20 August 2006

At the ICJG: Browsing Budapest

In his debut appearance this year at the ICJG, Andras Koltai of Budapest offered a spotlight on that city's resources in his "Hidden Treasures in the Libraries of Budapest." If your roots are in Hungary, there may be interesting information for you in these archives.

The Theological Seminary Library (University of Jewish Studies), located in Pest, holds a vast collection of Jewish and Hebrew material. It is regional in scope, and also includes some Slovak and Romanian items.

In 1926, local clerk Samu Salamon (in the Hungarian custom, the family name is always listed first) was responsible for preserving various important items, such as the census, as well as donors to the building of the synagogue. There is even a complete list of those who worked at the Jewish school from 1852-1926.

Dr. Bela Vajda compiled a list of residents in 1896, listing several generations of families from 1750-1876. An 1850 volume lists Jewish leaders of Levochka, while other lists show Jewish soldiers in the War of Independence (1848-9) published in Kosice (Kassa).

Other holdings include special announcements, association events, school reports (1848-1944) including students and teachers. An 1894 voume by Izrael Conegliano lists students by grade, residence and birthdate.

The Central Szabo Ervin Library has branches in all districts, with old tenant register books (1881-1928), recordings, phone books (1918-2004), maps -- even train tickets.

The phone books can help you find the proper registry office to track down records. For many a long time, it took up to 15 years for Hungarians to obtain a phone number, so if a person is missing from a phone book, it may only mean there was no phone.

On Castle Hill is the Szechenyi Library, the largest in Hungary. A copy of every publication was to be deposited there. Founded two centuries ago, its archives hold 8 million items, including the earliest known Hungarian text from the early 1100s.

According to Koltai, its large collection of unique Jewish papers and journals, includes the Hungarian Jewish Woman, the newspaper of the Jewish soldiers, the Hungarian Jewish Review, as well as Jewish calendars, school bulletins and others, with the earliest from the 1880s.

For more information, www.jewishroots.hu, or email mail@jewishroots.hu.

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