Your ancestors in Czechia (currently the Czech Republic)
Czechia (currently The Czech Republic) is a Country we probably know through its beautiful capital city; Prague. Like many European countries it has a complex history and records are in different formats, for different people and religions. Don’t dismay; this blog will help you get started.
Czechia (The Czech Republic)
Czechia (currently The Czech Republic) is landlocked with 10.6 million inhabitants. The historic territories of Bohemia, Moravia and Czech Silesia are included within its boundaries.
The State was first formed in the ninth century as the Duchy of Bohemia. Formally recognised as an imperial state of the Holy Roman Empire in 1002 along with the Kingdom of Germany, Burgundy and Italy. It became the Kingdom of Bohemia in 1198. Between the 14th C and 17th C Prague was the imperial seat.
In 1526 the Kingdom was integrated into the Habsburg Monarchy. A revolt in 1618 led to the 30 years war. Protestantism was eradicated and Catholicism re-introduced, plus the idea of Germanism.
In 1806 the Holy Roman Empire was dissolved and the Kingdom became part of the Austrian Empire. In the 19th C Czech lands became an industrial powerhouse of the monarchy. In 1918 the Republic of Czechoslovakia was formed following the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
The only democracy in Central Europe during the interwar period, parts of the country were occupied by Germany during World War II. It was liberated in 1945 by the Soviet Union and the United States. In 1946 the Communist Party won the elections. Soviet influence increased until 1968 and a Soviet led invasion. Czechoslovakia was occupied until 1989 and the Velvet Revolution, which established it once again as a democracy. On 1 January 1993 Czechoslovakia dissolved; its constituent states becoming independent. The Czech Republic joined NATO in 1999 and the EU in 2004.
Prague is the capitol and the largest city with 1.3 million inhabitants. Since the year 2000 the Czech Republic has been divided into 13 regions with the Capitol City of Prague the 14th. For a list of the regions please see Wikipedia.
75% of the population declare no religion, with atheists at 30%, it is said the people are ‘tolerant and even indifferent towards religion’. In the 2011 Census 34% of the population declared no religion, 10% Catholic, 1% Protestant, 0.5% Czech Brethren and 0.4% Hussite. 45% of the population didn’t answer the question on religion.
Family History records are created and organised locally. Civil Registration (birth, marriage and death) and church records (christening/baptism, marriage and burial) are kept at a local level; municipal and sub district vital records offices. Some church records may be at State Regional Archives.
If you are unsure of your ancestors village or Parish follow the advice in the FamilySearch Wiki.
During the Austrian period a few civil registers appear from 1870, recording dissident faiths or baptisms of children of mixed marriage; these though are categorised as Church registers.
In 1885 the recording of mixed marriages and children born of the later were allowed by law.
In 1921 registration by civil authorities was enacted into law throughout the Czechoslovak Republic.
In addition to English and Welsh Certificates, Czech records have:
- ages of parents
- religion of parents
- names of witnesses
- date and places of birth
- residences of parents
- name of surviving spouse and parents
A few records are online with FamilySearch.
A snapshot of a family, on one night of the year; the Census gives an invaluable insight into our ancestors lives.
The first census was conducted in 1651 by the Catholic Habsburg rulers. Summaries of a 1702 count of people over the age of 10. Further census’s were taken in 1754 and 1762 with revisions every few years. Counts were also taken in 1770 and 1776 for military purposes.
The first, true census as we know it was taken in 1857. After this census was taken in 1869, 1880, 1890, 1900, 1910, 1921, 1930, 1940, 1950, 1961, 1970, 1980, 1991 and 2001. From 1754 a census of Jews was taken periodically. The census return for 1651 is kept in the archives, although most census material has been lost.
Contents vary between each census.
Some only list head of household, conscription number of house and taxable property.
In the 1800s many census returns give house number, head of household, names of members of the household (including servants), ages, occupations, religions and relationships to head of household; some also give date and place of birth.
Census material is located in the District archives and City archives.
Emigrants and Immigrants
Czech Immigration passenger lists (to USA) are available by accessing Leo Baca (FHL book 973 W3bL) on FamilySearch.
European passenger information is available for:
- Hamburg Passenger Lists, 1850 – 1934
- Bremen 1832 (most lists have been destroyed), currently, 2953 passenger lists dating from 1920-1939 are kept in the Archive of the Bremen City chamber of Commerce
- Antwerp, Belgium records are cataloged under “Belgium, Antwerpen, Antwerpen- Emigration-Immigration”. They begin in 1840
- Le Havre, France only actual ships’ lists known to exist are crew lists, which are of very limited usefulness
- Stettin some passenger lists are found in the record groups Pommersches Polizeipräsidium and Schifffahrtsdirektion Stettin in the Vorpommersches Landesarchiv Martin-Andersen-Nexö-Platz 1 D-17489 Greifswald Germany. They cover the years 1869-1892
- Rotterdam, The Netherlands lists are kept by the Holland – America Line from 1900-1940 are available on microfiche.
See FamilySearch for more information.
Fragments of church records from the Czech Republic date from 1441; the earliest intact date from 1590.
In 1563 Catholic parishes were ordered to keep baptism and marriage records, death records were introduced on 1614. In Czech lands most records date from 1620. From 1785 the keeping of church registers was required by law for all religions, under Catholic supervision. In 1840 Protestant registers were recognised as legal without Catholic supervision.
For the content of the records see FamilySearch.
Access these records at State Regional Archives. If more recent copies aren’t available try the local city or sub-district registration offices.
Key contacts and useful websites
Research ancestors in other countries
Wikipeadia, accessed 2019
FamilySearch.org, accessed 2019
Freeimages.com, accessed 2019
Robert Parker is a Genealogist and Trainer, based in Kent. He delivers courses, guidance, talks and research services for those interested in tracing their ancestors. See https://myfamilygenealogy.co.uk/guidance/ for his 5 steps to discovering your ancestors. Contact Robert to discuss your requirements without obligation.
What stories might your ancestors tell?