Czech Republic Church Records
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Church Records [církevní matriky]
Church Records refer to the records of births/christenings, marriages, and deaths/burials recorded by clergy. There are fragments of church records fragments from the Czech Republic dating from 1441, but the earliest intact registers date from the 1590s. Catholic parishes in Europe were first required to record baptisms and marriages in 1563 by order of the Council of Trent. The requirement to record deaths was introduced in 1614. It took several years before the practice was established in the Czech lands where most preserved registers start after 1620. A new format for the records was introduced in 1771. Because of religious intolerance within the Austrian Empire, the only legally recognized church registers were Catholic registers until 1781 when the Toleration Patent was issued. After 1784 the keeping of church registers was required by law for all religions, but under Catholic supervision. Duplicates of church registers [druhopisy] were made for civil purposes starting in the 1790s. Protestant church registers were recognized as legal records without Catholic supervision in 1840.
- Christening registers – infant's name, name and surname of father and mother, christening date (most also give the birth date); sometimes names of grandparents; names of godparents.
- Marriage registers – names of groom and bride, date of marriage, often include ages, residences, occupations, previous marital status, names of parents, sometimes the birthplace; names of witnesses. Since 1753 to 1918, age of majority for groom and bride is 24. Illegitimacy is about 1-4% in the village and can be up to 25% in the city however there were much more illegitimate children born during the war.
- Burial registers–name of the deceased, date and place of death and burial, residence; sometimes cause of death, names of survivors, occasionally the date and place of birth.
Location: In December of 1949, all church vital records prior to civil registration (1895) were declared state property. In 1952 the state began centralizing all these records into state regional archives [státní oblastní archívy]. In many cases records as late as the 1940s have been placed in state regional archives. Registers more recent than those in the state regional archives are still at local city or subdistrict registration offices [matriční úřady].
Research Use: These records are the prime source for information about the vital events in an individual's life. This information can be used to compile pedigrees and family groups and to perform temple ordinances. They identify children, spouses, parents, and often grandparents as well as dates and places of vital events. They establish individual identity and are excellent sources for linking generations and identifying relationships.
Accessibility: All Czech church registers are accessible to those who hire a private researcher to visit the archives for them or who can visit the archives in the Czech Republic themselves and research the records in person.
Records of all regional archives are now being made available online. For the most part, records are not yet indexed.
Some vital records from the Litoměřice Regional Archive and Opava Land Archive are now available online through the FamilySearch at: familysearch.org Click on the link with the magnifying glass that says "Browse our Record Collection" and then Select Europe. Třeboň archive itself is putting the images online at: http://digi.ceskearchivy.cz/index_main.php?lang=en.
In addition to the above named links to vital records there are other online resources that may be helpful to a researcher such as Prague Population Registration (1850-1914) available through the National Archives in Prague at: http://126.96.36.199/prihlasky/index.php.
To find out which regional archive holds the records that you need go to http://www.ihff.at/indexstarte.htm. Click the gazetter and picture cards link on the left and then click continue link at the bottom of the page.
Canonical Visitations [církevní vizitace]
A canonical visitation (visitatio canonicae in Latin) is the act of an ecclesiastical superior who in the discharge of his office visits persons or places with a view of maintaining faith and discipline, and of correcting abuses by the application of proper remedies. Basically, a representative of the bishop visited the parish once a year, sometimes twice, to make sure that the parish registers were kept properly as required, the church looked good, and services were held in the proper manner.
Visitation records generally do not contain genealogical information. However, it is possible that the church court was held in conjunction with this authority, and the minutes taken can contain things like the discussion of illegitimate children, where the fathers may be mentioned.
Unfortunately those records are not part of the sacramental records, so as a rule they were not filmed. But they may be available as part of the parish administrative records held by the diocesan archive.
Wiki articles describing these collections are found at:
- Czech, Northern Moravia, Opava Provincial Archives Church Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)
- Czech Republic Church Boooks (FamilySearch Historical Records)
- Czech Republic, Southern Bohemia, Trebon, Church Books (FamilySearch Historical Reocords)
- Czech Republic, Southern Bohemia Seigniorial Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)