Civil marriage #galicia

Suzan & Ron Wynne <srwynne@...>

The topic of civil marriage has been exhaustively covered previously but a
quick overview might help readers to sort among the most recent responses to
the issue for the kernel. Civil marriage was required by the Austrian
government. These marriages were to be performed by government approved
religious figures, including rabbis. However, for various reasons, in
Galicia, religious authorities were not always connected to the Hassidic
communities favored by the vast majority of the people and the Hasidic
leaders were strongly opposed to government interference with marriage.
This opposition had several components: 1) Jewish marriage is not a state
matter but a religious matter; 2) a couple of Austrian rulers in the early
19th century had limited civil Jewish marriage to the oldest son in a
family; and 3) there was a heavy tax on Jews who did marry under civil law.

The laws restricting Jewish civil marriage to the oldest son was repealed by
the time of Franz Josef but the pattern had been established: Jews married
religiously and mostly ignored civil marriage unless they were concerned
about the children inheriting the father's property or there was some other
compelling legal reason for seeking civil marriage. At the close of the
19th century and into the 20th century, as emigration was becoming more
common and the requirements of other countries were becoming more
restrictive, Jews began to have civil marriages to assist with this process.
Entrance into the US required more documentation, including proof of
marriage, for instance.

At this same time, Austria cracked down on those who refused to comply with
civil marriage requirements and birth registrations not only showed the
babies as illegitimate, which had long been the case, but required that the
babies be given the surnames of their mothers. And, unless the father
presented himself and witnesses to prove that the baby was his, chances were
that his name did not even appear on the birth record. This meant that when
the child was enrolled in school (education was mandatory under Franz
Josef), his or her surname would be his mother's.

Thus, in the slim record books of Galicia, one sees a marked increase in the
number of civil marriages after 1880 and by the time of WWI, it is fairly
common to see couples with grandchildren "getting married."

Hope this helps....

Suzan Wynne
Kensington, MD

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