Family research (person-related research) – General information
Family research (genealogical research) is time-consuming. Contrary to widespread misconceptions, there is unfortunately no "central register of persons" in the Austrian State Archives which would enable researchers to simply and easily look up any person they might be searching for by name.
Below we would like to provide you with some general information about the possibilities for genealogical research in the holdings of the Austrian State Archives.
For details specific to individual departments, more information might be available under their respective entries in the menu on the left. The fee-based services of the Austrian State Archives which go beyond the preparation of archival materials 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 the German language and the German cursive script).
Useful practical approaches are described in: 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 bis 22; Gall, Franz: Biographische Forschungsmöglichkeiten in Wiener Archiven. In: Anzeiger der phil.-hist. Klasse der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften 1962, S. 155 bis 165.
Preparatory study of literature
If you are dealing with historical personalities of note, it is advisable to first consult relevant biographical reference works, some of which are already accessible on the Internet (see e.g. our Collection of links in German).
If this does not apply, you may want to refer to military and state almanacs, directories of authorities and similar publications, many of which are also available in the Austrian State Archives' library.
The insights thus gained will now either already yield part of the information you were interested in, or they will at least prove useful for further research. 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 may provide you with part of the information you are looking for or at least with important clues for further research.
The jurisdiction of the Austrian State Archives
The geographical catchment area, corresponding to the territorial expansion of the monarchy over the centuries, extends from present-day Belgium to Sicily, from Alsace to Ukraine.
The nature and structure of the archival materials require special search techniques. The holdings stored in the individual departments of the Austrian State Archives are generally structured according to authorities and subject matters within the specific authorities' purview.
Essentially the Austrian State Archives hold the records of the supreme bodies and central authorities (ministries) of the Habsburg territories and the Republic of Austria since 1526.
In terms of personal history and biographical information, the Austrian State Archives therefore mainly hold materials pertaining to the employees of these central offices (usually in sub-holdings titled "Präsidium"/Central Administrative Division) and subordinate departments as well as pertaining to persons who were in any way 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 – Wiener Stadt- und Landesarchiv – 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 to 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 to 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 www.ihff.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 to 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 - Linksammlung).