Legacy Tree Onsite: Using the Bulgarian State Archives in Family History Research
Legacy Tree Genealogists works with researchers from across the globe to access records for our clients. We asked one of our onsite researchers located in Bulgaria to share an overview of the various record collections available at the Bulgarian State Archives for family history research.
The Bulgarian State Archives
Bulgaria, officially the Republic of Bulgaria (Република България), occupies the eastern part of the Balkan Peninsula in southeastern Europe. The national record keeper is the Archives State Agency (Държавна агенция ”Архиви”), founded in 1951. It is responsible for the collection, preservation, arrangement, and usage of historically valuable archival records in Bulgaria.
The Agency consists of the Central State Archives in Sofia, State Military Historical Archives in Veliko Tarnovo, and six Regional State Archives with 21 regional centers (see map) supporting the archival needs of the country. All archive locations are open to the researchers and maintain public reading rooms.
Which Bulgarian archive contains the information I need?
Before you begin archival research in Bulgaria, it is essential to know which state or territory your family member lived in, their names, and dates of their life events (birth/marriage/death).
The Central State Archives (Централният държавен архив) holds the documents of the central administrations of the state authorities and institutions, public organizations, private papers of historical persons with national significance, and copies of documents related to Bulgarian history, preserved by foreign archives and institutions. The CSA holds documents concerning Bulgarian history for the past 120 years.
The State Military Historical Archives (Държавният военноисторически архив) holds the documents of the Ministry of Defense and organizations under its authority – the Bulgarian Army and personal archives of historical persons with national significance. For example, files of military units, war diaries, records by military conflict, and other military related collections.
The Regional State Archives (Държавни архиви) holds the documents created by the state and local administration and institutions, organizations, and historical persons of local significance. For example, civil registers (1893-1912), church records, school records, and more.
Digital Record Collections at The Bulgarian State Archives
There are several significant Bulgarian State Archive Digital collections. Most are only searchable in Bulgarian:
- Informational System of the State Archives (Информационна система на държавните архиви) accessible via the Agency’s home page – www.archives.government.bg. The content and keywords search must be conducted in Bulgarian. The database is searchable by name, date, historical event, institution, place, or any keyword of interest. Based on your search choice, the system will list all the files and their archive location. It is a powerful tool to select files for an onsite review or copy orders.
- Unique and especially valuable documents – https://www.archives.government.bg/522-Уникални_и_особено_ценни_документи.
- The protocols collection of the Politburo and the Central Committee of the Bulgarian Communist Party (1944 – 1989) – http://politburo.archives.bg/.
- The Jewish community in Bulgaria – http://jews.archives.bg/. Bulgarian and English languages.
- Police files of famous people from the period before 1944 – http://policefiles.archives.bg/.
- The People’s Court (1944 – 1945) – http://narodensud.archives.bg/.
- Bulgarian Wars (1878 – 1945) – http://archives.bg/wars/.
- Photo Archive – http://photoarchives.archives.bg/.
- Art Archive – http://art.archives.bg/.
- Early printed Jewish books – http://jewscollection.archives.bg/. Bulgarian and English languages.
- The change 1989. Before and After – http://thechange1989.archives.bg/.
Onsite Record Collections at the Bulgarian State Archives
The Bulgarian State Archives preserves records related to more than 5,000 historical and current settlements. The availability and condition of the archival files vary by place. Onsite collections of genealogical value are:
- Civil registers (1893-1912)
- Church registers
- School registers
- Professional files
- Political files
- Tax, estate records
- Voter lists
- Court, adoption files
- Passports. Travel files
- Refugee files
- Records related to historical Bulgarian territories
Successful Research at the Bulgarian State Archives
Following are several examples of successful applications of family history research at the Bulgarian State Archives:
Project A – Tracing Jewish Family History
A Jewish family traced the Bulgarian family history of their ancestors. The archives revealed their story via financial declarations and Jew property confiscation files from the 1940’s, births, and marriages between 1893 and 1912 as well as documenting their ancestors in a list of Jewish Sofia citizens in 1878. The State Archives preserves a great collection of Jewish records in Hebrew and Bulgarian languages.
Project B – Documenting Military Service
In 1915 Bulgaria entered WWI. A Bulgarian man returned from America to join the army. The soldier lost his life on the battlefields of South Dobrudzha. Based on a the soldier’s pension file stating his death date and military unit, his great-great-grandchildren were able to document their ancestor’s military service and begin their family history research within the archives. The Central and Regional State Archives helped to recreate the life of the soldier before the war based on birth, marriage, and death registers, voters lists, and tax records. The State Military Historical Archives preserved his mobilization record, a diary from the battlefield describing every day of his war experience and how he lost his life a day before the end of the war, maps of the military conflict area. The archive records revealed the exact place of death, which was different from what the family knew and today remains on land outside of the current national borders.
Project C – Researching Bulgarian Origins
Under the Treaty of Neuilly, signed in November 1919, Bulgaria lost its Aegean region to Greece. After this, many Bulgarian families from the area chose to leave their birthplaces and start their lives over on Bulgarian territory. To preserve the memory of their family origins and ancestral locations, the Bulgarian State Archives hold over 900 family registers for villages in Odrin and Belomorska Trace, Aegean, Vardar, and Pirin Macedonia, over 22,000 personal refugee files and other related records. The archive records provide data like names, age, literacy, birthplace, family pictures, descriptions of estates that were abandoned by the refugees.
If you need help researching your Bulgarian ancestry, the team at Legacy Tree Genealogists is experienced at tracing and extending family lines, wherever they originate from. Our network of onsite researchers have access to the archives you need to make serious progress on your family history. Contact us today to discuss your research goals and request a free quote!