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Municipal archives

The history of register offices in Greece illustrates the country’s administrative history: unenforced laws and a manifest ignorance of legal regulations and other requirements. In total, it took three rounds of legislation before register offices could operate effectively, in the manner we are familiar with today.

The first attempt to introduce the institution of register offices came six years after the London Protocol of 1830, which recognised Greece as a sovereign state. The Royal Decree ‘Περί ληξιαρχικών βιβλίων’ (‘On Civil Registers’), of 20 October/1 November 1836[1], stipulated that mayors were to also serve as registrars during their terms and laid out a detailed account of their duties and obligations, and of the proper way of keeping birth, marriage and death records. It seems, however, that this decree was never enforced, as two decades later, in 1856, a new law[2] was voted in. A number of circulars were issued during those two intervening decades, threatening sanctions against any mayors who neglected their duties as registrars; for example, Circular no. 141 ‘Περί Συντάξεως και Αποστολής των Πινάκων των Γεννήσεων, Γάμων και Αποβιώσεων’ (‘On Completing and Forwarding Birth, Marriage and Death Registers’), dated  19 August 1846[3]. The 1856 ‘Αστικός Ελληνικός Νόμος’ (‘Greek Civil Law’) comprised three sections; the second of these comprised in turn of five chapters and sixty articles and dealt with registry records. The Royal Decree ‘Προς Εκτέλεσιν του Περί Ληξιαρχικών Πράξεων Νόμου’ (‘On Enforcing the Law on Civil Registry Records’)[4] was issued less than a week later and addressed practical aspects of enforcing the law. However, this law too was not immediately enforced. Of the few cases we know of where it was enforced, in cities (Athens, Piraeus) and on the islands, records were kept from 1859 on, and consistent enforcement is seen only in death registers.

Consistent and meticulous completion of registry records was achieved with the 1920 Law ‘Περί των Ληξιαρχικών Πράξεων’ (‘On Civil Registry Records’)[5] which was finally enforced in 1925[6].

For a detailed presentation of these laws, and of the structure and operation of the Athens Register Office, see Ληξιαρχείον Αθηνών (1836-2006): Ιστορικά Στοιχεία και Σωζόμενα Αρχεία by Eleftherios G. Skiadas (Athens: City of Athens Development Agency, 2005). The book also includes a brief overview of the Register Office’s records for the period 1859–2005.

The records that have been indexed and processed into electronic databases until now are:

  1. Registry records of births, Municipality of Athens, 1915 and 1926
  2. Registry records of marriages, Municipality of Athens, 1859-1960
  3. Registry records of deaths, Municipality of Athens, 1859-1920 and 1939-1944
  4. Registry records of marriages 1934-1991 and Registry records of deaths 1934-1953, Egaleo Register Office
  5. Registry records of deaths, all Capital Region municipalities, 1939-1944

[1] Royal Decree of 20 October 1836, “Περί Ληξιαρχικών Βιβλίων”, Government Gazette issue 59, 28 October 1836, pp. 300–303.
[2] Law of 29 October 1856, Government Gazette issue 75, 15 November 1856, pp. 399–405.
[3] Circular no. 141, “Περί Συντάξεως και Αποστολής των Πινάκων των Γεννήσεων, Γάμων και Αποβιώσεων”, 19 August 1846.
[4] Royal Decree of 31 October 1856, “Προς Εκτέλεσιν του Περί Ληξιαρχικών Πράξεων Νόμου”, Government Gazette issue 77, 21 November 1856, pp. 415–418.
[5] Law 2430 of 29 June 1920, “Περί των Ληξιαρχικών Πράξεων”, Government Gazette issue 156 A’, 14 July 1920, pp. 1565–1569.
[6] Royal Decree of 14 August 1924, “Περί Εκτελέσεως του Περί Ληξιαρχικών Πράξεων υπ΄αριθμ. 2430 Νόμου”, Government Gazette issue 200 A’, 21 August 1924, p. 1178.

 

 

 

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