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Civil Registration Records in Eastern Europe

Leslie Albrecht Huber looks at online resources forWestern European research (page 31, June/July 2011)

If you have traced your Western European ancestors, you have probably used parish records. But have you used civil registration records? If not, you might be missing out on a valuable resource that could make your research easier.

What exactly are civil registration records? They are vital records (birth, marriage, and death records) kept by the government. The importance and availability of civil registration records vary greatly from one country to the next. In general, they do not begin nearly as early as parish records. Because of this, civil registration records are sometimes forgotten since parish records form the backbone of many people’s European research.

When civil registration records do exist, though, they can be a wonderful resource that can make all the difference to someone tracing their European roots. In some areas, civil registration records contain more detailed information about a family than the corresponding parish records. Civil registration records may be indexed in areas where parish records are not, making them an important alternative when you are having difficulty finding a particular ancestor.

And finally, civil registration records can sometimes clear up confusion created by a parish record that is incomplete — or even incorrect. For example, an English parish record of one of my ancestors showed that one child in the family had a different mother than all of the other children. I was confused by this entry and formed all kinds of possible scenarios in my mind — most consisting of the father having an illegitimate child with another woman. Fortunately, I was able to get a copy of the civil registration record. This showed that the mother actually was the same. This parish preacher had simply made a mistake in recording her name.

I have summarized some of the most important civil registration records by country below. For more information, read the FamilySearch Research Wiki for your country of interest. To find it, simply Google (or enter into another search engine) “FamilySearch Wiki Civil Registration Records” and the name of the country of interest... to see the rest of this article, subscribe now and request to start with this issue!