Carole G. Vogel

Writer • Researcher • Family History Specialist

Constructing a Town-Wide Genealogy: Jewish Mattersdorf, Hungary 1698-1939

by Carole Garbuny Vogel and Yitzchok N. Stroh

This article was originally published in Avotaynu: The International Review of Jewish Genealogy, Vol. XXIII. No. 1, Spring 2007

On November 16, 1707, eighteen-year-old Jakob stood in front of a three-member Beit Din (rabbinical court) to testify about an unfortunate joke that he had made four years earlier. On the first day of Sukkot in 1703, Jakob, the son of Moshe, a wealthy brewer and head of the Jewish community of Mattersdorf, Hungary (now Mattersburg, Austria), had been home playing nuts (a game similar to marbles) with his two friends Götzl and Mordechai. Jakob’s mother and a younger sibling had taken ill and the 16-year-old servant girl, Chaya, who was also Jakob’s first cousin, had been asked to purchase medication from the non-Jewish druggist. However, she needed collateral and was told to get it from Jakob.

In Jakob’s possession was a silver ring with a red stone, which belonged to Pinchas, a community member who had used it as collateral to obtain wine from Jakob’s father. When Chaya asked for the ring, Jakob was so caught up with the game that he did not want to be disturbed. So he refused to hand over the ring even though Chaya had stated the urgency.

About half an hour later, Chaya returned and said, “Give me the ring. Your father is really angry.”

This time Jakob produced the ring. He offered it teasingly to Fayele and then to Braindl, two other girls who were present. Annoyed, Chaya grabbed the ring from Jakob’s hand. As she did so, he said in Hebrew, “Behold you are betrothed to me!” and the other boys yelled “Mazel Tov!” Chaya did not bother to reply and hurried off to the druggist.

Soon the trouble began. Under the halachic principles governing marriage, it appeared that Jakob might have taken Chaya as his bride. During the part of the marriage ceremony called Kidushin, the groom traditionally gives the bride a ring in the presence of two witnesses and says, “Behold you are betrothed to me with this ring, according to the law of Moses and Israel.” The bride’s silent acceptance of the ring validates the marriage.

Now four years later Jakob was still in hot water. His case had been sent to the Beit Din in Wiener Neustadt, a community about eight miles from his home and he needed to argue convincingly that he had never meant to make Chaya his wife.

I never intended anything by these words, he said. I was not aware that if you say these words that it is binding. I thought the rabbi or the dayan (rabbinical judge) had to say it first and I would repeat it…I was just teasing and being chutzpadik, and the proof is that after I gave her the ring I continued playing…

The other witnesses testified and Chaya had her say in court, too: In my life I had no idea to be betrothed by him… I have no interest in him for his money. The fool! His mother is sick, she sent me to get a ring from him and he doesn’t want to give it to me… I have no interest in such a fool…

The halachic issue was of such a serious nature that the court testimony was sent to Rabbi David Oppenheimer (1664-1736), the chief rabbi of Prague, who ruled after extensive deliberation that no marriage had taken place. We learned about Jakob’s travails in a responsa written by Rabbi Oppenheimer.[1]

From other Mattersdorf records it is clear that Jakob married, had at least two sons and perhaps a daughter, and died fairly young. His son Gottlieb left no descendants, but the offspring of Jakob’s other children can be traced, some to the present day.

Both of us—Carole Vogel and Yitzchok Stroh—belong to Jakob’s family and to many other family lines from Mattersdorf. When we began working together, we never expected to find so much material that revealed the character of individuals living in Mattersdorf and the challenges they faced. We also never anticipated accruing enough information to construct the genealogies of many of the families that dwelled in the community from 1698-1939.

In fact, when we first started our ancestor pursuit, archivists and other knowledgeable people told us that the early Mattersdorf records would be useless because all they contained were first names and father’s names. Experience has shown us that many genealogists and archivists tend to ignore the importance of Hebrew-language communal ledgers because the ledgers often lack surnames and are not systematically organized. What these naysayers fail to grasp is that with a sound research plan, good detective work, and plenty of tenaciousness, Hebrew records used in concert with other materials can be a genealogical treasure trove. We believe the approach presented here is applicable to other European communities whose Hebrew records have survived. [From their infrequent mention in genealogical periodicals and conferences, we think that more Hebrew records have survived than is generally assumed. Many have been collected by the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People Jerusalem (CAHJP).]


Furriers and Tailors

In Mattersdorf’s earliest records (1698-1735) hereditary surnames rarely appeared. An individual was simply referred to by first name or nickname, or with modifiers, such as his patronymic, profession, town of origin, father-in-law’s name, or title. Modifiers were used interchangeably so a single individual could appear in a variety of ways in different documents. Often several different men had the same first name. For example, in the earliest tax records we found Löb Chait (meaning “tailor”) and Löb Kirzner (meaning “hat maker/furrier”), as well as Löb the son of Abraham, and Löb the son of Aaron.

Was the hat maker the son of Abraham or the son of Aaron? The answer came in part from property transactions. Two of the most valuable asserts that a Jewish man could own were a house and synagogue seats. When these assets changed hands, the transactions were recorded. We found a document from 1715 stating that Löb the son of Abraham purchased a house, but two conditions were placed on the sale: he could not process skins on that property nor use the property for any other type of hat making activity.[2] Thus we inferred that Löb the son of Abraham was also Löb Kirzner, the hat maker/furrier, since such restrictions would not be placed on a tailor.

We then determined the name of Löb Kirzner’s wife through a recorded transaction involving a pair of synagogue seats, although neither Löb nor his wife owned the specific seats. In the men’s section, the seat in question was next to “the seat of Löb the son of Abraham.” In the women’s section, the seat was next to “Hindel the wife of the above-mentioned Löb.”[3]

Most family lines were not so straightforward as Löb Kirzner’s, so our first step in identifying family relationships was to create an inventory of all the individuals mentioned in tax rosters, property transactions, lists of names, and other records. We paid close attention to the many signatures that appeared in the ledgers as the signatories often included the patronymic and titles that belonged to their father. To organize this information, we used two different strategies.

Carole’s Organizational Strategy

Standardizing common first names is the first step in inventorying names on a town-wide basis. Decide from the outset how you will index each common name in Hebrew and its secular version. For example, take the name Isak. In Mattersdorf it appeared in five different languages with a wide variety of spellings–Yitzchak-Yitzchok-Aizik-Itzik-Itzig-Isaac-Isak-Ignacius- Ignatz-Ignacz and more. If you index everyone with these names as Yitzchak and Isak you can find them easily for comparison purposes. Standardization of spelling applies to surnames too. Be sure to also record the actual versions of each individual’s name including titles as they appear in the records.

Make an alphabetical listing for all first names and their variations as well as one for all last names. Knowing these names may facilitate the deciphering of bad writing and/or Gothic script. Update the lists as you go along.

For many people I had only the secular name.  I did not assign a corresponding Hebrew name because occasionally my assumptions about Hebrew and seculars names were wrong. For instance, someone called “Simon” most likely had the Hebrew name “Shimon” but occasionally a “Simon” had the Hebrew name “Simcha.” With a duel language tracking system I avoided assigning a person an incorrect Hebrew name.

Dual tracking actually helped me distinguish between two lines of Österreicher families where both lines had a significant number of Simon Österreichers. One line turned out to be Simchas and the other Shimons.

Managing all the data for one town is impossible without a computer and unfortunately there is no one-size-fits-all software to place it all in. You can deal with information in five separate ways:

  1. Give each reference source its own document file where the translated information can be placed in the order it appears.
  2. Assign each surname to its own document file with all relevant source information. Use the data to place individuals into family groups.
  3. When you have first names in Hebrew but no fixed surnames, assign each first name to its own document file. Proceed as in step two.
  4. Use spreadsheets to compare changes in census record listings over time, track tax records from year to year, and sort out large families with redundant first names.
  5. Once family ties are established, place individuals in a genealogy database, along with supporting information. Important: Input all the name variations for each individual so each variant appears in the index. Enter a birth date for each person, even if the year is a wild guess, so you have a rough idea of when the individual lived. Revise dates later as new information arises.

Yitzchok’s Organizational Strategy

Yitzchok’s record keeping was strictly in Hebrew so he converted every person’s name to its Hebrew equivalent. He copied the data from each source into its own Word document file. (For example, the list of people who paid the 1816 King’s Tax was placed in a single file.) He used PowerPoint to store information about individuals. Within PowerPoint he opened a new slide for each person, treating the slide like an index card.  For the title he used the person’s complete name. He noted in which sources the person appeared; listed the names of the parents, children, and other relatives; and cross-referenced the names to other places to look for additional information. He relied on the computer’s search feature to find people. He too placed confirmed family members into his genealogy database.

Pooling Resources

Yitzchok and Carole then shared their information via mail, email, and telephone, and worked out the familial relationships.

Analyzing the Data

The process of elimination became one of our most powerful tools in identifying individuals. For example, in a ledger entry from February 1698, we found the original signature of our ancestor Yitzchak, the son of Yaakov Segal.[4] Yitzchak was probably about 70 or 80 years old at that time (his tax page in the same ledger defined him as “the elderly.”) He died within the next two years and the final entry on his tax page from November 1700 shows that the “heirs and sons of Yitzchak Segal paid all his obligations.”[5] Since no other Yitzchak Segal appears in the records in the late 1600s and early 1700s, we can surmise from these entries that Yitzchak Segal could have been born between 1620 and 1630.

Entries made between 1702 and 1726 allowed us to identify Yitzchak’s fours sons—Yishai, Joseph, Aaron, and Moshe—because they signed documents with the patronymic “son of ha-Rav Reb Yitzchak Segal Z”L.” (The Hebrew letters signify ל”ז [Z”L] that the person died; the title ha-Rav Reb shows that the individual was a somewhat learned person.) An inventory of the Jewish householders in Mattersdorf conducted in 1738 revealed Yitzchak Segal’s last name to be Schischa (Segal merely denotes that he was a Levite).[6] One entry showed that “Joseph Schyschi” had inherited his house from his father Isaac [Yitzchak]. Other entries in various lists enabled us to identify the sons and sons-in-law of Yitzchak’s sons.

One Segal family line that we couldn’t trace backward or forward, was discovered in the public admonishment of Jakob the son of Zelig Segal in 1740.  The judgment read:

“Jakob son of Zelig has not been conducting himself properly. So even though he is getting married we are not allowing him citizenship in the community. It is known to most people in the community that he didn’t conduct himself properly and sometimes we wanted to expel him from the community because of his actions. Neither he, his children, nor his inheritors will have the right to live in this community. No board can revoke this. Agreed by the head of the community.”[7]

Public reprimands came under the domain of the Mattersdorf Jewish community government and occasionally in the records we came across punishments meted out for of indiscretions, although few as harsh as Jakob’s. In some cases scribes deliberately blotted out an admonishment, apparently to prevent later generations from learning the sins of their ancestors.

A Brief Town History

Mattersdorf was one of the Sheva Kehilloth (Seven Holy Communities) in Esterházy lands that were renowned for their piety and the eminent rabbis they produced. The others communities were Eisenstadt, Frauenkirchen, Lackenbach, Kittsee, Kobersdorf, and Deutschkreuz (Tzehlem in Yiddish). Today, Mattersburg (Mattersdorf) lies in the midsection of Burgenland, a long, narrow strip of land between the foothills of the Alps and the lowlands of Hungary. Since 1921, Burgenland has formed Austria’s easternmost province and is famous for its many castles and vineyards. However, in the 1700s it was Hungary’s westernmost region and together with territory that is now Slovakia, was known as Royal Hungary, part of the Austrian Habsburg Empire.

According to tradition, six brothers named Schischa who fled Spain in the 14th or 15th centuries found a new home in Hungary and started the Mattersdorf Jewish community. Nonetheless, Jews may have settled in Mattersdorf as early as 800 CE. The synagogue, which was destroyed during the Holocaust, reportedly had a wall tablet that marked the building’s construction date as 1354. By 1569 there were 67 Jews living in Mattersdorf in 11 houses. The town lay along the route of the Turkish invasion of Vienna and was looted numerous times by the Turks between 1544 and 1671. In 1622, Mattersdorf came under the rule of the Esterházy family, Hungarian nobles loyal to the Austrian Habsburg monarchy.

In 1671, the Habsburg emperor, Leopold I, expelled the Jews from Habsburg territories but they were permitted to return a few months later. The Mattersdorf Jews found that in their short absence Christians had claimed their houses and only in 1675 were the Jews allowed to buy back their own homes. In 1694, Paul Esterházy issued a letter of protection to the Jews of Mattersdorf, which was confirmed by his heirs and updated in 1800.

In a scene right out of “Fiddler on the Roof” the Jews from the neighboring community of Neufeld (who were also under the protection of the Esterházys) were permanently expelled from their homes in 1739, ostensibly to stop the spread of an epidemic. They were resettled in Mattersdorf and the six other Jewish communities in the region. Mattersdorf’s Jewish community had to absorb 186 new residents into its small and already overcrowded Jewish quarter and assume additional financial burden. By 1744, about 416 persons inhabited 33 houses in Mattersdorf’s Jewish section. [8] The number increased to 897 Jews by 1811, but shrank during the cholera epidemic from 1830-1832.

The Mattersdorf Jewish community government consisted of an 11-man council lead by the Rosh Ha-Kahal (head of the community), who was typically one of the wealthiest men in town and quite learned. Other council members included two community elders, two city elders, three tzedakah (charity) treasurers, and three appointees in charge of a special tax collection. Additionally two trustees solicited funds for Torah study (just on Mondays) and three trustees collected money for Jews in Palestine. Leadership changed gradually in Mattersdorf as the men aged, died, or moved away and so tracking changes in the council has genealogical value.

Status and Titles

In the records of Mattersdorf and similar communities, a person’s placement on a list of signatories provides a clue to status and age. Typically, community elders (scholars and wealthy businessmen) signed first, beginning on the right side of the page. In these communities it was not considered respectful for a man to sign before his father or before someone more learned. So if the father of a community leader was living, or if a man was a higher-ranking scholar, he signed higher up in a new column on the left side of the page.

Many of Mattersdorf’s tax rosters provided the names of the community members and the amount of taxes each paid, making it possible to surmise the relative wealth of each individual. The first such roster appears for the year 1704 with 40 householders. By 1723 the number had increased to 65.

In some lists the scribe noted each individual’s title, which usually appeared in the form of an acronym. The most common title was Reb (mister) but occasionally in a list where most people lacked titles one or two men might be distinguished with the word Reb. Though usually meaningless, Reb mentioned in such a case signified that the person was a scholar.  We found that the best way to differentiate among people with identical first names was to keep track of the titles that accompanied their names.

Our Schischa line was easier to track than most because the men had the designation Segal (abbreviation for segan leviyah) following their names, indicating that they belonged to the Levite tribe. It is possible that not every Segal in Mattersdorf was a Schischa but certainly every Schischa was a Segal.[9] The acronym for Segal was written three ways: S’ [‘ס], S”L [ל”ס], or S”GL [ל”סג]. The S’ form caused some confusion because it also stood for sofer (scribe).

Kohanim (Kohens), members of the priestly caste, were distinguished by the acronym K”TZ [ץ”כ]  (pronounced “Katz”), an abbreviation for kohen tzedek. During the 1800s so many Kohns lived in Mattersdorf that identifying each family line now will be extremely time consuming but we think it is possible.

With the exceptions of the use Segal, Katz, a few other acronyms, and the titles rabbi or shames (synagogue manager/caretaker) , men did not add titles to their own names when signing a document, though they did add such titles to their father’s names.

The significance of some titles changed over time in Mattersdorf and they may have had a slightly different meaning in other areas.[10]  We found that titles used in rabbinic and family genealogies are of questionable significance as many writers added titles to their ancestors’ names that they never had in their lifetimes.

Titles Placed Before a Name Denoting an Individual’s Level of Learning


Acronym Long form Translation Denotes
 ——- כמר


Mister Mister




Rabbi Mister


הרב רב

ha-Rav Reb

The rabbi, rabbi Somewhat learned
ר’ ר’

R’ R’

רב רב

Reb Reb

Rabbi, rabbi Somewhat learned




The Torah fellow Torah scholar
——- החבר


Friend Basic ordination


כבוד הרב רב

Kvod ha-Rav Reb

Honorary rabbi, rabbi Talmudic scholar


מורנו הרב רב

Morenu ha-Rav Reb

Our teacher the  rabbi, rabbi Higher ordination


כבוד מורנו הרב רב

Kvod Morenu ha-Rav Reb

Our honorary teacher,

the rabbi rabbi

Practicing rabbi

Titles Placed After a Name Denoting Position or Occupation

Acronym Long form Translation Denotes


ראש הקהל

Rosh Ha-Kahal

Head of the community President of the community


טוב העיר

Tov ha-Ir

Good man of the city City elder


טוב הקהל

Tov ha-Kahal

Good man of the community Community elder
——- ממונה


Appointee Appointee
——- גבאי


Treasurer Treasurer


גבאי צדקה

Gabai tzedakah

Charity treasurer Charity treasurer
גבאי ת”ת

Gabai T”T

גבאי תלמוד תורה


Treasurer of the Torah studies School administrator


גבאי ארץ ישראל

Gabbai Eretz Yisrael

Treasurer of the Land of Israel Administrator of a fund for Jews in Palestine
——- שמש


Sexton Sexton
——- נאמן


Trustee Notary


שמש ונאמן

Shamash ve-Ne’eman

Sexton and notary Sexton and notary
——- חזן


Cantor Cantor


שליח ציבור

Shaliach Tzibur

Public emissary Cantor
——- מלמד


Teacher Teacher




Scribe Scribe

Titles Placed Before a Name Denoting Social and Marital Status


Acronym Long form Translation Denotes
——- האלוף


Esteemed Affluence with degree of learning




Chief Affluence




The small Humble
——- הבחור


The chosen Bachelor
——- נער


Youth Bachelor

Notations Placed After a Name Denoting a Blessing for the Dead or Wishing a Long Life for the Living


Acronym Long form Translation Denotes


שיחי’ לאורך ימים טובים

She-yichiye le-orech yomim tovim

He should live a long good life Living scholar or righteous person


—- May G-d protect him A living person

ShYe שי’



May he live A living person
AH ע”ה עליו השלום

Alav Ha-Shalom

Peace be upon him A deceased person


זכרונו לברכה

Zichrono Li-vracha

May his memory be a blessing A deceased person


זכר צדיק לברכה

Zecher tzaddik li-vracha

May the memory of the righteous be for a blessing Deceased scholar or righteous person
הי”ד  [name]  הק

ha-K’ [name]


הקדוש [name] השם ינקום דמו

haKadosh [name of martyr] Hashem Yinkom Damo

The Holy [name]

May G-d avenge his blood


[name of martyr]

Fluidity of Names

Among the most vexing problems we encountered was the changeability of given names. Each Jew in Mattersdorf had as many as five given names, excluding nicknames. The trick for cracking the naming code and tracking individuals was to understand the different kinds of record keeping and the tradition behind each.

Hebrew names. The Jews of Mattersdorf adhered to the strict naming customs of Ashkenazi Jews, and never named a child after a living parent or grandparent, but inevitably named children after deceased parents, grandparents, and other relatives until they had so many children they sought out different names. Boys received their Hebrew name at their bris (circumcision), typically eight days after birth. The names of newborn girls, with the patronymic, were announced in shul (synagogue) during services. Hebrew names appear on gravestone inscriptions, bris records, and important religious and secular documents maintained by the Jewish community.

Yiddish names. Yiddish was the spoken language of the Jews of Mattersdorf; hence, they used Yiddish names as the common form of address. For example, a man with the Hebrew name Menachem was called Mendel. Over time the Mattersdorf Jews switched to speaking German in the home but retained the use of Yiddish names well into the 1800s.[11]

Latin names. The official language of Royal Hungary was Latin, which was rarely heard outside of churches. However, it was used in official documents, including the Hungarian Jewish census, the Conscriptio Judaeorum. The Latin version of Jewish names was recorded in each census, and if no obvious Latin equivalent existed, the census taker invented one. Mendel appeared as Mandel in Latin, but a man named Mordechai might be recorded as Marcus or Marx. [12]

German names. In 1780, Emperor Joseph II initiated reforms that revolutionized Jewish naming practices throughout the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The reforms mandated that Jews take permanent German first names and permanent family names and that Jewish communities register all births, marriages, deaths, and circumcisions in German. Although the reforms were instituted seven to eight years later, the naming restrictions were not tightly enforced in Mattersdorf, and apparently the recording of vital records in German did not begin until 1833. This lasted about 50 years. So, for example, Menachem, who was known in the community as Mendel became Emanuel and/or Mandel in the metrical records.

The German names of the Jewish women in Mattersdorf created some confusion for us. Women apparently used their Yiddish names exclusively in the early to mid-1800s. When it came to recording a German version, it seems that little thought was given to the name. In the records there might be two sisters, or a mother and daughter, with identical secular names, such as Kati or Betti but their Yiddish names, which were not written down, differed from each other.

Hungarian names. In 1885, just about the time when the Jews of Mattersdorf had finally started to use German names as their common names, the laws changed. All Hungarian Jewish communities were compelled to keep records in Hungarian and use Hungarian names. So Emanuel became Manó in the metrical records. Nevertheless, the Jews of Mattersdorf continued to speak German and use the German or Yiddish version of their names.

We discovered that no matter which source was used or what language it was in, the spelling of names was variable and inconsistent, and the handwriting was often nearly illegible. Offsetting this was the linkage of names, such as Menachem-Mendel-Mandel-Emanuel-Manó, which made it possible to track people easily from source to source. See more examples in the sidebar.

Variations on common masculine given names in Mattersdorf







Elya-Elias-Eduard-Ede or Ödön








Lipman-Yom Tov-Philip-Fülöp




Rafael- Rudolph-Rezsö



Shmuel- Samuel-Samu (sometimes Siegmund/Zsigmond)


Todros- Rudolph-Rezsö





Zalmon- Shlomo-Shloima- Salamon


Variations on common feminine given names







Esterl- Netti-Ester-Eszter



Ginendal- Netti-Anna or Nina

Gittel- Kati-Katherina-Katalin-Kató

Heyla- Kati-Katherina-Katalin-Kató








Reisel- Roza-Rosalia




Sorel- Zilli-Czilli-Cecilia

Tzirel- Zipporah-Zilli-Czilli-Cecilia


Zeesal- Sali-Susetty-Suzanne-Rosalia

Zelda- Sali-Roza-Rosalia

Unfortunately, not every name fell into a neat pattern. Men with the name Meir, Mendel, Mordechai, or Moses could end up being recorded as Markus, Max, Moritz, Móricz, Mór, or Miksa. Even a straight- forward name as Simon which one would expect to be strictly a variation of the Hebrew Shimon, was also used for Simcha and Zelig. Even more frustrating are name variations that don’t fall into any logical pattern. For example, Chaim Schischa (1829-1907) appeared in the record books as Heinrich, Joachim, Jakob, and Abraham.


In Mattersdorf before 1833 most families used a patronymic or a place name for the surname but these surnames were not fixed. Add in the variance in given names and tracking can become a nightmare. For instance, Meir Müller, who was born in Bohemia, was also known as Moritz Böhm and Meyer Stein. However, many surnames in Mattersdorf are linked to specific variations:

Surname used in 1800s Earlier or interchangeable surname used by some families
Brandweiner Tzehlem (Jewish name for the town Deutschkreuz)
Deutsch Frauenkirchen (appears mainly in Hebrew records and uses acronym P”K)
Deutsch Sofer (appears as Sofer only in Hebrew records)
Gerstl Neufeld
Götzl  Löb
Heim Kobersdorf
Hessel Wolf
Jaffe Schön
Kerpel Chait (later became Schneider, then Kerpel)
Kessler Teltch
Lipschitz Lackenbach
Löb Schischa (Löb used by descendants of Shmuel Schischa)
Löwy Schischa (Löwy used by descendants of David Schischa)
Moses Schischa (Moses used by descendants of Moses Beer Schischa)
Müller Böhm
Österreicher Neufeld
Philip Simon
Pollak Mullendorf
Pollak Shapitin
Schey Frauenkirchen (appears mainly in Hebrew records and uses acronym P”K; likely

part of the Deutsch/Frauenkirchen family. In late 1700s used the surname Philip)

Schischa Baden (used by Isak Löb Schischa a restaurant owner in Baden)
Schischa Kobersdorf (used by a family that settled in Neunkirchen)
Schwarz Eisenstadt
Steinhof Sofer
Zelzer/Salzer Tziltz
Eger Schlessinger
Pisling Schlessinger
Schreiber Sofer (family of the Hatam Sofer)

Even with these linkages, confusion in identifying individuals still abounds. The most problematic surnames are Löb, Löwy, and Hirschel because they were so common. Indeed, in one large clan these three surnames were interchangeable. One remarkable example is that of the 1836 birth of Pinchas, the son of Abraham Löb and Zilli. In the metrical records, three different birth entries exist for him, each with a different surname: Pinkas Hirschel, Pinkas Löwy, and Pinkas Löb.

Major Research Obstacles

Records from the mid- to late-1700s are scarce but nevertheless we noticed that by the mid-1700s, there was increased movement of people among the Jewish communities in Burgenland and adjacent regions, most probably due to marriage. It seems as though young women tended to stay with their families as a significant number of men from other towns joined the Mattersdorf community as sons-in-law. Few records, however, exist for women in the 1700s and this is has created a major hurdle. We can trace many families from the late 1600s to the mid 1700s, but lose their trail for one or two generations due to a scarcity records. The families resurface in the late 1700s and become increasing easier to follow through the 1800s.

We believe a solution exists but it is elusive. The Österreichisches Jüdisches Museum (Austrian Jewish Museum) in Eisenstadt possesses a collection of photographs of tombstones from the Mattersdorf Jewish cemetery apparently photographed in the early 1930s. The Nazis seized the collection and sometime after the war the museum took custody of them. The museum intends to publish a book about the gravestones but is taking much longer than we had hoped. If each grave in the cemetery was photographed, there might be at least 600-1200 images. We feel that the tombstone inscriptions are our missing link in the genealogy record.

Sources of Records from the Mattersdorf Jewish Community

Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People Jerusalem

Thanks to the efforts of Hadassah Assouline, director of the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People Jerusalem (CAHJP) and others, the CAHJP obtained microfilm copies of Burgenland Jewish records from Austria, the last of which arrived in 1997. Among this collection are 14 microfilms pertaining to the communal activities of the Jews of Mattersdorf (cataloged as Mattersburg, Austria). The material dates back to 1698 and extends to 1939. It covers activities such as community government, taxes, community membership, ritual matters, education, military recruitment, documents from the Beit Din, ledgers from various independent associations, and ledgers dealing with the complicated financial dealings that the Jews of Mattersdorf had with each other. The coverage of course is incomplete but the most useful resources are described below. We are most grateful to Rabbi Yechiel Goldhaber, a Jerusalem based scholar, for his help in going through these documents.


Das Schwarzes Buch  (The Black Book) [13]

The oldest written record in the CAHJP for the Mattersdorf Jewish community is the Protokollbuch der Gemeinde 1698-1825, (Protocol Book of the Community) better known as The Black Book. Written in Hebrew script, The Black Book is a record of the important issues that confronted the Mattersdorf Jewish community and it served as a tax ledger and a testimony to local government decision-making. Especially valuable are the pages dealing with critical issues, such as significant tax increases to pay off new financial burdens placed on the community by the Esterházy family or the Habsburgs. Eligible voters—married men—voted on the new tax levies and signed statements to back up their vote.

The Black Book also contains a page for each taxpayer from 1698 to about 1740. Some tax pages contain only a name but most pages list the payments and date paid, making it possible to assess when a person started paying taxes and when he died or moved away. Occasionally a tax page of exceptional genealogical value crops up because it mentions other family members and may disclose details of an inheritance, describe a house sale between relatives, or may simply show a son-in-law paying his father-in-law’s taxes or vice versa.

Caveats: The numbering in the Black Book runs from pages 2–164, but these are not the original page numbers. At some point the book was rebound and the pages were not placed in chronological order. Some of the earliest pages were rebound at the very end. Additionally, even after establishing the approximate correct sequence, we discovered that the scribes had used blank spaces left over from previous years to squeeze in information. The dating of entries was haphazard.

Das Goldene Buch der Gemeinde (The Golden Book of the Community)[14]

This lengthy Hebrew ledger details past and current obligations of community members from the late 1790s until circa 1836. Each taxpayer received his own page. The marriage tax assessment allowed us to identify grooms or their father’s in law. A list of people who paid the “king’s tax” in 1816 provided the names of all the community members (182 people).[15]

Donation list for fire brigade

A collection in 1834 to raise money for special equipment for the fire brigade involved the entire community and generated another extremely useful list. The purchase fell through and within a year or two, the money was refunded or credited toward some other obligation. From the second list we learned who had died in the interim. (Hebrew)[16]

Steuereinzahlungsbücher and Steuerregister (tax rosters)

These tax registers, appear in Hebrew with first name and patronymic, or in German with the full name. They pick up where the Golden Book leaves off and are listed below by year and language.

  • 1821-1839 (Hebrew)[17]
  • 1844-1850 (Hebrew)[18]
  • 1845-1858 (Hebrew)[19]
  • 1857-1858 (German)[20]

One Hebrew Steuerregister from 1821-1845 provided the names of Jewish men with residency rights in Mattersdorf but who lived in outlying villages. The men were listed by first name under the village name, occasionally with patronymics.[21]


Pinkasim of the Chevra Kadisha (Ledgers of the Burial Society) [22]

The CAHJP microfilm collection contains several of the Hebrew ledgers that belonged to the Mattersdorf Chevra Kadisha. Unfortunately none of the ledgers includes a list of burials. The Chevra Kadisha Pinkas from the early 1790s until 1900 consists of last wills and testaments (including some poignant ones given on the deathbed), a list of contributors to the cemetery wall fund in 1806 which includes every male member of the community (186 married men and 27 single men), a record of tombstone repairs, and endowments linked to requests for candle lighting and for specific prayers to be said at the grave on the Yartzheit of the deceased. People with limited funds paid for the endowments by placing liens on their homes or donating the rental incomes of their synagogue seats to the burial society. Generally the endowment entries supplied the full name of the deceased, the deceased’s mother’s name, spouse’s first name, names of any children, and the Yartzheit but not year of death. Another ledger is the Keren Kayemet Pinkas, which is an organized summary of the Chevra Kadisha Pinkas, with an index. A third ledger from 1891-1921 consists of an alphabetical listing of contemporary Chevra Kadisha members with their birth years.

Pinkas of the Gottlieb Breuer Stiftung (Charity Fund) [23]

The Gottlieb Breuer Charity Fund in Mattersdorf started with a major endowment by Gottlieb Breuer who died in 1792. Childless, Gottlieb left his large apartment house to the community as a permanent endowment to help the poor and promote Torah study. The apartments were rented mainly to Breuer family members and the income went to the foundation. It seems that membership in the foundation was limited to members of the Breuer family. Carole’s ancestor Yitzchok (Ignatz) Deutsch (1807-1887) and his sister’s husband David Breuer (died 1891), Yitzchok Stroh’s ancestor, served as charity fund directors for many years, likely signifying that Deutsch’s mother or grandmother had been a Breuer. The charity fund’s records are written in Hebrew and extend from about 1796 into the 1900s but they are incomplete. One ledger gave a rental history for each apartment as well as an accounting of the charity’s expenditures. These entailed funds for the yeshiva, Torah scholars, and house repairs, and stipends for widows and dowries for brides belonging to the Breuer family. An additional ledger from a later time period furnished a list of members and their sons, including the sons’ birth dates and years that the sons turned 13 and 24. The index, written in German, provided full names and often the matronymic or patronymic.[24]

Pinkasei Ha-Nimolim (Circumcision Records) from 1796-1880

To date, we have located three different circumcision ledgers kept by the mohelim (circumcisers) of Mattersdorf, all written in Hebrew script. They furnish the Hebrew names of the infant and father, usually provide the date of the bris, and sometimes identify the paternal or maternal grandfather and/or the birthplace if not in Mattersdorf. Microfilmed copies of two of these ledgers are in the CAHJP collection: (1) The Mohel Pinkas of Yaakov Rofeh (1796-1835) helped to make up for the lack of birth records prior to 1833. (2) The Mohel Pinkas of Zalmon Hönigsberg (1833-1880) was difficult to use because many entries are in verse and dates needed to be calculated.

The third and most informative of the ledgers, the Mohel Pinkas of Rabbi Meyer Schischa (1827-1866), is in the possession of a family member and is not part of the CAHJP collection. We included it here because it is such an important source. In most entries Rabbi Schischa identified the sandik (godfather of the child) and his relationship to the father. If Rabbi Schischa was related to the father, he specified the relationship.

Together the three Pinkasim span the years 1796-1880. Since, we lack the ledgers of the other Mattersdorf mohelim, the circumcision records of all the boys born during that time frame is incomplete. However, military records for men born from 1845 onward fill in many of the gaps.

Militaria (Military records) 1845-1879[25]

Military records written in Hungarian list every Jewish man born from 1845-1879 who had Mattersdorf citizenship, even if he was born or lived elsewhere. In chart form, these records provide birth year, residence, profession, name of father, father’s profession, and notes if the father is deceased. Most valuable are the individual requests for military hardship exemptions. These typically provide the name, birth date, birthplace, and current residence of the draftee; names of both parents, including mother’s maiden name, parents’ birth years, marriage year, and names of all children with birth years. If a family member died, the date is shown. If a parent remarried the name of the second spouse appears. If a daughter married, she is identified by married name. If a draftee died, documentation of his death is provided, including age, former residence, place of death, and cemetery. (It is a shame that more men didn’t apply for exemptions!)

Hauptkatalog der Isr. Volkschule 1863-64 (School enrollment record) [26]

This roster for the Jewish primary school listed both boys and girls by their full names, ages, father’s name in German and Hebrew, mother’s name if widowed, as well as courses studied and grades.

Frauenverein (Women’s Society ledger)[27]

The ledger of the Frauenverein for the year 1839 is written in Hebrew. Each of the society’s 50 members has her own page but the pages contain little more than the member’s full name and sometimes the name of her father or husband.

Miscellaneous loose documents[28]  

Loose documents from the Beit Din and the community government, from 1806-1868 were found under the heading Erklärungen, Vollmachten, Zeugnisse. They included letters, marriage documents, business and real estate transactions, and promissory notes used in place of money in financial arrangements among community members. They were written in Hebrew and old German script

Pinkasei Tzedaka D’Masa (charity ledgers) from 1840-1843[29] and 1844-1870[30]

These Hebrew registers provide a tally of charitable donations made by grooms, donations made in time of illnesses of a loved one, Shiva donations in memory of someone who recently died and for Yartzheit. An accounting of expenditures identifies the recipients of charity funds, such as people in need because of illness and impoverished widows. The entries typically give the name of the father or spouse and often include a secular surname and/or place of residence if not Mattersdorf.


Family History Library (FHL) Resources

Conscriptio Judaeorum Census

Through the FHL Carole obtained the Conscriptio Judaeorum for Mattersdorf for the years 1725, 1735, 1753, 1773, and 1828. In the listings, men were given two names, usually their first name followed by the first name of their father. A few men were identified with a first name and surname, the latter typically a place of origin. Several women householders appeared in each census, apparently widows who were listed only by their Yiddish first name. All of the censuses except the one from 1725 showed the number of sons living in the household who were considered to be adults and the number who were minors. The censuses from 1753 and later also provided this information for daughters. The 1773 census even furnished the wives’ first names in Yiddish. We could often deduce familial relationships between brothers, sons, and sons-in-law by the proximity of names in a census listing.

Metrical Records

The FHL microfilmed the metrical records of the Mattersdorf Jewish community for the years 1833-1895, with some gaps, especially from 1856-1867. These birth, marriage, and death records were written in German script until 1885 when the Hungarian language rules were implemented. From 1896-1920, record keeping was secularized and Jewish vital records were mixed in with those of the Christian population, often in ledgers with crosses printed on the pages. The death records from this last time period provided a great deal of genealogical information if the person died in Mattersdorf, including age, birthplace, spouse’s name, and parents’ names. If the individual died elsewhere (typically Vienna) the information was truncated and written in the margin.

Published Records

1738 audit of Mattersdorf community members reprinted in Magyar-Zsidó Oklevéar Monumenta Hungariae Judaica.

We found a genealogical Rosetta stone in the form of an inventory from December 30, 1738, written in German, which listed householders and other male members of Mattersdorf’s Jewish community, as well as men who lived in the community without membership status. The inventory not only provided the first names and patronymics of most householders, but also explained how the property came into their possession. If a person inherited it, the name of the previous owner, relationship, and year of inheritance was chronicled; if the house had been purchased, the name of the seller, year of sale, and price paid was given.

If an individual came from a place other than Mattersdorf, the year he joined the community was logged, and in some cases his birthplace was furnished. A few women householders were listed—widows identified by first name only. If a man lived in someone else’s household, this too was noted. In some cases a year of marriage was supplied, so one could assume that the man had married the householder’s daughter.

The boundaries of Mattersdorf’s Jewish quarter were strictly delineated, so the Jews increased their living space by adding additional stories onto existing buildings and subdividing interior spaces to make room for married children. Property owners sometimes owned as little as ¼ of a house. Consequently, familial relationships could sometimes be inferred by noting who owned the other fractional parts of a building.Additionally, the inventory gave the name of each property owner’s neighbors, and the name sequence in the inventory paralleled the sequence of the census tallies of 1725, 1735, and 1753. By comparing the housing list with the censuses, it is possible to see how properties changed hands over time and track family members. Unfortunately, the 1773 census did not maintain the housing sequence.

Hirsch, Samuel, Zichronot mi hakehillat Mattersdorf  (Mattersdorf: The Life and the Destruction of a Jewish Community.  (Bnai Brak: Machon Zikaron, 2000) (Hebrew). Note: Chapter 7 contains a list of Jewish families in  Mattersdorf at the onset of the Holocaust.


Hodik, Fritz P., Beiträge zur Geschichte der Mattersdorfer Judengemeinde im 18. und in der ersten Hälfte des 19. Jahrhunderts (Eisenstadt, Austria: Burgenländische Forschungen, 1975)

“Mattersdorf,” Jahrbuch for Jüdische Volkskunde 1924/1925 by Dr. Max, Grunwald (Berlin/Wien: Verlag Benjamin Harz, 1925.), pp. 402-563. Especially useful is the section on gravestone inscriptions in Hebrew and German.

Note: We have not listed the numerous rabbinical works by rabbis from Mattersdorf and their circles, which we have used extensively. We are aware of other archival materials pertaining to Mattersdorf, which we have been unable to obtain.


When we pooled our resources we had no intention of creating a town-wide genealogy. We were strictly interested in tracing our own family lines but found that tracking collateral families made it easier to rule in and rule out family members. By no means have we created a town-wide genealogy or databases that include all the community’s inhabitants. However, we are confident that this is possible with the existing sources of information. We plan to turn the data for each of our major lines into a readable family history. Carole had already compiled a 40-page Schischa family history before she met Yitzchok. With his input, the history now contains more than 100 pages of written text plus 1200 detailed endnotes and is still expanding.


Author information

Yitzchok N. Stroh has self-published genealogies of the Breuer family of Mattersburg, Austria and the Spitzer Family of Eisenstadt, Austria, and he is the author of “Princes and Noblemen: The Origins of the Oppenheim Family of Frankfort, Worms, and Vienna,” published in Ohr Yisroel and “The Author of the Kitzur Shulchon Aruch and His Relation to Chasidism” published in Heichel HaBesht, all written in Hebrew.  Stroh has also extensively studied the histories and genealogies of the Viennese Court Jews. He resides in Brooklyn, New York with his wife and children.

Carole G. Vogel of Lexington, Massachusetts, is author of three previous articles for Avotaynu: “Reconstructing a Lost Holocaust Family,” “The Great Garbuny-Gorbunov Hunt,” and  “Oswego, New York: Wartime Haven for Jewish Refugees.” She served as the editor of the 500-page book We Shall Not Forget: Memories of the Holocaust (Temple Isaiah Lexington, MA) and of the Paul Gass Family Website  <>. She is also the author of 25 nonfiction books.

[1] Nishal David by Rabbi David Oppenheimer of Prague (Landesrabbiner of Bohemia and Moravia 1697-1724). Edited by Yitzchok Dov Feld (Jerusalem: 736/1976) section even ha-Ezer responsa #23, pp. 114-119.

[2] Protokollbuch der Gemeinde 1698-1825, (known as the Black Book), p. 8b. CAHJP microfilm #8174.

[3] Ibid. p. 54a

[4] Ibid. p. 20a

[5] Ibid. p. 4b

[6] 1738 audit of Mattersdorf community members reprinted in Magyar-Zsidó Oklevéar Monumenta Hungariae Judaica, vol 5. Sándor Scheiber, ed. (Budapest: 1960), entry #1111.

[7] Black Book, p. 68b

[8] Encyclopedia Judaica and Beiträge zur Geschichte der Mattersdorfer Judengemeinde im 18. und in der ersten Hälfte des 19. Jahrhunderts edited by Fritz P. Hodik, (Eisenstadt, Austria: Burgenländische Forschungen, 1975)

[9] It is possible that a man who married into the Schischa family might have adopted the Schischa name even though he was not a Levite. We have not encountered such a case.

[10] For additional information on titles used in Burgenland and neighboring regions in Austria, see: Inschriften des alten Judenfriedhofes in Wien (Inscriptions of the old Jewish cemetery in Vienna) by Dr. Bernhard Wachstein (Wien: 1912), pp. XXXVII – XLV.

[11] See: “Notes on Yiddish in the Burgenland” by R. Stalek, in “Studies in Philology, 2nd vol. (Vilna: Vilner Farlag b. Kletskin, 1928) pp. 265-279. (Yiddish)

[12] For a comprehensive analysis of the Hungarian Jewish censuses, see: “18th-Century Jewish Censuses in Hungary” by Henry Wellish (Avotaynu volume XVIII, no. 2, Summer 2002).

[13] CAHJP microfilm #8174

[14] CAHJP microfilm reel #8187

[15] The Golden Book, pp. 249b- 251a

[16] Steuerangelegenheiten und Abgaben 1816-1902 (Tax Business and Social Contributions), CAHJP microfilm reel 8183

[17] CAHJP microfilm reels #8183 and  #8184

[18] CAHJP microfilm reel #8185

[19] CAHJP microfilm reel #8184

[20] CAHJP microfilm reel #8184; reel #8185

[21] CAHJP microfilm reel #8183

[22] CAHJP microfilm  # 8180 contains the main Chevra Kaddisha Pinkas; #8179 contains the Keren Kayemet ledger that corresponds to the main Chevra Kaddisha ledger; #8181 is the Chevra Kaddisha ledger from 1891-1921.

[23] CAHJP microfilm  #8179

[24] CAHJP microfilm  #8180,

[25] CAHJP microfilms #8178-8179

[26] CAHJP microfilm reel #8177

[27] CAHJP microfilm reel #8182 and #8183

[28] CAHJP microfilm reel #8176

[29] CAHJP microfilm Reel #8181

[30] CAHJP microfilm reel #8182