The Historical Actors behind Parish Records: A Database for Studying the Ecclesiastical Frameworks of Modern Transylvania (1850-1918)

Ana Victoria Sima, Babes-Bolyai University
Ioan Marius Eppel, Babes-Bolyai University

While historical population databases can be regarded as the forerunners in terms of best practices and models for translating historical sources into data, recent East-Central and Southeast European historical demographic research has shown that parish records are host to a variety of issues that sometimes prove difficult to tackle exclusively within this digital framework. Incompleteness, fragmentation, or even careless recording practices often hamper procedures such as record linkage. In the case of modern Transylvania (1850-1918), these matters are further exacerbated by a plurality of source languages and by a lack of basic knowledge of the confessional infrastructures which underpinned the existence of these sources. This paper presents an attempt to build a wide-ranging relational database focused on rethreading the ecclesiastical structures present in Transylvania, starting from the lowest level, that of the parish. It focuses both on the material aspect – the location of parishes, their historical characteristics, income, etc. – and the historical, human aspect – the parish priests. Although it currently aims to decipher, standardize, and link only the middle clergy of the two Romanian Churches in the province (the Greek Catholic and the Orthodox), it was designed to allow for the integration of information drawn from the other confessional milieus in Transylvania as well. Through this database, analyses can shed light on a myriad of potential issues, concerning one of the most widespread and consistent social-professional categories in modern East-Central and Southeast Europe - the clergy -, and on the frameworks in which they operated. It will offer the means to track the geography of vacant parishes, the social and geographic mobility of priests, or the relation between the accuracy and completeness of parish registers and the staffing of parishes.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 76. Social and professional Trajectories as reflected in the new European databases