Gesher Galicia SIG #Galicia civil marriage #galicia

Suzan Wynne <srwynne@...>

This message is for Steve Gold who was asking about whether civil
marriage requirements were peculiar to this region. Civil marriage was
a feature of Napoleon's regime and this was picked up by other European
countries as a means of controlling information about vital information
for State purposes like military registration and taxes, etc. The
Austro-Hungarian Empire picked up on civil marriage pretty early. The
Kehilla governing Galician Jewry strongly objected to this requirement.
This issue was complex for Jews. Under Leopold II, only the oldest son
could marry civilly. Other sons had to wait until their brother died.
Did this keep Jews >from marrying? No, of course not. They simply
engaged in religious marriages which is what they did anyway. By the
time that this evil and restrictive law was changed, Jews in Galicia
were largely ignoring the civil marriage law anyway. The law was
designed to sharply control Jewish population in the mistaken belief
that Jews wouldn't marry and have children because of the fact that the
children wouldn't be recognized by civil authorities and couldn't
inherit their father's estate. Well, most Jews didn't have such a big
"estate" anyway so who cared.

The Kehillot rabbis largely ignored the law and even though the births
were registered as illegitmate as required by law, there seemed no real
sanction. Children were supposed to carry the last name of the mother
but, until the end of last quarter of the 19th century and the beginning
of the 20th century, there were many "illegitimate" children who carried
their father's name. This changed early in the 20th
century.....children were then given the surname of their mothers.
Sometimes parents had civil marriages during their child bearing years
and you have some kids with mom's name and some with dad's name and
then, of course, there are the notes on the birth records indicating
that mom and dad married in 1916 at the ages of 68 and 70.

Emmigration was what really seemed to have changed the picture with
respect to civil marriage. The US looked down on admitting people who
were not properly married so many couples had civil marriages just as
they were preparing to leave Galicia for another life.

The Kehilla approved rabbi...the official rabbi that I've been writing
about in the Digest....was the person empowered to perform civil
marriage in Galicia. Added to other problems with civil marriage was
that if this rabbi was not affiliated with the "right" religious
community for a family, there weren't options and that fact created yet
another barrier to compliance. In the Galician marriage books, thin as
they are, you will see that the officiating rabbi was the same person
for a period of time. If a family felt that this rabbi was "kosher"
enough, it was a problem. My uncle and aunt, for instance, finally
married civilly in 1921, just as they were preparing to leave Kanczuga
for the US. My uncle had been in the US since 1900 and returned to
Kanczuga 3 times, just long enough to get my aunt pregnant. Their
marriage was performed by a man who was >from a different Chassidic group
from theirs. This occasioned much discussion for years....they had
sacrificed their standards so that they could enter the US as a properly
married couple.

Suzan Wynne
Kensington, MD

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