Your ancestors in Hungary

Your ancestors in Hungary

Hungary is a Country with a rich history, most of us know the Country by its Capital Budapest. However great numbers of people contributed to the waves of European Emigration from the 1850s – 1940s. Were your ancestors among them? This blog will help you get started.


Hungary or Magyarország is a country of 10 million inhabitants and member of the European Union. Budapest is the capital and largest city. Other, large urban areas include Debrecen, Szeged, Miskolc, Pécs and Győr.

The territory of modern Hungary was inhabited by the Celts, Romans, Germanic Tribes, Huns, West Slavs and Avars. In the late ninth century the foundations of Hungary were established by Prince Árpád. His great-grandson Stephen came to the throne in 1000ad.

In the 12th C Hungary had become a regional power reaching new heights of political and cultural power by the 15th C. In 1526 Hungary was partially occupied by the Ottoman Empire. By the 18th C it was under Habsburg rule and later formed the Austro-Hungarian Empire with Austria.

Following World War I the Austro-Hungarian Empire collapsed and the Treaty of Trianon established the current border of Hungary.

During World War II Hungary joined the Axis powers, and following invasion and occupation by Germany became a satellite state of the Soviet Union. In 1989 Hungary became a democratic republic with a parliament.

Hungary is made up of 19 Counties (Megye) with the Capital Budapest an independent entity. The Counties are subdivided into 174 Districts, with these being subdivided again into Towns and villages.

In 1871 Germany was roughly two-thirds Protestant and one-third Roman Catholic. There was a notable Jewish minority. In 2011 Christianity was the largest religion (67%), 32% were Protestant and 31% Roman Catholic. 33% were not members of an official religion. Islam is the second largest religion with other religions minor by comparison (Buddhism, Judaism and Hinduism.

Historically Hungary is a Christian Country. From Stephen the Catholic Church has remained strong. The onset of the Protestant Reformation saw Hungarians take up Luteranism and then Clavinism. A Counter reformation by the the Jesuits in the 16th C led to the population becoming predominantly Catholic. Orthodox Christianity is associated with the Country’s ethnic minorities (Armenians, Bulgarians, Greeks, Romanians, Rusyns, Ukrainians and Serbs.

There has historically been a significant population of Jews in Hungary, some of which escaped the Holocaust during World War II. Perhaps ½ million were deported to concentration camps where most were murdered.

In 2011 the majority of Hungarians declared themselves as Christians (54%), Roman Catholics (37%) and Hungarian Reformed Calvinists (11%). Other denominations included Lutherans (2%), Greek Catholics (2%) and other Christians (1%). Jews made up just 0.1% of the population similar to Buddhist and Muslim populations. 27% of the population did not declare a religion and 17% declared themselves irreligious with 2% atheist.


Family History records are created and organised locally. Civil Registration (birth, marriage and death) are kept at local Civil Registrars’ offices or in Town Halls. Church records (christening/baptism, marriage and burial) are stored in the archives of the various Hungarian counties.

If you are unsure of your ancestors town in Hungary follow the advice in the FamilySearch Wiki.



Births, marriages or deaths are civil records and were introduced in 1895. Originals are kept at Civil Registrars’ offices and / or in town halls. Up to 1980 the registrars’ offices sent transcripts to the county archives, or, for Budapest to the municipal archives.

Archives are prohibited from providing access to birth registers for 90 years, marriage registers for 60 years and death registers for 30 years.

The differences only between English and Welsh Birth, Marriage and Death registrations are given below.


  • names, ages and residence of parents
  • until 1948 the religion of parents


  • date and place of marriage
  • dates and places of birth and residences of groom and bride
  • names and residences of parents and witnesses
  • until 1948 the religion.


  • dates of death and burial
  • names of surviving spouse and parents
  • until 1948 the religion.

Source: FamilySearch


A snapshot of a family, on one night of the year; the Census gives an invaluable insight into our ancestors lives.

The first Census for the Kingdom of Hungary appears in 1784-1785. Further Census information was collected in 1808, 1828, 1848 (Jews only), 1850, 1857, 1869, 1880, 1890, 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930, 1941, 1960, 1970, 1980, and 1990. The content of these vary widely, some include only the head of household whilst others include head of household and other occupants, age, occupation, religion etc.

It seems Census material is hard to access. Many early Census’s have only partially survived. Large parts of the 1784 Census were destroyed. Records are considered confidential; particularly those 50 years old and less.

Check out further information and available census material on the FamilySearch Wiki.


Emigrants and Immigrants

Emigration (leaving) and Immigration (arriving) records tend to be passenger lists, permissions to emigrate or records of passports issued.

FamilySearch have catalogued almost 50 emigration/immigration books. Great numbers of people contributed to the waves of European Emigration from the 1850s – 1940s. Not just Hungarians but also Romanians, Germans, Jews, Slovaks, Ukrainians, Serbs, and Croats. Many settled in the United States, Canada, and Australia.

Source: FamilySearch

To access records and research this area further check out the FamilySearch Wiki.


Parish Registers

Parish Registers generally detail Baptism, Marriage and Burial. They may be used as an alternative or substitute for civil registration.

  • Roman Catholic Parishes were first required to keep church registers in 1563, however most begin shortly after the Turks were forced to leave in 1686.
  • Greek Catholic Parishes began keeping registers in the mid 1700s.
  • Reformed Church Registers begin in the early 1700s.
  • Lutheran Church registers begin in the early 1700s.
  • Unitarianism was legally recognized by Hungary after 1609

In 1730, Hungarian Catholic priests were ordered to record non-Catholics in their church register books.

After 1784 the Emperor Joseph II declared church registers to be official state records. Protestants were officially required to maintain registers under Catholic supervision. Protestants were authorized in 1787 to keep their registers independent of Catholic control.

Source: FamilySearch

The differences only between English and Welsh Baptism, Marriage and Burial registrations are given below.

Christening Registers

  • christening date (most also give the birth date)
  • sometimes names of grandparents
  • names of godparents.


Marriage Registers

  • previous marital status
  • sometimes the birthplace


Burial/Death Registers

  • sometimes cause of death
  • names of survivors
  • occasionally the date and place of birth

Source: FamilySearch

Church records are the property of the state and are stored in the archives of the various Hungarian counties under direction of the National Archives of Hungary in Budapest.

Source: FamilySearch

To access records and research this area further check out the FamilySearch Wiki.

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