Genealogy in Austria
If you venture on doing family research, it is of utmost importance to know at least the person’s full name, his/her place and date of birth, and his/her religious affiliation.
There was no central residence registry in Austria before 2001. It is, therefore, very difficult to obtain information about people without having some specific data.
Austrian data privacy laws are very strict; look-ups are difficult and frequently require valid powers of attorney, proof of descent, etc. German is the official language in Austria. Thus, letters, faxes, e-mails etc. sent to Austrian institutions are more likely to be answered if they are written in German.
If you search for individuals born before November 1918, please make sure the town listed as the birthplace is within present-day Austria. Prior to the end of WW I and the disintegration of the Habsburg monarchy into various successor states (such as the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovenia etc.), persons born within the borders of the Austrian (later called: Austro-Hungarian) Empire (often) have Austria listed as their country of birth. Thus, before you start researching Austrian archival sources, check historical maps at your local library to verify that the birth of place is indeed located in present-day Austria.
Under the administrative system introduced in the 18th century and in place till 1938, certificates of birth, marriage or death were issued by the local (town, village) religious communities which also kept the corresponding records. If you know the religious affiliation of the individual you look for, contact the respective religious community in that town, such as a parish (Pfarramt) or synagogue. Please note that in towns with small Jewish communities records were kept by the Roman Catholic Church.
In some instances, files have also been transferred to regional archives (such as those of a diocese) and it may be helpful to contact those too. In addition, after 1870, the administrative districts and self-administering cities set up registers („Meldeamt“) for persons without religious affiliation. Use the Austria Phone Directory to find addresses and phone numbers.
The following institutions and websites may prove valuable for tracing your heritage:
A. Austrian State Archives:
The archival holdings of the Austrian State Archives date back to the early Middle Ages and comprise the archives of the central agencies of the Holy Roman Empire; bequests, collections of maps, plans and photographs as well as about 100,000 (medieval) parchments, diplomas and treaties; the archives of the Habsburg family; the archives of the imperial cabinett, of court institutions and of central state agencies of the Habsburg monarchy (war and defense, foreign affairs, finance, etc.); files on military personnel (Imperial Army and Navy); and the records of all federal state agencies (including all ministries).
The Austrian State Archives are split up into sub-entities of which the ones most useful for genealogical research are:
A1. Archive of the Republic:
All the records of the Austrian State Archives from 1918 onwards (including personnel records of the Austrian military and the German Wehrmacht [1938-1945]) are kept here.
A2. General Administrative Archive:
If your search shows any title of nobility, this office may be of assistance to you since this archive keeps a complete list of all aristocratic families, ennoblements, and coat of arms from the as early as the 16th century to 1918.
A3. War Archive:
Personnel records of members of the Austrian-Hungarian army from the late 16th century to 1918 and records dealing with orders and decorations awarded to officers and troops are kept in this archive.
C. Ecclesiastical (Church) Archives:
A complete list (in German) of all ecclesiastical archives in Austria and their addresses is to be found at the website of the Federal Chancellery.
D. Austrian Black Cross:
Information (in German) about people who perished as soldiers World War II. Necessary requirements: name, date of birth and area of casualty. If the troop identification and other additional information were known, it would certainly be helpful.
E. Austrian Red Cross – Tracing Service:
Helpful in tracking down persons who disappeared or are missing as a consequence of war, specifically World War II. Necessary information: name, date of birth or approximate age, place of birth, last known residence.
F. Volksdeutsche Landsmannschaften Österreichs:
Information (in German) on persons who belonged to the German speaking minority in the former Czechoslovakia and the Balkans. Necessary requirements: name, place of birth, last known residence.
G. Jewish Community of Vienna:
Information about persons of Jewish religion living or having lived in Vienna and adjoining communities of Lower Austria. Only information about people who were born or died in Vienna, or who married in Vienna or in the adjoining communities of Lower Austria. Further information would be about people who were deported from Vienna or who have registered with the Jewish community after 1945.
H. Tracing your ancestors in Vienna:
City administrations in the federal provinces if there are concrete hints as to the former residence of a person, might be of assistance as well.
I. Below find additional links that may be able to assist you in your search: