Family research (person-related research) – General information
Family research (genealogical research) is time-consuming. Contrary to a wide-spread belief and hope, not even the Austrian State Archives have a “central register of persons” where you can simply look up the name of the person you are searching for.
The following is some general information on the possibilities of genealogical research in the holdings of the State Archives.
For details specific to individual departments, information might be available from the individual departments under the menu item “Tips for researchers” on the department subsites. Services of the State Archives subject to a charge which go beyond the availability of archival material are explained under Inquiries.
Basic data and prior knowledge
For successful genealogical (biographical) research in the Austrian State Archives, you will need some basic data pertaining to the person you are looking for (dates of birth and death, details on the person’s career etc.). These can often be found in family documents. Moreover, you will also need certain prior knowledge (such as proficiency in German language and script).
Useful practical approaches: Henning, Eckart/Ribbe, Wolfgang (Hrsg.): Taschenbuch für Familiengeschichtsforschung. 13. Aufl. Insingen 2006, für Österreich speziell Hederer, Kerstin/Kluger, Rupert: Tipps für Familienforscher in Österreich. Salzburg 2005 (Schriftenreihe der Diözesanarchive Österreichs 1); Riepl, Reinhard: Wörterbuch zur Familien- und Heimatforschung in Österreich. Waldkraiburg 2. Aufl. 2004. Mit regionalem Schwerpunkt Mayrhofer, Willibald: Quellenerläuterungen für Haus- und Familienforscher in Oberösterreich. 2. Aufl. Linz 1992. Für den Großraum Wien: Geyer, Rudolf: Familiengeschichtliche Quellen in Wiener Archiven. In: Familiengeschichtliche Blätter 28 (1930), Sp. 1-22; Gall, Franz: Biographische Forschungsmöglichkeiten in Wiener Archiven. In: Anzeiger der phil.-hist. Klasse der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften 1962, S. 155-165.
Preparatory study of literature
If the person you are looking for was an eminent historical personality, we recommended to you a consultation of relevant biographical encyclopaedias as a first step. Some of them can even be accessed via the Internet (see e.g. our Collection of links).
If this does not apply, you may want to refer to military and state almanacs, directories of authorities and the like, which are also available at the Austrian State Archives.
The insights thus gained will now either yield part of the information you were interested in already, or they will at least prove useful for further research.
The jurisdiction of the Austrian State Archives
The geographical catchment area corresponds to the territory of the monarchy over the centuries, and thus reaches from what is today Belgium to Sicily, and from Alsace to Ukraine.
Due to the nature and structure of the archival holdings, special search techniques are required. The records held by the individual departments of the Austrian State Archives are usually structured by authorities and thus by subject matters in the authorities’ remits.
Essentially, the Austrian State Archives keep the records of the supreme bodies and central authorities (ministries) of the Habsburg territories and the Republic of Austria since 1526.
In terms of person-related history, the Austrian State Archives thus primarily keep material about the persons who worked for these central services (usually in record groups entitled “Präsidium” / Central Administrative Division) and subordinate services as well as about persons who were in contact with these authorities as petitioners, applicants, complainants or adversaries in lawsuits, or for whom the authorities were venues in civil law matters or probate matters.
Please bear in mind that personal files as we know them were a development of the (late) 19th century and that personal particulars and person-related data were not collected in a concise form before that.
Family archives, legacies of personal writings and archives of noble families, all of which were mainly placed in deposit with the Austrian State Archives (mainly pertaining to the estates supervised by the financial administration or the private demesnes of the Habsburg-Lorraine family) significantly expand the catchment area.
For details about relevant record groups and holdings of the individual departments of the Austrian State Archives please refer to the related subitems of this menu item.
The fundamental prerequisite for your genealogical research at the Austrian State Archives is to find contact points between the life of person you are looking for and the authorities of the Habsburg Empire, the dual monarchy, the Austrian Republic of the NS regime.
If there are no indications of such contacts, you may want to focus on other archives, such as the archives of cities or Länder. In the area of Greater Vienna, the municipal and provincial archives of Vienna - - might be a useful source; on its website, genealogists can find useful hints specific of Vienna.
With the exception of the “Militärkirchenbücher” (military parish records, 17th – 20th centuries) the Austrian State Archives do not hold any “Pfarrmatriken” (parish records, i.e. registers of baptisms, marriages and burials, until 1938) or “Personenstandsbücher”, i.e. registers of births, deaths and marriages (as from 1939, occasionally also found in areas under French rule for a brief period in the early 19th century).
Parish records and registers of births, deaths and marriages can be found in parishes, diocesan archives, with the officially recognised religious communities, and the Registry Offices. In Vienna, the authority in charge is MA 35, the Municipal Department for Immigration, Citizenship and Registry Offices (“Magistratsabteilung für Staatsbürgerschafts- und Personenstandsangelegenheiten”). In other successor states of the Habsburg empire, the parish records were often transferred to state-run archives.
See Geyer, Rudolf: Handbuch der Wiener Matriken. Ein Hilfswerk für Matrikenführer und Familienforscher. Vienna 1928–29, or Beimrohr, Wilfried: Die Matriken (Personenstandsbücher) der Diözese Innsbruck und des Tiroler Anteils der Erzdiözese Salzburg. Innsbruck 1987 (Tiroler Geschichtsquellen 17). A complete overview of the former Habsburg territories and useful hints can be found at .
Documentation pertaining to residence certificates or certificates of domicile is held in the archives of the communities having jurisdiction or the residents’ registers; in Vienna, the Stadt- und Landesarchiv is in charge of these records (1911–1975).
In any event, if you plan to visit the Austrian State Archives, please give us advance notice in writing in due time and send a brief description of your research project.
This way, you will enable us to inform you in advance about specific research options or to point out that the research you intend to do will most likely not be successful.
Further useful contacts
For further useful Internet addresses, please refer to our Collection of (Internetressourcen für Genealogen).