Jul 2, 2014

Franz Schubert's Entry in the Viennese Death Records

In a recent blogpost I dealt with the fate of Beethoven's third will and the thievish activities of the Viennese amateur researcher Robert Franz Müller (1864–1933). I also addressed the fact that the entry concerning Beethoven's death in the Vienna Totenbeschauprotokoll has already been stolen before 1922. In a bout of boundless optimism, I wrote the following concerning the loss of this document:
We find ourselves wondering how Mozart's and Schubert's entries in Vienna's death registers ever could survive into the 21st century.
I have to correct myself. The Schubert entry has also been stolen, and I remember having already noticed this more than ten years ago, but I forgot about it. Similar to the Beethoven entry, a whole leaf (folio 80) has been cut from the 1828 register and had to be replaced with information taken from p. 1140 of the Wiener Zeitung of 25 November 1828. Of course, this replacement is insufficient, because, contrary to the official death records, the lists in the Wiener Zeitung never gave places of birth and times of death of the deceased.

The replacement of Franz Schubert's entry in the death records of the Vienna City Council (A-Wsa, Totenbeschreibamt, 163, S, fol. 80)

The typewritten replacement of the stolen page begins with the following statement:
The missing and in itself worthless leaf was cut out by a user in an act of vandalism. The missing data have been completed from the Wiener-Zeitung.
This is followed by the wrong date "18. November 1828" and the substitute list beginning with Schubert's name.

The original text of Franz Schubert's entry in the Totenbeschauprotokoll is not completely lost. The words that are missing in the Wiener Zeitung (concerning the place of birth and the time of death) survive in the following unpublished (and undigitized) entry in the Bahrleihbuch of St. Stephen's concerning the composer's obsequies on 21 November 1828.

The entry concerning Schubert's obseqies and burial in the Bahrleihbuch of St. Stephen's (A-Wd, Bahrleihbuch, 1.11.1828-31.10.1829, fol. 32v)
[Den 21. November (1828)]
Schubert / Franz
Es ist der H[err] Franz Schubert Tonnkünstler / und Compositeur ledig hier gebürtig alt 32 Jahr / den 19. November nachmittags um 3 1/4 Uhr auf / der Neuwieden Nr° 694 Pf.[arre] Sonenhof verschied[en] / und am Nervenfieber beschaut worden
Wurde im Dorffreydhof Währing beerdiget
Bezahlt worden nach 2. Klaß, 5. Rubrik  .  .  .  20 f 27 [kr]

The musician and composer Franz Schubert, unmarried, born here, aged 32 years, died on 19 November at 3:15 p.m. at Neuwieden No. 694 in the Sonnenhof parish [St. Joseph in Margareten] and was inspected of nervous fever.
He was buried in the village cemetery in Währing
Paid for according to the 2nd class, 5th category .  .  20 florins 27 kreuzer
The unpublished entry concerning Schubert's death in the church record's of St. Josef zu Margareten shows two things: 1) Schubert's body was first supposed to be buried in the Matzleinsdorf cemetery and 2) Schubert only received the anointing of the sick, but not the last rites.

The entry concerning Schubert's death in the records of St. Joseph's: "[Ort, wohin, und Tag, an welchem die Begräbniß geschehen.] den 21tn November in Matzleinsdorfer. [Anmerkungen] Erhielt blos die letzte Oehlung." (St. Josef zu Margareten, Tom 7, fol. 312)

Schubert was not buried on 21 November 1828. The exequies at Margareten, the transport to Währing and the second consecration at St. Gertrud's Church in Währing took too long for the burial to take place on the 21st. Schubert's body was put into the morgue at the Währing cemetery and buried the following day, on Saturday November 22nd. The entry "21tr 9ber" in the Währing burial register (Währing, Tom 4, fol. 280) only refers to the date of the obsequies.

It is very unlikely that Robert Franz Müller had access to the original death records. Until 1922 – when the protocols were transferred to the City Archive and the thefts were noticed – these documents were held by the Totenbeschreibamt of the Vienna Magistrate and were not accessible to the public. Therefore, these thefts seem to have been an inside job, perpetrated by a City's employee. Although we have to accept the loss of the entries of Beethoven and Schubert, there is still occasion to wonder, because the original entries concerning the deaths of Mozart and Haydn are still extant. And since the original protocols are not handed out to readers anymore (following a suggestion that I filed a few years ago), these two documents seem to be safe.

The entry in the Vienna Totenbeschauprotokoll concerning Mozart's death (A-Wsa, Totenbeschreibamt, 96, M, fol. 53v)

The entry in the Vienna Totenbeschauprotokoll concerning Haydn's death (A-Wsa, Totenbeschreibamt, 126, H, fol. 42v)

© Dr. Michael Lorenz 2014.

Updated: 14 March 2023


  1. "And since the original protocols are not handed out to readers anymore (following a suggestion that I filed a few years ago), these two documents seem to be safe."
    Excellent! Does that mean that they have digitized or microfilmed the registers? Bravo!
    Emmanuelle Pesqué

  2. I found this entry in the deceased book of Unsere liebe Frau zu den Schotten online concerning Schubert. https://data.matricula-online.eu/de/oesterreich/wien/01-unsere-liebe-frau-zu-den-schotten/03b-01/?pg=50
    I was searching for the death record of Catarina Cavalieri, having no idea where to find it but knowing her death date. Unfortunately the date I was looking for is missing from this book, and it's only partially in chronological order. But I was kind of excited to find this entry anyway.

    1. Congratulations, you found an unknown Schubert document! The words "im Ramsbergischen H." do not appear in the entry in the Wiener Zeitung. The book 3b-01 of the Schotten parish isn't a regular death register, but a collection of the lists issued by the municipal Totenbeschreibamt which was located inside the area of the Schotten parish. Cavalieri died at Stadt 655 (last numbering 614) on the Graben. Thus her obsequies took place on 1 July 1801 at St. Peter's:
      This has been published a long time ago.