Skip to main content

Banat: The Romanian GAP

© copyright 2001-2002, GenealogyRO Group and FEEFHS, all rights reserved

The Record and Archives for the Romanian Banat

See footnotes at the bottom of the document.

The Banat Middle Age archives [1], particularly those up to the 18th century, suffered significant damage over time. Fortunately, the post 1716 records regarding the history of the Banat, under the domination of the House of Habsburg, have survived in better condition.

Though the Timisoara archives experienced important losses during 1889 and 1919 [2], both the Romanian and foreign source document materials stored in the archives and libraries can be obtained. This allows for a well-grounded investigation of Banat history and can also be used successfully in genealogical research.

The church books and alternative sources allow us to research family history in the Romania.txtn Banat back to the beginning of 18th century [1717].

The only existing microfilms [3] for the Banat area, and therefore the only used in genealogical research [4] were made in 1940 by Dr. Friedhelm Treude [5], a German historian. Friedhelm Treude was born in Konigsborn-Germany; he died in 1975.

Studying history at the University of Munster-Germany, he was deeply involved in researching the history of Germans [also known as Schwaben or Donauschwaben] in the Banat. In 1938-1939 he won an award for his manuscript [6] Westfalen und die theresianische Banatbesiedlung 1763-1772. Subsequently, at the beginning of the 2nd World War, the former Deutsches Auslands Institut / DAI asked him to make films of the Banat's church books.

The aim was to research the origin of all settlers and to set up a card index regarding the ancestors of all German people in foreign countries. During 1940, Dr. Friedhelm Treude traveled [7] through the Banat villages and, together with his staff, filmed the church records of only 140 Roman Catholic Parishes [8]. These films are now at the Institute for Foreign Relations [Institut fur Auslandsbeziehungen/IfA [9]] in Stuttgart-Germany.

The Family History Library [FHL] of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) obtained copies of these films after the 2nd World War. Mainly, it seems, in the 1960's, from IfA.

The original church records were not taken to Germany in 1940. These and the archive documents regarding the Donauschwaben villages in the Romanian Banat [and other Romanian, Serb or Hungarian villages existing in the region of Romanian Banat] can be found in the National Archives of Timisoara, Arad or Caransebes. All the church books [for all the religions] for the Romanian Banat villages are available in Romanian archives and/or parishes.

Sometimes the research is difficult, and there is no golden rule. Every primary source of information must be checked [including the civil registration], in order to have success [10] in genealogical research:

  • the National Archives branch from Timisoara, Arad, Caransebes [church records before 1900],
  • the parishes in the villages [records after 1895],
  • the archive for the Bishopric of Timisoara [for the second copy [12] of the church records after 1895],
  • the mayoralty from the villages [for the first copy of civil registration for period after 1895],
  • the County Civil Registration [where the second copy of the civil registration is kept].

After the 2nd World War, the church or state authorities transferred some parish records to archives existing in Timisoara, Arad, and Caransebes because the villages were depopulated [11] or for other administrative or political reasons. In a very few cases it is possible that, over time, original books or part of them, disappeared or in some cases were destroyed.

Only a few of the records were lost during the 2nd World War or in the first years of the communist regime. In fact, no one [not even the communists] planned to deliberately destroy these records and archives in Romania. Based on our experience [10] we can tell that records were no more often destroyed in Romania than in Hungary, or in other Central European countries. Stories regarding destruction of records on a large scale are just a myth [12].

It seems that there are some years among the three sources: the National Archives from Timisoara / Arad / Caransebes, the FHL and the IfA. Dr. Treude filmed the church records from the beginning, in most cases, around 1770 - 1790 - 1833, many from the 1720's, and up to 1791 / 1850, even the 1870s; apparently, whenever the first book of records began or ended [7] That is the explanation for the gaps that exist in many cases, when only FHL microfilms are used in research.

For example, the FHL microfilm for the village Satchinez [Knes / Temeskenez / Knez / Knees / Knies] ends in 1852, while the records in the National Archives from Timisoara cover the period up to 1906. Records up to the present are available on site.

In the case of Varias [Warjasch / Varjas], the FHL records end in 1852, but records at the Timisoara National Archives continue up to 1881, and records up to the present may be obtained, on site, in Varias.

For Mercydorf, [Carani / Merczyfálva / Mercifalva] we have the following:

  • Church records available at FHL: B 1734-1832, M 1734-1843, D 1734-1839, 1843.
  • Church records available at the IfA, Stuttgart: B 1737-1832, M 1734-1843, D 1734-1843.
  • Genealogical Records available in Timisoara: 1734-1900, with records up to the present being available on site.

For Sannicolau Mare [Großanktnikolaus, Deutschsanktnikolaus, Nagyszentmiklos, Semiklosch, Niklos]:

  • Roman Catholic Church records available at FHL cover the period between 1753-1819.
  • Church records available at the IfA, Stuttgart: B 1753-1842, M 1753-1843, D 1753-1851.
  • Genealogical Records available in Timisoara: B 1753-1900; M 1753-1902, D 1753-1896 with records up to the present being available on site. And a 62 years difference means 2 or 3 generations!

    These examples can continue for all the records existing on microfilm at the FHL in the USA or the IfA in Germany. Generally, the records covering this in the years between 1830 /1850 and 2000 can be found in Romania. The National Archives branches from Timisoara / Arad / Caransebes have records. Some Catholic Church records for the Diocese of Banat, mainly for the period after 1895, are in the archives of Bishopric-Bishop's Office in Timisoara, or on site [in the Banat villages, in parishes and mayoralties records].

    The Catholic Church introduced the obligation of registering all christened and married people after the Trent Council, in 1563. The registers for deceased persons started to be kept in 1614. Other religions, like Orthodox, Calvinists and Lutherans introduced these registers in 1790, followed by the Unitarians in 1848. The Orthodox, as well as the Jewish people, also kept registers for newborn, married and deceased people.

    Since 1829 all religions have been required to keep two copies of these registers and to periodically forward the duplicate register copy to the municipal archive authorities or to the superior church authorities. [Unfortunately, not all the religions followed this obligation religiously].

    The Law from 1894 stipulated that starting on October 1st 1895, the civil status duties in Banat, Transylvania and Hungary were subject to the Austrian-Hungarian State authorities. The Civil Registration Service in Romania was established as follows:
    • May 1st, 183l in Walachia / Valahia, Tara Romaneasca;
    • January 1832 in Moldavia / Moldova;
    • October 1st, 1895 in Banat Transylvania / Ardeal, Transylvanien, Siebenbürgen (Siebenbuergen / Siebenburgen)
    • Siebenbürgen, Erdèly (Erdely) - (under construction)
    In Walachia and Moldavia the registers were held by the Orthodox churches until December 1865, when the registration was taken over by civil offices.

    The archives after 1900 are theoretically closed in Romania, however, there are some "wickets" that allow accessing these vital records. The stipulations of the Law Of The National Archives [Law No. 16 / April 12th, 1996, Appendix no. 6] states the following:

    "List of due dates for accessing documents regarding national interests and the citizens' rights:
    • - medical documents, 100 years after their creation;
    • - civil status documents, 100 years after their creation;
    • - personal files, 75 years after their creation;
    • - documents regarding a person's private life, 40 years after his / her death;
    • - documents regarding the national security and integrity, 100 years after their creation;
    • - documents regarding crimes, 90 years after their creation;
    • - documents regarding the foreign policy, 50 days after their creation;
    • - documents of private owned companies, 50 years after their creation;
    • - fiscal documents, 50 days after their creation;
    • - notary and juridical documents, 90 days after their creation".
    Of course, for cases when up to date research is required, there are other methods / sources available to access vital information. For example, in the villages it may be possible to gather information from cemetery tombstones, access the Romanian Police database, search into the Romanian Phone Company's database, etc.

    We can conclude that serious genealogical research can only be conducted by taking into account all the Romanian archives. The distance and language barriers can be surpassed only with the help of the Romanian researchers.


    [1] In this comment, we make reference only to the actual Romanian Banat [Timis and Caras-Severin Counties and a little part in southern Arad County]. The historical Banat was divided [after World War I] between the western part of Romania [18,966 square kilometers or 66,5%], northern Yugoslavia [the eastern part of Vojvodina, which is part of Serbia; 32,5%], and eastern Hungary [a very small part of the north Banat; 1%].

    [2] In 1889 the remainder of the Banat Imperial Administration Archive [1716-1735] was transferred to the National Archive in Budapest. Few archive funds for the 18th -19th centuries were taken to Yugoslavia during the Serbian domination [1918-1919] of Banat.

    [3] I am referring to the Roman Catholic parish church books [KBs]. The Schwaben's religion was mainly Roman Catholic. As a matter of fact, until Josephs II's Edict of Tolerance issued in 1781, the Protestants were not allowed to immigrate to the Banat. But at FHL [4] you will find also some parish registers for the Evangelische Kirche [for the villages Ferdinandsberg / Nandorhegy / Otelu Rosu, Liebling, etc. It is interesting to note that initially the Ferdinandsberg records were filmed in 1944 at Kronstadt / Brasov-Romania].

    [4] Available also through the Family History Library [FHL] of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints [LDS]. For all the existing FHL microfilms for the Banat area please check the FHL Catalog at Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Web Site: or on this website 

    [5] This information derives from Josef Schmidt's book: Die Banater Kirchenbucher, eine Bestandsaufnahme der verfilmten Banater Kirchenbucher in der Bibliothek des Instituts für Auslandsbeziehungen Stuttgart (Filmed Banat church registers owned by the Institut fur Auslandsbeziehungen) 1979, AkdFF, Sindelfingen. 86 pages, Stuttgart-Germany.

    [6] The manuscript was printed in 1988 under the title: Die Auswanderung aus dem kurkolnischen Sauerland im Zuge der theresianischen Banatbesiedlung 1763-1772, 270 pages [ISSN 0177-8153] and was published, with a short presentation made by Erhard Treude [Friedhelm Treude's son] by Kreis Olpe-Kreisarchiv Kurfurst-Heinrich - Str. 34, D-57462 Olpe, Biggesse [now, it seems, out of print].

    [7] According to Dave Dreyer: "Apparently the camera was set up in Timisoara and the KBs [church records] were brought in from the country churches for the filming. Treude's main goal was to document the origin from Germany of as many of the original German colonists as possible; therefore he only filmed the KBs up until the last settler died. While they would finish that book they did not then film any subsequent books for a given locality".

    [8] In the historical Banat Region existed approximately 800 villages. Not all the parishes existing in the Banat during the time were covered by Friedhelm Treude's enterprise. 

    The historical Banat Region was almost a perfect square of 28.526 square kilometers and had the following boundaries: at the North the Mures / Maros / Mieresch River; at the East the foothills of the Transylvanian Alps / Carpati Mountains; at the South the Danube / Donau River; and at the West the Tisa / Tisza / Theiss / Theiß River.

    [9] The information on the microfilms existing at the IfA / Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen in Stuttgart-Germany are taken from Die banater Kirchenucher. Eine Bestandsafnahme der verifilmten Banater Kirchenbucher in der Bibliothek des Instituts für Auslandsbeziehungenwritten by Josef Schmidt in 1979.

    FHL copied microfilms are also from other German sources: in 1959 from the Staatsarchiv in Speyer, in 1971 from the Staatsarchiv in Ludwigsburg, or from the Deutsche Zentralstelle für Genealogie in Leipzig.

    [10] Sometimes it is difficult to locate quickly the right records as they were spread out in different locations during the time.

    A good example is the case of Mãureni [Moritzfeld, Moriczfold, Moritfeld]. The village is located in Caras Severin County, Romania, at 40 km south-southeast of Timisoara. M�ureni was founded in 1783-1784, under King Joseph II, in the III period of colonization of the Banat. The Roman Catholic parish was raised in 1785 / 1786 and endowed by the Exc. Cameram Reg. Hung. The Roman Catholic Church was raised in 1819 in honor of Saint Martinum Martyr Bishop. In 1875 the church burned and was rebuilt. The existing church was blessed in 1928. The Roman Catholic Church books started to be kept in 1786; this is a fortunate situation because the village had its own parish from the start. In most cases, until the establishment of the
    parish, the village was a filial parish of another surrounding village and the records must be searched there.

    Genealogical Records for Mãureni [Moritzfeld, Moriczfold, Moritfeld]: (1) Church records available at FHL [microfilm no. 1190317, 1190395] IfA: - Births 24.02.1787-11.04.1854; - Marriages: 24.04.1787-18.02.1857; - Deaths 9.06.1786-31.01.1858.
    (2) Church records available at National Archives in Caransebes: - Births for the period 1854-1907; - Marriages for the period 1.08.1852-17.07.1913; - Deaths for the period 5.01.1852-6.04.1856 and 1.01.1858-15.03.1889. In June 2000, GenealogyRO Group members discovered these M (Marriage) and D (Death) records, as well as a church register covering the B (Births) 1883-1907, at M�ureni Mayoralty, where nobody knew about them. Now the records are deposited at the National Archives in Caransebes. (3) Records available at Gãtaia's Roman Catholic Parish [today, M�ureni is a filial of Gãtaia parish] - Births starting 1907 [and up to date]; - Marriages starting 2.04.1919 [and up to date]; - Deaths starting 1917 [and up to date]. (4) At Mãureni Mayoralty: - civil registration for the period after 1895 [and up to the present]; - the church book covering the Deaths in the period 15.03.1889-1917 is still here. (5) In this case we have also some good secondary sources; the school registers, found at the National Archives in Caransebes, the graveyard (tombstones) or some books [unfortunately only in the German language] already written for this village: - Dr. Anton Peter Petri's Heimatbuch der deutschen Gemeinde Moritzfeld im Banat; 1986 [with the list of the first settlers with their place of origin]; - Wilhelm Kremmer and Ernst Friedrich's Geschichte der Gemeinde Moritfeld 1786-1936; Timisoara - 1936.

    In general, you must check every possibility - FHL or IfA, the Romanian National County's Archives, village Mayoralty, today's Parish, etc. - in order to identify the exact location of all the records as a premise to success in your family research.

    3] The Civil Registration Service in Romania was established as follows:
    * May 1st, 183l in Walachia / Valahia, Tara Romaneasca;
    * January 1832 in Moldavia / Moldova;
    * October 1st, 1895 in Banat and Transylvania / Ardeal, Transylvanien, Siebenbürgen, Erdély.

    [11] This is the official explanation found in the book: Guide to the Banat State Archives, vol. I, Department of State Archives, Bucharest, 1965. The church books were used in the 1950's by the village's mayoralties at the release of the new identity cards and ten years later were gathered by the National Archives of Romania. The registers are now deposited at the Romanian National Archive branches existing in each Romanian county.

    [12] Please note that we are not analyzing today's situation from Serbia / Yugoslavia.

    [13] Theoretically, since 1829 in all the Habsburg Empire, all religions have been pledged to keep two sets of these registers and to forward periodically [each year] the duplicate register copy to the municipal archive authorities or to the superior church authorities.

    We were able to see some of these second copies of Catholic records [for example, some years - the second copy is archived by years, separately for the B, M, D - for the village of Jam or Caransebes] at National Archives in Caransebes.

    Question: where are the second copies of these registers? Nobody has [yet] a good answer to this question. We suspect that the second copies [for the Roman Catholic Church parishes] are deposited at the Archives of Bishopric-Bishop's Office in Timisoara. But, the Archives of Bishopric-Bishop's Office in Timisoara are closed for public access. Here is only one archivist [a lady working 2 hours each week] for responding to very precise requests. In order to obtain an extract you must give her the exact name/date/place and you are not allowed to see the records with your "one". This lady declares that in this archive are only church records for the period generally after 1895 [when the civil registration started and there exists good records at mayoralty].