Before 2001, there was no central registry office in Austria . As a result, it is very difficult to obtain information about people without having at least some specific information.
Austrian data privacy laws are very strict; Looking up information in registries is difficult and frequently requires valid powers of attorney, written proof of descent, etc... The official language in Austria is German. Thus, letters, faxes, e-mails etc. sent to Austrian institutions are more likely to be answered promptly if they are written in German.
If you are doing research on individuals who were born before November of 1918, please make sure that the town listed as the place of birth is located within the borders of present-day Austria. Before the end of WWI and the disintegration of the Habsburg monarchy into various successor states (such as the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovenia etc.), individuals born within the borders of the Austrian Empire (which was later referred to as the Austro-Hungarian Empire) often have Austria listed as their country of birth. Thus, before you begin your search in Austrian archives, please check historical maps first in order to make sure that the birth of place is indeed located within the borders of present-day Austria.
Under the administrative system introduced in the 18th century, which was in place until 1938, certificates of birth, marriage, or death were usually issued by the local (town, village) religious communities, which were also in charge of keeping the corresponding records. If you know the religious affiliation of the individual concerned, please contact the respective religious community of that town, such as the parish (Pfarramt) or synagogue. Please note that in towns with small Jewish communities only, the records were kept by the Roman Catholic Church instead.
In some instances, files have also been transferred to regional archives (such as those of a diocese) and it may be helpful to contact those, too. In addition, after 1870 the administrative districts and self- cities set up registry offices („Meldeamt“) for individuals without religious affiliation.
The following institutions and websites may prove valuable for tracing your heritage:
A. Austrian State Archives:
The archives of the Austrian State Archives date back to the early Middle Ages and comprise the archives of the central agencies of the Holy Roman Empire, among which are bequests, collections of maps, plans and photographs, as well as about 100,000 (medieval) parchments, diplomas and treaties, the archives of the Habsburg family, the archives of the imperial cabinet, of court institutions, and of central state agencies of the Habsburg monarchy (war and defense, foreign affairs, finance, etc.), files on military personnel (Imperial Army and Navy), and the records of all federal state agencies (including all ministries).
The Austrian State Archives are divided into various sub-entities. The following will be the most useful ones for individuals interested in doing genealogical research:
A1. Archive of the Republic:
Contains all the records of the Austrian State Archives from 1918 onwards (including personnel records of the Austrian military and the German Wehrmacht [1938-1945]).
A2. General Administrative Archives:
If you are doing research on individuals who may have carried titles of nobility, this office may be of assistance to you since this archive keeps a complete list of all aristocratic families, ennoblements, and coats of arms from as early as the 16th century to 1918.
A3. War Archives:
The war archives contain personnel records of members of the Austrian-Hungarian army from the late 16th century to 1918. Orders given to and decorations awarded to officers and troops are kept in these archives.
B. Provincial Archives (information mostly in German):
C. Ecclesiastical (Church) Archives:
A complete list (in German) of all ecclesiastical archives in Austria and the corresponding contact details can be found on the website of the Federal Chancellery.
D. Austrian Black Cross:
May provide information (in German) about people who perished as soldiers during World War II. Information required: name, date of birth, and place of death. The troop identification number and any other additional information would also be helpful. >> visit site
E. Tracing service of the Austrian Red Cross :
This institution may be helpful in tracking down individuals who disappeared or are missing as a consequence of war, and World War II in particular. Necessary information: name, date of birth or approximate age, place of birth, last residence known. >> visit site
F. Volksdeutsche Landsmannschaften Österreichs:
Information (in German) on individuals who belonged to the German-speaking minority in former Czechoslovakia and the Balkans. Information required: name, place of birth, last residence known.
G. Jewish Community of Vienna:
Information about individuals of Jewish faith living or having lived in Vienna and the adjacent communities of Lower Austria. Information will be available only about people who were born in Vienna or died there, or about those who married in Vienna or the adjoining communities of Lower Austria. Further information available on people who were deported from Vienna or who have registered with the Jewish community after 1945. >> visit site
H. Tracing your ancestors in Vienna:
City administrations in Vienna or those of the federal provinces (if there are concrete hints as to the former residence of a person) may be able to assist you, as well.
I. Additional links that may be useful for your search:
- Genealogy in Austria (German)
- Heraldisch-Genealogische Gesellschaft Adler (German)
- Austrian National Library
- Church of Jesus Christ Latter-Day Saints
- Institute for Historical Family Research
- Immigrant Ships Transcribers Guild
Embassy of Austria
3524 International Court, NW
Washington, D.C., 20008
Consulate Office Hours:
Monday through Friday,10.30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
(except on Austrian and U.S. holidays )