Migration, Mobility, and Acculturation in the Jewish Community of a South-West Hungarian Town in the Mid-19th Century

Principal investigator: Máté Tamás

Period: September 2018 - June 2019

Grant, funding agency: HAS-SYLFF

In the course of the project, I carried out analyses concerning the demographic processes and family and household structure of the Jewish population of Nagykanizsa, a town in South-West Hungary, addressing the following questions: 1.) what characterized the family and household structure of the Jewish population, and whether they differed in these respects from the non-Jewish population? 2.) What was the proportion of immigrants to locally-born individuals among the local Jewish population? 3.) When and from which direction did the migration to the settlement take place? The analysis is based on the census of the Jewish population from 1848. This census, containing data collected almost simultaneously from such a large region and with identical categories, enables a comparative research of the Jewish population. I compared the statistical data from the Jewish population of Nagykanizsa and Pápa, both situated in West Hungary. The two largest Jewish communities in the 19th-century West Hungary were formed in these two settlements. Data on the Jewish population of Pápa are contained in the book Réka Jakab, Bérlőből polgár: Pápa város zsidó közösségének társadalom- és gazdaságtörténete, 1748–1848 (2014) [From Tenantry to Bourgeoisie: The Social and Economic History of the Jews of the City of Pápa, 1748–1848]. Statistical data on the population and mobility of the Jewish community are from the 1848 Jewish census. The primary goal of this census was to reconsider residence permits related to the residence rights defined by the Act XXIX of 1840. The decree no. 1261 signed by the minister of interior, Bertalan Szemere on May 13, 1848, after the census of Jews in Pest, extended the census of the Jews to the entire country (except Transylvania and Croatia). The decree was sent to royal free towns and counties, which then had two months to conduct it. The data recording with regard to the Jewish population was carried out using printed forms with pre-determined categories. The census was recorded by households, defined by the head of the household – accordingly, it included members of the family as well as unmarried relatives, servants and employees. The census included the following fields: 1) names of family members, 2) age, 3) place of birth (country, town), 4) whether they had a residence permit, 5) if not, then for how long they had lived in the country and in the given town, 6) source of income, 7) personal behaviour, 8) comments.

Main results:

According to the Jewish census of 1848, the total Jewish population was 1704 individuals (nearly 17% of the total town population) and the total number of households was 371 in the Jewish community of Nagykanizsa; the total Jewish population was 2962 persons (approximately 24% of the total town population) and the total number of households was 609 in the Jewish community of Pápa. The typical family and household structure of the Jewish population were similar to those of the non-Jewish population in Hungary. The high proportion (nearly 70% of the total Jewish population both in Nagykanizsa and Pápa) of the under 30 age group was typical before the Demographic Transition. The average size of households in the Jewish population of Nagykanizsa was slightly below the average of 5 persons and the surplus (over 91% in Nagykanizsa and nearly 84% in Pápa) of nuclear-family households vis-à-vis extended and multiple-family households were demonstrated. According to the data, there was a 1.40% male over-representation in the total Jewish population of Nagykanizsa; in Pápa, however, there was a 3.74% female over-representation.  In both settlements, there was a surplus of middle-aged and elderly men vis-á-vis women of the same age group – except under 30 age, nevertheless, both were typical of the pre-industrial population. Based on the local marriage customs, the Ashkenazic Jewish population followed the Western European patterns where the females married over 20 years of age. Both in Nagykanizsa and Pápa, nearly 80% of the total Jewish population was locally-born and slightly more than 20% settled or temporarily resident in there. Regarding the direction of migration, it can be stated that the majority of immigrants came from the given county (Zala in the case of Nagykanizsa, and Veszprém in the case of Pápa) or from the neighbouring counties. In the 1820–1830s significant immigration started, nevertheless, taking into account the under 30 age group who were born locally, it is clear that the population growth was internal affected only marginally by immigration.