Resources for Jewish genealogy in Romania
The foundation of the civil status records in the Romanian countries, in 1831-1864, was determined by the new pragmatic imperatives which emerged in the Romanian society on its way to the modern epoch. As a matter of fact the Organic Regulation (the first Romanian Constitution) stated the necessity of this kind of documents due to very practical reasons. Regulamentul Organic al Tarii Romanesti (The Organic Regulation of Walachia, Bucharest 1847, p. 361) states that “The civil status records are meant to give proof of the most important three events in an person’s life - that is birth, marriage and death. Clear knowledge about these important happenings is really necessary in order to know everybody’s civil state, i. e. the place and the rank he/she has in the society, amongst the other citizens and in the family. Consequently the authorities could decide upon the rights and obligations the individual has when a certain event happens, as although there are rights and obligations /duties which begin and go to an end with him, there are other ones that arise following the different stages of his age and for which he takes commitments at a certain age. This kind of obligations and rights are the ones that appear as a following of his reaching a certain age (majority age for instance), or marriage, or his becoming a parent, or other happenings like that, which can hardly be situated in time and people often get fines if they can’t produce documents to prove what happened and when.
Even from the introduction of the civil status registers it was possible to get copies which served to solve the different judiciary procedures (like establishing tutelage, name changes, marriages, adoptions, donations, inheritances, testimonies), but also when attending classes in the newly founded public schools. Soon after that the vital records were necessary when someone wanted to sign on. These documents were also used by the government in order to fulfill its attributions. We mention here the drawing up of the conscription lists, the establishing of the annual taxes, accomplishing statistics, realizing censuses. The internal needs for introducing these documents were doubled by external influences. By imposing he modern vital records in the Romanian Countries the Austrian and the Russian governments wanted to consolidate their dominance in the territories they had annexed (Bukowina or Bessarabia) and to prepare a planned annexation to the empires of Moldova and Wallachia.
It’s easy to realize that the practical importance of these documents grew up in time. In all the district branches of the Romanian National Archives there exist consistent Civil Status Collections. They include the vital records coming from the religious congregations (the so-called Mitrici which include only the period 1862-1865) and also from the mayoralties. According to the specific characteristics of every district branch archive, sometimes there exist some complementary registers, like adoption records, divorce records or documents which were needed when a marriage took place). So, a collection like this represents the totality of the documents regarding births, marriages, divorces and deaths. Let’s not forget that in the National Archives we can only find documents older than 100 years.
Besides the Civil Status Collections we can also use the so-called Catagrafii. They are a special kind of statistics, mentioning the occupation of the family’s head. Researchers from the history institute in Iasi succeeded into publishing a series of volumes entitled Catagrafiile Vistieriei Moldovei 1820-1845 (Statistics of the Moldavian Ministry of Finances). Four volumes have been published till now.
Collateral info about the Jewish population is to be found in the archive of the District Chamber of Commerce. A very good example and a useful work is Iancu’s Braustein book referring to the Jewish entrepreneurs in Moldavia, in the period 1879-1950.
But these are not the only documents we can use for genealogical research in Romania. We can also use the very small archives of the District Jewish Communities. They usually have burial registers for the cemeteries they still administrate. Unfortunately, although cemeteries are really old, the registers are usually useful only for peoples who died after 1906. Sometimes, quite rarely, we can also find some registers or lists of names referring to the Jewish population in a certain area before WW II.
And, for the documents after 1910 there are, of course, the town hall archives, where researchers are not allowed to do research. Yet we still can find methods of accessing that archive too.