Alphabetical military personnel records by surname makes it fairly easy to find soldiers coming from Austria itself and the Czech regions. Unfortunately, records for the remaining regions of the Empire are not organized alphabetically by name. To find these records, you must first determine the regimental number.
A chart showing which infantry regiments recruited in Galacia, listed by districts over various time periods, can be found at Polishroots.com. 13 A list for infantry regiments recruiting in the Kingdom of Hungary can be found at the end of this article in Appendix A.
The three major time periods to consider are:
1. Pre-1867 - Records centrally maintained at the Vienna War Archives. These records include soldiers from the entire Empire including individuals from Austria, the Czech regions, Galicia, and all of Hungary.
2. 1867 to 1918 - Records maintained by Austria and by Hungary separately. Austria kept the records for the regions they directly administered, including Galicia and the Czech regions of Bohemia and Moravia. Hungary kept those for everyone in their kingdom, which included the Slovaks and other slavs within their borders. By treaty, these records were to be sent to the successor countries but there is a lot of conflicting information as to what has happened to these records (see section below on Czech Military Records).
3. Post-1918 - Records maintained by the states of Czechoslovakia (1st and 2nd Republic) and Slovakia (1st Republic) as well as the other successor nations of Poland, Yugoslavia, Romania, the Ukraine, and various countries formed after Yugoslavia was broken up.
As previously mentioned, Austria controlled all armies in the Empire prior to 1867. Hungary did form a Honved during the revolt in 1848 but it was disbanded after the revolt was put down by Austria (with the help of Russia). During war time, Austria had as many as half a million men under arms. To maintain this force, it was necessary to conscript 80,000 to 85,000 men a year into the army. The length of service obligation and the age of eligibility changed several times during the 1800s.
At the beginning of the century, soldiers faced a lifetime obligation, which meant that once they finished active duty they could be recalled into the army at any time.4 By mid century, the obligation was ten years. In the infantry, recruits served one to three years of active duty. Engineers and the artillery served actively for three years and because it took longer to develop the horsemanship skills required for the cavalry, they served seven to eight years actively.
After completing the active duty phase, soldiers were put on furlough to their homes and called out annually for additional training. After a total of eight years in the service, men were then put into the reserves to complete their obligation.5 But even after the active part of their reserve obligation was completed, men were put into inactive reserves and could be called up in time of war.
While military records are usually considered a secondary resource for genealogical researchers, knowledge of military service adds depth to a family history and goes beyond just having a list of names and dates. It provides insight into what an ancestor may have experienced during their lifetime and gives a perspective of the history at that period.
To find military records for the Austro-Hungarian Army, one first needs to determine where and how to look for them since they were kept at different locations during various periods of time. The records were also kept differently for the various states within the Empire. Consequently, it can be a little confusing if one does not understand a bit about the history of the Austrian Empire and the subsequent Austro-Hungarian Empire.