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Parish registers of civil status in Transylvania in the second half of the nineteenth century. Documentary signification

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  • Brie, Mircea

Abstract

The parish registers of civil status, although the main sources of documentation for historical demography, are used with significant results by the other sciences such as history, ethnography, sociology, anthropology, linguistics, etc.. The perspectives of approaching the rural community and family have expanded considerably using these sources of ecclesiastical origin documentaries. The first researchers who refer to a systematic methodology that uses the parish registers of civil status as documentary sources for the completion of demographic data suggest the use of other sources, hitherto unused for this purpose. They will apply a new method, a modern innovation, the stripping and analysis of parish registers of civil status within the meaning of the reconstruction of demographic events (birth, marriage, death). The family reconstitution method, by analyzing the parish registers of civil status proposed by L. Henry and M. Fleury, has revolutionized the field of study dealing with people. Louis Henry believes that the parish registers of civil status is the ultimate source of information for the pre-state period and this is precisely the reason for which he proposes restoring the family’s biological life. Church registers are only able to give us an insight into the family in rural areas, at least for the second half of the XIX century. Church documents, the fundamental sources for researching family life, are of two categories: 1. civil status registers and annual reports of the parishes, 2. Church authorities funds, documents and minutes recorded by the bishops. These documents are complex sources for the researcher interested in historical demography, social history, and the economic history of toponymy, birthdays, etc. Processing the data contained in these records requires a specific methodology. They allow us to observe trends that have occurred on the long-term demographic events such as: birth, marriage or death. These records are presented for a long time as their only source of documentation regarding civil status and demographic events in the life of most people. Researching these records can unveil important features of natural population movement, the phenomenon of birth, of marriage, the divorce or death. Then, an analysis of form and content of these registers can capture the cultural universe of the priests who fill these records. These Church documents proved to be important, especially where other documentary sources (mainly those in the category of records made by the state) have proved insufficient, incomplete and unclear. The parish registers of civil status in this case are suitable for both a qualitative analysis, and a quantitative one at the level of local communities. Beyond their usefulness and significance of documentary source, these documents should be regarded as being subjective because they were managed by priests (every priest is then an exponent to promote demographic and confessional "realities" and such realities were viewed from the perspective of his own religious convictions). The parish registers, however, prove to be the only documents that allow us to penetrate the privacy of individuals in each community. A documentary is also undeniably a good dowry that researchers should promote and use in their research not only locally but also to verify and demonstrate certain behaviours and overall trends.

Suggested Citation

  • Brie, Mircea, 2010. "Parish registers of civil status in Transylvania in the second half of the nineteenth century. Documentary signification," MPRA Paper 44140, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 2011.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:44140
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Parish registers; Transylvania; family; ethnicity; confession; community;

    JEL classification:

    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
    • Z1 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics
    • N3 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy
    • J11 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Demographic Trends, Macroeconomic Effects, and Forecasts

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