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Genealogy Guide: Romania and Moldova: Introduction

Brief History

Like most European countries, Romania’s borders have changed considerably over time. Starting in the late 15th century, the Ottoman Empire ruled the Romanian provinces of Moldavia, Walachia, and Dobruja, while Austria and Hungary controlled Banat, Bihor, Maramures, Satu Mare, and Transylvania. Austria took over Bukovina (northwestern Moldavia) in 1774, and Russia obtained Bessarabia (eastern Moldavia) in 1812. An unsuccessful Balkan revolt against the Turks ultimately led to Russian occupation of Walachia and Moldavia from 1829-34. The two principalities merged in 1859 to form Romania (also spelled Rumania or Roumania at various times), which remained subservient to the Ottomans until full independence was achieved in 1878. The province of Dobruja was also added at that time.

After World War I Romania regained control over the territories of Banat, Bessarabia, Bihor, Bukovina, Maramures, Satu Mare, and Transylvania at the expense of Austro-Hungary and Russia. During the Holocaust period, Romania temporarily gave up northern Transylvania (including northern Bihor, Maramures, and Satu Mare) to Hungary, and permanently lost northern Bukovina and Bessarabia (now the Republic of Moldova) to the Soviet Union.

Jews were present in the region under the Roman Empire, but subsequent invasions and wars severely disrupted their existence. The Jewish population increased significantly after 1800, primarily due to immigration (first from the Balkans and later in the mid-19th century from the Russian Empire and Kingdom of Galicia).

Finding Your Ancestral Town

To make the best use of this guide, you should first follow the general guidelines in our fact sheet on starting your family history research, and if necessary, use our fact sheets on immigration, naturalization, census, and vital recordsto identify your ancestral town (vital records might be written in Romanian, Hungarian, Hebrew, German, Russian and other languages depending on the location and time period). If you determine that your town is within modern-day Romania, you will also need to find out the name of the county (judet) in which it is located. If your town was in Austro-Hungary before 1920 (i.e., if the town islocated in Banat, Bihor, Maramures, Satu Mare, or Transylvania), you should also consult our fact sheet on Hungary.

Formerly published by the Special Interest Group for Romanian Jewish Genealogy (see, this newsletter contains anecdotes, short memoirs, members' personal experiences with travel to Romania and working with various archives and professional researchers, occasional family photos, documents, and recipes, scholarly articles, and excerpts from Yizkor books and other publications (census lists, business directories, etc.). Genealogy Institute   CS 1047 .J4 R66


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