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Ottoman Birth Records (Christian and Jewish) Before 1923

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Ottoman Birth Records (Christian and Jewish) Before 1923

Posted: 9 Apr 2014 11:27AM GMT
Classification: Birth
Birth records for Jews and Christians in the Ottoman Empire (the latter including Armenian and Greek Orthodox) do to a very limited degree exist. The Ottoman Empire recognized religious communities (millets) that professed acceptance of the Jewish and/or Christian Bibles and allowed them autonomous civil and religious institutions (churches, temples, civil and religious courts, schools, orphanages, etc., that amounted to considerable self-rule. This held, with many variations, from the establishment of the Ottoman Empire in 1453 down to its end in 1923.

The Greek Orthodox Millet led by the Rum Patriarch (Roman since Constantinople was the “second [Greek speaking] Rome” after its founding by Emperor Constantine in 324 AD), exercised civil and religious authority through his church’s bureaucracy organized into Metroplitanates. Each community or parish (koinotita), maintained records of its institution’s activities and included birth and baptismal records. Most if not all records of the Greek Orthodox communities in Asia Minor were lost in 1923 during the Greco-Turkish War and the consequent expulsion of Greek speaking populations, though some traces may survive in the Patriarchate in Istanbul.

However, Gokceada, until recently known by its Greek name Imbros, was one of three areas (in Turkey: Constantinople, Imbros and Tenedos) exempt from the forced exchange of populations stipulated in the Lausanne Treaty of 1923. The Metropolitan of Imbros and Tendedos, continues to this day to house community records from the early 19th century to the present. The collection is very spotty for the early to late 1800’s but baptismal records for most villages are intact in bound manuscript from about 1890 to 1974.

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