Searching your Jewish Ancestors from Romania
Created by Marcel Glaskie in 2014 Revised in 2019
Where and How to Research for Jewish Records in Romania
by Marcel Glaskie, ROMGEN
(Much of this information was given in a presentation to the Jewish Genealogical Society of Manchester, UK, by on March 23, 2014)
Civil Record Registers
The most popular source of genealogical data is usually found in the registers of civil records, which contain the declarations of births, marriages and deaths.
Prior to 1865, registers in the Kingdom of Romania were kept by the Orthodox Church, the Catholic Church and the Jewish Synagogue. From the beginning of December 1865, there was compulsory state registration. Other regions of Greater Romania followed after WW 1.
The privacy of civil records is governed by the 100 year rule and within that period public access is not permitted. Certified copies are only available to proven family members.
Every city, town and village has a registry office, which is affiliated with the municipality and is housed either in the city or town hall or in an annex building: the email address can be found on the internet.
Civil registers which are more than 100 years old are usually deposited in the county archive of the particular city, town or village. But, in some instances, the municipality may continue to retain volumes for several more years before transferring them for storage in the county archive.
From time to time, county boundaries in Romania changed so that in some cases, a search should be directed to the county archive that covered the location at the time in question. In most cases, the new county archive has most of the data.
The way to conduct the search depends on the purpose and the means involved.
To obtain documentation to prove that your family was Romanian to allow the possibility of claiming Romanian E.U. citizenship, all requests should be directed via the Romanian embassy in the country where you reside.
To find genealogical data, a request can be made directly by email to the relevant county archive. The National Archive of Romania http://www.arhivelenationale.ro/index.php?lan=1&jud=127.
Which has 42 regional branches, one in each county of Romania and one in Bucharest. The email addresses can be found at http://www.arhivelenationale.ro/index.php?page=45&lan=0.
The request should be very brief, giving only the name of the city, town or village, and the year in question. You should state if you are looking for information re: a birth, marriage or death, give the full name of the person and the names of the parents, and offer to pay any fees. Application may be made in English but take care not to use American terminology; in Romania, they use British English.
A personal search for information must be requested in advance. It takes two days to gain access to any registers.
The procedure is as follows:
- Write to the archive and tell them that you intend to visit them stating the date, the purpose of the visit and a request to photograph the civil record. Specify the area in question and ask if that material is available to the public. Be sure to include a copy of your passport data to identify yourself.
- On the approved day, go early to the archive with your passport and request a reader’s card, then make a written request on the appropriate forms for the required record books, which will only be made available the following day.
- There are restrictions on the number of files that can be seen on any visit; sometimes the archive will allow more files for visitors from overseas but the request should be made in advance. Be prepared to spend a few full days at the archive.
- Be aware that on each day at the archive there are many official forms to be filled in and submitted, and there is a daily fee which sometimes has to be paid at the city treasurer’s office, not in the archive. The receipt has then to be presented to the librarian.
- Photography of records is allowed but without flash or flood light, using only the lights of the reading room or the daylight from the windows.
- If your approach is exceptionally polite and warm, the librarian in charge of the reading room may offer you some assistance with the filling in of the mass of obligatory paperwork, which is all in Romanian.
My experience has been at the county archives of Bucharest, Iasi and Bacau, digital copying the Civil Records, Jewish and Gentile, but only indexing the Jewish entries. As a gesture of appreciation, I gave digital copies of all my work to the archives.
The declarations in the Civil Records were hand written by the registrars and are very extensive, they give names, ages, occupations, and addresses of the families and of the numerous witnesses that accompanied them. A certified certificate issued by the registrar is only an abstract of all that data.
Most people know that many Jewish families changed their names after leaving Eastern Europe, usually to anglicize the name. But I have discovered that many Jewish families also changed their names to completely different Jewish sounding names which bear no resemblance to the family name they used when they lived in Romania.
In my research in Romania, I also utilized my time to restore and survey old Jewish cemeteries, and to digitally photograph and index all the grave stones, together with a layout plan of the cemetery.
The school registers and admission books are usually still available in the individual school archives, some have been deposited in the public archives. After obtaining permission from the school authorities, I traced many Jewish students from this source. However, the school grades for individual students are to be kept confidential.
Many local people are afraid to reveal information about property, fearing that outsiders will come to claim back property that was appropriated in the period of the Holocaust and after the fall of the Communist administration.
But those citizens who have rightful title are sometimes willing to produce the documentation, which reveals the names of many previous Jewish owners. There are registers of the sale of property, but it is difficult to access them.
Unfortunately the province of Moldavia was not under the Austrian Empire, so there is much less information available there than, say, in Transylvania. The Romanian Cadastre Office was only opened in the 20th century, so there are no early files. The names of streets and direction of numbering have changed many times during the 20th century.
Material in private hands
A great source of data is still in private hands in the form of passports, and military pass books, I have been sent copies by families originally from Romania who are now living around the world. Ask around your family to see if they have such material.
Although there were many national censuses in Romania, in most cases the census returns are reported to have been destroyed, with only the analysis remaining. Further research is required on this subject.
Podu Iloaiei, a small and poor town in the Moldavian region of Romania, does not appear on many maps. It is about 17 miles west and slightly north of the city of Iasi. Yet a book of 168 densely printed pages about this town’s Jewish life was published in 1990, describing (in Romanian) its history, local economy, cultural activities, synagogues, rabbinical traditions, etc. Of special interest to genealogists, the book also contains several censuses of the Jews living in this town. The earliest was dated 1824 and the latest 1898. It is the 1898 census, consisting of some 723 names and taking up just 26 pages that have been extracted and translated. See www.jewishgen.org.
Romanian Business Directory 1924-1925
The Business Directory for all Romania covers every city, town and village and records the names and occupations of many of the inhabitants, many of whom were Jewish. This publication can be found on the internet. http://www.loc.gov/rr/european/phonero/romdir.html
A search of inscriptions on the Jewish grave stones and an attempt to match them with the information from civil death records often reveals a lot of interesting information. When checking the dates, remember that before 1919 Romania used the Julian calendar, so the calculation of the date should be made accordingly.
The archive of the Securitat in Bucharest is open and available for researching individual files of your family; requests should be made in writing. However, Jewish community records that were confiscated are difficult to locate because they have been included in the data of many large research files on Zionist topics. I have now been appointed as an Accredited Researcher in the CNSAS archive, which gives me access to all files.
In order to search for relatives, the “Pages of Witness” in Yad Vashem, Jerusalem can often supply information. Survivors of the Holocaust, and relatives and friends who had immigrated from Romania before the Holocaust, filled in forms giving details of their relatives who had perished. The names and addresses of those bearing witness are given in the forms which are freely available on the internet.
If you would like further information, contact me at:
Marcel Glaskie, Ra’anana, Israel