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Croatian vital records

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Croatian Catholic church records: Matic"ne Knjige (3 types) & Stanja Dus"a

(For lists and examples of WORDS and TERMS, as used in church records, see here.)
(For the history of Matic"ne knjige, see here.)

Note: This information is specific to the Konavle region of southern Croatia. But please be patient. Much of it will pertain to the rest of Croatia. For example, the types of books and the way they were kept is the same. The Catholic church was keeping these records and the rules of the church did not vary that much throughout what is now Croatia. Any differences in church records between the Konavle region and other parts of Croatia will be seen mostly in the availability (do the books still exist?) and in the span of years covered.

A short history of Konavlian church records
Most Konavlian church records were burned in 1806 by Montenegrins who came through the area with help from the Russians who were fighting Napoleon. At the time, this region was part of the Dubrovnik Republic and had been so since around 1426. The Russians never made it to Dubrovnik; instead the French took over which marked the end of the Republic. Then in 1815, the entire region became part of the Austrian Empire and remained so until 1918.

Matic"ne Knjige
Around 1808 the priests started keeping new vital records in Konavle. These records, like the records before them, were kept in journal-type books called Matic"ne Knjige, which were simply bound books with blank paper on which the information was written in Latin. There were 3 separate books: (1) Christening -- which also has the birth date, (2) marriage, and (3) death. Then in the late 1820s or early 1830s, the priests started recording the same vital information into books with pre-printed headings. Today these are also called Matic"ne Knjige and come in 3 versions: (1) birth -- which also has the Christening date, (2) marriage, and (3) death. Most of these latter books are now in the State Archives throughout Croatia, and were copied onto microfilm by the LDS Church in 1994 and 1999.

At about the same time that the 2nd set of Matic"ne Knjige were mandated, the local priests also started sending copies very similar to the 2nd set to their Bishop's office. These Bishop's records were written on loose-leaf, pre-printed forms and were sent in every month or so. These records are still in the Bishop's office but trying to view them is not easy. They discourage you by saying that these records are just duplicates of the 2nd set, which is pretty much true (unless the original records have been destroyed). Also, they are organized by church but are not bound. They are still "loose-leaf" and not necessarily maintained in chronological order over the years, making them very tedious to look through. Today these Bishop's records are also called Matic"ne Knjige.

So now we have 2 sets of books and 1 set of loose-leaf papers all with the same basic information, and all called Matic"ne Knjige: (see comments at bottom of this page)**

1. Journal-type books (1st set). Most are located in the local churches, at least in southern Croatia. These are the true original records from which the 2nd set, the Bishop's records, and the Stanja Dus"a derive their information. Most have indexes by surname.

2. Books with pre-printed headings (2nd set). The older ones are located in the various State archives and were microfilmed by the LDS Church; the newer ones are with the local State government offices and have not been microfilmed. Apparently at some point, determined by age, these are turned over to the Archives by the local governments. Most are indexed by surname.

3. Bishop's records. No examples here but they are almost identical in form to the 2nd set. Located in the various Bishop's offices. Organized by church, loose-leaf, no indexes.

Note: Since the LDS church microfilmed the Matic"ne Knjige in the Dubrovnik Archives in 1994, several new books have been added to the Archive's collection. For example, from the Ploc"ice church have been added Matice Rod'enih (birth) 1871-1887 and Matice Mrtvih (death) 1860-1879. There is a good chance that this same process is going on throughout Croatia. In other words, unmicrofilmed Matic"ne Knjige probably exist at most State Archives in Croatia.

Matic"ne Knjige come in handy when you have a death date but not a birth date because they give the age at death from which you can derive the approximate birth year. Also the Matic"ne Knjige list godparents and the reason for death and Stanja Dus"a do not.

Stanja Dus"a (these books are called Stalis" Dus"a around Rijeka and maybe in other parts of Croatia as well)
Then there are the Stanja Dus"a which are by far the most concise records from the point of view of information per page. These books have an entire family on one page, often with three or four generations shown. When a growing family requires more room on the page, reference numbers point to other pages which continue the vital information for that particular branch. Stanja Dus"a were not kept by the churches in the larger towns such as Dubrovnik but only in the villages. These books are called Status Animarum in Latin, abbreviated as SA in references. It means "status of the souls." Many of them are organized geographically by village and then by surname. Stanja Dus"a were intended only to serve the local priest and his successors; they were never written to be read by the public.

Many churches have three or four sequential Stanja Dus"a. The oldest, written in Italian in southern Croatia, were started in the 1820s or 1830s and continued to when the book was filled -- often around 1850 or so. The information they contain comes directly from the journals (see above). In Konavle, birth information from before 1808 was just guessed at or taken down word-of-mouth. The Stanja Dus"a were not filled out as the events happened but instead were updated every few years. For this reason, they DO occasionally contain discrepancies which can be corrected or verified only by referring to the journals (1st set of Matic"ne Knjige).

When one Stanje Dus"a book was filled, another was begun, in some cases changing languages (Italian to Croatian or Latin to Croatian). They can most often be found today in the local churches. If not, then in one of the local State Archives. And if not there, then they are either lost, misplaced or have been destroyed.

The Stanja Dus"a books are huge. It takes 4 scans (8.5 x 11 each) to get them into a computer. And then they must be tiled together. So the files are quite large (8.4 MB per scan at 300 dpi).

Of course, that's much too big to put on a website so I have presented a much smaller version. But still it's around 85 KB. Click here to view it. It's about 11 inches wide so if you choose to print it, try landscape mode. You will find that the resolution is still not very good but it should at least give you an idea of the form and content. Then you can better decide whether you want to go to the trouble of trying to obtain the ones for your family.

Also see:
Example of Stanja Dus"a (entire page).
Examples of Stanja Dus"a (close-up)
Miscellaneous examples of Stanja Dus"a
These and other examples, such as months and dates, are also available from Lesson 5.

An explanation of the LDS microfilms, by the man in charge of the filming, can be found here.