Slovak Resources
Beyond the Parish Register

The Question:

Just what exactly is possible from the State Archives? I've had them do research 4 times over the past two years, and was satisfied with the results - until I started finding the LDS films. On 5 reels, covering two different parishes, I found all the info I had paid the Archives for (plus a whole lot more, of course).

Everything they have given me, I was able to find myself on the LDS microfilms. I wrote and asked what other sources they could use, and what other types of information I might expect. The answer I received was the same form letter and application that I had used previously.

Have I reached the stage where I can do the research myself? Or do they have sources other than the old church records, and just haven't used any on my requests?

The Answer:

I would suggest that such questions be asked for more than just State-conducted research. My own family history research has involved three types of resources: parish registers, civil vital records, and property records. Different resources and means of access apply for each.

There are some resources at the Presov archive (and presumably at all of the Slovak regional archives) that go beyond the parish records that have been or are being microfilmed by the LFS FHL. How much access you get to them may depend on the archivist. In my case, an archivist responded to my enquiry about other types of records with copies of pages from Hungarian census records (apparently in fragmentary collections) that have not been microfilmed.

Slovak civil records (1895+) seem to be still little used by family history researchers. A friend in Slovakia went to the local "obecny' u'rad" (community office) and obtained information for me on births, etc. for my surname. It was clear that there was no other way for me to access those civil records. But more recently I seem to remember an announcement from the Slovak government about new access to civil records. It is my impression that 1905 was given as the earliest date covered, which seems strange since civil records go back to 1895.

Property registers are a relatively untapped resource for Slovak family history research. Many of our Slovak ancestors sold family farm property shares before or after coming to the USA, and the records of those transactions could add much to our family histories. Recently it was told on Slovak World that a researcher had worked personally on land registers in a particular city. But when I enquired about such research for my family line in the Presov office, I was told that only directly-involved persons were allowed access. Later, a staff member at Matica Slovenska opined that property records over 100 years old should be open to anyone, but that the records may not be in shape to be used by outsiders. Still later, I was advised privately that a professional genealogist, well known in Presov, could research the records for me

By the way, I wonder if there is reluctance to giving access by foreigners to property records because of concern about possible property claims. I had a strange experience along that line when I researched my Polish (maternal) grandmother. First, the parish priest couldn't find that her baptism record but found her siblings. Then after I had a Polish friend visit the village and photograph the house and the family of a relative with whom I'd corresponded, she sent me an unfriendly letter, demanding to know my "intentions"! Finally, another relative in the village explained the mystery: a piece of property in the village was still listed in my grandmother's name!

I hope that more readers of Slovak World will share their experiences in using lesser-known resources for family history reseach in Slovakia.

Andrew Fabula

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