Galician military records

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The point of this brief post is to inspire and frustrate. Mostly inspire.

I have been working on a few research cases lately where the clients’ ancestors were from the historical region of Galicia – part of the Austrian Empire until the end of World War I, but today divided between the modern states of Poland and Ukraine. Research in Galicia, like so many European genealogical research areas, relies heavily on surviving vital and church records to document families. Sources are often difficult to locate, as the region switched hands often in the last 250 years or so. Regional archives in Poland, Ukraine, or Austria might hold collections that include your specific town, city, or village of focus.

Military records from Galicia (1865-1918) are today held by the Central State Historical Archives in Lviv, Ukraine. Starting in 1868, the Austrian Empire mandated that all able-bodied men serve in the military for a period of three years. As a result, the collection is massive. The records are loosely organized by the birth year and first letter of the surname. Digitized images of the records are available through the online catalog at FamilySearch.org, comprising 247 microfilm reels.[1]

Sample personnel card for Johann Antonyczyn of Olchowczyk, Galicia. Click on image to expand it.

The average personnel record found in the collection includes the name of the individual, where he was born, and a brief summary of his service and rank. Occasionally, the record will also include the names of the parents. Jumping around in the collection, the records are most often written in German and Polish, but with some Ukrainian records also included. In addition to records from Galicia, I have also found several records for individuals born in the region of Bukovina, a territory today divided between Ukraine and Romania.

The Austrian military was not segregated by religious group, so these records hold information for Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish men from Galicia. With many of the records of Galician Jewish communities no longer extant, military records have the potential to provide much-needed context and biographical detail. The catch, however, is that beyond their loose organization by surname, there is no unified index for the records. Locating a specific ancestor’s military record would be akin to finding the proverbial needle in a haystack.

In scouring the web, I have found very little written about this collection and nothing to suggest it is being lined up for a large-scale transcription project. What a help if it were…

Note

[1] “Military records, 1865-1930” Vienna (Austria). United Military Registration Office. FamilySearch. Records for letter “A” begin on microfilm FHL 2439871 with Item 1.

James Heffernan

About James Heffernan

James earned his BA in history at Boston College. Before joining the NEHGS team, he worked in the conservation department of the John J. Burns Library at Boston College and the research library at Plimoth Plantation. Propelled by his interests in genealogy and history, James spent a semester abroad at Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland. In addition to Slavic history, he is very interested in the history of Colonial America and 19th century Massachusetts.

9 thoughts on “Galician military records

  1. Thanks James. It looks like there is hope, but after an hour of stumbling around I don’t think I’ll find anything unless they are indexed someday. So glad they were microfilmed though.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Robert. Yes, hopefully getting the word out will drum up some interest!

  2. Thank you James for this article. A few years ago, I had researched this set in hopes of finding documents on my great-grandfather’s service in the Austrian Army. I started a spreadsheet in order to organize the microfilms by first letter of surname and year of birth, and got a few colleagues to help but it’s a daunting task and uncompleted. Anyone can add to this spreadsheet. See here https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1MjdAikxEezy2ss-DnRNp1lPKm38vE5yDiy9N7cEjuAQ/edit?usp=sharing

    1. Thank you for your comment, Alex! I’ve been working on a spreadsheet as well in my free time. Have sent an email to you through the Rohatyn District Research Group.

      1. Thank you for your article, James. Have you or any of the others checked with Gesher Galicia to see if they have either done any work on this military record treasure trove or have plans to tackle it in the future?
        They’re conducting ongoing indexing of Galician documents.
        Nancy

        1. Thank you for your comment, Nancy! Just this week I noticed a new group organized under the name Projekt Wojak has begun to index the record set. Contact information can be found through their Facebook page.

    1. Hi Ann! Navigate to the FamilySearch catalog and search for the film number found in the Note section of the blog post (2439871).

  3. Years ago I attended a fantastic genealogy conference hosted by The Ukrainian Heritage and Education Center in New Brunswick, New Jersey. My maternal great-grandparents migrated to North-central Pennsylvania from Galicia in the early 20th century. https://www.ukrhec.org/ Highly recommend connecting with them.

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