With great help from shoover and JPmiaou in the other Q&A about the marriage between Marie Emma Kafka-Somfai and Dr. Karl Ritter von Taussig I found out that both husband and wife were adopted but both of them only for a limited amount of time.

Marie Emma was adopted by Ferenc Somfai as can be seen in the additional notes to her first marriage to Josef Wregg (in Vienna, therefore in German):

„Nach einer an das k.k. Ministerium des Innern getätigten Mitteilung des Königl(ich) ungar(ischen) Justizminist(eriums) vom 11. Oktober 1910 Z(iffer) 2277/1910 ist die am 15. September 1879 in Brünn geborene, in Wien wohnhafte Maria Emma Kafka, Ehegattin des Josef Wregg, von dem in Budapest wohnhaften ungarischen Staatsangehörigen Franz Somfai adoptiert worden. Vermöge dieser Adoption hat der Geburtsfamilienname der Adoptierten in Hinkunft „Kafka-Somfai“ zu lauten. Erlass des k.k. Ministeriums des Innern vom 4. November 1910, Z(iffer) 40160.“

Which roughly translates to:

"After a message to the k.k. Ministry of the Interior, issued by the Royal Hungarian Ministry of Justice on October 11, 1910, No. 2277/1910, has Maria Emma Kafka, born in Brno on September 15, 1879 and living in Vienna, wife of Josef Wregg, been adopted by the Hungarian citizen Franz Somfai who lives in Budapest. As a result of this adoption, the birth surname of the adopted woman should be "Kafka-Somfai" in the future. Decree of the k.k. Ministry of the Interior from November 4, 1910, No. 40160."

But there is also a later note stating:

„Nach einer an das k.k. Ministerium des Innern getätigten Mitteilung des königl(ich) ungarischen Justizministeriums vom 29. April 1911 Z(iffer) 544 ist der zwischen Maria Emma Kafka, Ehegattin des Josef Wregg und Franz Somfai geschlossene Adoptionsvertrag aufgelöst worden. – Demzufolge wird die Adoptierte in Hinkunft ihren früheren Familiennamen zu führen haben.“


"After a message to the k.k. Ministry of the Interior issued by the Royal Hungarian Ministry of Justice on April 29, 1911, No. 544, the adoption agreement between Maria Emma Kafka, wife of Josef Wregg, and Franz Somfai has been dissolved. As a result, the adopted woman will have her former surname in the future."

So we see that she was only adopted between about October 1910 and April 1911. Only for a rather short time.

With Karl it's the same case, he was adopted by János Német in December 1910 and in February 1912 the adoption was annulled.

A later added note to his birth register entry:

Nach einer an das k.k. Ministerium des Innern gelangten Mitteilung des kgl. ungarischen Justizministeriums vom 24.12.1910 […] ist der am 16.02.1878 geborene und in Wien wohnhafte Karl Ritter von Taussig von dem in Budapest wohnhaften ungarischen Staatsangehörigen Johann Német adoptiert worden.


According to a message from the Royal Hungarian Ministry of Justice of December 24, 1910 […], Karl Ritter von Taussig, who was born in Vienna on February 16, 1878, was adopted by the Hungarian citizen Johann Német, who lives in Budapest.

And from a later added note from the entry of his marriage to Marie Emma:

The adoption contract between Sir Károly Taussig and János Német having been dissolved, the herein-entered groom is obliged and entitled to use the family name Taussig alone in the future. […] February 28, 1912

(Translation of Hungarian original by JPmiaou in the other thread.)

I am assuming that there was a legal reason for getting adopted temporarily. Maybe to be able to get a civil marriage in Hungary which otherwise wouldn't have been possible. I wonder whether it played a role that the bride was divorced before their marriage and that both were of different faiths.

Am I correct and this was common widespread practice under the aforementioned circumstances and is something which perhaps can be useful for genealogical research nowadays and if so then how? (Adoption registry?)
Or in short: Can someone tell me what happened here?

  • Did you manage to find out the reason for the adult adoptions? What is your interest in Marie and Karl? Would love to know more.
    – Ajr_2021
    Commented Aug 16, 2021 at 12:17
  • @AJR No, I didn't. My guess is that they couldn't otherwise get married there in the Hungarian part of the empire with its general civil marriage. Their Heimatrecht was in the Austrian part and the rules there for civil marriage there were strict and complicated (it was basically just meant to be for exceptional cases, the average person in Cisleithania was expected to get married in church/synagoge with both husband and wife belonging to the same religion/denomination. Hungary was much more liberal in that regard.). But that's just speculation on my part.
    – phk
    Commented Aug 17, 2021 at 13:45
  • @AJR My interest stems from being related to her (and not even that far). Concerning my pevious comment I also just remembered that I came across someone (who another relative was married to) whose other marriage got annulled because it was an inter-faith marriage in (Prussian) Silesia while he was an Austrian subject. I found some contemporary newspaper articles on this.
    – phk
    Commented Aug 17, 2021 at 13:51
  • Apparently, I found another case of a sham adoption for a similar reason: cs.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oskar_Nedbal#cite_note-7 (Czech)
    – phk
    Commented May 18, 2022 at 6:45

1 Answer 1


I don't think the word "sham" applies, and no, it was not a common or widespread practice. Your example has the second and third cases of adult adoption that I have encountered in ten years of Hungarian genealogy research.

Based on what I can find online, such adoption contracts were usually between a childless older adult and a younger adult, and they were primarily financial in nature: the childless adult wanted a clear heir for his property, and someone to take care of him in old age. Carrying on his family name was also a consideration.

As far as I know, adoption made absolutely no difference in the adoptee's ability to get married. The contract was not driven by the adoptee's needs, but by the adopter's.

(The civil marriage was the easy part for a mixed marriage. Getting it recognized by a church -- if the couple was so inclined -- would have been the hard part.)

  • Thank you for that answer, I think I should have waited with this thread because in the meantine I found out more and edited my post acoordingly. For one, the adoption was only temporarily, it didn't even last a year. BTW, Karl and Marie Emma came from rather wealthy backgrounds.
    – phk
    Commented May 4, 2020 at 6:59
  • The other adult adoptee I've encountered was also pretty well-off, emphasizing the "elder care contract" aspect.
    – JPmiaou
    Commented May 4, 2020 at 15:31
  • But in this case I doubt that they would just have wanted to care for the elders and then changed their minds. Also note how they are both actually residents of Vienna.
    – phk
    Commented May 4, 2020 at 19:31
  • Do you think I could maybe find out more by contacting the Hungraian archives? Can I write them in English?
    – phk
    Commented Jun 5, 2020 at 7:10
  • Think of the adoption as an elder-care contract: it has almost nothing to do with the younger person's circumstances and needs, beyond a vague notion of the ability to fulfill future responsibilities in exchange for eventual financial gain. It's entirely possible (or likely, even) that it was the adopter who changed his mind, not the adoptee.
    – JPmiaou
    Commented Jun 5, 2020 at 15:50

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