Friday, January 31, 2014

Mnemonic devices for memorizing Czech Months (English)

This is mostly for my benefit but I decided to post it in case there are any other English-speaking Czech researchers out there who have a hard time remembering the Czech months of the year.

Leden - led is Czech for "ice." Led sounds like "lead". This is kind of how my heart feels in January. Full of lead.

únor - Only "uno" more month until spring! Right, Mr. Groundhog?

Březen - I think the wind could make the sound "b-zhhhhhhhhhhh" like in Březen. There's lots of wind in March.

Duben - this means "oak tree" in Czech. The town of Dubina, Texas was named for the oak trees. Think: blossoming oak trees. April showers bring May flowers...except oak trees...which come in April...right...? 

května - This is a huge stretch for me. It looks a little bit like "cat" and there is the word "vet" in there, sort of. I "MAY" not be around cats because I am allergic! 

červen - June is the first month of summer and only has the first part of the word.

červenec - July is the second month of summer and has both parts of the word. 

srpen - Imagine a serpent coming to tempt Eve in the would probably be more persuasive in August, right? Okay that's a huge stretch.

září - September is the time for back-to-school shopping, which we all do at that fancy-pants store Zara.

říjen - The čárka and the dot of the j make the eye holes for the jack-o-lantern for October. 

listopad - November is the month of my birthday, and I love making lists. And this particular list is useful to nobody except me.

prosinec - If you say this word quickly, it sort of sounds like "presents" which is what you get for Christmas in December.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

England Research can help Czech Research

If my husband wants to do genealogy research, he basically needs to become an expert in Northamptonshire, England - its history, repositories, available records, etc. Mostly we are concentrating on the early 1800's and earlier. As we have worked together to start figuring this out, it has struck me that understanding manorial laws and customs in England definitely will help me understand Czech manorial laws and customs. Obviously, one should not assume that they are the same. However, I'm sure the systems were much more similar to each other than they are to the governmental system I live under here in the 21st Century United States!

I found a really excellent online class about the UK Census records located here. It really helped me to understand the record better - why it was made, who made it, and how it was made. I really think that a thorough understanding of the document itself is key to extracting information from the document.

I wish there were a similar free online lecture about Czech Census records. So far, most online courses for Czech research that are available on have to do with how to navigate Czech archival sites, which is really good information, too. I just hope that when a similar resource becomes available, it will at least be dubbed in English!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

What does the Grave's Location in a Catholic Cemetery Mean?

I knew that 19th-mid 20th century Catholic cemeteries (and perhaps some modern ones too?) had stringent rules about who was allowed to be buried there. My friend from West, Texas (a predominately Czech community) pointed out something to me that was really interesting.

In her own words:

As I have traversed through many cemeteries over the years in search of my distant ancestors and several predominantly Czech cemeteries surrounding the very Czech town of West (like Penelope, Tours, etc.), I stumbled upon an unusual phenomenon.  It is not unusual to find a few graves planted way up against the back fence that encloses the cemetery....right on the border line.... very separated from all the other graves. Curious!  There is plenty of room for those graves to have been located more favorably (without all the weeds that typically grow along a fence) and certainly in a less constricted space as none of these older cemeteries I'm referring to are "full".  Often there will be just one, lonely, sole grave there (no family around it) and sometimes the headstone does not even have a complete entry on it (e.g. the name and birth date are etched in but the death date may just state "June", as if the engraver just simply stopped).  Often the grave may not appear cared for.....rather just kind of 'abandoned'.  Why such a location?

Upon inquiring I learned that it was a common practice (long ago - late 1800's early 1900's) to bury such persons in ill-favored positions if some act had rendered them decidedly un-Christian as a way to "separate" them from the people buried therein that were considered to have lived the Christian principles of the Catholic religion..... a way to "disassociate" with the reprobate, so to speak, WHILE still allowing the poor soul a burial inside a Christian cemetery (barely) - hence "on the borderline". I will tell you of an example that came to light in my research for one man's data.

I located the man's grave - as mentioned above - just barely inside the boundaries of the cemetery, all alone.  My inquiries led me to a gentleman in town that knew the story since it occurred several generations ago. The deceased had come home very drunk, struck his wife with a lethal object and, mistakenly, thought he had killed her.  Upon coming to his senses (seeing her in her pool of blood), he went out to the barn and committed suicide.  By the grace of God, the wife recovered.  Now fast forward....

During the special Centennial newspaper printed to mark the 100th year of publication, a picture of that family (without the story) was reprinted, hence, why the living gentleman took the time to explain the story to me.  I actually think I may have located the wife's grave which is in a completely separate cemetery about 25 miles away.  There's conflicting examples - some Catholic Church cemeteries would NOT allow the burial within it's borders considering suicide disgraceful, not representative of the "faith",  just un-Christian while others took a little more lenient stand and placed the grave along the back fence.... a compromise.

This just goes to show that it might be worth going to the gravesite, or at least seeing a map of the cemetery, because additional information about the location of the grave within the Catholic cemetery could be a clue about something that happened in their life. You might begin to wonder what they did during their life, or perhaps how they died. 

I ran into a very sad situation in my own family. Here is the 1927 obituary for František Kruppa Senior (here's a direct link to the image of that newspaper):

Kruppa, Frantisek/Frank Sr.

Old Settler of This Section Passes On

Mr. Frank Kruppa, Sr., an old settler of this section, died Thursday night of last week at the family residence between this city and Schulenburg. The funeral took place Saturday morning at 9 o'clock at St. Michael's Cemetery, this city, Revs. Szymanski and Anders officiating in the presence of a large assemblage of mourning relatives and friends.

Mr. Kruppa was born March 25,1854, in Czecho-Slovakia; died Dec. 1,1927; came to this country in 1882; married Miss Jenovefa Sumbera, and to this union thirteen children were born, of whom eleven survive, as follows: Frank J. Kruppa of Smithville, Joe Kruppa of Schulenburg, John Kruppa of El Campo, Richard Kruppa. of Holman, Edmund Kruppa of El Campo, Mrs. Frank Lacina of Schulenburg, Mrs. Henry Mosizek of Jourdanton, Mrs. Rud. Bacak and Mrs. John Baca of El Campo, Mrs. John Krecmer of Weimar. Mrs. Wm. Ball of Temple, and two brothers, John Kruppa of El Campo and Ludwig Kruppa of Skidmore.

Mr. Kruppa was a hard working, industrious, successful farmer, a good husband and father, ever proving himself a true friend and neighbor, and was held in high esteem by all who knew him. His death is deeply and sincerely deplored by a large circle of friends throughout this section.
Weimar Mercury, December 9, 1927, page 1
Nothing in this obituary indicates anything about a suicide. But then, I found the death certificate:

In the section for cause of death is written:

"shot wound suicide inquest
held by SR Vogt J[ustice of] P[eace] #8 Fayette Co[unty] Tex[as]
Dec 1 - 1927"

Clearly, I need to find the inquest records. What would cause an almost 73 year old man, who apparently was well loved by his friends and family, a man with 13 children - to commit suicide? He was buried in St. Michael's Catholic Cemetery in 1927, when Texas Catholic cemeteries were strict about who could or could not be there. Was there some sort of cover-up? Was mental illness involved, and the Catholic authorities at the church lenient because they knew he was not "at fault"? Or was it not really a suicide at all, but just an accident, and marked as such because self-inflicted death is technically a suicide?

I wish I knew where in the cemetery he was buried. This might tell me more about the situation. If he were buried on the family plot, I would probably be more apt to believe that either the label "suicide" is incorrect and the situation was an accident, or that mental illness was involved so he is not technically "at fault". But if he was buried way off to the side of the cemetery, perhaps I would be more inclined to accept that it was in fact an intentional suicide, though mental illness might still be involved.

Regardless of how or why it happened, I still find it very sad. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Beide von hier

Here is a phrase that I ran into recently in the parish registers.

I kept wondering, "What the heck? I keep seeing h-i-e-r in the place where the village name is supposed to be. But on a different record, this guy was from the same town, Zábřeh. Did he suddenly move?"

Uh, no. "hier" is German for "here"!!

I also saw (on this page, in case you are curious) the phrase, "beide von hier" under almost all of the witnesses' names. I finally figured out that what looked like, "bride kov hier" is actually, "beide von hier" - or "both from here."

Good to know!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

You should translate the notes!

Yesterday, Blanka Lednícka wrote an excellent blog post about marriage notes in Czech Parish registers. She proved to me that the notes that sometimes are included in marriage registers should not be overlooked. They may contain valuable information about marriage banns, birth certificates, or church dispensations.

I admit, I am guilty of frequently overlooking this information. It is probably for exactly the reason that she noted - these notes are difficult!

I'm really glad that she posted this information. Using her example as a guideline, I found a marriage record that I am working on for my own family and tried to transcribe the notes.

Here is a direct link to the register page for this image:

Ich gefertigter Pater der minderjähriger braut habe zu dieser ehemeine einwilli-
gung gegeben. Urkund dessen meine und zwe[i]ger [zwei gar?] zeugen Namensunterschrift.

+++ Valentin Folta Vater.
Eduard Jakob. Namens fertiger
Johann [Kozenk jeicje?]
Frantz Mikolisch [Svidek?]

I, [?] Father of underage bride gave my consent before the following two witness whereof I testify with my name and signature.

+++ [his mark] Valentin Folta, father
Eduard [?]
Johann [Kozenk-something]
Frantz Mikolisch [?]

Well, not a perfect transcription or translation. Also, this doesn't add a whole lot of new information about this particular family. But it does add some depth of meaning to this record. I didn't realize that the legal age for women to marry without their father's consent was older than 19 in 1842 Vítkovice (in Moravia).

Which lead me to this disturbing wikipedia article on Marriagable age. Looks like New Hampshire is the state with the youngest marriageable age for females. "A female between the age of 13 and 17 years and a male between the age of 14 and 17 years can be married only with the permission of their parent (guardian) and a waiver."


This leads me to wonder what historical US marriageable ages were, and if they caused any problems for Czech immigrants in the United States. If they came from a place where the marriageable age was much higher, perhaps the parent's generation would have been shocked and horrified that their children could legally and lawfully marry so much younger.

Texas Czech communities were insular and tight-knit. People married others in their community and stayed there for generations. Case in point: I am the fourth generation Texas-Czech. I was born in Texas, which is remarkable in our increasingly mobile culture here in the United States.

I doubt norms in marriageable age would have created widespread problems for the Czech immigrants, at least at first. People were probably just trying to survive in a strange country.

Soapbox: Genealogy Guilt is Stupid

I'm a family history consultant in my ward. I come in contact with a lot of people who have "Genealogy Guilt." It is annoying, and needs to stop. It is stupid.

One of the goals of the Latter-day Saint (Mormon) church is to redeem the dead. This means you first need to find them. Mixing genealogy research with faith can be inspiring. Many people have had wonderful experiences learning about their loved ones of the past. Unfortunately, though, a lot of people don't have the desire/interest/motivation/time to do genealogy, so the faith element just creates a massive build up of guilt.

Personally, I don't think that every person on this planet should be a board-certified genealogist. There is room for all kinds of people, with their varied interests and talents. Variety is good.

I don't know how many times I have heard people say something to the effect of, "So-and-so in my family already did all our genealogy so there's nothing left for me to do anyway."

I also hear, "I don't do genealogy [even though I should]."

We all agree that exercise is good. It is easy to see that if you start an exercise regime and fail once, it would be silly to say, "Oh, well...I guess I shouldn't even try." Obviously, it would be much healthier for you to move forward, press on, continue trying!

Instead of griping and groaning about family history, just find a small way to get involved that works for you! And do it! When you fail, which you will because you are human, just try again. And that doesn't mean forsaking all your other interests and chaining yourself to the computer for hours and hours doing online research, or descending into some dank and musty archives to look at crumbling papers with illegible scribbles. One of my best friends told me that family history isn't "her thing" but then later I found out that she creates excellent, high quality, elaborate digital scrapbooks that she gets printed and bound in hardback covers. So, yeah, family history is her thing!

What comes to mind is a really stupid pickup line. "Hey baby, forget family history, how about family future?" :::eye roll:::

But seriously guys, let's not get so caught up in our loserly attitudes of guilt that we fail to even try. Family History research is never "over." You can and should move forward, press on, and continue trying.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Interesting Data Mining from old Czech Records

I read a really interesting post over at Lukáš Svoboda's blog the other day that really helped me to think about my Czech ancestors in a different way. Using various land records, he made a list of all of the residents of the town of Zlonice (okres Kladno) and their professions.

What he found was that in 1794, out of the 380 people living in the small village, there were 13 tailors, 9 shoemakers, 5 journeyman bricklayers, and 3 master bricklayers. He wonders about how people could possibly have made a living as a tailor in this village, since people could not possibly need to repair their clothes often enough to sustain 13 tailors there.

His basic idea is that maybe we should adjust our way of viewing life on a rural farm as more difficult than life in a town or city. He used his own family to prove this idea, citing how his stocking-maker ancestor migrated to Zlonice around 1730 and died in 1774 as a pauper in the Zlonický hospital. His son trained to become a bricklayer but ended up at the same hospital. Basically, the people in his family picked professions with a lot of competition, and had a hard time making a living. 

At least farm life would allow you the benefit of eating what you grow or raise. Though, this also means you are almost entirely dependent on the weather, your tools, and your skill. Farming is difficult physical labor, but also difficult mental labor. It takes skill to know plants and animals. 

I thought this exercise of analyzing a village by profession was fascinating. It would be really interesting to do that for Frenštát, Trojanovice, or Vratimov. Almost all of my ancestors were farmers or hired-hands on farms. Farmers that did not own their own land, except for a little plot around their home. 

Another project for another day! 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

I found a military man!

I found a Czech ancestor in the military the other day! This is exciting because everybody else was a farmer!

Here is the FamilySearch wiki page for doing Czech military research. This is where I will start in my search for him.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Czech Immigration Routes to Texas: Bremen to Galveston 1880-1886

If you are interested in immigration routes that Germans and Czechs took to Texas, you should read the article, "German and Czech Immigration to Texas: The Bremen to Galveston Route, 1880-1886" by Lawrence H. Konecny and Clinton Machann.

The most useful part of this article is a table that lists all the vessels with immigrants sailing from Bremerhaven to Galveston between 1880-1886. The table, "was compiled from various issues of the Galveston Daily News and the Picayune (New Orleans), the monthly reports from the Bureau for Bremen Statistics, and the Harbor Accounts Books for Bremerhaven."

Of the 17 ships that came between these years, only 4 had passenger lists available when this article was published in 1993. Some of the lists are reconstructed from newspapers. Some were rediscovered tucked away in the old papers of people in Wisconsin (!!). The North German Lloyd printed and distributed copies of these passenger lists for the benefit of the passengers as well as for advertising.

I suspect that most of my Czech ancestors came on the SS Hohenzollern, arriving October 29, 1881. Several of the allied families were known to have traveled on this ship, at least through indirect evidence such as the location and dates of arrival listed on their petition for naturalization and the consistent date of immigration on census records. There is no available passenger list for this ship - yet. It may still happen!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Texas Czechs Adopted Orphan Train Riders

Tonight I discovered that my 3rd great uncle adopted two children who were born in New York. This probably means the children were from an orphan train.

My 3rd great uncle and his wife were Czech immigrants from Vítkovice who farmed in Fayette and Fort Bend counties. There are 10 years age difference between their youngest child and one of the children who they adopted.

I wonder if the two children were siblings? I wonder how I will go about finding out about these children's origins!

My husband and I watched "Orphan Train" - a 1979 made-for-TV movie. It was surprisingly good. The beginning is heart-wrenching.

I remember that a few years ago I found another child who was probably adopted from an orphan train. Her first name sticks out to me - Violet - because it is so un-Czech. I wonder what the reasons my ancestors had for choosing to adopt: fertility struggles, needing help on the farm, feeling it was God's desire for them to adopt?

Here is a website I will have to look at later. It has a name that is very likely one of their children!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Church Record Sunday: "Defecit a fide" Stamp

I found a really interesting parish record the other day for Czech town of Vítkovice. Here is a direct link.

Here is an image of the whole record.

And here is a close up of what I found so interesting:

It is a stamp that says:

"Defecit a fide,
manet sine confessione.
Regimen distr.
deto [date?] ___________________"

This is Latin. Here is what I make of it so far:

"Defected from the faith.
Remains without a confession.
Government [?] [??]

Then, you cane see that there is written:

17.6.1922 ["20268" then a stamped "2...."]
5.2.29 [some letters that vaguely look like "ro?"]

I just find it interesting that there is a stamp for defecting from the Catholic church! I have not seen this before. I wonder if the later Czech records, the ones that we do not yet have access to, would have more of these stamps on them.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

More Clues from the Orphan Book

I always feel like saying, "Of course! Why didn't I see that before!?" when somebody points out an error in my transcription. I was really happy to get some great feedback yesterday from two other genealogists (Lukáš Svoboda and Yvette Hoitink) about my very rough transcription of part of an Orphan Book record. Thank you so much!

First, it is not "Anmerkung: diese pest wurde auf tag 115 übertragen." 
It's actually, "Anmerkung: diese post wurde auf Pag 115 übertragen." 

This means, "This post was transferred to page 115." That makes sooooooooooo much more sense!

I went to page 115, and sure enough, I found the rest of her file, including her father's name: Joseph Schima!

Lukáš Svoboda wrote:

"Verlassabhandlung - I believe it was a formal process in which the property of the deceased was assessed and divided among heirs. Mother most probably have not left a will and having only one child and no husband the all what was left (and not much) went to the daughter. And Rosalia being 18 years old was probably old enough and probably in service somewhere so she did not need a guardian (especially when there was not much property). Her accounts and small sum of money were protected by the office."

That really helps add a lot of perspective and understanding to this record. The English word for this process might be to probate the will - or whatever you say when there isn't a will, only letters of administration (or letters testamentary). 

Lukáš also wrote:

And two more interesting and important aspects which can be found in the record.

Date of death: you can see not only year of Catharina's death in 1844 but you can you the date of Verlassabahdlung on 2nd May 1844 as an indicator specifying the death day. It may come handy when you are looking for the death record in church books.

Property: What I think is most interesting is the property left to Rosalia. It is mentioned in the last 3 columns. These stand for gulden, kreuzer and denar, currencies used for accounts. And note the letters CM above which stand for Conventionsmünze (to distinguish it from so called "Vienna currency" used at the same time after 1811 state bankruptcy). These abbreviations for money and currencies were for me the most complicated part in understanding and transcriptions of the land books etc. I have compiled for myself a short guide for abbreviations in land books which you can find here. It might help you a bit some day.

That "someday" is today! I have been looking for something like this, and I am so grateful to have found it! I am adding a link to the "Resources" tab of this blog for easy access, and I'm sure that I will be writing more about the subject of currency in the future. 

I'm so glad I post my transcriptions, even when I am not 100% sure of them. I learned so much, and I can share this knowledge with others so that we can all grow and benefit. Yay! 

Friday, January 17, 2014

Clues from an Orphan Book Record

Yesterday I posted about Czech Orphan books. I posted an example of an entry from an orphan book and said I would post a transcription later.

Instead of a word-for-word transcription, which is really time consuming, I decided instead to walk you through the actual process of deciphering the words and figuring out the document from the overall context.

I love languages. I especially love deducing meaning from a word's context. I am exceptionally good at this in an oral-aural setting. I think one of the main reasons I love deciphering old German handwriting in Czech genealogy documents has to do with the same concept. You have to use many different clues, including context, to figure out meaning from a text.

You just can't let yourself get hung up on missing a few words or letters. If you do, it will take too long, and you will get frustrated and give up.

Carl Linert said if he doesn't understand a word, he leaves it, and looks at it the next day. This is excellent advice.

So, here we go.

Here is the document.

The first step is to figure out what some of these headings mean.
"Nahmen der Erblasser und datum des todesfalles."
Erblasser = deceased
Todesfalles = date of death - I think.
Gestorben = died
So, clearly this first column is about somebody who died. When we remember that this is in the context of an orphan book, we can guess that this might be the name of a parent. Presumably the orphan didn't die. If the child is an orphan, their parents are dead. Therefore, this first column is probably listing information about a parent.

In the next column, we also see the word tochter.
tochter = daughter
I think this column is about the orphan herself, the daughter of the deceased. The one who became an orphan.

When you are reading old German writing, watch out for the little " marks at the end of a line. This usually means "-" or in other words, "this word is cut off in the middle and continues on the next line." Sometimes the " marks look like a period. But usually registers like this have very little punctuation, so you can guess it is a " instead of a period. Also, be aware that sometimes there appear to be spaces in the middle of a word that are not really supposed to be there. In this case, the word is verlassabhandlung.

See how it is cut in two pieces, verlassab - handlung.
Verlassabhandlung = something about leaving or reading a testament, a will, memoir, or in other words, a document that had something to do with the guardianship of her child. I think it has something to do with the date that her daughter Rosalia had a new guardian assigned. Maybe she didn't actually leave a will, and it was just the Letters of Administration that were read, or left. Anyway, I'm not sure exactly.

When you find a letter that you can't decipher, look at the other letters written with the same hand. Often times you can figure out what letter it is by comparing it to the other letters you already know. Remember, it's the stroke direction that counts more than the shape of the letter itself. Sometimes the letters come out looking funky. But they are usually made with the same stroke. It can be extremely helpful to trace the way you think the stroke of the person's pen went when they wrote the word.
Here I figured out that the first letter to this word was "d" by comparing it to another "d" in the document.
"Anmerkung: diese pest wurde auf tag 115 übertragen."
"Note: this plague was transmitted [on] day 115."

Now, I still have no idea what "day 115" means. Is it 115 days into this lady's illness? Is it referring to some kind of calendar day, perhaps a different numbering system altogether? Or maybe I'm reading it wrong and it should actually be 1/5, not 115. I don't know, but I'm moving on because if I don't, I will lose patience with the project. Just keep going!

I would continue this process until I felt like I had a pretty good overall feel for the meaning of the document, even if there were words and ideas missing or that I just really didn't know or understand. Then, I would try again, working from the top. The more you work with a document, the more you understand its nuances. You begin to see things that you didn't at first because you were probably experiencing some kind of information overload at first.
For example, here I noticed the words 18 jahre alt, or "18 years old." 

So, this Rosalia Schima was an older orphan. Perhaps she married soon thereafter? Or maybe she died? She did not die young, as so many did. Knowing her age gives you some ideas for which records would be the most helpful to look at.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Orphan Book - Kniha sirotčích

I came across a really interesting type of record called "Kniha sirotčích" or "Orphan Book." This kind of record may or may not exist for your locality. You will find it with other land records and town records - the "Town Books" - which are usually stored in one of the five Czech Republic city archives. These are located in Brno, Ostrava, Plzeň, Prague, and Ústí nad Labem. 

According to the familysearch wiki page about Czech Town Records:

Town books were established in the late 13th century and their content was based primarily on relations between citizens. Town books included testaments, marriage agreements, and debentures, as well as trade, property, criminal, military, political, and orphan records. Smaller towns usually had only one town book.
Many new town books were created in 1849 after the organization of the new political administration and contained meeting minutes, financial and tax records, lists of the poor, residency certificates, and move-in and move-out records. Records varied widely from place to place. One may therefore encounter specialty books such as vineyard books, mining books, criminal record books and books of executions. Due to the vastness of the holdings, study of the Archival Inventory is recommended. These inventories can be accessed upon arrival in each archive.
Some of the more common books are:
  • Orphan books that list minor children, their birthdates, guardian (status, residence and the date of guardianship - usually shortly after father's death), and remarks that describe how the children were raised, their inheritance (if any) and it may also include the death and marriage dates for the children. In case of an illegitimate child, a father may be listed. This may be extremely helpful to a researcher if the father's name is not given in the birth record of the child.
Here is a direct link to the "Kniha sirotčích pasiv pro Novou Bělou" from 1828-1850. 

Sadly, the family that I am researching had already moved from Nová Bělá to Kunčice nad Ostravice, or what was then known as Gross Kunzendorf, by the time the illegitimate birth occurred. So, my record of interest was not found in this book. But here is an example of one from this book:

Transcription to come. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

1741 Map of Silesia

I found a beautiful map of Silesia in 1741 on the Ostrava City Archive's website, which is

Here is a direct link to the description of the map. To view it, click, "zobrazit digitálnie kopie." That will open up the map in a new tab in your browser. This is what you will see:

The full title is:

Carte generale du duché de Silesie divisée en ses XVII moindres principautés et domaines. Sup. et ducatus Silesiae un suos XVII minores principarus et dominia divisi novva tabula in lucem edita a Covens et Mortier Amsterodami 1741.

My translation of the French:

A General Map of the Duchy of Silesia divided in its 17 smallest principalities and dominions.

Published by the World Mortier Amsterdam 1741.

Here is the part of the map that interests me:

I'm sitting here trying to figure out the historical jurisdictions of my ancestor's villages of origin: Velké Kunčice (Groß Kunzendorf) and Vratimov (Ratimau). Velké Kunčice was razed ~1950 to make way for the Nová hut' iron and steel works complex. It doesn't exist anymore.

I have heard rumors about people searching for Vratimov records in Polish archives. Someone even said that Vratimov was part of the Wroclaw diocese? That seems...far.

There is ~40 year gap of parish records for these villages between ~1780 and 1835. The parish records we do have post 1835 are the bishop's transcripts - not originals! Agh!

Anyway, this map is too old to shed any real light on my 1840's problem. But it is so beautiful!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Upcoming series on Navigating Czech Archives Websites

After a recent blog post about upcoming changes to, I got an email asking for clarification about what that means. I realized that it would be helpful to others to provide some tutorials about how to navigate the Czech archival sites, especially from a native English speaking perspective. After all, one of the main purposes of my blog is to help others learn about how to do online Czech research for themselves. Some of the sites are more intuitive than others! And they are constantly changing!

Here is a list of the Czech Archives websites for which I think it would be helpful to have current tutorials in English. - for Czech records

Are there any others that you think I should add to this list?

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Beautiful Savior, or Schönster Herr Jesu

I noticed a few weeks ago that one of my favorite songs in the LDS Children's Songbook is actually a Silesian folk song. According to the songbook, the words are supposedly from the 12th century by an anonymous composer, though this blog says, "it is better to associate the hymn with followers of John Hus," which would put it more in the 15th century.

Either way, it is a beautiful hymn, and my ancestors are Silesian. 

Here is the Mormon Tabernacle Choir performing it.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

2014 APG Professional Management Conference

I was able to listen to 1 and 3/4 lectures of the 2014 APG Professional Management Conference this morning as I drove to Costco, shopped, checked out, drove to Walmart, shopped, drove home, and cooked lunch for my family.

Judy G. Russell AKA "The Legal Genealogist" was an awesome presenter. I thought she did a great job. I heard her entire presentation. It was about the contract; what kinds of things you should put in the contract, why a contract offers you more protection than copyright law, the fact that "moral" law in regards to protecting one's name and reputation don't really exist in the United States. Very interesting stuff.

The next presentation that I heard most of was by Angela McGhie and was about networking for genealogists. It was also fantastic and I want to make a list of all the advice and tips she gave, and do them all!

I think of my love of quilting, and how it took me a long time to decide that you know what, a lot of the really nitpicky steps (pressing, trimming threads, cleaning the machine...) are actually shortcuts.

It is difficult for my bullheaded-Bohemian* brain to do, but after listening to these two professionals speak, I decided that I am going to listen to their presentations again (I'm so glad they were recorded and are available for 3 months! My family would not be able to spare me for an entire day of genealogy fun!) and create a list of the advice they give. I am going to try to follow as much of it as possible.

It is one of the deepest wishes of my soul to be an excellent, professional Certified Genealogist. Our move from Texas to Iowa this year really put all of my plans to become certified by the BCG on hold for several months, such that in another week or so I will find myself filing for an extension to my "on the clock" adventure.

Anyway, those are my thoughts after the conference. I gained measure of humility and motivation to strive to take what actually are shortcuts, though they are not necessarily what I WANT to do. I also feel motivated and encouraged to become certified, although neither of the presenters actually spoke about  that directly. I think part of it is just loving this group of people, and yearning to really be a part of the club with those two little letters after my name!

Thank you for a great conference!

*This is the phrase. I'm not Bohemian though; I'm Moravian. That I know of. Except for a distant cousin's line. But I don't think they are blood kin to me.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Follow Friday: Jiri Kastner's unofficial news about upcoming changes to

Across the world, a Czech genealogist named Jiri Kastner found my blog and we started a correspondence. He introduced me to Rodokmen, which is google plus's Czech Genealogy community. It is like generation 2 of

Anyway, you should "czech" out Jiri Kastner and his posts in the Rodokmen community if you are interested in Czech research. 

I learned some interesting "unofficial" news from g-chatting with him from thousands of miles away. You can see the original post on his google plus page here

And here is an English version:

"unofficially, but with permission of SOA Plzen (the State District Archive of Plzen), some news regarding the near future of porta fontium:

- More fine tuning of registers

- adding urbar to year 1773 (see 'Soupis zapadoceskych urbaru') + some land record books to 1st half of 17. century

[Urbary records are records of the duties that the peasants had to perform for the manorial lord. For example, how many days of robota (unpaid labor) did he owe the manorial lord]

- adding origin of parish registers (vicariate, diocese) 
- adding some censuses (including some from SOkA Domazlice)
- new Czech-Bavarian archive guide integrated into porta fontium"

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Iowa Genealogical Society Hiring a Part-time Executive Director

The Iowa Genealogical Society is looking to hire a part-time Executive Director. The salary will be $20,000-25,000. The job description is as follows:

"This person will work with board members and current staff to implement the Strategic Plan developed in 2012. The plan is a good one, outlining committees and goals which would bring in more members and increase our other sources of revenues. But volunteers need to be recruited to fill those committees and direction needs to be given to the volunteers as they work to fundraise, do publicity, plan classes and programs, design our website, work in the library, maintain the building, etc."

They would like to have the hiring process completed by March. You can find this information in the January 2014 IGS Newsletter

After the recent Polar Vortex with its -46 degree Fahrenheit windchill at the beginning of this week, I don't blame you for thinking long and hard before deciding to move to Iowa. But hey, I heard it was 17 degrees in HOUSTON. What!!!??? So, basically, every corner of the United States was really cold. At a certain point, you're just inside anyway. 

I am not sure how you would go about applying for this job. I assume you would contact the IGS Executive Board. Here's the contact information I found.

(515) 276-0287
M, W, F, Sat
10 am-4 pm

T, Th
10 am-9 pm

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Moravians vs. Moravians

Jan Hus started what later became the Moravian Church (another name for it: the Unity of the Brethren Church) when he rejected practices of the Roman Catholic Church in the late 1300's. He was burned at the stake in 1415 by order of the Council of Constance. After that, other Hussites rebelled, there was a Hussite civil war with some Hussites siding with the Catholics. 

Finally the Hussites organized themselves as one of the first protestant churches in 1457. By the mid 1550's up to 90% of the inhabitants of the Czech lands were Protestant. 

This is astonishing. My Czech ancestors are all Catholic. Most of the Catholic parish records are available and online, but the earliest available ones for my ancestors start in the 1590's. I've been doing a lot of research but have not gotten that far back yet! So, I hadn't really thought about the religious makeup of the Czech lands pre-1600's. 

Probably a big reason for this is because I am not a skilled reader of dry history books unless there is an obvious human context. As my brother in law pointed out to me, it's the stories about real people that draw me in. 

Anyway, the population, including the nobility, was mostly Protestant until the 1620 Battle of White Mountain. After this, protestants were forced to convert, executed or expelled. Catholic, German-speaking nobility took their place. The Brethren either operated underground or left. There are small communities in many places, notably in Pennsylvania.

These people are Moravians.

Here is a really fascinating digitized diary from a Moravian woman from the 18th Century, named Anna Marie Worbass. I enjoyed reading the translation. I think it helped me understand more about her faith than the dry history books. 

Another meaning for "Moravian" is a person from Moravia. This is a historic region of the Czech lands. It was an independent state from Bohemia...until 1620...It is basically the Eastern half of the country. Silesia is a small sliver directly north east of Moravia. Sometimes you hear Moravia referred to as Moravia-Silesia. That is one of the names of the Kraj (regions) in the current Czech Republic. 

Almost 100% of my Czech ancestors are from Moravia-Silesia, with my direct line hailing closer to the Silesian side.

In 2011, the Czech census showed a huge jump in regional self-identification, with more people saying they were, "Moravian" than ever before. Also, according to that same article, 15,070 people (!!) identified their religion as "Knights of the Jedi." Yes, as in...Star Wars...sigh.

I suppose it is possible to be a Moravian Moravian. Or a Moravian with Moravian heritage. I don't think I would self-identify as Moravian because...I am American. Also, that would be like saying all of my heritage is from my Grandpa Vasicek, which simply isn't true. But, I would proudly say I am a quarter Moravian.

United States Passport Applications available on!

I looked at some of the recently added records to's historical records database, and I found a new set of records added just on 30 December 2013: United States, Passport Applications, 1795-1925.

Specifically, this collection contains, "United States Passport Applications from two different NARA collections: M1490, and M1372."

Since there are only 2,320,105 images, it cannot be a complete collection.

I was only able to access records for M1490, and these are only passport applications between the years 1906-1925. It seems like this might be complete for these years. I know that passport requirements for foreign travel were not as strict during this time period as they currently are. Also, these passports can include multiple members of a family.

The big drawback is that so far these records remain unindexed. They are only organized by the date the application was submitted. So, if you happen to know when that was (preferably narrowed down to the month!), and have a lot of patience, you might be able to find a record of interest.

This collection needs to be indexed! You can help! If it is indexed, the records will suddenly become accessible to millions of other people because suddenly you will be able to look up the records by name, residence, birth place, etc.

Here is an example that I found of a person (probably Czecho-German) applying for a passport from Cook County, Illinois.

Look at all the great information you can learn!

"I do solemnly swear that I was born at Uscz [?] in Germany, on or about the 20
day of Apy [April?], 1830, that I emigrated to the United States, sailing on board
the - from Liverpool, on or about the 18 day
of March, 1852; that I resided 54 years, uninterruptedly, in the United States,
from 1852 to 1906 at Chicago, Ill; that I was naturalized as a
citizen of the United States before the Superior Court of Cook Co,
at Chicago, on the 25 day of March, 1862, as
shown by the accompanying Certificate of Naturalization; that I am the IDENTICAL
PERSON described in said Certificate; that I am domiciled in the United States, my per-
manent residence being at Chicago, in the State of Illinois
where I follow the occupation of Manufacturer; that I am about to go abroad
temporarily; and that I intend to return to the United States within six
months with the purpose of residing and performing the duties of citizenship

"Herman Tobias
Sworn to before me this 20 day of March, 1906.
Joseph Pallin
Notary Public.

Age, 75 years
Stature, 5 feet, 8 inches, Eng.
Forehead, high
Eyes, hazel
Nose, roman
Mouth, medium
Chin, round
Hair, white
Complexion, fair
Face, oval"

"Applicant desires Passport sent to the following address:
159 Randolph St.,

I would LOVE to find something like this about my ancestors! Let's index it and make it happen!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Mozart lived closer to my ancestors than I do to my parents

My kids have been listening to "Mozart's Magic Fantasy: A Journey Through the Magic Flute." I keep finding songs from it stuck in my head. "Pa-pa-pa-papageno!" and the Aria of the Queen of the Night. Which my kids ask me to perform for them, and I gladly oblige. Haha.

I began reading Mozart's wikipedia page. The film "Amadeus" is one of my all time favorites, and so I thought I would know a lot about his life. I was wrong. 

The main way in which I was wrong was in my European geography. Vienna is less than two hours south of Brno! It's about 3 hours from Ostrava, and 3 hours and 20 minutes from Prague. How did I miss this!?

As I read, I noticed that so many of the given names in this article (and his wife Constanze's) were similar to given names of my ancestors. Names like: Johann Nebomuk della Croce, Theresia Constanzia Adelheid Friedericke Maria Anna, Karl Thomas Mozart, Anna Maria, Leopold Mozart, Aloysia Weber, Joseph Lange, Sophie Weber, Franz Xaver Wolfgang Mozart

I also noticed the mention of Maria Wilhelmine von Thun und Hohenstein - (remember the post about the 5 families who owned 8% of the land?). When the Archbishop refused to allow him to play for her, he resigned his job and went into freelance composing. 

I don't know what kind of access the peasant masses in the Czech lands had to his operas or minuets, but since he was so popular during his lifetime, it seems plausible that his melodies were known on the farms of Bohemia and Moravia. The Magic Flute is still the fourth most popular opera in the world. I wonder if my Czech ancestors also got these same songs stuck in their heads. 

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Surname Saturday Kreczmarská, Kreczmarski

In my previous post about my fourth great grandmother, Anna Kreczmarska, I linked to the surname density map for the surname Krečmar. This variant spelling is not found anywhere close to Ostrava. However, a friend pointed me in the direction of a different surname spelling variation: Kreczmarská and Kreczmarski.

In an email correspondence with Carolyn Sumbera Heinsohn, author and researcher of the book, "A History of the Sumbera, Mozisek, and Kruppa Families" I learned that the surname could have been spelled with a Polish twist since they were part of Silesia (Kretzmar), or also a German spelling like Kretzschmar, Kretschmar, Kretzschmar. 

When I tried to search for Kretzschmar, I also got results that were close to Ostrava! 

Does this indicate that the ethnic origins of Anna Kreczmarská are German? If the family immigrated to the Czech border regions ~16th Century (this guess is based on a statement by Carolyn that the Fischer/Fišer family, who is distantly related to the Kreczmars, is documented as being in northeast Bohemia since the mid-16th century - so it really has almost no basis on reality or fact) are they still German, or are they as Czech as anybody else in that region?

How long does it take to gain an ethnic identity? Do the current Kreczmars/Kretzchmars living in the Ostrava region consider themselves Czech, German, Moravian, Silesian, or a combination of all of the above? 

I tease my husband about me being "more American" than him because when we played with (a site that uses the familysearch API to plot your direct line ancestors on a map up to 7 generations) I had way, way, way more ancestors in the United States than he did. His were almost 100% from the British Isles and Ireland. He has almost no colonial American ancestors. I do. 

I have often had the conversation with other Americans about, "What are you?" and then people listing off a bunch of European countries where their ancestors are from. I wonder if this conversation happened much in the Czech lands in the 18th-19th centuries. I'm guessing...not so much...

Friday, January 3, 2014

Follow Friday: Michele Simmons Lewis

Today I'm going to link you to one of my favorite bloggers in the genealogy world: Michele Simmons Lewis author of

While not a Czech researcher, her insights into genealogy research apply to all geographical areas of interest. She took a short blogging hiatus (phew! Good to know I wasn't the only one!) these past two weeks, but promises that her posts will keep coming after January 6.

One of my favorite posts that she wrote last year convinced me that I need to consistently use a research log, especially in my own personal research projects. Why does this always cause me to groan internally? At least by starting now and doing it throughout the year, I will have a fresh start. I can do this! Agh!

She also has some helpful posts about the Genealogical Proof Standard. My favorite is about the "Reasonably Exhaustive Search." Not only does she describe what it is, but how to achieve it. Again, her process involves research calenders or logs, and research binders. And again I feel guilty. Haha.

Czech her out!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

The 5 Families that owned 8% of the Czech Land

In a previous blog post I took an excerpt from the book Bohemia and the Čechs, the History, People, Institutions, and the Geography of the Kingdom, Together with Accounts of Moravia and Silesia, by Will Seymour Monroe that says that five families own nearly 8% of the land.

For my own perspective, I tried to find a size comparison to the United States. I found a table on Wikipedia that lists US states and territories by their area. According to this, the total area of the United States is 3,803,290.00 square miles (this number seems kind of round to me...but oh well). 

On a whim, I guess-timated that Texas was about 8%. Turns out, I wasn't too far off. Texas is 268,580.82 square miles. Divide that by the total area of the United States and that is just about 7% of the total land mass. 

Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Rhode Island's total area is 36,607.15 square miles. (As a side note, even though I grew up in New England, I never really noticed that Maine's total area is equal to nearly half of the total area of New England, at 35,384.65 square miles!)

Texas, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Rhode Island together comprise just over 8% of the United States. If you include Maine, it becomes just under 9%. 

Either way, this comparison really helped me gain some perspective. Imagine if 5 families owned the ENTIRE state of Texas and most of New England!!!! Granted, the Czech Republic could easily fit inside the state of Maine, at 30,450 square miles. So it's not really a fair comparison.

According to Monroe, these five families were the Schwarzenbergs, the Lichtensteins, the Lobkovics, the Schönborns, and the Thuns. My curiosity was piqued; I wondered if any of these families were still around today.

The House of Schwarzenberg
This family's noble origins begin ~1172. Karl VII (in Czech, Karel Jan Nepomucký Josef Norbert Bedřich Antonín Vratislav Menas kníže ze Schwarzenberga) is the current prince of Schwarzenberg. He is active in politics and ran for President of the Czech Republic last year. 

The Princely Family of Liechtenstein
This family's noble origins begin ~1140, and yes, the tiny, wealthy, land-locked European country is named after them. Yes, the current head of the government there is also the direct male descendant of this family, Hans-Adam II, Prince of Liechstenstein.

William Lobkowicz
I thought this man's story was the most interesting! He was born in 1961 and grew up in Boston, Massachusetts. He went on to study European History at Harvard, and has spent his life reclaiming and restoring his family's castles, at significant expense. I think his life would make an excellent movie. I don't know exactly when this family's noble origins begin, but they do have a family brewery that was originally founded in 1466.

The House of Schönborn
This family's noble origins begin in ~1373. They are still around today, though the direct male descendant Cristoph Maria Michael Hugo Damian Peter Adalbert Schönborn is not a prince but a cardinal of the Catholic church. 

Thun-Hohenstein Family
This family's noble origins begin ~1187 and they are also also still around. Róża Maria Gräfin von Thun und Hohenstein is a European Parliament Member from Poland. 

The takeaway: all of these families remain wealthy, influential, and important. Not bad for an average traceable family age of 745 years!!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Predictions for Czech Genealogy Research in 2014

I'm back! Woohoo! What a great start to the year! I'm so excited to continue researching, writing, and learning about genealogy.

Here are my predictions for what will happen in the world of Czech genealogy research in 2014:

  • The current Czech indexing project on will be completed
  • Czech census records will begin to be indexed on
  • Moravian parish records will begin to be indexed on
  • Previously hidden Czech records will resurface from Polish archives
  • There will be better communication and collaboration between the various regional and district archives in the Czech Republic
  • Czech military records will become digitally available
  • Austro-Hungarian newspapers will become digitally available
  • Passport applications of Austro-Hungaria will become digitally available

Here are my predictions for changes in the genealogy world in general in 2014:

  • Texas will probably enact laws restricting access to death records
  • OCR technology will expand to handwriting analysis and impact indexing in a major way
  • Changes in the interface to will greatly increase the speed at which records are indexed
  • NGSQ and other major genealogical journals will publish articles where DNA evidence plays a major role in determining identities and relationships

And for good measure, since predictions are sort of like goals, here are some of my own personal genealogy-related goals for 2014:

  • Publish on this blog daily
  • Continue client research
  • Volunteer at the Iowa Genealogical Society
  • Volunteer as a Family History Consultant 
  • Continue professional development
  • Become a Board Certified Genealogist (moving really threw a curve-ball in that plan last year!)
  • Network with others who have similar research goals and interests
  • Continue to write and possibly publish a book or an article? Hmm...