept in the offices, while the older records were surrendered to the state archives of that time. The majority of the needed records were already in the vital records offices, while the remainder were sent to the archives. The largest portion of vital records from our area was transferred to the then State Archives of the City of Rijeka; part of the books ended up in the Croatian State Archives in Zagreb (23), with some of the records going to the State Archives in Zadar (24).

1.2 The Subject Matter
1.2.1 Taking over of the subject matter

Based on the aforementioned legal articles from 1946 regarding the maintenance of vital records by state entities, the older parish records were surrendered into the state archives of that time. During the 1950s, the State Archives of Rijeka began receiving parish records taken earlier from parochial offices in areas of Coastal Croatia, Istria
(25) and the Kvarner islands.

[Omitted here: A listing of which parish records entered the archive and when (1950s to 1970s). Not too interesting to most genealogists; if you have an interest then please purchase the book which contains the original article -- in Croatian.]

The unwritten norm that was widely respected was that vital records less than a hundred years old were needed to maintain operational usages, while those older than a century were surrendered for preservation purposes in historical archives within a given jurisdiction. This principle was also generally respected even later.

[Omitted here: A listing of acquisitions from 1992 to 1994.]

This mostly concludes the release of parish records from offices of vital statistics, which came about through the labor of parochial offices; they contain information that cuts off in 1890, i.e. more than one hundred years old. However, some of the transferred records contain entries from ten years or more past this cut off.

[several pages omitted here because it is repititious or not of sufficient interest to genealogists]

1.2.5 Integrity of the data

.....The rules for maintaining parish registers as established at the Trident Council in 1563 were only the start of the legally-regulated process; the actual process occurred later in most regions. We have found information about the inception of maintaining parish registers in old church logs
(58) (personal entries made into clergy diaries). This information is useful, though not always accurate and precise.

The acquiring of parish registers, after 1950, was not finalized everywhere. The parish registers called Stalis" dus"a (listing of souls), as a rule, were not transferred, while very old matic"ne knjige containing baptismal, marriage and death records were left behind in some places. After it was determined that registers more than 100 years old were mostly unnecessary to the functioning of vital records offices, it was decided that they be surrendered to the archives. However, at the time (early 1950s), an integral network of archiving institutions had not yet been established within Croatia. Consequently, some registers from the districts of Delnice, Crikvenica, and Senj were delivered to the State Archives in Zagreb, while the registers from Rab went to the State Archives in Zadar.

The State Archives in Rijeka later received registers from the districts of Rijeka, Cres-Los"inj, and Krk, as well as the Istrian
(59) areas. A portion of the old registers from our area primarily written in Glagolitic script was turned over to the HAZU Archives in Zagreb (60) at an even earlier date.

Afterwards, none of these institutions handed over these materials (in accordance with the principle of territorial jurisdiction) to the Archives of Rijeka; instead, the registers were retained and classified within their own collections.

In an attempt a few years ago to create an integrated picture of existing parish registers for all parochial areas in the Republic of Croatia, the Croatian State Archives in Zagreb requested all institutions carrying archives to conduct a detailed inventory of all registers regardless of where they were being kept. We were the ones to make this inspection
(61) for the active area of the Historical Archives of Rijeka (PAR) in 1993. Because this survey turned up certain chronological gaps in particular registers belonging to certain parochial areas, we created the so-called "negative list" of registers (62). This list assisted us in finding missing records in certain potential holding places. The search for this vital data turned up a significant number of registers.

1.2.6 The significance of vital registers
[omitted here: info primarily for demographers]

1.2.7 Language and alphabet

Parish registers in our region [Rijeka-Gorski Kotar] were maintained in several languages. The oldest were frequently written in the Croatian language, using the Glagolithic script. These registers, however, are located in the HAZU Archives in Zagreb.

Because of the historical stratification involving the territories from which these registers originate, between Austria and Venice, the language differs. In the entire region, Latin, as the language of the Church, is the dominant language of maintaining registers; as a second language comes Croatian in the Austrian territories, while Italian is dominant in the area controlled by Venice [the Rijeka-Gorski Kotar region].

[The language used in the parish records was mandated by the Church. The next paragraph cites an example in which the priest states his permission to change from Latin to Croatian.]

.....we cite an entry in the Trsat parish baptismal register
(63). On page 21 it reads: "By virtue of order from the High Ban on the second day of September of this year [1848] issued and legally declared, registers of this parish, after 108 years, may now be maintained in the National Language".......with the exclamation "Long Live Ban Jellac"ic'" recorded by Juraj Vazmoslav Z"uvic"ic', pastor of Tersat. [an image of this page can be found here]

1.2.8 Protection of the material
[omitted: not pertinent to genealogists]

1.2.9 Classifications and Descriptions of Vital Record Registers

In the addendum we bring you a listing of all registers in the collection. They have been classified by parochial offices. The parishes are classified in alphabetical order, regardless of what higher church heirarchy an individual parish belongs to. The entry per parish contains the name of the parish, a listing of the main settlements within the parish, type of religious community (Roman Catholic parish or Orthodox curacy), name of the Patron Saint of the parish, the year of founding of the parish, as well as the year parish records began to be kept for that territory

[Below is a sample from the listing of registers, described above. This list is 36 pages long and we don't have the time to keystroke the whole thing. If anyone would like to do so, please contact us to make arrangements.]

[In the list below, the following abbreviations are used: K = Christening; V = marriage; U = death; kriz = confirmation; hrv. = Croatian language; lat. = Latin]

(Bakar, Ketina, Vitos"evo), Sv. Andrija.
No. type
1 K 1692-1715 hrv.
2 K 1716-1732 hrv.
3 K 1732-1759 hrv.
4 K 1760-1779 hrv., lat.
5 K 1780-1808 lat.
6 K 1809-1815 lat.
7 K 1815-1830 lat.
8 K 1831-1842 lat.
9 K 1843-1857 lat., hrv.
10 K 1858-1884 lat., hrv.
11 V 1691-1738 hrv.
Kriz 1691 hrv.
12 V 1739-1808 hrv., lat.
13 V 1808-1815 lat.
14 V 1815-1857 lat., hrv.
15 U 1773-1815 lat.
16 U 1815-1857 lat., hrv.
17 U 1817 lat.
18 U 1858-1891 lat., hrv.

3. List of place names and their parishes
[These are the villages and parishes that are found in the 591 parish records in the Rijeka State Archive. This section is 11 pages long; only one page is shown here because we don't have the time to keystroke the whole thing. If you would like to do so, please contact us and arrangements will be made.]

Village or hamlet parish district
Alan Jablanac
Alan Krivi Put
Anic'i [Anici] Krasno
Antovo Griz"ane [Grizane]
Bajc"ic'i [Bajcici] Poljice
Bajta Praputnjak
Bakar Bakar
Bakarac Kraljevica
Bani Kastav
Banic'i [Banici] Belej
Banovina Lic"
Banj Kraljevica
Banjol Banjol
Barbat Barbat
Barci Griz"ane
Baretic'i [Baretici] Griz"ane
10 more pages; if anyone wants to keystroke them, let us know.

Footnotes for the above text

(1) S. Srs"an;
[Matic"ne knjige za podruc"je-Historijskog arhiva u Osijeku] Parish Records of the Historical Archive in Osijek, Archive Annal, XXX [#30], Zagreb, 1987, pages 89-102.

[Vodnik po matic"nih knjigah za obmoc"je SR Slovenije] A Guide to All Parish Records of the Entire Socialist Republic of Slovenia, I, Ljubljana 1972, [Cerkvene matic"ne knjige — Nastenek in razvoj matic"nih knjig] Church registers — The inception and development of vital record registers, pages XVII - LXXIV.

(3) A. Strgac"ic',
[Inventar fonda matic"nih knjiga Drz"avnog arhiva u Zadru] An inventory of the parish record collection from the State Archive in Zadar, Archive Annal, II, Zagreb, 1959, pages 485-539.

(4) Same.

(5) Stalis" dus"a (Status animarum) is a systematic listing of citizens. It contains members of each family and their residential addresses [read more here].

(6) S. Srs"an; listed above, pages 89-102.

(7) [same as footnote #2]

(8) [same as footnote #2]

(9) [same as footnote #2]

(10) D. Vlahov;
[Matic"ne knjige u Povijesnom arhivu u Pazinu] Parish Records from the Historical Archive in Pazin; Istrian Archive Annal #2-3, Pazin 1994, pages 277-309.

(11) For the area of Rijeka there are two volumes of vital records from 1813 that contain information regarding births, marriages and deaths.

(12) [same as footnote #2]

(13) [same as footnote #2]

(14) [same as footnote #2]...However, the vital registers of the Greek Orthodox Curacy in Rijeka were preserved: birth records from 1781, as well as marriage and death records from 1782.

(15) [same as footnote #2]

(16) A. Strgac"ic'; listed above, page 487.

(17) D. Vlahov; listed above, pages 279-282.

(18) I. Ficovic'; listed above, pages 14-15.

(19) [same as footnote #2], pages LXV-LXVII.

(20) [same as footnote #2], page LXIX.

(21) S. Srs"an; listed above, page 97.

(22) Legal Department Circular of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the People's Republic of Croatia dated May 13, 1949.

(23) Parish registers from the then districts of Crikvenica, Delnice and Senj.

(24) Parish registes from the then district of Rab.

(25) At that time, the State Archive in Rijeka also had jurisdiction over the Istrian area.

[footnotes 26 to 57 are omitted because the corresponding text was omitted.]

(58) Status personalis et localis dioecesis veglensis pro anno 1895 TergesteTypographia filiorum c. Amati; Schematismus cleri Diocesium anno 1916, Typis T. Devc"ic' & Socii Segnie; Prospectus.....dioeceseon Tergestinae et Justinopolitanae a. MCMXVIII (1918) Tergeste, Typ. Fratelli Mosettig, 1918. [This Latin has not been translated to English because we haven't found anyone to do so.]

(59) In the area of Istria there were districts: Buzet, Labin, Pazin, Porec", and Pula. Materials from this area were later surrendered to the Historical Archive of Pazin.

(60) V. S"tefanic';
[Glagoljski rukopisi Jugoslavenske akademije] Glagolitic Writings of the Yugoslavian Academy, Part II, JAZU, Zagreb, 1970, X, Registers, C Vital Registers, page 128 & d. Registers which correspond to locations: Bas"ka, Dobrinj, Dubas"nica, Linardic'i, Omis"alj, Ponikve, Punat, Saint Vid - Miholjice, Beli, Crikvenica, Mali Los"inj, Novalja, Bribir, Lovran, Kastav and Volosko; totaling 40 volumes.

(61) Entrance Evidence of Vital Registers in the Republic of Croatia, Historical Archive of Rijeka; a record of sections: 036-03/93-46/113; Issue number 2170-53-03-93-3.

(62) Full name: A. Senc"ic';
[Prikaz vremenskih razdoblja za koje u Povijesnom arhivu Rijeka ne postoje podaci o sac"uvanim matic"nim knjigama] An Overview of Chronological Periods During Which There Is No Existing Data Regarding Preserved Vital Registers in the Historical Archive of Rijeka (Vital Register Negative List), Historical Archive of Rijeka, Rijeka, 1993, pages 1-26 (handwritten).

(63) Baptismal registers for Trsat, 1847-1857, inventory volume #538.

[footnotes 64 to 66 are omitted because the corresponding text was omitted.]

(67) The inception time for keeping vital registers was taken from old schematic diagrams provided by the Catholic Church or according to existing facts.

[footnotes 68 and 69 are omitted because the corresponding text was omitted.]

Thanks to the author, Mr. Albino Senc"ic', for permission to translate his article and display it on this site.

Thanks to the translator, Mr. Vladimir Mavar. More information on him here.