Bulgaria Church Records

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For information about records for non-Christian religions in Bulgaria, go to the Religious Records page.

Historical Background[edit | edit source]

Church records were recorded by church clergymen and include baptism, marriage, and burial registers. Bulgarian church records are primarily from the Bulgarian Orthodox and Roman Catholic religions. Most date back usually to the 1850s when the Bulgarian Church broke away from the Greek Orthodox. Some Catholic books date back to at least 1797.Church records in Bulgaria range from the 1700s to the present, although most date back to the mid-1800s. They have a comprehensive coverage of the entire population.[1]

Accessing the Records[edit | edit source]

Administratively, Bulgaria is divided into twenty eight districts. Each has an archive where civil registration and some church records are preserved. A few parish registers have been gathered into state archives or the national museum. Many church records are located in the parish churches or monasteries. Some researchers have accessed the registers in these parishes, but access probably will vary depending on the disposition of the local clergy or the guidance of central church authorities. Some pre-1872 registers are in Greece because during this period the Bulgarian Orthodox Church was subordinate to the Patriarchate in Greece. Records are kept under various storage conditions and are subject to natural catastrophes and human neglect. There are no vital records in the National Historical Archive in Sofia. [1]

Information Recorded in the Records[edit | edit source]

Different denominations, different time periods, and practices of different record keepers will effect how much information can be found in the records. This outline will show the types of details which might be found (best case scenario):

Baptisms[edit | edit source]

In Catholic and Anglican records, children were usually baptized a few days after birth, and therefore, the baptism record proves date of birth. Other religions, such as Baptists, baptized at other points in the member's life. Baptism registers might give:

  • baptism date
  • the infant's name
  • parents' names
  • father's occupation
  • status of legitimacy
  • occasionally, names of grandparents
  • names of witnesses or godparents, who may be relatives
  • birth date and place
  • the family's place of residence
  • death information, as an added note or signified by a cross

Marriages[edit | edit source]

Marriage registers can give:

  • the marriage date
  • the names of the bride and groom
  • indicate whether the bride and groom were single or widowed
  • their ages
  • birth dates and places for the bride and groom
  • their residences
  • their occupations
  • birthplaces of the bride and groom
  • parents' names (after 1800)
  • the names of previous spouses and their death dates
  • names of witnesses, who might be relatives.

Burials[edit | edit source]

Burial registers may give:

  • the name of the deceased
  • the date and place of death or burial
  • the deceased's age
  • place of residence
  • cause of death
  • the names of survivors, especially a widow or widower
  • deceased's birth date and place
  • parents' names, or at least the father's name

How to Find Records[edit | edit source]

Digital Copies of Church Records in the FamilySearch Catalog[edit | edit source]

Watch for digitized copies of church records to be added to the collection of the FamilySearch Library. Some records might have viewing restrictions, and can only be viewed at a Family History Center near you, and/or by members of supporting organizations. To find records:

a. Click on the records of Bulgaria.
b. Click on Places within Bulgaria and a list of towns will appear.
c. Click on your town if it appears, or the location which you believe was the parish which served your town or village.
d. Click on the "Church records" topic. Click on the blue links to specific record titles.
e. Some combination of these icons will appear at the far right of the listing for the record. FHL icons.png. The magnifying glass indicates that the record is indexed. Clicking on the magnifying glass will take you to the index. Clicking on the camera will take you to an online digital copy of the records.

Writing for Records[edit | edit source]

You will probably need to write to or email the national archives, the diocese, or local parish priests to find records. See Letter Writing Guide for Genealogy for help with composing letters. Then, use a Bulgarian translation service.

Armenian Apostolic Christian Church Records[edit | edit source]

Writing for Records[edit | edit source]

Historical Background[edit | edit source]

The majority of the Armenians in Bulgaria are members of the Armenian Apostolic Church, which has an eparchy in the country based in Sofia. Most Armenian Apostolics live in Plovdiv, Sofia, Varna or Burgas.[2]

Catholic Church Records[edit | edit source]

Writing to a Local Parish[edit | edit source]

Earlier records can be held at the diocese, with more recent records still kept in the local parish. To locate the mailing address or e-mail address for a diocese or local parish, consult:

Historical Background[edit | edit source]

Catholicism has its roots in Bulgaria and the Middle Ages. It was spread among the Bulgarians by Bulgarised Saxon ore miners in northwestern Bulgaria (around Chiprovtsi) and by missionaries among the Paulician and Bogomil sectarians, as well as by Ragusan merchants in the larger cities. The total number of the Catholics in the country accounted for 0.8% of the population in 2011.

Today the bulk of the Catholic population of Bulgaria lives in Plovdiv Province, centred on Rakovski, as well as in some villages in northern Bulgaria. Besides Bulgarians, among the Catholics are also many foreigners.

The Bulgarian Greek Catholic Church, a Byzantine Rite church united with Rome, was formed in the 19th century as part of the Bulgarian church struggle in order to counter the influence of the Patriarch of Constantinople, and has some 10,000 members today. [3]

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Records[edit | edit source]

Online Records[edit | edit source]

Online information is available to current members, for deceased members and immediate family members who are still living. Sign in to FamilySearch and then select Family Tree in the drop-down menu.

Historical Background[edit | edit source]

Hungarian-born Mischa Markow was a prominent early missionary to the Balkans. While working in Constantinople, he met Argir Dimitrov, a Bulgarian who had begun learning about the Church. Markow invited Dimitrov to join him in proselyting in Romania. While there, Dimitrov was converted and was baptized by Markow in July 1899. Dimitrov was likely the first Bulgarian convert, and certainly the first Bulgarian missionary. Markow visited Bulgaria in the summer of 1900, where he registered with the police and received permission to preach. Several ministers allowed him to address their congregations. Soon he was challenged by a Protestant minister who paid for newspaper ads warning people not to attend Markow’s scheduled lectures. The result was overflow meetings and enthusiastic interest. A group of clergymen soon became alarmed at Markow’s popularity. They had him arrested on charges that he falsified his registration form by listing himself as a minister of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints rather than as a Mormon minister. Despite many appeals, Markow was banished from the country.

Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve (the second highest governing body of the Church) and Elder Hans B. Ringger of the Seventy (one of the highest governing bodies of the Church) visited Bulgarian leaders in October 1988 hoping for an opportunity to become established there. Their efforts did not meet with success because government policies did not allow the establishment of new religious groups. Elders Nelson and Ringger returned in February 1990 after the fall of the Communist regime and were cordially greeted by officials of the new government. In September 1990, six missionaries under direction of the Austria Vienna East Mission entered the country.

On July 1, 1991, the Bulgarian Sofia Mission was created. Also in July 1991, the Mladost and Sofia Central branches (small congregations) were created in Sofia. Nine days later, on 10 July 1991, the Church was formally recognized by the Bulgarian government. In 1993, pediatricians, ophthalmologists, audiologists and others working through the Europe Area Presidency and Church Humanitarian Services went to Bulgaria to help train doctors and nurses to improve health care of children. Rapid growth of Church membership in the capital city of Sofia necessitated created of six more branches between November 1991 and November 1992. Beginning in the mid 1990s, branches were begun in other Bulgarian cities including Burgas, Varna, Shumen, Ruse, Veliko Turnovo, Blagoevgrad and Dobrich. Total Church Membership: 2,440. Congregations: 7. [4]

Eastern Orthodox Church Records[edit | edit source]

Writing for Records[edit | edit source]

Historical Background[edit | edit source]

By far the dominant religion in Bulgaria is Eastern Orthodox Christianity, professed by the prevalent ethnic group, the Bulgarians, who are adherents of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. Approximately 60% of the Bulgarians belonged to the church as of 2011. Other Orthodox churches represented in the country by minorities are the Russian Orthodox Church, Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Romanian Orthodox Church and Greek Orthodox Church.

Christianity was established in the First Bulgarian Empire under Boris I in the middle of the 9th century, although it has had its roots in the Balkans since the 1st century and the mission of Apostle Paul. The rise of the Bulgarian Empire made the Bulgarian Orthodox Church autocephalous in 919, becoming the first new Patriarchate to join the initial Pentarchy. The Bulgarian Orthodox Church is the oldest among the Slavic Orthodox churches and has considerably influenced the rest of the Slavic Orthodox world by means of its rich literary and cultural activity in the Middle Ages, as well as by the invention of the Cyrillic script in Bulgaria.[5]

Protestant Church Records[edit | edit source]

Writing for Records[edit | edit source]

Historical Background[edit | edit source]

Protestantism is the third largest religious grouping in Bulgaria after Eastern Orthodoxy and Islam. In the census of 2011, a total of 64,476 people declared themselves to be Protestants of different denominations, up from 42,308 in the previous census in 2001 and from 21,878 in 1992. The marked rise in the number of Protestants in the last two decades is partly due to a boom in conversions among the Bulgarian Roma. In 2001, the two largest ethnic groups among the Bulgarian Protestants were the Bulgarians and the Romani with some 25,000 members each.

Protestantism was introduced in Bulgaria by missionaries from the United States in 1857-58, amid the National Revival period. The two main denominations, the Methodists and Congregationalists, divided their areas of influence. The former predominated in northern Bulgaria and the latter in the south. In 1875, the Protestant denominations united in the Bulgarian Evangelical Philanthropic Society, which later became the Union of Evangelical Churches in Bulgaria. Besides setting up churches, the Protestants established schools, clinics, and youth clubs, and they distributed copies of the Bible and their own religious publications in Bulgarian. The Union of Evangelical Churches produced a translation of the entire Bible into contemporary Bulgarian in 1871 and founded the nondenominational Robert College in Constantinople, where many Bulgarian leaders of the post-independence era were educated.

During communist rule, Protestants were subjected to even greater persecution than the Catholics. In 1946 church funding was cut off by a law curbing foreign currency transactions. Because many ministers had been educated in the West before World War II, they were suspected automatically of supporting the opposition parties. In 1949, thirty-one Protestant clergymen were charged with working for American intelligence and running a spy ring in Bulgaria. All church property was confiscated, and the churches' legal status was revoked. Most of the mainstream Protestant denominations maintained the right to worship nominally guaranteed by the constitution of 1947. Like the practitioners of the other faiths, Protestants in Bulgaria enjoyed greater religious freedom after the fall of the communist leadership in 1989. Due to the work of new, mostly U.S. missionaries, the number of the Protestants in the country almost doubled by 2001.

  • According to estimates in 1991, the 5,000 to 6,000 Bulgarian Pentecostals made that denomination the largest Protestant group. The Pentecostal movement was brought to Bulgaria in 1920 by Russian emigrants to the United States. The movement later spread to Burgas, Yambol, Sliven, Plovdiv and Varna. In 1991 the Pentecostal Church had thirty-six clergy in forty-three parishes.
  • The Union of Evangelical Congregational Churches in Bulgaria is a Congregational church established by American missionaries in the late 19th century.
  • In 2006, the Advent Christian Church had 7,637 Bulgarian members. The Adventist movement began in the Dobruja region of Bulgaria at the turn of the century and then spread to Tutrakan, Ruse, Sofia, and Plovdiv. It gained momentum in Bulgaria after 1944. During communism, mainstream Adventists maintained the right to worship. Some twenty parishes with forty pastors remained active through that era. Some Adventists were imprisoned for refusal of military service.[6]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 The Family History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Family History Record Profile: Bulgaria,” Word document, private files of the FamilySearch Content Strategy Team, 1991-1998.
  2. "Religion in Bulgaria", in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_Bulgaria, accessed 14 April 2020.
  3. Wikipedia contributors, "Catholic Church in Bulgaria", in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholic_Church_in_Bulgaria, accessed 14 April 2020.
  4. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, "Facts and Statistics: Bulgaria, https://newsroom.churchofjesuschrist.org/facts-and-statistics/country/Bulgaria, accessed 14 April 2020.
  5. "Religion in Bulgaria", in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_Bulgaria, accessed 14 April 2020.
  6. "Religion in Bulgaria", in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_Bulgaria, accessed 14 April 2020.