Noble families

Noble families

Bibliography of publications on noble families

Collections of genealogy

Suggested sources for nobility researches


In Hungary, we distinguish the state founder nobility from the farther, medieval nobility. The first type was based on family origin and birth, while the other one depended on land donations. The number of the royal estates (which were potentially to be bestowed) first decreased, and then became entirely used up, the king donated noble rank (and regularly also coats of arms) by letters-patent as well. Nevertheless, having coats of arms did not necessarily mean nobility, because towns and associations (e.g. guilds) had their own coats of arms, too. On the other hand, in Transylvania, for historical and political reasons, every Szekler was regarded as nobleman, and therefore being liable to military service. Lands were endowed upon the king’s decision, or on individuals’ requests.

If the subject of the research is a noble family, it is always practical to begin with studying the relevant literature. The literature concerning nobility is exceptionally abundant and extensive. The most effective research can be done in major public libraries (e.g. the National Széchényi Library or the better supplied county libraries) or in minor but specialised libraries of museums and archives (e.g. the Library of the National Archives). Only after studying the secondary literature it is advisable to start research into the primary archival sources (see the enclosure). The great majority of researchers are satisfied with finding the family crest or "sheepskin" (patent of nobility) and the donatory (ancestor). Only very few take pains to deduce the line of descent between the two ends and to explore the age-long hiatus systematically. We remark that in Hungary nobiliary privileges were abrogated as early as the period following the 1948–1849 revolution and war of independence, however, the sovereign granted arms as late as 1918. The noble title, privileges and status were terminated on the basis of Article 1 of Act IV/1947: "On termination of certain positions and titles".

Bibliography of literature on noble families

We recommend the following fundamental, selected literature to researchers:

  • Adeliges Jahrbuch 1936-tól [Almanach of the nobility from 1936.] Ed. by Zoltán Barcsay-Amant. Lucerne, 1953–1984.
  • Antal Áldássy: A Magyar Nemztei Múzeum könyvtárának címereslevelei. I–VIII. [Letters patent stored by the library of the HungarianNationalMuseum. I–VIII.] Budapest, 1902–1942. (It publishes the letters patent, descriptions of blazons and emblems in chronological order.)
  • Magyar családtörténeti és címertani irodalom 1561–1944. [Literature of Hungarian genealogy and heraldry between 1561 and 1944.] Kálmán Baán’s selection was corrected and completed by László Kóczy T. and István Gazda. Budapest, 1984. (Categorized on the basis of counties, families and genealogical specialities.)
  • István Bakács and Mrs. László Dávid: Kisebb családi és személyi fondok (a Magyar Oszágos Levéltárban) I–III. [Smaller fonds of families and individuals (in the National Archives of Hungary) I–III.] Budapest, 1968–1971.
  • Iván Bertényi: Kis Magyar címertan. [A little Hungarian heraldry.] Budapest, 1983.
  • Samu Borovszky: Név- és tárgymutató a Turul 1883–1892. évfolyamához. [Name and subject indices to the volumes of the periodical Turul published between 1883 and 1892.] Budapest, 1893.
  • József Csoma: A Magyar nemzetiségi czímerek. [Hungarian blazons of nobility.] Budapest, 1904.
  • Nemesi évkönyvek 1–13. [Almanachs of nobility 1–13.] Ed. by Zoltán Daróczy. Budapest, 1923–1935.
  • Magyar Nemzetiségi Zsebkönyv. [Handbook of Hungarian nationality.] Vol. 1.: Főrangú családok. [Aristocratic families.] Ed. by László Fejérpataky. Budapest, 1888.
  • Antal Fekete Nagy: Név- és tárgymutató a Turul 1893–1936. évfolyamaihoz. [Name and subject indices to the volumes of the periodical Turul published between 1893 and 1936.] Budapest, 1901–1902.
  • Erik Fügedi: A XV. századi magyar arisztokrácia mobilitása. [The mobility of the Hungarian aristocracy in the 15th century.] Budapest, 1970.
  • Genealógiai füzetek. Családtörténeti folyóirat czímerekkel és leszármazási táblákkal. [Genealogical pamphlets. A genealogical periodical including blazons and illustrations of descent.] Ed. by Imre Sándor and József Sebestyén. Vol. I–XII: Cluj, 1908–1914. (Primarily, it deals with the history of Transylvanian families illustrating the articles with genealogical tables, censuses and registers. Every pamphlet is supplied with a detailed index.)
  • József Gerő: A királyi könyvek. 1867–1918. [The royal books. 1867–1918.] Budapest, 1940.
  • József Gerő: A m. kir. belügyminiszter által igazolt nemesek 1867–1937. [Noblemen certified by the Minister of the Interior of the Kingdom of Hungary between 1867 and 1937.] Budapest, 1938.
  • Gothaisches genealogisches Taschenbuch der adeligen Häuser. Alter Adel und Briefadel.
  • Gothaisches Taschenbuch der Freiherrlicher Häuser.
  • Gothaisches Taschenbuch der Gräflichen Häuser. (The almanacs of the families of nobles, barons and counts have been released in Gotha approximately since 1770, and they contain several Hungary-related genealogical data.)
  • István Horváth: Magyarország gyökeres régi nemzetségeiről. [The ancient Hungarian clans.] Pest, 1820.
  • Sándor Horváth: A m. kir. országos levéltárnak az 1886–1907. években bemutatott czímeres nemeslevelek jegyzéke. [Catalogue of the armoried letters patent presented at the Hungarian Royal National Archives.] Budapest, 1908.
  • Sándor Horváth: A vármegyei levéltárak felülvizsgált czímeres nemesleveleinek jegyzéke. [Catalogue of the armoried letters patent supervised at the archives of the comitats.] Budapest, 1909.
  • Béla Illésy - János Pettkó: A királyi könyvek jegyzéke 1527–1867. [Inventory of the royal books, 1527–1867.] Budapest, 1895.
  • János Illésy: Az 1754–1755. évi országos nemesi összeírás. [The census of the nobles in 1754 and 1755.] Budapest, 1902.
  • János Karácsonyi: A magyar nemzetségek a XIV. század közepéig. 1–3. [Hungarian clans until the middle of the 14th century. 1–3.] Budapest, 1900–1904.
  • Miklós Kázmér: Régi magyar családnevek szótára XIV–XVII. század. [Lexicon of old Hungarian family names, 14–16th centuries.] Budapest, 1993. (It is a historical and genealogical lexicon consisting of more than 9800 family names, not only of the nobles, with numerous references.)
  • Béla Kempelen: Magyar nemes családok, I–XI. [Hungarian noble families, I–XI.] Budapest, 1911–1932. (It studies the history of approximately 40 000 noble families and contains several references.)
  • Béla Kempelen: Magyar nemesi almanach. Az 1867–1909. magyar nemességre, bárói, grófi és herczegi méltóságra emelt családok. [Almanac of Hungarian nobles. Hungarian families raised to nobles, barons, counts and princes between 1867 and 1909.] Budapest, 1910.
  • Béla Kempelen: Magyar nemesi családkönyv. [Family album of the Hungarian nobility.] Budapest, 1927.
  • Béla Kempelen: Családkönyv I. Nemes családok. [FamilyalbumI. Noble families.] Budapest, 1940.
  • Magyar főrangú családok. [Hungarian aristocratic families.] Ed. by Béla Kempelen. Budapest, 1931.
  • Béla Kempelen: Útmutató az összes nemességi ügyekben. Genealógiai és heraldikai kézikönyv. [Guide for all the affairs of nobility. A genealogical and heraldic handbook.] Budapest, 1907.
  • Domokos Kosáry: Bevezetés Magyarország történetének forrásaiba és irodalmába. [An introduction to the sources and literatury of Hungarian history.] Budapest, 1970. 607–771. pp. 9. Családi levéltárak és iratkiadások. [Family archives and record loans.]
  • László Kővári: Erdély nevezetesebb családai. [Famous Transylvanian families.] Cluj, 1854.
  • Iván Nagy: Családtörténeti értesítő czímerekkel és leszármazási táblákkal. I–III. évf. [Genealogical bulletin with blazons and illustrations of descent. Vol. I–III.] Budapest, 1899–1901.
  • Iván Nagy: Magyarország családai czímerekkel és nemzedékrendi táblákkal, I–XII. [Blazons and genealogical illustrations of Hungarian families, I–XII.] Pest, 1857–1868. (It analyses the history and genealogy of approximately 10–12 000 noble families and provides several genealogical illustrations and blazons.)
  • Éva Nyulászi-Straub: A Magyar Országos Levéltárban őrzött eredeti czímereslevelek jegyzéke. [The inventory of the original letters patent preserved at the National Archives of Hungary.] Budapest, 1981. (It publishes the description of more than 1600 letters patent.)
  • Imre Ölyvedi Vad: Nemességi könyv. [The book of nobility.] Szeged, 1910. (It concerns the fundamental aspects and ideas of nobility.)
  • Mrs. Gábor Pap: Kisebb családi és személyi fondok. V. [Smaller fonds of families and individuals. V.] Budapest, 1981.
  • Mrs. Lajos Pataky: Családnévmutató a MOL-ban őrzött családi levéltárak és gyűjtemények irataihoz (1526–1945). [An index of families to the archives and collections of families stored in the National Archives of Hungary (1526–1945).] Budapest, 1981.
  • Magyar Nemzetségi Zsebkönyv. Második rész: Nemes családok. [Handbook of Hungarian nobility. Vol. II.: Noble families.] Ed. by Béla Pettkó–Ede Reiszig. Budapest, 1905.
  • Siebmacher: Das grosses und allgemeines Wappenbuch. (It consists of more than 70 volumes analysing the most significant noble families of the German-speaking districts of Central and Western Europe.) A few volumes of the serial:
    • Die Wappenbuch des Adels in Ungarn I–V. Bd. Nuremberg, 1885–1894.
    • Der Adel von Siebenbürgen. Nuremberg, 1898.
    • Der Adel von Kroatien und Slavonien. Nuremberg, 1899.
    • Hanns Jäger Sunstenau: General Index zu dem Siebmacher’schen Wappenbüchern 1605–1961. (A general index to the armorial Siebmacher, 1605–1961.) Graz, 1964.
  • Tagányi Károly jegyzéke a Magyar Országos Levéltárban a magyar és erdélyi udvari kancellária fölállításáig található herczegi, grófi, bárói, honossági és nemességi okleveleknek. (Károly Tagányi’s inventory of the charters of princes, counts, barons, nobles and the records of nationality created before establishing the Hungarian and Transylvanian court chancelleries, and preserved at the National Archives of Hungary.) Budapest, National Archives of Hungary, 1886.
  • Károly Tagányi–Béla Pettkó: Pótlék Tagányi Károly nemesi jegyzékéhez. [Additional material to Károly Tagányi’s inventory of nobility.] Budapest, 1888. (Appendix to the the volume VI. of the periodical Turul.)

If the researcher knows where the noble family in question lived or in which county they had estates, then he/she is recommended to look for publications dealing with noble families of the related county. We suggest using the above-mentioned book: Béla Kempelen: Magyar nemesi családok [Hungarian noble families. Vol. I.]. For lack of such publication, the following serial, edited by Samu Borovszky, shows whether a monograph of a related county has been released: Magyarország vármegyéi és városai [Hungarian comitats and towns]. (Not all the counties were included out of the 63, only the undermentioned ones: Abaúj-Torna, Bács-Bodrog, Bars, Bihar, Esztergom, Fiume and the Hungarian–Croatian coastline, Gömör-Kishont, Heves, Hont, Komárom, Nógrád, Nyitra, Pest-Pilis-Solt-Kiskun, Pozsony, Somogy, Szabolcs, Szatmár, Temes, Torontál, Vas and Zemplén.) Each monograph contains a chapter describing briefly the history of noble families of the concerned counties. The following work summarizes the bibliographical data of publications studying the history of counties, the monographs of comitats and reference books: Antal Bodor–István Gazda: Magyarország honismereti irodalma 1527–1944. [Hungarian historical literature between 1527 and 1944.] Budapest, 1944. (Reprinted: Budapest, 1984.) Appendices: pp. 457–482. If the researcher finds in these publications references about the families in which he/she is interested, it provides a solid base for his/her further researches.

Footnotes may also supply us with significant information about the location of the archives, records, letters patent and seals of the families. Sometimes they even inform us about further literature or source materials.

Collections of genealogy

The Genealogical Index Card Collection, which was collected by János Illéssy, can be found at the National Archives of Hungary under the reference number A 131. Illéssy aimed to prove the existence of the nobility, and therefore he indicated the reference numbers of records (forming almost one hundred fonds and sub-fonds of the National Archives of Hungary) referring to the related families. Earlier parts of his collection contain even references to special literature (e.g Turul – periodical of heraldry and genealogy, and Századok – essays on genealogy). These references were usually not indicated on the cards by those who later completed Illéssy’s collection. In the 1990’s the index card collection was transcribed electronically in order to advance accessibility. Since 1997 it is available also on CD-ROM.

The genealogist Károly Pataky’s manuscript is kept in the National Archives of Hungary as well. It contains mostly the genealogical data of Transylvanian noble families, but partly, Hungarian families are indicated too. Family names are listed in alphabetical order. Bibliographical data and reference numbers are provided as well. (Reference number: R 272 – Microfilm collection: boxes B 1583–B 1585)

The so called Peláthy collection consists of those records which were created in the 16–20th centuries and contain significant information in connection with genealogy researches on noble families. The documents are listed in alphabetical order. (Reference number: R 272 – Microfilm collection: boxes B 1534– B 1563)

The Daróczy collection belongs to this genealogical record group as well. It can be regarded as one of the most complete genealogy collections. (Microfilm collection: boxes 40593–40684. The original manuscripts are preserved in the Ráday Archives. 1092 Budapest, Ráday str. 28.)

Unfortunately, a significant amount of the records, to which the Illéssy cards and Pataky manuscript refer, were destroyed by the fires of 1945 (approximately 3000 linear metres) and 1956 (8765 linear metres of documents of the Transylvanian Court of Appeal, courts, judicial bodies, the Ministry of Religion and Public Education, and several family archives etc.). The remained records are available in the research room of the central building of the Archives, while the genealogical microfilm collection can be examined in the research room of the Department of Reprography in Óbuda. (For more details, see the Appendix.)

In case the genealogy collections refer to other archives (museums, libraries, public collections), and the National Archives of Hungary does not store microfilm copies of the concerned documents, then the researcher is required to contact personally or by mail with the related institution. Frequently, researchers have to face with the fact that the institution preserving the sources is abroad, the indicated reference numbers are not valid, and the archives was rearranged or destroyed etc.

Suggested sources for nobility researches

Apart from the mentioned genealogy collections, studying the following fonds and sub-fonds can be useful as well:

  • Acta nobilium (Records of comprising nobiliary matters issued during the reign of Charles III and Maria Theresa) 1723–1784. (Reference number: C 30 – Microfilm collection: boxes B 1089–B 1120, and
    box 9384
    .) Charles III and his daughter Maria Therese ordered overall supervision of nobiliary issues in order to redress abuses.
  • Within the Locotenential Council, in 1783 two separate departments were established to verify contested nobility certifications:
  • Departamentum nobilitare 1783–1848. (C 57) (Microfilm collection: boxes B 968–B 1089)
  • County nobiliary records (and county assembly protocols). The documents contain information about declaration of nobility, land grants and certain promotions. We advise to search in the protocols of the county in which the granting or declaration happened. See the Appendix.
  • Genealogical tables, 13–19th  centuries (National Archives of Hungary, Section P) (Microfilm collection: boxes B 1431–B 1470). This contains the genealogical trees of the landed gentry.
  • Genealogical tables, 16–19th  centuries (Archives of the National Government Authorities of Transylvania, the National Archives of the Chapter of Gyulafehérvár) (Reference number: F 6 – Microfilm collection: boxes B 1470–B 1471.)
  • Genealogical tables, 14–19th  centuries (Judicial Archives). (Reference number: O 59 – Microfilm collection: boxes B 1471–B 1473.) For the most part, this includes selected and copied genealogical tables and alphabetic indices of the sub-fonds Processus tabulares (Reference number: O 18) and Acta post Advocates (Reference number: O 69). The sub-fond O 58 contains genealogical tables as well, but they have not been microfilmed so far, therefore they are available in their original forms.

More about civic families