Legacy Tree Onsite: Genealogy Research in Vienna, Former Center of an Empire
Legacy Tree works with researchers all over the world to access records for our clients. We asked one of our onsite researchers, located in Vienna, Austria, to share his experiences with genealogy research in Vienna archives and offices.
Until 1919, Vienna was the capital of one of the largest empires in Europe, and many people passed through Vienna, or produced records that are now held in archives in Vienna. With close to two million inhabitants, Vienna is a population center likely to be involved when researching families from the former Austro-Hungarian Empire.
When the parish books of Vienna’s Catholic parishes for births, marriages and deaths from before 1938 (births from before 1918) were put online a few years ago, the necessity for onsite genealogy research in Vienna was significantly reduced.
However, many other records are still offline and can be found in different places around town. Here is a selection of archives, offices and other places, and what they hold in store for us as we complete genealogy research in Vienna:
Austrian State Archive
Located in two buildings, a smaller one in the historic city center and the main one in the southeast part of town, it contains a wealth of records. Using the archive costs a small fee. The following are most relevant for genealogy and are usually accessible within one day after ordering onsite:
- Nobility files with coats of arms (from the 1500s until 1918)
- Declarations of assets (from 1938) and restitution files (from after 1945), mostly concerning Jewish persons
- Military personnel records (from the 1700s until the 1900s), often only sorted by military units, for the whole empire; records for persons born after around 1865 from places not belonging to Austria anymore were given to the successor states after 1919
- Military personnel files for officers from the whole empire until 1918, sorted by name
- Card files of World War 1 (1914-1918) casualties, sorted by name
- Military birth/marriage/death registers (mostly 1800s until 1918, also online)
- Military officer and civil servant yearbooks (mostly 1800s until 1918, also online)
- Personnel files of civil servants and other files relating to individual persons (mostly 1800s and 1900s, being indexed by names, ongoing)
Vienna City and Provincial Archive
It is located in a converted old natural gas tank (Gasometer) in the southeast part of town, one metro stop from the main building of the State Archive. Using the archive is generally without fee. Records not physically present in the reading room (microfilm or book) are usually accessible within one day after ordering online:
- Probate files, mostly from the late 1800s until around 1980 (for most district courts), for almost every person who died with last residence in Vienna
- Supporting files for civil registry death records (1939-1987)
- Supporting files for civil registry marriage records (1938-1942)
- Duplicates of Jewish birth/marriage/death registers (1826-1938), on microfilm, relevant especially after 1911 (the ones before are online at FamilySearch)
- Duplicates of civil birth/marriage/death registers (1867-1938) for persons not belonging to any religion
- Vienna address directories 1956-1979 (the ones before are online) in the reading room, 1948-1955 only on request
- Naturalizations of citizens in Vienna (mostly 1800s and early 1900s)
- Foundling house registers (mostly 1800s and early 1900s), on microfilm, containing information on mothers (rarely fathers) of illegitimate children born in Vienna’s general hospital (further paper records of this hospital also exist)
- Mortem examination registers, starting with the year 1648, on microfilm
- Population registry sheets and cards (starting about 1905, until 1975, only excerpts on written requests, for at least 35 EUR fee), usually contain ample information on individuals with their spouses and children
Vienna City Library
Located in the City Hall building, it features, among other things, a paternoster lift from the early 1900s, which I love taking from the ground floor up to the first floor. I most frequently use:
- Vienna address directories after 1948 in the reading room
- Vienna telephone directories of the 1900s, younger ones available a few hours after ordering onsite
Cemeteries – An Important Resource for Genealogy Research in Vienna
There are dozens of cemeteries in Vienna, some of them quite picturesque. Most of them are operated by the city, which has a database of graves at friedhoefewien.at. Onsite research at a cemetery can reveal sometimes beautiful headstones, which may contain more precise dates for births/deaths than are included in the cemetery database assembled from the paper records. These large tomes, located in the local cemetery offices or in the headquarters, contain information on who paid for the gravesite, which is not included in the database. The two larger Protestant cemeteries and some smaller Catholic cemeteries are not part of the municipal database and need to be researched onsite or by correspondence. The Jewish cemeteries are in a separate database on genteam.at.
Civil Registry Offices
There are currently ten civil registry offices in Vienna, spread over the city to serve one or more of the 23 districts. They hold birth/marriage/death records from 1939 (partly 1938) until the present. Their records are sometimes needed as jumping off point for further research in the early stages of a project. All birth records, and marriage/death records younger than 75/30 years, can only be accessed by direct descendants of one of the persons concerned in the record or by a court order. Furthermore, the coordinating office holds civil records 1867-1938 for persons not belonging to any religion (duplicates at the city archive), as well as records on the right of domicile in Vienna from the 1800s and 1900s (accessible only by written request).
Church Parish Offices
The parish offices of the Catholic churches in Vienna lost a lot of genealogists as visitors a few years ago when their records were put online. For birth records of persons born between 1918 and 1938, they still need to be consulted, accessible only by direct descendants or with a court order. There are several dozen Catholic parish offices all over town. While the vast majority of the Vienna population was Catholic, there were also other religious faiths. Records of the Protestant churches are partly online, partly offline and accessible at the archive of the Lutheran Church in Vienna, which also holds duplicate records from before 1915 of Lutheran parishes in Bucovina (today located in Romania and Ukraine). Records of the old-Catholic or Orthodox churches need to be consulted onsite.
Jewish Community Office
The Jewish Community Office is located in the historic center of Vienna and holds Jewish birth/marriage/death records from 1826 until 1938. Using the records costs a small fee. Relevant for onsite research are records after 1911 (the ones before are online at Familysearch), if the duplicates at the city archive are not sufficient.
If you need help accessing and obtaining documents in Vienna to continue extending your Austrian ancestry, our professional genealogists and onsite agents are ready to assist you! Our experts and onsite agents are experienced at tracking down all kinds of family history records in a variety of locations, and can help you extend your ancestry as far back as records will allow. Contact us to discuss which of our project options would best fit your needs.