While military records are usually considered a secondary resource for genealogical researchers, knowledge of military service adds depth to a family history and goes beyond just having a list of names and dates. It provides insight into what an ancestor may have experienced during their lifetime and gives a perspective of the history at that period.
To find military records for the Austro-Hungarian Army, one first needs to determine where and how to look for them since they were kept at different locations during various periods of time. The records were also kept differently for the various states within the Empire. Consequently, it can be a little confusing if one does not understand a bit about the history of the Austrian Empire and the subsequent Austro-Hungarian Empire.
A Short History of the Empires [i], [ii]
The first thing to recognize is that eventually there were at least eleven different ethnic groups in the Austrian Empire. Initially, it was just Austria and the Czech regions of Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia. The Kingdom of Hungary was not even part of the original Empire. But after the Ottomans invaded Hungary in 1526, the Austrian Hapsburgs used it as an opportunity to gain control of the Hungarian Monarchy. When Austria finally drove the Ottomans out of Hungary in the 1680s, they reached a peace agreement with the Turks that gave them control of most of the Hungarian lands and Transylvania. The Hungarian diet then gave the Austrian Emperor the hereditary rights to the Hungarian Crown. The Austrian Emperor thus became the King of Hungary as well (Kaiser und Konig).
Austria continued to gain control of additional lands from a series of wars in the 1700 and 1800s. When they partitioned Poland with Prussia and Russia, Austria took over the southern section of Poland which was known as Galicia. They also gained the northern section of Italy in wars with the French and, as the Ottomans were driven out of Balkans, Austria and Hungary took over Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
It is important to recognize that during this initial period, all these regions were now part of the Austrian Empire and all the ethnic groups were Austrian subjects. As such, all men had a military obligation to the Emperor and could be conscripted to serve in the Austrian Army. Hungary, however, had a unique status. Although the Austrian Kaiser was also the King of Hungary, the Hungarians were allowed to maintain their own parliament and could manage their Kingdom with their own set of laws. Hungary was also allowed to rule over the Slovaks, Ruthenians, Croatians and people in the former area of Transylvania which were all part of greater Hungary at that time. Austria maintained direct control over the Czech regions, Galicia and northern Italy. But most importantly, Austria controlled the armies within the Empire.
Nevertheless, there was a lot of ethnic unrest and the army was used, not only for protection against external threats, but also to maintain control of the various ethnic groups within. Over the years, it was necessary for Austria to use the army to put down a number of internal revolts including one in Hungary in 1848. As a result of this revolt, Austria took direct control over Hungary. But when Austria lost the war with Prussia in 1866, Hungary once again used it as an opportunity to regain control of some of their own affairs.
A compromise was reached in 1867, know as the Ausgleich, by which Hungary was given equal status with Austria. The Austrian Emperor was still recognized as being the King of Hungary but the Hungarian diet regained powers over Hungarian lands and the people residing within their borders like the Slovaks and Ruthenians. The Empire now became known as the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It would last until the end of World War I, after which, the Empire was broken down into many separate countries.
After 1867, a Hungarian homeland army emerged. In addition to the joint Austro-Hungarian Army, known as the Royal and Imperial Army (the k.u.k.), Hungary formed a new, separate army which they called the Honved known as the Royal Hungarian Army (k.u.). Austria already had its own homeland army which they called the Landwehr or the Imperial Royal Army (the k.k.).[iii] Men could be conscripted to serve in either the joint army or their homeland army.
My focus has been on pre-1867 records for my Slovak ancestors, but I will give reference to other ethnic regions and timeframes. I’ve concentrated on pre-1867 records because they were centrally maintained at the Kriegs Archives in Vienna and are now available on microfilm from the LDS Family History Center. These include records for both officers and enlisted personnel. After 1867, Hungary began keeping the records for their own soldiers, including those from the districts now in present-day Slovakia. Although the records for the officers still exist, the records for the enlisted men are no longer available.
The Director of the Military Archives in Budapest, Col. Dr. Attila Bonhardt, has made the following statement about the Hungarian military records: "all drafting and recruitment Lists and Military Registers of soldiers born in Hungary between 1850 and 1899 and served in the Austro-Hungarian Army were totally destroyed during the Second World War. There are only the Decoration Proposals of the Hungarian WWI-soldiers at our keeping and preservation at the War History Archives in Budapest".
Another reason I’ve avoided looking for post 1867 records is that after the Ausgleich, Hungary formed a home guard called the Honved. Therefore, many men from Hungary served in this homeland army instead of the joint army (the k.u.k). Unfortunately, the records for the Honved units also appear to have been lost. And finally, after the war with Prussia in 1866, the Austro-Hungarian Empire enjoyed an extended period of relative calm and was not involved in any major external conflicts for almost fifty years until WWI. During this period, the Army was used primarily to maintain control of the various ethnic groups, especially those in the Balkans. But in the years prior to 1866, Austria was a major power in Europe and fought a number of wars against France (the Napoleonic Wars), Denmark, Prussia, Russia and even England and Sweden. Consequently, there is a lot of interesting military history in these earlier years. The events are all well documented in numerous books and various accounts. They provide a rich source of information about the times. However, after 1866, Austria’s power waned as Prussia became the main force in the German Confederation. By treaty, Austria was eliminated from all participation after having controlled the federation for a century.
Length of Service Obligation
As previously mentioned, Austria controlled all armies in the Empire prior to 1867. Hungary did form a Honved during the revolt in 1848 but it was disbanded after the revolt was put down by Austria (with the help of Russia). During war time, Austria had as many as half a million men under arms. To maintain this force, it was necessary to conscript 80,000 to 85,000 men a year into the army. The length of service obligation and the age of eligibility changed several times during the 1800s. At the beginning of the century, soldiers faced a lifetime obligation, which meant that once they finished active duty they could be recalled into the army at any time.[iv] By mid century, the obligation was ten years. In the infantry, recruits served one to three years of active duty. Engineers and the artillery served actively for three years and because it took longer to develop the horsemanship skills required for the cavalry, they served seven to eight years actively. After completing the active duty phase, soldiers were put on furlough to their homes and called out annually for additional training. After a total of eight years in the service, men were then put into the reserves to complete their obligation.[v] But even after the active part of their reserve obligation was completed, men were put into inactive reserves and could be called up in time of war.
Men were eligible to be drafted starting at the age of 20. If they failed the physical, they could be called back the following two years and retested. But after failing three times, they were declared unfit and dismissed. There were five military districts in Hungary and each regimental unit was assigned specific counties in these districts where they were allowed to recruit. However, these assignments changed over time, and consequently, it is necessary to know the “class” year to find a given individual. This was usually twenty years after his birth but could be twenty one or twenty two years, if they were drafted late. Also note that young men could volunteer for the Army as early as age 17. Therefore, volunteers could have a class year below age twenty. The headquarters for the five military districts within Hungary were located in Bratislava (Pressberg), Košice (Kassa, Kaschau), Buda-Pest, Sopron and Oradea.
Determining which ancestors were in the Army
How does one know if they have an ancestor that served in the Austro-Hungarian Army? It may be as simple as having relatives knowing stories about a grandparent who was in the military, as was the case in my family. However, it can also come from actual documents, pictures or notations in church records. In addition, there are other clues that might suggest that an individual was in the army. The age at which a man got married will sometimes indicate military service. Soldiers were not allowed to get married while on their first tour of duty. Therefore, if a man got married later than others in village, it may be because he had been in the service first. It is almost a given that if a man got married for the first time at the age of 27 or 28, he had been in the army.[vii]
Determining the Regimental Unit
As most of us have learned, the key to finding ancestral church documents is to identify the family home village or town. Similarly, the key to finding military records is to determine in which regiment the soldier served.
In Alphons Wrede’s book: Geschichte der k. und k. Wehrmacht[viii] (History of the Austro-Hungarian Armed Forces) volume 1, there are charts for each region of the Empire called the Uebersicht der Werb- (Ergänzungs-)Bezirks-Eintheilung von 1781 bis 1889. These charts show in which counties each infantry regiment recruited during any period of time.
This book is available from the FHL on film 1187917 item 2. Note that I have created a table extracted from Wrede’s book showing which regiments were recruiting in the Kingdom of Hungary by county listings over various periods of time. This table can be found at the end of this article in Appendix A.
Now, by knowing your ancestor’s home county and his “class” year, you can determine the infantry regiment in which he may have served by using this table. There are also a number of military maps that show the home depot of the various regimental units in the Empire. But these maps are only useful to indicate which regiments were recruiting in a general area and not specific enough to determine which regiment was recruiting in an individual county. Even when the regimental home depot remained constant, the counties nearby where they recruited often changed. In addition, these maps are only good for the year in which they were created. The Garnison-Karte von Österreich 1898,[ix] is an example of one of these military maps. Consequently, for reasons given above, I believe the best method of finding your ancestor’s infantry regiment is to use the information extracted from Wrede’s book. Note that only infantry regiments are covered in the tables . Other kinds of units, such as the cavalry, artillery and engineers will be discussed later. However, most soldiers were in the infantry, especially those from the peasant classes. In addition, many soldiers started in the infantry before being transferred to other types of units. So, it is a good place to start your search.
Determining the time period for searching military records
The three major time periods to consider are:
1. Pre-1867 - Records centrally maintained at the Vienna War Archives. These records include soldiers from the entire Empire including individuals from Austria, the Czech regions, Galicia, and all of Hungary.
2. 1867 to 1918 - Records maintained by Austria and by Hungary separately. Austria kept the records for the regions they directly administered, including Galicia and the Czech regions of Bohemia and Moravia. Hungary kept those for everyone in their kingdom, which included the Slovaks and other slavs within their borders. By treaty, these records were to be sent to the successor countries but there is a lot of conflicting information as to what has happened to these records (see section below on Czech Military Records).
3. Post-1918 - Records maintained by the states of Czechoslovakia (1st and 2nd Republic) and Slovakia (1st Republic) as well as the other successor nations of Poland, Yugoslavia, Romania, the Ukraine, and various countries formed after Yugoslavia was broken up.
Grundbuchblätter Records (personnel sheets)
Once you have determined your ancestor’s regiment, you can look for his personnel records. The information in personnel records includes the name of the soldier, birth year and location, marital status, civilian occupation, religion, and dates of service, description of duties, promotions if any and date of discharge.
From 1820 until 1869, individual personnel sheets for all the troops in the Empire were kept in books called Grundbuchblätter in Vienna. After 1869, these records were only kept for the Austrians and personnel from the regions they administered as described earlier. The Grundbuchblätter records are listed by regimental number and then by class year and class type (see type explanation below). They are not indexed alphabetically by surname. Soldiers are listed starting with the officers, cadets and finally the enlisted men. To find an individual soldier, it is necessary to review all the records for a given class year. The Kriegs Archive will do a search of their records for a fee or you can hire a private reseacher to do a search of these records. But they are also available on microfilm from the Family History Library on 2,884 rolls of film. Now, a bit of a warning about using these FHL films, they are not well cataloged. The film titles of the earliest records list the years covered, but the later films only list Heft (book) numbers, which are not a very useful guide. In addition, many of the film titles in the FHL catalog contain errors as to the years covered. Some indicate that they only cover the years from 1820 until 1860. However, in most cases, the records for the 1860s are actually covered in those films. I’ve contacted the LDS about this and have had them change the titles for some films, including all the ones for the Hussars. But given these problems, it is best to order several of the films in each regimental series to make sure you get the years wanted. The easiest way to search through the film is to go the records for the birth year of your ancestor (see template below). Then look though the records for that year (and several years on both sides if you don’t find it immediately).
There are usually 3 sets of records in the regimental grundbuchblätter. They cover the same years but are for different groups of men within a regiment. The records document when soldiers leave a regiment either by discharge, retirement, transfer or death. They are organized in class years of men. A class year is the year of entry into the army for a group of soldiers. It is typically 20 years after their birth but will also have some men who were conscripted at a slightly later age.
The Kriegsarchiv in Vienna defines the abgangsklassen as follows:
Abgang 1. Klasse = Officers and soldiers who are transferred to other units but remain in the army. Also, officers who retire on pensions (note these can sometimes be in the Abgang 2. Klasse).
Abgang 2. Klasse = Only officers and cadets who are discharged from the army or are killed.
Abgang 3. Klasse = Non-commissioned officers and enlisted men who are discharged from the army or are killed.
As mentioned, the Grundbuchblätter records by regimental number cover all soldiers in the Empire. But additional Grundbuchblätter records exist for soldiers from the eight states within what is now modern Austria (Wien, Niederösterreich, Oberösterreich, Steiermark, Kärnten, Salzburg, Tirol, and Vorarlberg). They are kept at the Kriegs Archive in Vienna. The records cover Austrian solders from ~1820 to the end of WWI and they are organized alphabetically by the names of the soldiers within each individual state.[x] The records are on 616 rolls of film available from the FHL.
Czech Military RecordsAdditional military records for soldiers coming from the Czech regions of Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia, are located at the Kreigs Archive in Vienna for the years from 1820 to 1864. Personnel sheets for Czech soldiers can be found in records called Grundbuchblätter Diverse: Bohmen, Mahren, Schlesien. These records are organized alphabetically by the soldier’s names and are available from the FHL on 685 rolls of film or they can be obtained by a private search in the archive described above.
The Director of the Kriegs Archive in Vienna, Christoph Tepperberg, has written the following statement about the records after 1864 for the Czech regions:
“According to the Saint-Germain peace treaty of 1919, all Grundbuchsblätter of the years of birth 1865-1900 for soldiers outside the new Austrian Republic had to remain in, or to be surrendered to, the “successor states”. Therefore the Kriegsarchiv keeps from these age-classes only the personnel files for soldiers from the territory of today's Austrian Republic. In the successor states of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the majority of these files (have) been lost. For the Czech Republic, the Grundbuchsblätter of the years of birth 1887-1900 have been kept in the repository for military personnel files in Tyrnau (Trnava, Slovakia), where most of them were destroyed, while the remainders and the files of the age classes 1865-1886 are preserved in the Czech Historical Military Archives in Prague.” [xi]
Unfortunately, I do not believe the records in Prague have been filmed by the LDS, but you can hire the archives or other private researchers to do a search for you . Additional types of Czech military records are well described at Czechfamilytree.com [xii].
Grundbuchblätter Records for the rest of the EmpireAlphabetical military personnel records by surname makes it fairly easy to find soldiers coming from Austria itself and the Czech regions. Unfortunately, records for the remaining regions of the Empire are not organized alphabetically by name. To find these records, you must first determine the regimental number. Charts, extracted from Alphons Wrede’s book, showing where infantry regiments recruited in the various regions of the Empire over different time periods, can be found at the end of this article in the appendices. A similar chart showing which infantry regiments recruited in Galacia can be found at Polishroots.com. [xiii] And finally, another set of charts listing the recruiting districts for each infantry regiment can be found in the article “An Introduction to Austrian Military Records” by Steven W. Blodgett. (note the link to Mr. Blodgett's article no longer seems to work). But a word of caution, I found numerous discrepancies between these other references and the charts in Alphons Wrede’s book that was discussed earlier. That is why I created separate tables based solely on Wrede’s charts. I have no way of knowing which tables are more accurate but Wrede is considered by many to be the ultimate authority on Austro-Hungarian military topics.
The final reference on this topic comes from the Dislokations-Verzeichnis des k.u.k. Heeres und der k.u.k. Marine, 1649-1914 by Otto Kasperkowitz[xv] (Location Index for Recruitment into the Imperial and Royal Austrian Army and Navy Troops). Unlike the other tables which just show the infantry regiments, Kasperkowitz’s tables list all the various types of units including those of the cavalry, artillery and the engineers. Regiments are listed by county or district for all regions of the Empire. It is available from the FHL on film # 1186632. But unfortunately, the years covered in these tables are very incomplete and may not provide guidance for all time periods.
Grundbuchblätter Headings and an Example Record
Format of the Grundbuchblätter records with translations of the German headings.
The above record is from the Grundbuch of Infantry Regiment No. 34.[xvi] It lists lists the records for András Kotlarcsik who was born in 1843 in the village of Süvete in Gömör County of Hungary. He was conscripted in 1864 into IR34 during the war with Denmark. A personal discription of his appearence is included in the center section. This record is from Grundbuch #37 for IR34 in 1864.
Musterlisten und Standestabellen (Muster Rolls and Formation Tables)Prior to 1820, when Grundbuchblätter records started to be kept, military records for all soldiers and officers were kept in Musterlisten und Standestabellen (Muster Rolls and Monthly Reports). These records at the Kriegs Archive cover the years from 1740 to 1820 and are available on microfilm from the Family History Center on 5,104 rolls of microfilm. Records are organized by regimental unit. Both Grundbuchblätter and Musterlisten und Standestabellen records provide an individual’s year of birth, place of birth, religion, occupation, service record and dates of service. The Standestabellen only indicate changes within the last month. Musterlisten also list names and ages of children, physical description of the soldier, whether he ever deserted and even information about his horse, if he was in the cavalry.
In addition, there is an alphabetical list of all officers by name called the Kartei für Musterlisten und Standestabellen) covering the years of 1740-1820. This list is available from the FHL on 29 rolls of film.
Here is an example of a Musterlisten record [xvii] courtesy of Jacques Cotteret.
These images are the covers of the Musterlisten for the 6th Hussars from the early 1800s.
The honorary regimental name at that time was the Blankenstein Regiment. All regiments had an Inhaber, who was the honorary “owner” of the regiment. In this case, it was Ernst Graf Blankenstein for which the regiment took its name.
Here is a record from the Musterlisten for IR19 in 1804.[xviii]
It shows the records for András Kotlartsik who was conscripted in 1797 during the Coalition Wars against France. It indicates that he has never deserted and was currently on furlough.
Many thanks to Jacques Cotteret for providing the following translations of the Musterlisten headings.
Chargen – Rank or position (note these men were gemeiner (troopers or privates) Nomina – Names
Gebürtig – Birth 1. Location (City, Town, or Village) 2. County or District
Jahr Alt – Age Religion
Stand – Status (marital) Profession
Verheiratete deren Weiber -- Married men whose wives (are):
Präsent – present Absent
Nicht zur Militär juridis. Gehörig -- Not under military jurisdiction
Haben Kinder – Have children
Männlich – Males (with names and ages)
Weiblich – Females (with names and ages)
Maass- Measures (height of soldier)
Schuh(e) – feet Zoll – inches Strich – line (~1/10 of inch)
Records for Officers
There are records for all officers in the Austrian and subsequent Austro-Hungarian Army at the Kreigs Archive in Vienna. They cover the years from 1761 to 1918 and are comprehensive for all units. Note, about 10% of all soldiers were officers. Their service records are indexed alphabetically by surname. The information provided lists the service record of the officer and events and duties that he preformed. They also list the units in which he served. In addition, these records sometimes provide information about the soldiers parents. Officer records can be found in the Dienstbeschreibungen und Qualifikationslisten der Offiziere. These records are arranged alphabetically by last name. They are available on 3,408 films from the FHL.
Other units beyond Infantry
There were several other types of units within the army beyond those of the infantry. There were the Jägers (riflemen), the Artillery, the Engineers and the Cavalry.
Records for the Cavalry
The cavalry units were divided into several types of both heavy and light cavalry. These included the Cuirassiers (or Kurassiers) who were the heavy cavalry used for head-on attacks against the enemy in close fighting. Cuirassiers wore helmets and some body armor including breast plates. They came mainly from Austria.
The Dragoons were a second type of heavy to medium cavalry unit. They carried a saber and a short carbine rifle but did not wear any body armor. They were often used as quick mobilization troops because they could rapidly ride to the scene of a battle, dismount and fight as infantry. They were recruited from Austria and the Czech region of Moravia.
The Chevauxlegers were medium to light cavalry. They were mainly used for patrolling and reconnaissance. Chevauxlegers were converted to other types of cavalry in the mid 1800s. They were recruited mainly from the Czech region of Bohemia but several regiments were drawn from Galacia, Austria and even Italy.
The Ulans used the lance as their weapon of choice. They were light cavalry drawn mainly from Galicia (Poles and Ukrainians).
The final type of cavalry unit was the Hussars. They were mainly recruited in the Kingdom of Hungary and were known as superb horsemen. They were also known for their daring and flamboyant personalities, both on and off the battlefield. Hussars were light cavalry used for reconnaissance, raids on enemy supply lines, flank attacks and rear guard actions. They used a short, curved saber in close fighting and favored a somewhat smaller horse (14 to 15 hands) than other units. There were eventually 16 Hussaren regiments with some drawn from Transylvania.
Finding the records for a soldier in the cavalry is a bit harder than that for the infantry. But you still need to determine the regimental unit in which the soldier served. To do so, you can use the Dislokations-Verzeichnis des k.u.k. Heeres und der k.u.k. Marine, 1649-1914, cited earlier. There are also various charts available along with maps that show where the cavalry units recruited as well. An example is found in Hungarian Hussar 1756-1815 by David Hollins.[xix] On page 55 he describes in which counties of Hungary each Hussar regiment recruited around 1800. There is also an excellent map on this page that shows the recruitment districts for the Hussar regiments. This map is better than some others because it shows the boundaries of the recruitment districts instead of just the location of the home depots of the various units. Note, page 55 of Hollins’ book can be accessed on Google Books but it is inexpensively available from various on-line bookstores.
Cavalry regiments usually maintained an association with specific infantry regiments and recruited in the same counties and districts as these IRs. Therefore, this provides another way to determine the cavalry unit for your county of interest. In books called the Militar-Schematismus, records were kept for each regiment. Beginning in 1867, the regimental numbers of the associated infantry regiments are shown for each cavalry regiment. By knowing the recruiting counties of the infantry, one then knows the likely recruiting counties for the associated cavalry regiment. But associations changed over time, therefore it must be determined for a specific time period. Look for the Militar-Schematismus on line at Google books. They are available, by year, from 1815 until the 1890s, but only after 1867 do they show which infantry regiments were associated with specific cavalry units.
Records for Other Types of Units
I have not personally researched records for other types of units such as the artillery, jägers or engineers, but I would assume that these could be found using the same methodology described above.
Military Church Records
Church records for soldiers can be found in Militärkirchenbücher covering the years from 1654 to 1922. They mainly record the deaths of active duty soldiers, but if a soldier got married or had children while in the service, they record the marriages and baptisms of any children. This was only done if the family was present at the soldier’s location and not if they lived elsewhere. The FHL has these records on 551 rolls of films and they are arranged by military unit or hospital.
Military Discharge Documents
Here is an example of a discharge document from 1867 courtesy of Eric Zabilka. It provides personal information about the soldier, his army unit, the period of his service, campaigns in which he participated and date of discharge.
Military Identity BooksAlthough the Grundbuchblätter for Hungarian troops after 1869 are lost, individual soldiers were given small identity books that listed information about their record of service. These books are sometimes referred to as “military passports” because men used them when immigrating to prove that they had fulfilled their military obligations. Information in these books included name, birth year, class year (draft year), record of active duty, type of unit and regimental number, whether the assignment was in the joint army (k.u.k) or a homeland army (landweir or honved), date of discharge from active service and a description of further obligations in the reserves.
Here is an example of a military identity book:
These are the records for András Kotlárcsik who was born in 1874. He served in the “cs és kir” army which is the Hungarian abbreviation for “császár és kiraly” or the Kaiser & King’s Army (k.u.k). This was the joint army and not a homeland army. His unit was the 6th Huszar Regiment. He was drafted in 1896 (classing year) and these records were taken from page 339 of his regiment’s personnel book for that year. He was registered from Gőmőr county in the 52nd military district of Hungary.
András was born in 1874 and was a farmer in civilian life. He was registered from the town of Csetnek in the Rozsno District of Gőmőr County. (This was his place of birth.)He was discharged after completing basic training seven months after being drafted in 1896. He was now assigned to the 1st reserves until 1911 after which he was assigned to the 2nd reserve classification until 1916.For various reasons, soldiers were often sent into the reserves, in time of peace, after they had completed basic training. Sometimes it was due to poor health. But often it was a way to save money since soldiers were not paid for reserve service. By this means, the army could could maintain a greater number of men who would have some training and could be quickly mobilized if needed.
Honved Identity Paper
This is a record for a Jozsef Orban who was born in 1878 and should have been enlisted around 1899. But interestingly, he had gone to America as a boy. When he returned in 1918 at the end of WWI, he was pulled off of a train and conscripted into the Honved. (courtesy of James and Michael Orban)
Honved Discharge Document
This is a discharge paper for Janos Hikli who was a "tizedes" (a corporal) in the Honved. He was being discharged from active duty in 1889 after serving for 12 years and 3 months. He was then being assigned to the 1st reserves from 1889 until 1893 and then to the 2nd reserves from 1893 until 1899. The document provides his birth place, birth year, and religion. These documents also list any campaigns in which the soldier would have participated, whether he had ever been wounded and any medals for valor he had received or was entitled to wear. (document courtesy of Daniel Sedley, Jeffrey Schoenig and Claudia Hickly)
Hungarian Military District Conscription Registers
Conscription registers for many former Hungarian military districts are available at the Hungarian Archivesand they are also available on microfilm from the Family History Center. They are listed under the title: Katonai nyilvántartási jegyzék. These documents record the eligibility of men in each district to serve in the army. They also provide personal information about each man. The records cover various timeframes from as early as the 1750s to 1918. But the years covered for any particular district are quite variable. Included in the Hungarian Archives are seven districts that are now part of Slovakia. Additional records for other districts in Slovakia can be found at their regional archives but these have not been filmed by the LDS. Here is an example of one of the registers courtesy of James Nickel.
The 10th Szinna District Conscription Register for the year of 1882
Headings used in the military district lists of men's eligibility for conscription
- Name of village
- Registration number
- Surname and given name
- Birth year
- Place of birth
- Religion and marital status
- Ability to read
- Ability to write
- Ability to plan a musical instrument
- Sports abilities
- Name of parent or next of kin
- House number and village where the individual resides
- Final statements
- Chest size
- Temporary exemption from service
- Legally raised claims for allowable allowances for (deferment or unsuitability for service) (18 & 19 refer to the decisions of the commission)
- The preferred location for conscription
- Reporting date, the military unit assigned, the army reserve designation and ???
Regimental HistoriesAfter finding your ancestor’s records, you can then learn about where he was stationed and any military actions he might have participated in by reviewing the regimental history of his unit. Since Austria had problems controlling the various ethnic groups in its Empire, men were usually stationed outside of their own home districts except for a small depot of the regiment, which handled administrative duties and recruitment. The remainder of the regiment was garrisoned at some distance from their homes. This was probably done because it was thought that they could be used to put down revolts, which they might not do in their home districts. In addition, it made desertion more difficult.
Regimental histories covering the years from the mid 1700s until 1866 can be found in a series of books written by A. Graf Thürheim entitled Gedenkblätter Aus Der Kriegsgeschichte Der K. K. Oesterreichischen Armee, which were published in 1880. There are at least three books in this series and the first two can be read or downloaded from Google Books. Book one covers the infantry and book two covers the cavalry. I have not found book three but I assume it covers other units like the artillery and the engineers.
Book one can be found at the following link: http://books.google.com/books?id=f8iEAAAAIAAJ&pg=PP7&dq=A.+Graf+Th%23%12rheim&cd=6%23v=onepage&q=&f=false
Book two can be found here:
Detailed individual histories have been written for almost all regiments. These books show the honorary names that the regiment had, where their home depot was located, and most importantly, any engagements, skirmishes, or battles in which the unit participated. Wars and battles are documented to the extent of the day-by-day activities of individual regiments. Many of these regimental histories can now be found on Google Books and can be downloaded as a pdf file. A list of regimental history books can be found at:
Remembrance of Service CertificatesCertificates were often given out to soldiers in honor of their military service. Each regiment had one with an image of the type of soldier in that particular unit. The face in the image of the soldier was often blank so that a man could place his own portrait into the certificate. The portraits of the Emperor, the Arch Duke and the regimental inhaber were usually at the top of the certificate. Here are some examples of these certificates:
(Thanks to Phil Rapp for providing the Hussar Certificate)
Records for World War IAlthough World War I personnel records for many regions of the Empire have been lost, information about soldiers who fought in this war can be obtained from several sources.
The National Library of the Czech Republic has begun to digitize many of the records in their library and put them on line including casualty reports from WWI. There are two types of these records that provide information about a soldier. Here is an example of the records for a wounded soldier taken from the periodical Nachrichten über Verwundete und Kranke ausgegeben am 28/12.1914 (News of wounded and sick issued on December 28, 1914 ).
Janos Kotlarcsik, Infantry, k.u. Line Infantry Regiment No. 16, Maschine-gewehrabteilung 3 (machine gun section), (born in) Gicze, Rozsnysi, Samb, in 1887, shot in the chest, recuperating in Reichenberg (Hospital in Bohemia). Note that IR16 was a Landwehr Regiment (k.u.) called the Royal Hungarian Army and not the joint Austro-Hungarian k.u.k Army.
The second type of army records published by the Czech Library are the lists of soldiers killed or captured. Here is an example of the records for a captured soldier from the Verlustliste ausgegeben am 1.7.1915 (Casualty list issued on July 7, 1915).
Both of these types of records can be found by using a name search at the Czech web site:
Searches can be done by the name of a soldier, by the name of a town or combinations of both which is useful in locating someone with a common surname.
Since most regimental histories were written in the 1800s, they don’t contain information about WWI. However, the “Orders of Battle” can be used to locate the activities of a specific regiment. The Orders of Battle for several WWI fronts can be found at:
Once you have determined a soldiers regiment and where this regiment served in WWI, you can find many books detailing the various actions of the armies during the war.
WWI Death Registers
Beyond the casualty reports for WWI soldiers, there are more detailed registers for the soldiers that were killed. The following examples came from the Military History Archive (Vojenský Historický ústav) in Bratislava for Slovak soldiers. The first example is in German while the second is in Slovak but both contain the same information. I assume other military archives from the former regions of the empire also have these types of documents but I have not verified this. The examples are courtesy of Zuzanna Peer.
Headings used in the WWI Death Registers:
1. regiment or corps
2. day, month, year, location, district and country of death
3. company or squadron
5. name of deceased (for women or widows also name of husband, also name of father, for children also
name of father)
6. birth place, district and county
10. single, married or widowed
12. whether their is a survivor's pension
13. disease or cause of death according to visual examination, list of names, or a death certificate
14. where and when (was the) burial
15. name of priest issuing a death or burial record
16. number and page of external documentation
If you are lucky enough to find your ancestor’s military records, you should be able to learn quite a lot about what he actually did while in the Army. You can start by learning how he was dressed. To learn what the uniforms of the Austrian Army looked like, I recommend two books by Darko Pavlovic. These books have beautiful illustrations of the uniforms of the various types of soldiers and units. They are part of the Men-At-Arms Series by Osprey Publishing and are entitled The Austrian Army 1836-66 (1) Infantry [xx] and The Austrian Army 1836-66 (2) Cavalry[xxi]. Additional illustrations of men in their uniforms can be found at the Das Österreichische Herr website[xxii].
Military Archive Addresses
My personal experience has been that the archives will respond to individual inquiries of a general nature. However, there are charges for more specific questions requiring research on the archive’s part. The archives explain their fee structure in their initial response before they do any research. Answers to questions are typically in the native language and not English. If you don’t speak the language, Google Translate can be used to help understand the responses.
Addresses of the relevant military archives for Austro-Hungarian Army records:
Vojenský historický archív
Univerzitné nám. 2
917 01 Trnava, Slovak RepublicPrague:
Vojenský ústřední archiv Praha
186 00 Praha 8, Czech RepublicBudapest:
Kapisztrán tér 2-4, Hungary
The following tables were extracted from the charts: Uebersicht der Werb-(Ergänzungs-) Bezirks - Eintheilung von 1781 bis 1889 found in Alphons Wrede's book: Geschicht des K. und K. Wehrmacht Vol. 1.
Appendix C (many thanks to Paul Ptacek for providing the German/Czech versions of place names)
|Timeline of Austrian Wars and Campaigns between 1740 and 1918|
|1740-1748||War of Austrian Succession – Austria against France,|
|Prussia, Spain and Bavaria|
|1756-1763||Seven Years War – A global war involving most of the|
|major European powers and their colonies worldwide.|
|Austria, aligned with Russia, France and Silesia,|
|fought against Prussia for control of Silesia.|
|1778-1779||War of Bavarian Succession – Austria fought Prussia|
|and Saxony for control of the Duchy of Bavaria.|
|1792-1802||French Revolutionary Wars - European monarchies|
|attempt to contain Revolutionary France.|
|1792-1797||War of the 1st Coalition – Austria, Great Britain and|
|Prussia fight against French expansionism.|
|1798-1802||War of the 2nd Coalition – Austria, Great Britain and|
|Russia again fight against French expansionism|
|1803-1815||Napoleonic Wars – European monarchies attempt to|
|contain Napoleon for control of Europe.|
|1805||War of the 3rd Coalition – Austria, Great Britain,|
|Russia and Sweden fight Napoleon’s France.|
|(Note that although this war had started in 1803,|
|Austria only participated in it in 1805.)|
|1809||War of the 5th Coalition – Austria and Great Britain|
|against France and Bavaria.|
|(Note that Austria did not participate in the War of|
|the 4th Coalition.)|
|1809||Tyrolean Rebellion – Austria aids a peasant rebellion|
|in the Tyrol region against Bavaria, France and Italian|
|1813-1814||War of the 6th Coalition – Austria, Prussia, Great Britain,|
|Russia, Portugal, Sweden, Spain and various German|
|states defeat France and exile Napoleon to Elba.|
|1815||War of the 7th Coalition – Austria, Great Britain, Prussia|
|and Russia battle against France after Napoleon returns|
|from Elba. Napoleon was finally defeated at Waterloo|
|and sent to St. Helena where he died.|
|1815||Neapolitan War – Austria battles Italian nationalists led|
|by Joachim Murat who was quickly defeated.|
|1820-1821||The Two Sicilies Revolt – Austria puts down an|
|insurrection in Italy led by the revolutionary group called the|
|Carbonari (charcoal-burners). One of numerous rebellions|
|for Italian unification.|
|1821||The Sardinian Revolt – Austria puts down another revolt|
|in the Piedmont region of Northern Italy.|
|The Carbonari were again fighting for Italian independence.|
|1848-1849||Revolutions of 1848 – The Austrian Hapsburgs battle|
|insurgency throughout the Empire including revolts in|
|Vienna, Bohemia, Italy and Hungary.|
|1848-1849||Hungarian War of Independence – Hungary declares|
|its independence from Austria, which is short lived after|
|it is retaken by Austria with the aid of Russia.|
|1848-1849||First Italian War of Independence – The Lombardy|
|and Venetian regions join with the Piedmont region of|
|Northern Italy and fight for their independence but are|
|defeated by the Austrians.|
|1848-1849||The Roman Republic War – Insurgents led by Garibaldi|
|and Mazzini assassinate the Prime Minister of Rome|
|and cause Pope Pius to flee. A Roman Republic is|
|proclaimed but the Pope is reinstated when Austria and|
|1854-1857||Crimean War – Austria forms an alliance with Prussia|
|and amasses an army in Galicia and Transylvania|
|threatening Russia who then withdraws from Walachia|
|and Moldavia. These regions are then occupied by|
|Austria until 1857.|
|1859||Second Italian War of Independence – Austria fights a|
|war against a Franco-Piedmontese army but is defeated|
|resulting in the loss of the Lombardy Region.|
|1864||Danish War (The Second Schleswig War) – Austria joins|
|Prussia in a war against Denmark resulting in their|
|taking control of Schleswig and Holstein.|
|1866||The Seven Weeks War – Austria, along with Bavaria,|
|Saxony and Hanover are provoked into a major war|
|with Prussia who was seeking control of the German|
|Confederation of States. Prussia ultimately wins and|
|replaces Austria as the most powerful German country.|
|Austria is excluded from the greater unification of|
|Germany by Bismark and never regains its previous level|
|of power in Europe. Italy joined Prussia in this war|
|and although the Austrians defeated the Italians, Prussia|
|made Austria give up all their territories in Italy at the|
|end of the war.|
|1878-1882||Insurgency in Bosnia – Austria defeats Bosnian|
|independence forces, occupies Bosnia and|
|Hercegovina and annexes them in 1908.|
|1914-1918||World War I|
Appendix J A problem with the FHL catalog index of grundbuchblätter records
I have recently been made aware that there is a serious problem with the Family History Library catalog index of grundbuchblätter records. As mentioned previously, the index does not provide very useful information about what is covered on a given film. But it now appears that in many cases, the discharge years that are indicated for a group of films are incorrect. grundbuchblätter records were kept by Austria for all regions of the empire for the years 1820-1869. Men were usually conscripted between the ages of 20-23. So most enlisted men being discharged in a given year had approximately the same birth year.
In going through the list of infantry grundbuchblätter records, one finds that some regimental films are listed as covering the years of 1820-1869. But many regiments are listed as covering fewer years. I have always assumed that some records must have been lost and are not available. However, many films just appear to be mislabeled in terms of the actual years covered.
The following example illustrates this problem. The listing comes from the grundbuchblätter records for the Österreich. Armee, Infanterie Regiment 060. The FHL catalog indicates only the years 1841-1860 are covered for the enlisted men. But this appears to be in error. The catalog listing for film 1393626 indicates that it covers the years of 1841-1850 for the Abgang 3. Klasse (discharge years of the enlisted men) in IR60. One would expect to find that enlisted men being discharged in the 1840s would have birth years in the 1820s. But here is what is actually on that film.
Film 1393626 Abgang 1841-1850
Birth lower year end
Birth year of most soldiers
Item 5, 6
1800 - 1801
1800 - 1801
(Many thanks to Heidi Sugden, Intl. Research Specialist at the FHL, for providing this data.)
As you can see, the birth years of these soldiers are not consistent with men being discharged in the 1840s (except in item 1). The remainder of the film items appear to be more consistent with men who would have been discharged in the 1820s.
I have also found that some films that indicate that they only go to 1860 actually go to around 1869. So, it is extremely difficult to figure out which film to order for many of the regiments.
I have alerted the LDS to this problem but given the large number of films in this collection, correcting it would be a major effort. I’m sorry to say that I have no suggestions on how to identify which film to order for a given regiment that would cover the birth year of a specific individual beyond just guessing. It is very unfortunate that when the films were created that the birth year range for each film wasn't recorded.
I now recognize that I was very fortunate to find my great-grandfather’s records. He was in IR34 during the time of the Seven Weeks War in 1866. The FHL catalog indicates that only the years of 1841-1860 are covered in the films of the grundbuchblätter for this regiment. But there were so many films listed for the years of 1857-1860 that I took a chance that they also covered most of the 1860s. So I rented two of the films towards the end of that series and found him. I was definitely lucky.
I’d be interested in the experiences of others who have searched the grundbuchblätter films. Please email me at email@example.com with your comments.
[i] Gascoigne, Bamber. HistoryWorld. From 2001, ongoing. http://www.historyworld.net/
[ii] C.A Macartney, Hungary – A Short History, http://www.hungarian-history.hu/lib/macartney/index.htm
[iii] Glen Jewison & Jörg C. Steiner, Austro-Hungarian Land Forces, http://www.austro-hungarian-army.co.uk/index.htm
[iv] Karen Hobbs, Austrian Military Records, in an article prepared for the Czech Genealogical Society.
[v] Henry Montague Hozier, The Seven Weeks War (London, England: Macmillan and Co. 1867) p.130-131.
[vi] Hungarian Military Districts in 1850, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hungary1850.png, released into the public domain by the copyright holder “Panonian”.
[vii] Karen Hobbs, Austrian Military Records.
[viii] Alphons Wrede, Geschicht des K. und K. Wehrmacht volume 1, (Vienna, L.W. Seidel & Son, 1898)p.114.
[ix] Garnison-Karte von Österreich 1898, http://www.kuk-wehrmacht.de/regiment/img/oegarnkart1898.jpg
[x] Steven W. Blodgett, A Beginners Guide to Austrian Research, FEEFHS Journal, V10, p.54-55.
[xi] Christoph Tepperberg, SOURCES FOR GENEALOGICAL RESEARCH AT THE AUSTRIAN WAR ARCHIVES IN VIENNA (KRIEGSARCHIV WIEN), http://www.austria.gv.at/DocView.axd?CobId=25264
[xii] Military Records (Czech), http://www.czechfamilytree.com/military.htm
[xiii] Austrian Military Recruitment within Galicia, http://www.polishroots.com/Resources/austrian_recruit/tabid/204/Default.aspx
[xiv] Steven W. Blodgett, An Introduction to Austrian Military Records, FEEFHS Journal, V9, p. 80-82.
[xv] Otto Kasperkowitz, Dislokations-Verzeichnis des k.u.k. Heeres und der k.u.k. Marine, 1649-1914, (Vienna, 1969).
[xvi] Andras Kotlarcsik military record from Grundbuchblätter of Infantry Regiment 34, Kriegs Archive,Vienna, LDS Family History Library film # 136026.
[xvii] Militar-Schematismus records for HR6, Kriegs Archive,Vienna, LDS Family History Library film #1690914.
[xviii] Militar-Schematismus record from IR19 for Andras Kotlartsik in 1804, Kriegs Archive,Vienna, LDS Family History Library film # 1268631.
[xix] David Hollins, Hungarian Hussar 1756-1815, (United Kingdom: Osprey Publishing Ltd.) p55.
[xx] Darko Pavlovic, The Austrian Army 1836-66 (1) Infantry, (United Kingdom: Osprey Publishing Ltd.)
[xxi] Darko Pavlovic, The Austrian Army 1836-66 (2) Cavalry, (United Kingdom: Osprey Publishing Ltd.) 1999.
[xxii]Das Österreichische Herr, http://www.kuk-wehrmacht.de/regiment/.
© 2011 Carl Kotlarchik
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