(This paper may be freely reproduced and distributed in part or in whole, for the purposes of genealogical research, as long as it is not sold for profit, and the writer, the URL, and copyright notice are cited.)
Please note that the Czech State Regional Archives (with the exception of Plzeň – at least temporarily) are no longer taking genealogical reqeusts as of now (April 2003). One must either hire a professional researcher or go to the archives in person. See the section called “Hiring a Regional Archive for research” below.
This guide focuses on conducting
research by mail or personally visiting a statní oblastní (state
regional) or zemský (provincial) archive. (These two archives are
identical in function and differ in name only.
The term zemský is used in
The first group of people known to
have inhabited the area of the present-day
The Celts were more advanced culturally than most European ethnic groups of the time, and stimulated the economy of the area. They are credited with a number of discoveries “such as the use of the potter’s wheel in ceramic production, iron ploughshares on wooden bases, and grinding corn between stone wheels, but also the establishment of specialized production sites from which blacksmiths, potters, jewellers, glassmakers, and other mastercraftsmen and women supplied their products to wide customer circles.”1
Soon after the time of Christ, the waning Celtic power was supplanted by Germanic tribes, of which the Marcomanni was the most dominant. This tribe remained in power for several centuries and formed a kingdom of considerable size.
Slavic tribes arrived in
In 863 CE, two missionary brothers, Constantine
and Methodius, were invited to
Later, Charles IV (Wenceslas), a member of
It was not long after this that Jan Hus appeared in Czech history. A Catholic priest born in Husinec in southern Bohemia ca. 1369, he lived in Prague and preached at Bethlehem Chapel. He took his Magister at the university in 1396 and then worked his way up the ranks to Rector of the university in 1403. A very popular speaker and a follower of religious dissident John Wyclif of England, he advocated reform and objected to the Western Orthodox practice of selling indulgences and the Church’s loose moral practices. As an outspoken critic of the Catholic Church, he was excommunicated in 1412. Two years later he was ordered to appear at the Council of Constance, where he faced many false charges. He was imprisoned and again called before the council the following year. He was condemned and burned at the stake on 6 July 1415. The date of his death is now a national holiday.
Hus was so popular that his execution caused an uprising of the Bohemian and Moravian citizenry. A Hussite religious order was established. Political and ecumenical turmoil threw the country into war for many years. Jan Žižka, a brilliant military leader and religious zealot, easily fell into the role of defender of the state and of the principles of God. Several years after his death in 1424, a compromise ending hostilities was reached with the Catholics.
By this time, Protestantism flourished in the Czech lands. King and nobles alike were Protestants. A Catholic family from Austria, the Habsburgs, began to rule in 1526. In 1618, the rebellion of Protestant Czech nobles against the Habsburgs touched off the Thirty Years War (1618-1648), a Europe-wide religious war between Catholics and Protestants. On 8 November 1620, the short but significant Battle of White Mountain was fought outside Prague. The Habsburgs put down the Protestants and brought them forcefully under yoke. Many Protestants were killed or exiled, their property seized, and their records destroyed. Eventually, this counter-reformation, or re-Catholicization, saw the Czech lands turn back almost completely to Catholicism. Austria, together with Hungary after 1867, ruled the area for centuries.
In fact, it was not until the end of World War I that the Austro-Hungarian Empire was dissolved and Czechoslovakia was made an independent state. The new country consisted of Bohemia, Moravia, part of Silesia, Slovakia, and Ruthenia. Championed by Eduard Beneš and Tomáš Masaryk, this realization of freedom and independence was not to last for long, for Hitler seized the area of Bohemia called Sudetenland, or the area in which Germans had heavily settled. Later, he took control of the entire country. The official government went into exile in England. World War II was a disaster for Czech Jews, most of whom were killed, and their records destroyed, in an attempt to wipe out any trace of them. Soviet forces came into Czechoslovakia during Hitler’s defeat, as American troops waited nearby.
After World War II, Czechoslovakia was again independent, but only for a short time. Communists in the government, for all intents and purposes, seized control within a few short years, and Czechoslovakia was brought under Soviet influence. A brief period of reform in 1968 (known as the “Prague Spring,” and lead by Alexander Dubček) was crushed by the Soviets, who continued to influence the Czech government until 1990. Then Mikhail Gorbachev, leader of the Soviet Union, relaxed the Soviet hold on satellite countries and introduced the ideas of glasnost and perestroika, which allowed for more freedom of expression.
The populace’s discontent with the Czech government led to the resignation of communist officials in Czechoslovakia. Similar circumstances abounded in eastern Europe, and soon the period of Soviet influence ended. In June, 1990, the well-known dissident and poet, Václav Havel, was elected president of Czechoslovakia. Difficulties between the Czechs and Slovaks led Havel to resign in 1992. On 1 January 1993 the country divided to form two new nations, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. President Havel was again elected president, this time, of the Czech Republic, in which capacity he continues today.
Structure of the Czech Archival System4
Since many genealogists will be forced to conduct research in the archives of the Czech Republic, it is a good idea to initially review their organizational structure. The highest echelon in the Czech Republic is the State Central Archive, Prague. There are housed documents produced by the Czech lands of Austria, and later of Czechoslovakia. Generally, these records are of minor genealogical value.
The next level of archival jurisdiction is regional. In 1960 the Czechoslovak government established seven regional archives in the area comprising the modern Republic. This structure continues to operate throughout the country, with a few minor variations: the State Regional Archive is called Státní oblastní archiv in the portion of the Czech Republic known as Bohemia, while in Moravia, the term used is Zemský archiv. There is no functional difference between the two. These archives are the most significant for genealogical research in that they house birth, marriage, and death records. Some land registers, another valuable source for family historians, are also available in these archives.
Archival districts of the Czech Republic. Used with permission of Daniel Schlyter.
Subordinate to this is the State District Archive (Státní okresní archiv). These institutions number 73 in the Czech Republic. They contain many important records, such as census returns, emigration documents, land records, and marriage contracts, etc. Records located in county and regional archives are usually current through the early 1900s. Later records are deposited in local town halls or other institutions.
City archives in larger cities can also serve the same function as a State Regional Archive, in that they safeguard vital records. The city archives of Prague and Brno are in this category.
Please note that this section
is obsolete as of 2003 – at least for the time being – with the exception of
the State Regional Archiv in
It is possible to retain an archive to do some of your research. Many people begin their research this way through the mail. Czech archives generally do a good job and charge between $10.00-14.00 per hour ($ refers to US dollars in this article). A professional researcher will usually do a more thorough job in locating your specific family, and is not limited to one archive. A professional researcher will usually do a more thorough job in locating your specific family, and is not limited to one archive. One option to consider is to begin your research through the archive, then have a researcher pick it up where the archive left off. Be aware that the archivist does not have an interest in your own specific family, as a researcher would.
If you have an archive assist in your research they will likely search vital records (births, marriages, and deaths). These records were initially kept by the Catholic Church and later by other denominations. There are also census, military, and other Czech records which are available for study. The best place to start is with church books. They are kept in the statní oblastní (state regional) archive or zemský (provincial) archive.
To ensure a reply you should send three International Reply Coupons with each request, to help defray postage costs the other party will incur in responding to your request.
Before you begin, you must know the town of origin of your ancestor! It can not be overemphasized how important it is to locate the place your ancestor came from before sending a request to the Czech Republic. The best place to start is in the country your ancestor immigrated to. Also, send photocopies of any documents you have, that you think may help the researcher to find your ancestors. This can sometimes speed up the research process considerably.
Some archives respond quicker than others. The Plzeň archive has typically taken six months in the past, but an answer could possibly take up to twelve months. Plzeň, however, and other archives may require up to twelve months. This will surely vary as the work load of an archive fluctuates. Other factors to consider are closures for remodeling, inventory, or other reasons.
It is best if you keep each research request to a maximum of about US$200.00-250.00. Archivists have many projects and can’t spend a great deal of time on reference issues. If your request is too involved it may be only partially completed.
It is not necessary to write research requests in Czech; either English or German will suffice. You will be written back in Czech, however, so you will have to learn something about the language or get help. A regional or provincial archive will provide a translation for approximately $5.00 per page.
Archival research report from the Pilsen archive.
You can also request a map covering the area your ancestors came from. Maps are $2.00-3.00 each and cover a section of the country approximately 75 km x 45 km. The scale of one the author received for the Klatovy area is 1:100,000 (no accompanying index).
There are several ways you can solicit information from a Czech archive:
1. You can ask for photocopies
2. You can ask that information be transcribed in running commentary style. Sometimes an archive will transcribe a record completely, other times, it will just include a short description or list of people with minimal information (e.g., for a birth entry: name, date of birth, and reference in the register of the entry).
3. You can have information sent to you on official certificates. There is a fee associated with each certificate.
4. You can have the archive record information on your own forms. Be certain to send enough forms to cover the work that must be done. The advantage to this last method is the information is obviously very easy to interpret.
If you request copies of records from an archive, be aware that certain archives make photocopies, others don’t due to preservation issues. Sometimes you may receive actual photographs of the entries, sometimes photocopies. Other times you may receive a microfilm (i.e., the specific entries of the research found on your family, not a microfilm of the entire parish).
To conduct genealogical research with the assistance of a Czech archive, send your request to the central office in Prague. That office will forward your request to the appropriate státní oblastní or zemský archiv:
ministerstva vnitra ČR
Milady Horákové 133
166 21 Praha 6
Be certain to indicate a monetary limit on research. Again, the rate archives charge for research is usually between $10.00-14.00 per working hour. Charges are calculated in 30-minute blocks. An administrative fee of $8.00 per request is charged, and clerical work (e.g., typing of reports) runs $4.00 per hour.
Another way to research your ancestors is to hire a professional genealogist. If choosing this option, exercise caution. Many people claiming to be professional researchers are not bona fide. Some are frauds. Ask around. The reputation of a good researcher usually precedes him. There are many ways of finding qualified researchers. ICAPGen (International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists) is an accrediting organization of professional researchers. A list of accredited researchers (A.G.) can be found on the web at:
Or, you may reach them at:
P.O. Box 970204
Orem, UT 84097-0204
FAX: (801) 375-4722
You may also obtain a list of certified (C.G.) professional researchers certified through the Board of Certification of Genealogists. The list of genealogists certified through them is on their web page:
Or, if you prefer, you may write to:
Board of Certification of Genealogists
P.O. Box 14291
Washington, DC 20044
Czech family history societies can also point you in the right direction. The CGSI (Czechoslovak Genealogical Society International) has a web page of professional researchers who work in the Czech and Slovak Republics:
Other family history societies may have similar lists.
One advantage to hiring a professional do your research is that you only need to deal with one person, instead of several archives. Researchers will become familiar with your particular lines and know your specific needs. They have multiple resources at their disposal.
Professional researchers might be a little more expensive. The average charge for a reliable professional is around $20.00-50.00, but can be more, even up to $100.00 per hour.
It is possible to go to the Czech Republic and do the research yourself. If you do, you should have the appropriate background. You will encounter material in several languages, and need to read both Latin and Kurrent (a handwritten script, corresponding to Gothic print) scripts. There are a variety of document types, e.g. church records, land records, censuses, military records, etc. Familiarize yourself with those types you will be searching, as well as Czech research guides to help you in this task. You will also need to know which archive houses which type of records.
Archive personnel will often help with an occasional question, but you should be prepared to read records and do research on your own. Their job is to safeguard materials for your use, not to do your research. Many can’t read the old writing. They may or may not speak English or German, so it is best to be prepared.
There is almost always a fee equivalent to
approximately US $1.00-2.00 charged per book or microfilm used each day. The usual way to pay is by providing the
archive with “koleky” (fee stamps) in the proper amount. Fee stamps may be purchased at a post
office. The Třeboň archive will take cash,
Before you travel to the
If you wish to visit one of the state regional archives after locating your town, but are not sure which archive contains the church books for your town, write to the following address. They will direct you to the proper institution.
Archivní správa ministerstva vnitra ČR
Milady Horákové 133
166 21 Praha 6
You should also bring reference tools that you are familiar with, e.g., gazetteers, atlases, dictionaries, genealogical dictionaries, etc. An archive may have similar resources, but it will take valuable time to familiarize yourself with them, or you may not even be able to use them at all. An English-speaking researcher might want to bring some of the following on a trip to a Czech archive:
· Czech-, German-, Latin-English dictionaries
· Czech-, German-, Latin-English genealogical dictionaries
· Gazetteer covering the geographical area you are researching
· Atlases and maps
· Czech genealogy handbook
· Laptop computer
· Pedigree charts and family group record sheets
If you are planning on bringing a laptop with you on your trip, be aware that power may not be available from your work area in the archives. You may need a spare battery or two. Hopefully, your laptop will handle dual voltage (in Europe, electrical outlets are 240 V AC), so you don’t need a converter. If you do have dual voltage capability, you will still need an appropriate adapter for the Czech Republic.
For researchers who don’t speak Czech, some Czechs speak English; even more speak German. If you do speak German, it can be of great assistance to you in the Czech Republic. You shouldn’t expect, however, that someone will speak English or German.
It is a good idea to check archival inventories, as well. The FHL has copies of some of these (some more recent than others). Check the catalog under the archive locality and the subject heading “Archives and libraries.”
Call or write to the archives well in advance, so that you will not have any problems getting in. There are certain times of day, as well as days of the week or year they are closed. You should be aware of these before planning a trip. Some archives are closed during a certain month of the year, some every other Friday, or others might be closed for inventory or remodeling. They can close without warning, so please, make certain you contact each archive in advance to inquire about their hours, days they are closed, whether you need to reserve a seat or a microfilm reader, or any other conditions you must meet to do research there.
All archives are closed on the following national holidays: 1 January, 1 May, 8 May, 5-6 July, 28 October, 24-26, 31 December.
Some of the State Regional Archives have branch offices, where it is also possible to conduct research. Plan on more of a time lag in getting the books you want, however. More information on both branch and main offices can be found at:
This Internet site, although in German, gives detailed information on individual archives (e.g., whether it is necessary to reserve a seat or microfilm reader, the cost of use for each church book, condition of archival material, etc.). For further information see also:
Expect to find records written in either Czech, German, or Latin. Some parishes even have records that are written in all three. Become familiar with these languages, or at least with the necessary vocabulary and grammar for each type of record you will be researching (see below). Czech and Latin especially are highly inflected languages, i.e. word forms change depending on certain grammatical conditions. One example of inflection in English is: speak, speaks, speaking, spoke, spoken. When looking up one of these forms in a dictionary, the word is found in only one place, under its base form, speak, and all other inflected forms of the word are derived from that single word. In Czech, Pilsen is Plzeň in its nominative, or dictionary form, but in Pilsen is written v Plzni. There are many good language aids available to help you (see bibliography). Some bookstores have an excellent selection of grammars, guidebooks and dictionaries to choose from.
You should also become familiar with the Kurrent script, common in many countries of Germanic origin, or those influenced by countries such as Germany and Austria. There are also good sources to help you learn this script (see bibliography). If you practice writing the script, you should be able to read it easily. You will also probably encounter Czech written in Kurrent, which is called Švabach. When Austria ordered that all Czech records be henceforth kept in either Latin or German, priests would often attempt to get around this by writing Czech in Švabach.
If you are planning on doing your own research, some very good and thorough guides are available. Olga K. Miller’s Genealogical Research for Czech and Slovak Americans (ISBN 0-8103-1404-5) is a must for any who wish to do Czech and Slovak research on their own. It provides a good overview and an in-depth treatment of many aspects of research (especially her coverage of sources in the Czech and Slovak Republics). It was published by:
Gale Research Company
Book Tower, Detroit, MI 48226
Another good resource is Daniel Schlyter’s A Handbook of Czechoslovak Genealogical Research (ISBN 0-912811-02-1). It similarly covers areas of research quite well and has particularly good treatment of how to trace your ancestor back to Europe. The publisher is
789 South Buffalo Grove Road
Buffalo Grove, IL 60090
Unfortunately, both of these publications are out of print. If you are unable to find these sources in your own library, try to obtain them through Interlibrary Loan.
The Czechoslovak Genealogical Society International (CGSI) is currently (June 2002) putting together a guide on Czech research, which promises to be a good resource.
There are also many other publications which are helpful in research. Some focus on Czechs who immigrated to Texas, the Midwest, Northwest, or other areas of the United States, as well as other countries. Check the Family History Library Catalog, your local library, or the Internet. Family history societies can also be very helpful.
There are excellent aids available for doing Czech research. Just remember, though, if you are doing research on your own, the keyword is to be prepared.
If you are traveling to the Czech Republic for research, you need to know the addresses, phone numbers, hours, and other information for each statní oblastní or zemský archive. When calling the Czech Republic, note that the country code is 420. You will have to dial your own international access code immediately preceding the country code (for the United States, this is 011). An attempt has been made to get the most current information (as of May 2000), but you should always contact the archives yourself, in order to be aware of any changes. Here are the archive addresses:
Moravský zemský archiv v Brně
Žerotínovo náměsti 3/5
656 01 Brno
Hours: M - Th: 9:00 - 12:00, 13:00 - 18:00 (closed 1. every Friday, 2. entire month of July.)
Státní oblastní archiv v Litoměřicích
412 01 Litoměřice
Telephone: 011-420-416/73 53 59
Fax: 011-420-416/73 53 73
Hours: M, W 8:00-18:00; T, Th 8:00-15:30; F CLOSED (all year)
Zemský archiv v Opavě
Sněmovni ul. C 1
746 01 Opava
Hours: M, W: 7:30 - 5:30; T, Th: 7:30 - 3:00
Státní oblastní archiv v Plzni
p.p. 312306 12 Plzeň
Telephone: 011-420-377 236 263
Fax: 011-420-377 327 269
Hours: M, T, W: ; Th, F:
Státní oblastní archiv v Zámrsk
565 43 Zámrsk
Telephone: 011-420-465/481 202 or 230
Fax: 011-420-465/481 201
Hours: M, W: ; T, Th:
Státní oblastní archiv v Třeboni
379 11 Treboň, zámek
Telephone: 011-420-384/721 128 or 511
Fax: 011-420-384/721 346
Hours: M, W: ; T, Th:
Státní oblastní archiv v Praze
128 00 Praha 2 - Nové Město
Telephone: 011-420-974/847 358 or 269
Fax: 011-420-974/847 357
Hours: T, W: ; Th: (usually closed during August)
Research requests, or information about which archive houses records for your specific town:
ministerstva vnitra ČR
Milady Horákové 133
166 21 Praha 6
Vojenský historický archiv (Military Historical Archive in Prague)
186 00 Praha 8 - Karlín
The best place to begin is at home. Personal genealogical work should always be done starting from yourself and your immediate family. Many waste time looking for information on a (usually famous) relative in the past and trying to bring the connection down to the present. Descendancy research, though it has its own place, is usually very time-consuming. It will be more advantageous to you to work from the known to the unknown. Many beginning researchers start their search in a library or archive and spend months or even years digging for information they could more easily have found out from relatives.
Interview your relatives. Ask key questions about dates, places, and events. Their answers can clue you in on what to search next. It is especially important to interview the oldest relatives. The fact is, they won’t be with you forever, and valuable information will be lost if you don’t act soon. Get copies of valuable family documents, such as letters, military records, naturalization records, and other records that the family has passed down. Perhaps you will be fortunate enough to have a copy of a Rodný a křestní list (birth and christening certificate), which will give you an exact place of birth.
Certificate of birth and christening. Used with permission of Daniel Schlyter.
The next step is to organize your family history information. The standard way to do this is to write your information down on family group sheets and pedigree charts. Make a group sheet for each family on your pedigree, whether it be blood or adopted lines. The names may be recorded in Latin, Czech, or German, but record them either in Czech or German, depending on the mother tongue of the ancestor. You should alter the inflection of a name to change it the nominative case.
Be sure to carefully document everything you find. Undocumentable dates, places, and other information are only slightly better than having no information at all; someone else will be forced to recreate your thinking to verify what you have done.
If you have a computer, probably the best way for you to organize your family records data will be to get some genealogy software. Personal Ancestral File (PAF) 5 allows use of Czech (or for that matter, Russian, Polish, or any other) characters, and is freeware, available for download at:
under “Order/Download Products.” To use and view Czech characters properly on your computer, you will have to make some changes. They will vary, according to the operating system you have. Two examples:
For Windows 95, you need to click on the Start menu | Settings | Control Panel | Add/Remove programs | Windows setup tab | Multilingual support (including Eastern European). You will need to restart your computer. You can then set up a Czech keyboard by going again to the Control Panel. This time, select keyboard | Input locales | Add | select Czech as the input locale | OK | OK.
For Windows 2000, you must first change your regional settings (Start menu | Settings | Control Panel | Regional options | General tab | under Language settings for the system, select Central Europe. Restart your computer. Then go back to Control Panel and add a Czech keyboard in a manner similar to the way one is added for Windows 95.
If you have the latest version of PAF 4 (126.96.36.199), it is reported to work with Eastern European characters, although it is necessary to use an Eastern European version of Windows, so you may want to be careful. Or, you may wish to go with a software package offered by another company, tailor-made to your own needs. There are several Czech versions of commercial software packages.
When you have gathered all the information you can from your family, you are ready to begin more in-depth research at a library or archive. Chances are, you will have to learn how to conduct research in the country you now reside in, in addition to the Czech Republic. Most families go back several generations to the point of Czech emigration. For research in the United States, your principle record sources are federal and state censuses, as well as state and county vital records.
For many, the most difficult part of research is tracing connections from the country of arrival back to Europe. Records in the United States (or other country of arrival) should be consulted first. If family records do not indicate the place of origin, try searching the sources listed in the Migration Documents section of this guide. Search also cemetery records, obituaries, funeral services, and funeral home records (this last source is not often used, but may list the exact place of birth), rodný a křestní list, LDS indexes on computer (see http://www.familysearch.org), other computerized and published indexes, passport applications, etc. It is essential that you establish a specific birth place in the Czech Republic, since there are no general country-wide vital statistics indexes.
Once you have established the birth place, the next thing you should check is a gazetteer. Gazetteers are books that show all the towns in a particular country, and how they are organized into political jurisdictions (provinces, counties, districts, etc.). They often give other important information, such as distance from the capital city of the province, the area of the town, the population, how many in the town belonged to which religion, whether there were schools, whether a church was there, or, if not, the town where the inhabitants went to church. Often, people in smaller villages went to church in a bigger town, and you need to know that town name to find your family’s church records. In areas with mixed Catholic/Protestant populations, Catholics may have gone to church in one town, and Protestants in another. Probably, most of your Czech ancestors were Catholic. Most gazetteers also have indexes, for easy searching of localities.
Remember that a place of origin you find on an emigration/immigration document may not necessarily be the place where the person was born. It may simply be the last place he or she lived. Also, there may be dozens or even hundreds of towns with the same name. It is possible to find several towns very near each other with the same name. You must either know enough about the town to know which one to check, or check multiple towns to narrow your search. Additionally, a locality listed on a document as a place of origin may refer to a larger town somewhere near the actual birth place.
Several gazetteers covering the Czech
Republic are discussed in this article, although you may want to use another
one, depending on your particular needs.
They are two different versions of Gemeindelexikon, as well as Místopisný
Slovník Československé Republiky.
A modern exhaustive gazetteer of the
Different gazetteers contain different information, and depending on what you are looking for, it may be advantageous to look at more than one.
The Gemeindelexikon6 has several important sections:
· The list of towns and parishes in their administrative district
· An appendix indicating where registers of births, marriages, and deaths can be found
· Alphabetical index of Bohemia (Böhmen, vol. IX) and Moravia (Mähren, vol. X).
The first is the main part of the book, the listing of towns and parishes. The appendix section shows where populations from various towns went to school and church. An index is included in the back, split up into Bohemian and Moravian locality sections. The relevant headings for the first section areare as follows:
List towns and parishes:
Fortlaufende Nummer (consecutive number); Bezirkshauptmannschaft (a political division), Gerichtsbezirk (judicial district), Ortsgemeinde (a smaller political division — area around a town), Ortschaft (locality); Ortsgemeinden, Ortschaften; Areal in Hektar (area in hectares); Anwesende Bevölkerung (population present); männlich (male); weiblich (female); zusammen (together); Konfession (confession, i.e., religion); katholisch (Catholic); evangelisch (Evangelical); Isreaelitisch (Jewish); andere (other); Umgangsprache der einheimischen Bevölkerung (colloquial language of the indigenous population); deutsch (German); böhm. (Bohemian), Möhr. (Moravian), slovak. (Slovak); andere (other); Häuser (houses)
Appendix (some columns repeated — for those, see above):
Standorte der röm.-kath. Matrikelstellen zu welchen die nebenstehenden Ortsgemeinden gehören (in short, the location of the Roman-Catholic register, for each town)
Gemeindelexikon – 1904.
Gemeindelexikon – 1904 – appendix.
A later version (1927-1928) of Gemeindelexikon7 is another gazetteer in common use. The list of towns and parishes is somewhat different from the earlier version. The relevant column headings for this gazetteer are as follows (some column headings repeated — for those, see above gazetteer):
List towns and parishes:
nationalitätschar. d. Gem. (nationality of the Gemeinde); Pfarramt röm.-kath. (Roman Catholic parish/rectory.
Administratives Gemeindelexikon – 1927.
The Místopisný Slovník Československé Republiky8 is the gazetteer officially used for localities in the Family History Library Catalog (FHLC) for the Czech Republic. The symbols and abbreviations key can not be easily reproduced here, but offers much the same information as other gazetteers.
Vital/church records (matriky) of births, marriages, and deaths
The vital or church records, consisting of birth, marriage, and death registers, are some of the best genealogical records in the world. Unfortunately for private researchers, they are unavailable in the United States. Church records are by far the greatest source of information in the Czech Republic, and should be focused on first, when available. Census, land, and other records are also available, but it cannot be overemphasized that the vital/church records are the best place to begin.
The earliest Catholic church records in the Czech lands are from 14419 (a book of christenings for Horní Jiřetín), although the Council of Trent did not mandate the use of christening and marriage registers until 1563. Deaths were supposed to be kept as of 1614.
The Emperor’s Edict of 1 May 1781 legalized church registers as valid public records for the Czech lands.10
Joseph II’s Edict of Toleration of 13 October 1781 allowed Protestants, Jews, and others to keep their own church records under the supervision of the Catholic church. Though the Protestants were allowed to keep registers starting in 1771, they were copied and recorded into Catholic registers. In 1781, they were allowed to keep their own books, though still under Catholic supervision.
Starting 10 February 1784, Emperor Joseph II required that all church birth entries include the full names of both parents, all grandparents, along with their towns of origin and military conscription numbers, or unique address, such as Plichtice č. 5 (č = čislo, Czech for “number”). For more information on military conscription, see the Military Records section below.
The Emperor also required that records be kept in Latin or German. Each type of record had to be kept in a separate volume; column headings were also made compulsory. This made for the “rubric” style records, which are much easier to read than earlier records. It is most helpful to have the addresses, or military conscription numbers for houses. Records for a particular family can be searched (with care, as there was a change in the numbering system in 1805!) based on the conscription number.
Registers of births, marriages, and deaths were ordered to be indexed in 1790. In 1802, all of the older matriky were ordered indexed, as well. This fact makes Austrian (and specifically in this case, Czech) records some of the quickest and easiest to search. Care must be exercised in using indexes, however. If you are unable to find an ancestor in an index, you may need to do a line-by-line search in the actual record. Sometimes people were missed in the indexes.
Starting in 1869, the civil authorities took charge of the record keeping of births, marriages, and deaths, although the individual churches continued to actually record these events. The official legal copy was kept by local officials. This action was prompted when many of the clergy refused to perform Catholic rites for non-Catholics.11 Everyone was registered under this new system (not only those appearing in Catholic or Protestant registers).
Matriky which carry over past the early 1900's (even though they may have begun earlier) are still located in local city halls or other institutions.012
Many records list some or all of the great-grandparents, their full names (usually with maiden names for the women), towns of origin, and conscription numbers. Sometimes entries in the matriky list even great-great grandparents. Quality of the records will naturally vary with time, however, with later records containing more information. Occupations of males are usually listed. Later birth records include date of birth and christening. Death entries include date of death and burial. Earlier record only contain christening and burial information.
Confessional registers, beginning from 1570 to 1666, are additional church sources that may be checked, although of a lesser value than the birth, marriage, and death registers. Not everyone was mentioned in the registers. At times, the records focused mainly on those who didn’t attend confession.13
Below are some examples of matriky from Slatina parish (Bílovec), Slezsko in the Czech Republic from FHL films 1194209, 1194211-12 (original copy housed in the Deutsche Zentralstelle für Genealogie, Leipzig). Records from this one parish are in Latin (1754), German (1784), and Czech (1879). Note in the Czech record, that the form being used is German, while Czech is used in the body of the entries.
Slatina parish registers – Baptisms 1754 – Latin.
Slatina parish registers – Baptisms 1784 – German.
Slatina parish registers – Marriages 1879 – German headings, Czech text.
Some excellent and relatively new publications by Felix Gundacker, which shouldn’t be omitted here are the Pfarrortelexikon Böhmen (Dictionary of Bohemian Parishes in the Czech Republic) and Matrikenverzeichnis der Böhmischen Staatsarchive, 2 Teile (Register of Vital Statistics in the Czech State Archives pertaining to Bohemia — in 2 parts). These resources can assist you in locating vital records relevant to your family history. Part 1 covers the State Regional Archives for Litoměřice, Třeboň, and Plzeň districts. Part 2 covers Praha city, Praha district, and Zámrsk district.
Also recently available are Pfarrortelexikon Mähren (Dictionary of Moravian Parishes in the Czech Republic) and Matrikenverzeichnis der Mährischen Staatsarchive, 2 Teile (Register of Vital Statistics in the Czech State Archives pertaining to Moravia — in 2 parts). Part 1 is Brno city and Brno district. Part 2 covers Olomouc and Opava districts. All of Moravia, as well as Austrian Silesia, are included in these volumes.
These books are extremely valuable for the researcher. The “Registers of Vital Statistics” contain the holdings of all of the Czech archives for birth, marriage, and death registers. There is a preface written in English, as well as German, which explains how to use the books, along with an explanation of all abbreviations used. Examples of information offered are: information about individual registers, which archive they are in, span of years for each volume, and whether the particular volume covers all towns in the parish (Pfarrbereich) or whether specific towns are in separate books. Many smaller towns within a parish are listed. There is also a note indicating that particular books have been filmed. Indexes are listed, as well. There are also inventories of the Jewish registers of Bohemia and Moravia/Austrian Silesia. All books are available from IHFF (Institute for Historical Family Research), which can be found at:
It is advisable to use these books in conjunction with the Dictionary of Bohemian/Moravian parishes volumes (a list of localities in Bohemia, based on the Administrativní Lexikon Obce v Čechach, 1927). “Dictionary” shows which parish smaller towns belonged to, as well as whether a parish was formerly part of another parish, and name of that parish (Vorpfarre). There is a numbering system used, where each parish in the country has a unique number.
Gundacker’s Matrikenverzeicihnis: holdings for Číměř,” Čížová, and Čkyně.
Many Protestant registers were kept (some as early as the 15th century14) before the Thirty Years War. But after 1627, only the Catholic religion was permitted to be practiced. Many Protestant church records created previous to the Battle of White Mountain in 1620 were destroyed. Much later, non-conformist religious groups were allowed to keep their own registers, due to the Edict of Tolerance on 13 October 1781. Although not publicly valid records, it was a big step forward in record-keeping. The Edict of 30 January 1849 granted them status of official legal documents.15
Lapčík reports that the earliest extant Jewish circumcision books of 1677 and 1779 are the first attempt of the state to record vital information for Jews. Birth records for females were begun in 1783. With the Imperial Edict of 20 February 1784, rabbis were ordered to keep registers under the supervision of the Catholic church, but they were not recognized as publicly valid. 16 Previously, Jews, like Protestants, were not allowed to keep their own registers.
Schlyter reports that although Jewish rabbis were required to keep records starting in 1784, they were not of good quality because of the mobility of the Jewish population, as well as an attempt to avoiding military conscription. The Catholic clergy was assigned to keep track of Jewish registers, but it wasn’t until later, in 1868, when they were declared valid public records, that record-keeping quality improved.17
A tragic loss for Czech Jews was the destruction of Jewish vital registers from the period of 1880 to 1944 in Prague by the Nazis. They were destroyed at a German paper mill on 18 April 1945.18
Jewish registers are located in the State Central Archive (Státní ústřední archiv) in Prague.19 For those interested in Jewish records prior to the early 1900's, write to:
Státní ústřední archiv
Milady Horákové 133
160 00 Praha 6
For later records, write to:
Státní ústřední archiv
110 00 Praha 1
Valuable inventories of Jewish records
available in archives in the
Census records can be very useful, especially in the absence of church and vital records for your locality. Censuses were usually taken for tax and military conscription purposes. Generally, such records are available at the Státní okresní archiv or State District (County) Archives. Information on state county archives (addresses and hours) can be found on the web at http://www.cgsi.org/archives/archive.htm. Many of the census records have been preserved, but many have been destroyed or lost, as well. Therefore, registers of births, marriages, and deaths should be checked first, not census records, as one might do in the United States.
The first censuses were taken beginning in 1158, but have only been preserved in fragments. The records are at the National Archives in Prague (no inventory has been published), and are all in Latin.20
The first general census complete enough to be useful as a genealogical tool is the Register of People by Denomination of 1651 or Soupis poddaných podle víry z roku 1651. After the Thirty Years War, the government charged landlords in Bohemia to record a list of those who lived on their land (excepting only some clergy and military people). Most, though not all then living, were recorded. Needless to say, this census was taken to obtain religious information, for the purpose of bringing the country back in line with the Catholic religion. Some entire estates are conspicuously missing from the census, however. “One can speculate that the Roman Catholics were quite willing to acknowledge their religious faith, but some of the Protestants, fearing the persecution, did not. But it appears that the overwhelming majority of the populace of Bohemia was recorded.”21
Names of all heads of household were listed, along with names of spouses, children, servants, etc. Also listed are occupation, age, religion (i.e., whether Catholic or not), and if non-Catholic, whether there was hope/no hope of conversion.22 This census is in German.
Various censuses were subsequently taken regularly. The 1869 census, however, was the first census to contain such a great amount of information on each family (although censuses as early as 1825-1840 may list that all-important information: the birth place23). Each person in the household is listed, with sex, birth year, marital status, occupation, religion, and other information. Some of the most important information is the person’s birth place and place of residence, if different from where enumerated in the census. Censuses have been held regularly since that time.
Local histories are kept in town halls in each community. The quality of these records varies with each town, but can be valuable in understanding specifics about the area in question. Published sources available in your area available through libraries (especially university libraries), interlibrary loan, FHCs, or family history society libraries (good sources, since they may specialize in your geographical area) should also be checked.
Land records are one of the next best sources to church records, and consist of several different types. The primary advantage with land records is that they go back further than the parish registers of births, marriages, and deaths. Often, the same land was passed from generation to generation, and so it is possible to assemble much of your family tree. Land records may be deposited in various archives, (i.e., at the State Central or Regional Archives, or at the town level). They may even be in a special archive. Care must be taken, in determining where a particular land book is, as well. It may be apparent to you that the book should be in the archive you are researching in, when it is not. It may be simply that it is in some other location, so you should check with the archivist to make sure. Land records go back as far as the 13th century, in some cases. When researching land records in the Czech Republic, it is important to be very familiar with the languages and the records themselves, as well as the history behind the records, since finding the right books will take study and training before you go there. But they can be a very good genealogical tool. Something else to watch out for is the rather unexpected name change of males. Sometimes, when a man marries a widow, he takes on her surname, or the name tied to the house, rather than vice-versa.24 This is the same practice, which exists in northeastern Germany (continuing even today) and in other areas.
Since the majority of the people owned at least some land, it is more likely than not that some of your ancestors will show up in these records. In fact, as Melichar says, “a majority of people living in a village (at least two-thirds, but usually more than that) owned a piece of land, and thus they were recorded with their relationships in the land registers. This is the major significance of the land registers for genealogy.”025
Land records come under many different appellations, such as Zemské desky (land tablets), patriomoniální knihy (patrimonial books), berní ruly (tax lists), cadastre (land registries), pozemkové knihy (land books), městké knihy (town books), urbáře (land and duties registers) and others. Any of these can be of advantage to the genealogical researcher, but of especial help will be the berní ruly and pozemkové knihy.
Pozemkové knihy, or land books, also called gruntnoví knihy, are probably the most helpful records for genealogical research, after vital/church records — and even better, for earlier times. For the time before the Battle of White Mountain in 1620, when many church records were destroyed, this is the primary source of information. It is possible to follow a family far beyond that time, as land was often passed from generation to generation within a family. Most of these pozemkové knihy are deposited in the regional archives.
Berní ruly, or tax lists, were begun in 1654. They are lists of tax payers, established on a system to improve the equity and efficiency of the old tax system. Part of this reform involved preventing transfer of peasant land from reverting to domanial land (land of the ‘lord’), and vice-versa.26 Only heads of household who held land are on these records, but it is a good means to find the place of residence of your ancestor. The family history library has some of the berní ruly in published form. The call numbers are: Europe 943.7 B4b v. 1-33 (some volumes missing).
For bibliographies on land records, see the following two articles: “Genealogical sources in Bohemia” by Jan Pařez, with assistance from Tom Zahn in Naše Rodina, Dec. 1996, vol. 8, no. 4, p. 132; and “Czech Land Registers and Auxiliary Books” by Rodolf Melichar (translated from Czech by Jan Šefčik and Duncan Gardiner) in Ročenka, vol. 2, Winter 1995-1996.
There are many maps at the researcher’s disposal, which cover the Czech lands. Only a few will be mentioned here. The Generalkarte von Mitteleuropa27, with a scale of 1:200,000 (1:200,000 is usually the minimum detail considered sufficient for most genealogical purposes), is an excellent map. It covers the Czech Republic, as well as neighboring countries, such as Slovakia, Germany, Poland, Austria, and others. The longitude is different from the Greenwich system, however. You must subtract 17E40' from these maps to get the correct Greenwich longitude. The maps have been filmed by the GSU (film 1181580, item 1), and are available at the Family History Library.
Another set of maps with even greater detail (1:75,000) is the Militär-Landesaufnahme und Spezialkarte der Österreichisch-ungarischen Monarchie28. These are military maps of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. They are also available at Family History Library on film 1045395. It is unfortunate, however, that the copy owned by the library is incomplete.
There are also some modern road atlases available for the Czech Republic. Two worth mentioning are Freytag & Berndt atlases. One is an atlas of the Czech Republic only, with a scale of 1:100,000.29 It contains 176 pages of maps at 1:100,000 covering the entire country, and an additional 11 pages of city maps. The 15 pages of European maps at the end of the atlas are quite handy for travel. The index at the back includes approximately 6200 localities. The detail of this atlas is excellent, showing many of the smaller towns not found on other atlases.
Tschechische Republik 1:100.000. Brno: Geodezie Brno, 1996.
Another atlas covers both the Czech and Slovak Republics30. The scale of this map is 1:200,000, but it is still very good as to detail. There are 60 pages of maps at 1:200,000, with city maps spread throughout the atlas. The combined index contains approximately 22,000 towns. If only 60% of these towns are Czech (i.e, not Slovak), the total would come to 13,200, already twice as many towns as the 1:100,000 atlas, so both used in conjunction make a more effective tool.
Straßen & Städte Tschechien – Slowakei, 1:200.000. Praha: Kartografie Praha, 1994.
Another type of map useful to genealogists is a cadastral map. These maps were drawn up in the early 19th century, for tax and land ownership purposes. The maps are very detailed, with a scale of 1:2,880, and are in color, indicating building or landscape type. Also shown on cadastral maps are the names of land owners and house numbers (i.e., military conscription numbers, described in the “Military Records” section of the outline).
There are literally thousands of towns for which cadastral maps were made. They are available at the State Central Archive in Prague:
Státní ústřední archiv v Praze
Milady Horákové 133
160 00 Praha 6
Telephone: 011-420-2/321 173.
Passenger lists can be very useful, indicating a person’s place of birth or last place of residence. Records may exist both in the place of departure and place of arrival. Hamburg and Bremen (Bremen records were destroyed in WWII) were the ports that most eastern Europeans emigrated through. Check Hamburg passenger lists (lists from 1850-1934 are available), if you are unsure of which port to check. Czechs also emigrated through other ports, such as Le Havre, Rotterdam, and Amsterdam. They may have traveled directly to the country of destination or indirectly (i.e., via another country, such as England). When checking passenger lists, it is important to check both “direct” and “indirect lists,” where the distinction is made (e.g., with Hamburg passenger lists), so you don’t overlook your ancestor. After 1910, Hamburg direct and indirect lists are combined.31 The Family History Library has the Hamburg passenger lists on film, as well as many other lists. See the Family History Library Catalog under Germany, Hamburg, Hamburg — Emigration and immigration: Auswandererlisten 1850-1934. Additionally, the Hamburg passenger lists are at the present time in the process of being put online. For more information, see: http://www.hamburg.de/fhh/behoerden/staatsarchiv/link_to_your_roots/english/start.htm.
A note of caution: care should be used in interpreting place of origin. The birth place of many Czechs was simply listed as Austria, in, for example, U.S. census, naturalization, and other records. If you are slightly more fortunate, it may list Bohemia as the place. Remember that the Czech lands were once part of Austria, and beginning in 1867, part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, so “Austria” in an old document does not necessarily mean what we now know as Austria. You still need an exact place of birth, however, to continue research in most of Europe.
Naturalization and citizenship records can be the best records in helping you to locate the place of origin of your ancestor. In the United States, a person had to first file a Declaration of Intent [to become a citizen] and subsequently, a Petition for Naturalization. The Declaration of Intent will often list an exact place of birth for your ancestor (especially if your ancestor immigrated after 1906). Your ancestor may have applied for citizenship at the port of arrival, later at the place of destination, or possibly not at all. Before 1906, immigration records may be found at various levels in the courts system (county, federal, or state), depending on each individual case. If your ancestor applied for citizenship before 1906, you should be sure to check the Family History Library Catalog under each different level of locality (city, county, state/province, country) under the sub-heading “Emigration/Immigration,” to find these records.
In 1906, the United States formed the Bureau of Naturalization and Immigration, which took care of the entire naturalization process. Records beginning at that time contain much more information than earlier naturalization records.32 Since many Czechs immigrated to the United States in the 1930's, using these records can be very useful to your research. If your ancestor immigrated after 1906, and you want to obtain his or her naturalization records, you should make a request by filling out Form G-639, Freedom of Information/Privacy Act Request and send it to:
U.S. Immigration and Naturalization
Service — Headquarters
ATTN: FOIA Unit
425 “I” Street, N.W.
those who have Internet access, Form G-639 is available on the
The United States 1900, 1910, and 1920 censuses give information about citizenship status and how long since the person immigrated, which can be very helpful.
Some helpful resources covering the topics of finding the place of origin of ancestors, emigration, immigration, naturalization, and citizenship are:
United States Research Outline, available from the Family History Library.
Tracing Immigrant Origins Research Outline, available from the Family History Library.
Guide to Naturalization Records of the United States by Christina K. Schaefer, Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1997.
Chapters four and five of Daniel Schlyter’s A Handbook of Czechoslovak Genealogical Research, contain detailed information on researching Czech and Slovak ancestors specifically. Published Buffalo Grove, Ill.: Genun Publishers, 1985.
Most of the military records you will probably be interested in are Austrian records in the Kriegsarchiv Wien, the War Archive of Vienna. Originals of military church records up to 1870 are held at the Vojenský historický archiv (Military Historical Archive) in Prague.33 Hobbs reports that “the Kriegsarchiv [in Vienna] has begun to distribute military records to the various autonomous lands of the former Austrian Empire. A letter to Vienna may bring the reply that the records for an ancestor’s regiment are now kept in Prague. All queries to Vienna should include a request for the address of the archive which houses the records if they are no longer in Vienna.”34
Military records date from the sixteenth century to the end of World War I (when the Austro-Hungarian Empire was dissolved). Many of these records have been microfilmed and are available through the Family History Library and local Family History Centers (starting from the mid- to late 1700's).35 “The catalog of LDS films for individual Austrian regiments indicates those records include regiments numbered 1-80. These are the regiments formed after 1740 and before 1862. The filmed records do not indicate regiments formed after 1883 — numbers 81-102.”36
In 1566, a Hofkriegsrat (Military High Command) was organized to oversee the military needs of the empire. In 1625, a Bohemian nobleman named Wallenstein was asked to find recruits for the Thirty Years War. His regiment existed until 1648. This was the beginning of the Austrian Army. The emperor entrusted each regiment to a nobleman, called an Inhaber, and gave him a patent, or license, which only the emperor could issue. He was responsible for raising troops in his geographical area.37
A house numbering system (for military conscription) was begun by in 1771 Maria Theresa, ruler of Austria, which gave each house in a town a unique number. This was done simultaneously with the census of that same year.38 The houses in each town were initially given numbers when the system was begun in the order in which they were situated in a town or on a street. After that, houses were numbered in the order in which they were built.39 This numbering system is of value to genealogists, since a family may be traced back through its unique “address” in a particular town.
For a brief, but good summary of Czech military records available at the Family History Library, see Steven Blodgett’s article “Czech Military Records,” in the FEEFHS Quarterly, Volume VII, Numbers 1-2, Spring/Summer 1999, p. 38-43. Additionally, Karen Hobbs has been heavily involved in research of Austrian military records, and has published articles for the German-Bohemian Heritage Society and the Czech Genealogical Society International.
Although probate records exist, they will not be covered here, since they are not often used and are difficult to obtain. Also, other sources are better for genealogy research.
Bremen ship manifests were destroyed in WWII, so these records are no longer accessible. Hamburg passenger lists would be the next thing to check, or, if you are certain an ancestor came through Bremen, check immigration and shipping records in the country of arrival. There has been an attempt to re-create portions of these missing Bremen lists by assembling records at places of destination.
Also, many records (especially Protestant church records) in Czech lands pre-dating the Battle of White Mountain in 1620 were destroyed by the Counter-Reformation. An alternate source in this instance would be land records.
Many Czech census records have been lost or destroyed. This will vary from area to area. The church and vital records are good substitutes for these.
You may also want to join a Czech family history society. The fee is usually fairly reasonable ($10.00-20.00 per year), and they have many resources you may not be aware of. In addition to providing services (translation, surname searches, collaboration, etc.), most will send you a regular publication, often containing high-quality scholarly articles. You might find an article that gives you specific information about your particular town or region. You might read something helpful about an archive that houses your records. Perhaps land records in that area go back a particularly long time. Often, societies will have libraries with extensive Czech collections.
There are many Czech and Eastern European societies, and each has its own particular focus, e.g. Czech, Moravian, Silesian emphasis, immigrants to the Midwest, Northwest, or the South. Here are a few (current as of publication)
Czechoslovak Genealogical Society International (CGSI)
P.O. Box 16225
St. Paul, MN, 55116-0225
$20.00 per year for individual membership
The Czech and Slovak American Genealogy Society of Illinois (CSAGSI)
P.O. Box 313
Sugar Grove, IL 60554
$15.00 per year for individual membership
Federation of East European Family History Societies (FEEFHS)
P.O. Box 510898
Salt Lake City, UT 84151-0898
German-Bohemian Heritage Society
P.O. Box 822
New Ulm, MN 56073-0822
$10.00 per year for individual or family membership
Czech Heritage Society of Texas
$10.00 per year for adult “member-at-large” membership — local chapter (see web page for specific information on each chapter) — membership dues vary
PO Box 99
Bergenfield, NJ 07621
$32.00 per year for their journal (Avotaynu is the largest publisher of Jewish family history information)
There is quite a lot of information on the Internet for those interested in Czech research. Genealogy is one of the most popular uses of the web, and grows daily. As regards Czech sites, some of them require that you use characters with the proper diacritics, whereas others won’t work if you do. If your site does require that you use characters with diacritics, make sure that you have an Internet browser that will handle them. Also, make sure that you have a way to generate the characters on your own computer. Windows NT and 2000 will handle them, as will a Czech version of Windows. For examples of how to set up your computer to work with eastern European characters, Basic research procedures earlier in this document.
If can’t use Czech characters, sand you want to get into a Czech site requiring you to input in Czech characters, one alternative might be to truncate your words, if the site will allow it. Here, then, are a few Internet sites helpful in Czech research:
· Ministerstva vnitra (ministry of the interior) http://www.mvcr.cz/ for information on archives. http://www.mvcr.cz/archivy/sua/adresy.htm#SUA will go directly to the address list for archives. <http://www.mvcr.cz/archivy/sua/weby.htm> will go to a list of Internet pages for archives.
· Czechoslovak Genealogical Society International (CGSI): http://www.cgsi.org (contains addresses and hours for regional and district archives).
· The Czech and Slovak American Genealogy Society of Illinois (CGASI): http://www.csagsi.org/
· Federation of East European Family History Societies (FEEFHS): http://www.feefhs.org/
· German-Bohemian Heritage Society: http://www.rootsweb.com/~gbhs/
Czech Heritage Society of
· Avotaynu, Inc., the biggest publisher of Jewish family history information: http://www.avotaynu.com/video.html
Institute for Historical Family
Research (IHFF): http://ihff.nwy.at/index.htm/index.htm This is a good site for anyone doing research
in these parts of the former
Česká genealogická a
heraldická společnost v Praze (Czech genealogical and heraldic society in
· Maps (Mapy): http://www.mapy.cz/mapy/IMap/Main.asp. Maps of the Czech Republic.
· FamilySearch: http://www.familysearch.org/. The new popular LDS web site. It is possible to access the Ancestral File, IGI, and many other sources through the site, all from a single search engine. It is now possible to download information in GEDCOM format from the Ancestral File (only four generations at a time) and International Genealogical Index (IGI). PAF 5 (for Windows) can be downloaded free of charge here, as well.
· English-Czech/Czech-English online dictionary: http://www.xweb.cz/dictionary/. This is a good dictionary and contains 190,000 entries. Be sure to indicate the direction of translation (English-Czech or Czech-English). Characters with diacritics should not be used.
· Genealogy: http://members.aol.com/mpgregor/private/genea.htm. Many good links to Czech and Slovak genealogical societies, sources, guides, experts, etc.
· Telfonní seznam: http://iol.telecom.cz/TLF/tlf.htm. An on-line phone directory for the Czech Republic. Characters with diacritics must be used for proper results on this site.
· The Czech Genealogy Page (Patrick J. Janis): http://www.genealogy.org/~czech/index.html. This is a page offering research services, as well as links to other Czech-related sites.
· http://www.archiv.semily.cz/Normy/343_92.htm#p20. Information on the different types of Czech archives (in Czech).
· Města a obce online: http://www.mesta.obce.cz. This is a search engine (in Czech) for finding places and towns. New county boundaries are also shown.
· International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS): http://www.jewishgen.org/ajgs/. Information on the activities of 60 Jewish genealogical associations worldwide.
JewishGen: http://www.jewishgen.org/. The
most popular Internet source for Jewish researchers. ShtetlSeeker can be found here, http://www.jewishgen.org/ShtetlSeeker/,
a search engine used to find towns in Central and
There are many additional sites worth mentioning, but space does not permit listing them. Hopefully, this will give you a good start.
As has already been mentioned, the language of a record varies. Because of the Roman Catholic influence, many of the records have been written in Latin. When Austria took over Bohemia, German was made the official language. Many records are also in Czech.
Records will be written either in kurrent or Latin script. Kurrent was used in German and Czech.
It is a good idea to consult a Czech grammar book to get a good idea of pronunciation. Often, it’s possible that a town may be spelled in multiple ways, that would all have a similar pronunciation (as in many other languages, including English). For example, the Czech word, oběd would be pronounced obět, since a final voiced “d” is pronounced voiceless, “t.” If you have a good idea of how the pronunciation system works, you will be able to predict alternate spellings of names and localitites, finding information you wouldn’t otherwise have found.
Czech also adds suffixes called declensional endings to adjectives and nouns, depending on certain grammatical conditions. This will be dealt with more in the Czech Names and Declensional Endings section below.
Also, Czech has a few additional letters that English does not have. It is important to become familiar with them, since the alphabetical sort order is different in Czech from English. Here is the alphabet, with letter variants listed on the same line (variants are treated alphabetically the same as their counterparts) Especially note the fact that ‘ch’ comes after ‘h’ in the sort order, not under ‘c+h’:
The way Czech deals with names is quite different from the way English handles them. In English, these proper nouns don’t change their forms very often or very radically, but an untrained person can completely miss or improperly record a Czech surname, because of the complexity of changes that occur in names. A grammar should be consulted to get an in-depth idea of the entire process, although a few details will be mentioned here.
Names, and especially surnames can also pose a particular challenge in Slavic languages (which is evident when viewing family group sheets and pedigrees prepared by non-natives, for their Czech ancestors!). In Czech, surnames may be declined as nouns, others as adjectives. It is necessary to distinguish between masculine and feminine, as well. Different types of suffixes may occur depending on grammatical case, as will be briefly explained.
Czech nouns and adjectives have many declensional endings, i.e., suffixes that are added to words, depending in certain grammatical conditions. Additionally, the spelling of the original name may even be changed. (An example of declensional endings in English would be making a plural of light: lights by adding an s.)
Declensional endings are also dependent on grammatical case. In English, we are familiar with subjects, objects, indirect objects, possessives, etc. In Czech, the subject is in the nominative case (John sees the ball) — words in the dictionary are in this case; direct objects are in the accusative case (John sees the ball); indirect objects are in the dative case (John gives the ball to Steve); possessives are in the genitive case (John’s ball), etc. Though Czech has other cases, these four are the most common case ones you will encounter in basic Czech birth, marriage, and death registers. Czech adds these declensional suffixes to words depending on these several factors. For example, these two names in three cases would be:
Nominative: Jan Novák
Genitive: Jana Nováka
Accusative: Jana Nováka
Nominative: František Hlůžek
Genitive: Františka Hlůžka
Accusative: Františka Hlůžka
Another twist is that names may be declined not only as nouns, but other parts of speech, for example, as adjectives. The following surname is declined as an adjective, while the given name is declined as a noun:
Nominative: František Radá
Genitive: Františka Radého
Czech names differ by sex, as well. Františka (note that this feminine name in the nominative case is the same as the masculine version of the name in other cases), with the surname of Novák, would actually write her surname Nováková, since she is a female.
For a list of some of common Czech given names, numbers, occupations, days of the week, months of the year, and other miscellaneous vocabulary, please click on Additional vocabulary. All vocabulary is given in Czech, English, German, and Latin (in the nominative case, of course!).
As you can see, doing genealogical research in the Czech Republic is quite a handful. Records are in Czech, German, and Latin. Different scripts are used. Most major sources are available only in Europe. There are different record types, which are located in different archives. Czech research can be quite daunting. Despite all this, however, it is still possible, with enough perseverance and training, to do proceed.
It is possible either to visit the Czech Republic yourself, or to hire someone to do the work for you. Prepare in advance, if you plan to go there, by contacting the archives you are to visit. Make sure you meet all conditions of the archive. If you hire a researcher, be sure you find someone of good reputation.
Czech records are some of the best in the world. Good luck as you conduct your research.
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This article originally published in the FEEFHS Journal, v. 8, 2000.
Shon R. Edwards is a professional genealogist and linguist currently working at the Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah. He specializes in Germanic/Slavic language cataloging and is an Accredited Genealogist in Czech Republic research. He has also done extensive genealogical research in Germany, Denmark, and England.
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4. Based on a conference talk by Miroslav Koudelka at the Czechoslovak Genealogical Society international 6th Genealogica/Cultural Conference. Bloomington, Minn., October 1997. Rewritten with permission of Miroslav Koudelka. Audio tape.
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