Czech Republic Finding Town of Origin

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Finding Town of Origin

Geographical Considerations[edit | edit source]

  • The Czech Republic is a country in Central Europe bordering Poland, Germany, Austria, and Slovakia. It includes the three historical territories of Bohemia, Moravia, and Czech Silesia, also known as Austrian Silesia or Moravian Silesia. From 1918 to 1993, it was the Western part of Czechoslovakia. The official language is Czech. Source: Wikipedia
  • Today's Slovakia was part of Czechoslovakia from 1918-1939 and from 1945-1998. Before 1918, it belonged to Hungary, and from 1939-1945, it was the Slovak Republic. Source:Wikipedia
  • When searching indexes, try Moravia, Bohemia, Czechoslovakia, Czech Republic, Austria, and Silesia.
  • Use gazetteers to determine whether the town is currently in Slovakia or the Czech Republic.

Finding the Town of Birth[edit | edit source]

In order to research your family in the Czech Republic, it is essential that you have identified the place where they came from. You must know the city, town, or parish that they came from. A few records are indexed, but many records will require going directly to photocopied local records, which are only available by town name. it will be difficult to identify the place of origin by going directly to Czech sources. Therefore, you will need to search in United States (or other country of arrival) sources first.

Important Tips[edit | edit source]

Before you can begin to search in the records of the Czech Republic you must find that one record that gives the name of his or her hometown. You must also know enough about the ancestor to positively identify him in the records. Dates (even if they are approximate), places, and familial connections are key to helping you decide if a person you find, who has the same name as your ancestor, really is your ancestor.

  • Do you know the name of his parents?
  • Do you know his birth, marriage, or death date or can you calculate an approximate range of years to search for his birth, marriage, or death?
  • Do you know the name of his wife? Did they marry before or after coming to the United States?
  • Do you know the names of any of his siblings?
  • Do you know the names of any children born in the Czech Republic?

Other Helpful Background Information[edit | edit source]

  • 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?

Documents in the Home[edit | edit source]

Often the document you need to pinpoint the place of origin of your ancestor from the Czech Republic is already found at home. These might include the following:

  • Birth certificates
  • Marriage certificates or licenses
  • Death certificates
  • Obituaries
  • Funeral cards
  • Journals
  • Photographs
  • Letters
  • Family Bible
  • Naturalization papers
  • Citizenship papers
  • Military service records

Emigration Questions to Ask Relatives[edit | edit source]

Find the oldest living relatives that you can and ask them:

  1. What do you know about our first ancestor to come from the Czech Republic? (open-ended)
  2. Have you ever heard mention of towns in the Czech Republic where the family lived?
  3. Do you have contact with any relatives in the Czech Republic?
  4. . Do you have contact with other branches of the family in the U.S.?
  5. . When _____________ came from the Czech Republic, did he travel with other family members?
  6. . Do you know when _________________ arrived and which port city?
  7. Did _______________ever become a citizen?
  8. Did_________________fight in World War I or II?
  9. When they first came, were there already family members here who they joined?
  10. Did_______________ever mention their parents in the Czech Republic?
  11. Were they Catholic?
  12. Do you have any old letters or postcards from your the Czech Republic family?
  13. Do you have any pictures of family members in the Czech Republic?

Search Genealogies Compiled by Others[edit | edit source]

Emigration Records[edit | edit source]

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 Die Maus.
  • 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.

Records to Search in the Country of Arrival[edit | edit source]

Census Records[edit | edit source]

  • Search census records, available for the United States, Canada, England, and other countries. Censuses are often taken every ten years.
  • Try to locate your ancestor in every census during which he or she was alive. This information provides a good framework for further research.
  • The 1850-1880 U.S. federal censuses sometimes lists a Czech state or province as birth place.
  • The censuses for 1900 to 1930 ask for the year of immigration and whether or not the person was naturalized. This information can help you find naturalization records or a passenger list.
  • Censuses can be accessed online. Links to both free and subscription websites are found at United States Census Online Genealogy Records.
  • State census records vary in availability and the type of information they contain, but they are always useful as another source to document an ancestor in a specific locality. See U.S. Online Genealogy Records by State for links to online state censuses.

Example: This 1900 census shows the birthdates and birthplaces of the family members and their parents. It tells the years the parents immigrated and how many years they have lived in the U.S. "Pa" indicates that they have filed papers to become citizens.
1900 census Czech birth.png

Vital Records[edit | edit source]

Vital records, or civil birth, marriage, and death records document important events in an ancestor’s life. Many states have posted statewide indexes on the Internet. Understand that any birth, marriage, or death certificate gives information about other people besides the primary person it is about

  • 1. It is important to remember that a birth certificate for a child might tell it's parents' birthplaces.
  • 2. Marriage certificates might name birth dates and places of the bride and groom. They might also give the names and birth places of the parents of the bride and groom.
  • 3. Death certificates are very important. Birth and marriage certificates might not have kept by a state during the earlier years of your ancestor's life. There is a greater chance that your ancestor died after detailed record-keeping began. Death certificates frequently state birth date and place. They also state the names of parents and their birth places.

There are wiki articles giving details on how to find vital records of each state.

  • You can select the state of interest and the record (birth, marriage, or death) from this list:

How-To Articles.

Example: This Pennsylvania birth certificate shows the birthplaces of the parents in Czechoslovakia.
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Example: This Texas death certificate gives the birthdate, birthplace in Czechoslovakia, and the names of the parents of the deceased.

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Example: This Nebraska marriage certificate gives the birthplaces in Czechoslovakia and the parents' names of the bride groom. Their approximate birth years can be estimated by subtracting their ages from the year of the certificate.

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Cemetery Records[edit | edit source]

Websites such as FindAGrave and Billion Graves are making it easier to get information from headstones, which frequently give birth dates, and occasionally give birth places. Each state has additional collections of cemetery records. See U.S. Online Genealogy Records by State for links to other online cemetery records. Every state also has a Cemetery topic page you can search, for example, California Cemeteries, Washington Cemeteries. etc.

Example: This FindAGrave entry gives the birthdate, birthplace in Czechoslovakia, the parents' names, and even the location of the baptism record.

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Obituaries[edit | edit source]

Obituaries are an excellent source of biographical information about immigrants. In addition to names and death dates, you can learn about surviving family members, church affiliations, spouses, parents, occupations, burial places, and hometowns in the old country. Even if a place of origin is not given, an obituary may provide additional research clues, such as the date or ship of immigration or traveling companions. Much of this information cannot be found in other sources. For many immigrants, an obituary is the only “biographical sketch” ever written about them. See U.S. Online Genealogy Records by State for links to online obituary collections. If the town of death is known, Google newspapers in that town and contact them to see if they kept archives of their obituaries.

Example: This obituary gives the birthdate, birthplace in Czechoslovakia, and parents' names of the subject.

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Social Security[edit | edit source]

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Military Records[edit | edit source]

Draft records for World War I and II ask for birth place, which can be listed as just the Czech Republic or in greater detail.

U.S. WW I Draft Registration Card
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U.S., World War II Draft Registration Card

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Passenger Arrival Lists[edit | edit source]

Passenger lists, especially in the 20th century, may list birth place, last residence in mother country, and name and residence of a close relative in the mother country. Study the records of fellow passengers, as frequently relatives and neighbors traveled together. United States Immigration Online Genealogy Records is a comprehensive list of passenger arrival databases that you can search right now from your computer. There are many, many databases. The following search strategy will make your search more efficient.

Suggested Search Strategy[edit | edit source]

  1. Check the partner website indexes, as these cover many, many databases at once. The FamilySearch Historical Records databases is free to search with a free registered account. The other websites are subscription-based but can be searched for free at a Family History Center near you. Try to search each partner site because their search engines can often bring up slightly different results.
  2. If it is difficult for you to get access to the subscription databases, next try Additional Nationwide Collections Not Included in Partner Sites. These websites have a lot of overlap with the subscription websites.
  3. Search a nationality, religious, or political group collection that applies to your ancestor.
  4. Search the state collection for the first state where your ancestor lived.
  5. Read Tracing Immigrant Origins to learn about many other records that substitute for immigration records.

Example: This first page of passenger list gives several clues that can lead to records in the Czech Republic. Notice that the family is from Bohemia, which became the Czech Republic.

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Example: The second page of a passenger list gives the birthplace in the Czech Republic. It can also state information on other relatives.

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Naturalization Records[edit | edit source]

  • Naturalization records may also list an ancestor’s birth place.
  • Prior to 1906 any U.S. court could naturalize foreigners. Many pre-1900 records only list “Czech Republic” as the country of citizenship; however, there are notable exceptions, so these records should be checked routinely.
  • The process involved two sets of papers: a declaration of intention to become a U.S. citizen, and a petition filed some time later.
  • Beginning in 1906, naturalization records became more detailed, as the responsibility shifted to the Federal government.
  • More information about naturalization records, along with helpful links, is found at Beginning Research in United States Naturalization Records and United States Naturalization Online Genealogy Records.

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Passport Applications[edit | edit source]

Example: This passport application gives the birthdate and birthplace of the applicant in the Czech Republic and his father's name and birthplace,

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Alien Registration[edit | edit source]

Example: This online index entry for an A-File gives minimal identifying information. You then send for the full file which can contain birth records, marriage records, and other legal documents.

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Local Histories[edit | edit source]

  • 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.