Czech Republic Determining a Place of Origin
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In the Czech Republic, most records used in family history research are kept on a town or parish level. Therefore the exact town of origin must be known before research in Czech records can begin. Most of the time, the Czech place of origin is found in sources created in the country of immigration. These records should be searched for the ancestor, possible relatives, and other associated persons.
Tracing immigrant origins can be one of the hardest parts of family history research. To learn more about sources and strategies to find an immigrant's hometown see Tracing Immigrant Origins.
Determine Background Information
- When did the immigrant arrive in America?
- In which specific area did he settle?
- Which records exist for that area?
- In which port did he arrive? Which records exist or are available?
- Was the immigrant prominent? Was the surname unusual or common?
- Did the immigrant come alone or did he come as part of a group or with a religious leader?
- Which historical events were occurring in Europe, and also in America, that could have played a role in influencing emigration or immigration?
- Did anyone appear on the passenger list with the ancestor, who settled in the same area as the immigrant?
Check Home and Family Sources
- Family Bible
- Emigration papers: passport, emigration permission, travel tickets, boarding passes etc.
- Occupational papers, lodge or guild records, journeyman letters
- Church certificates: christening, confirmation, marriage, death or burial records
- Family letters – which are generally dated and list a place!
- School certificates
- Family pictures - watch for explanations usually written on the back and/or photographer's address or town on the front!
- Funeral cards and obituary notices
- Drivers license, insurance papers, etc.
- Diaries and personal journals
- Published family histories
- Any documents written or printed in a foreign language or handwriting style. The basic rule is: If you can’t read it, have it read by someone who can.
- Ancestral File
- 1880 US Census with links to images on www.ancestry.com
- International Genealogical Index (IGI)
- Pedigree Resource File
- US Social Security Death Index
- Vital Records Index
- Browse/Search Family History Websites
- FamilySearch Catalog
- Record Search Pilot
- Historical Books
Click here to access these databases.
United States Census Records
United States Federal Census records provide the basic framework of the family. The ancestor should be located in every census taken while he lived in the United States. All censuses are available online at www.ancestry.com with indexes and images. Some years are also available at www.heritagequestonline.com. Because handwriting could easily be misinterpreted, try various searches including truncated search using three or more letters and an asterisk for a “wild card”. However, if the ancestor still cannot be found in the census records, it may be necessary to search the census microfilm for the specific locality ‘by hand’.
- 1850, 1860, 1870 Federal Census - beginning with the 1850 Census, all household members are named and province or country of birth is listed. 1860 and 1870 Census often list province rather than the country.
- 1880, 1900, 1910, 1920, and 1930 Federal Census - they provide clues as to country, province, or even the place of birth. Month and year of birth are listed. The 1900 Census lists the year of immigration to America, also years married and month and year of birth. The 1900-1930 censuses ask if the immigrant is a US citizen or an alien and for the year of immigration.
- Check State Censuses wherever they are available. They were usually taken midway between Federal Censuses.
For detailed information about all United States Censuses see United States Census.
United States Vital Records
State and county vital records:
- marriage record, marriage licence, especially application for marriage licence
- death record
- divorce record
- child’s christening record
- confirmation record
- marriage record
- burial record
- membership record
- tombstone inscriptions
- cemetery record
- pension/service files
- WWI draft registration cards available on www.ancestry.com
- civil court records
- probate records
- land records
- tax records
The information recorded on naturalization records differed widely and may include birth dates, birth places, and other immigration information about the immigrant and members of his family.
- Declaration of Intention to become a US citizen - usually filed within 2 years in the country. Information provided therein is generally the most correct.
- Petition for Naturalization - usually filed between one to three years after declaration was filed. Information correct most of the time.
- Certificate - does not contain valuable information.
Prior to 1906 all US courts dealt with naturalizations. These records may be found at federal, district, county, circuit, or city court levels, so check all courts in the area. The declaration of intention can be filed in one court/locality, and the petition for naturalization in another. It is important to check for all possible records, since they may contain different clues. Beginning in 1906, the Immigration and Naturalization Service [INS], now called United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, took care of naturalizations nationwide. Records are kept at regional offices.
For detailed information about all Naturalization Records see United States Naturalization and Citizenship.
Newspapers, Periodicals, Other Compilations
- Newspapers, especially obituaries
- Foreign-language newspapers
- Published genealogies
- Genealogical magazines
- City Directories
- County atlases, plat books
- Town Histories - may include information if your ancestor was among the first settlers in the area, if he was prominent, or if he made significant contributions of some sort (art, architecture, etc.).
- County Histories - may include information about specific ethnic groups, where they settled, who their leaders were and where they came from, biographical sketches, and churches with biographical information about founding members of the congregation.
- State Histories - usually contain very general information about early settlers and their origins.
The process of emigrating from one country to another generated various records. Records of departure in the country of origin are called emigration records.
- Hamburg - The Hamburg Passenger Lists contain the names of millions of Europeans who departed Europe from Hamburg, Germany between 1850 and 1934 (except 1915–1919). Nearly 90 percent of the people who emigrated from eastern Europe during this time are included on these lists. The lists are made up of two sections: The Direct and The Indirect Passenger Lists. Each section has its own separate handwritten index. Combined index 1850-1871 also exists. These passenger lists and indexes are most fully described in Hamburg Passenger Lists. Note: the old Hamburg Passenger Lists Resource Guide has been incorporated into the article. Also see the microfiche instructions in Hamburg Passenger Lists. Hamburg Police Registers of city residents and passports issued also exist.
- Bremen - Bremen began keeping passenger lists in 1832, but most lists have been destroyed. Currently, 2953 passenger lists dating from 1920 to 1939 are available on the Internet. For further information check the web site http://db.genealogy.net/maus/gate/.
- Antwerp, Belgium
- Le Havre, France
- Rotterdam, The Netherlands
- Other Ports - primarily located along the Eastern sea board and included Stettin, Gdank, Libau, Memel,and Riga. No passenger lists are known to have survived.
Information about records useful for locating Czech places of origin may be found at Czech Republic Emigration and Immigration.
Immigration records list the names of people coming into the United States. These records may include an emigrant’s name, age, occupation, destination, and sometimes the place of origin or birth. There are passenger lists for ships coming into the United States available for the following:
- New York 1820-1957 - New York became the #1 port after 1850. After 1885 the place of origin is frequently given in the original passenger lists. Both last residence and place of birth are required on the form beginning in 1907. Less information is required for US citizens. Lists from 1892 to 1924 are available on the Internet at Ellis Island. However, the search capabilities are limited. For expanded search capabilities use One-Step Webpages by Stephen P. Morse. Another online-index for New York 1820-1892 is available at Castle Garden. This is NOT linked to images, so must be used in conjunction with other websites. Both indexes and images for 1820-1957 are available on www.ancestry.com.
- Philadelphia 1800-1945
- New Orleans 1820-1945
- California 1893-1957
- Galveston 1896-1948
- Boston, 1820-1943
- Baltimore 1820-1948
- Atlantic Ports, Gulf Coasts, and Great Lakes 1820-1873
If an ancestor is not found on-line, search the indexes on microfilm as well. It may also be helpful to check other record formats and indexes:
- Filby’s Passenger and Immigration Lists Index (973 W32p, tan colored books)
- Canadian border crossing records 1895-1956
- Galveston, Texas - most of the early passenger lists were destroyed, but there are some books of extracted and compiled lists of immigrants of various nationalities.
Czech Immigration Passenger Lists by Leo Baca can be a useful source of genealogical information. Click Czech Republic Emigration and Immigration for more information.