„Ratiu” (or “Racz” as the name was typically spelled under Hungarian rule, or „Ratz” under Austrian rule) is one of the earliest documented Romanian family names in Transylvania. It first appeared in 1332 when Voivode Thomas Szeczenyi certified that Andrei (aka Indrei) is „Nobilis” (ie nobleman) of Nagylak and rightful owner of the lands around the village of Nagylak on the Mures river near present-day Alba Iulia. In mediaeval Transylvania, noble status such as Andrei’s entitled a man to many privileges, and especially to land
In 1396, Thomas de Nagylak (Andrei’s grandson) and his men enlisted as crusaders in the army of the Hungarian King Sigismund of Luxembourg who had allied his forces with those of Romanian voievode Mircea the Old of Wallachia and other crusader armies from the West. This turned out to be the Western powers’ last stand against the Ottoman Turks’ invasion of the Balkans that ended with the Europeans’ disastrous defeat at Nicopolis and the permanent loss of all lands south of the Danube to Islam.
Nevertheless, Thomas de Nagylak distinguished himself in the campaign. As a reward for his services, King Sigismund ennobled him. In Transylvania, Thomas’ neighbours nicknamed him ``Ratiu” or ``Racz” – ie „The Croat” („Hrvac”) because he had fought in the land of the Croats – and the name stuck: the family name became Racz de Nagylak.
From the 14th century onwards the family obtained several further titles of nobility. Emperor Rudolf II Habsburg appointed Petrus Ratz von Nagylak, (as the name was now spelled in German), „imperial translator for Romanian relations”. Petrus and his family settled in Rudolf’s chosen capital, Prague, and fought in a number of his campaigns. Eventually Petrus was appointed the emperor’s ambassador to the Court of Russia, in St Petersburg. These promotions are reflected in changes in the family coats of arms at this time; the family leopard not only gained a second head and a Mercury messenger stick reflecting the bearer’s ambassadorial status, but Petrus and his descendants also received a new, additional coat of arms in recognition of their Crusader heritage; it depicts a decapitated janissary head (which the family rarely shows).
Since the rights and privileges of nobility in this part of Europe were frequently contested, in 1625 Prince Gabriel Bethlen of Transylvania formally renewed Stefan Racz’s Nagylak title (note hungarian spelling again). 25 years later in the next electoral contest for the princely title to Transylvania, Stefan duly supported his Bethlen benefactors. But Bethlen lost, and in 1653 the victorious contender, Prince George Rakoczi II, confiscated all Stefan Racz’s Nagylak lands.
Eventually, in 1680, the Turda Ratius’ Nagylak title was reconfirmed by Prince Rakoczi’s successor, Prince Mihai Apafi I. This 1680 document mentions Ratiu descendants Vasile with his sons Ioan and Vasile.
18th century Ratiu family members also became closely identified with the United Church (i.e. Greek- Catholic) part of the former Orthodox diocese of Transylvania that had united with Rome in exchange for civil rights under Austrian rule. But the promised civil rights were all too slow to materialize.
Stefan Racz’s two eldest sons now headed west down the river Mures and settled in the present-day town of Teius. There they entered the service of the victorious Prince Rakoczi. In due course they were rewarded with lands and a title of their own: Ratz von Tövis (note German spelling). Stefan and his other children, including his youngest son Coman, headed north across the river Mures and settled in Turda, a „closed” city where only people of noble descent resided. Somehow, the Nagylak Ratiu’s - nephews of Stefan and sons of Coman - were accepted in Turda and survived there. All the Turda Ratiu’s are descendants of these 18th century fugitives from Nagylak