Czech Genealogy

I’ve been doing a bit of research around the 1651 Czech Census that was taken immediately following the end of the Thirty Year’s War. Bohemia and Moravia had been predominantly Protestant prior to 1624 and the Census was ordered by the Austrian Catholic Habsburg rulers to determine the likelihood of converting the population back to Catholicism.

The Census documents are a valuable source of information for genealogical research, and are divided according to feudal province. They are available electronically for free from the Czech National Archives:

The formal Czech name for the Census is Soupis Poddaných Podle Víry z Roku 1651  (“List of Subjects According to Faith from the Year 1651”). A Full Index for the documents is also available.

The modern Czech provinces are slightly different, so it’s useful to reference this list against a map like the following, which illustrates how Bohemia looked at the time of the 1654 Tax Rolls (e.g., Berní rula):

Bohemia at the time of the 1654 Berní rula (click to enlarge)

The numbered regions on this map do not correlate perfectly with the eleven provincial census registers from 1651 listed above, but they should give a general sense of the local geography.

The numbered regions listed on the map are as follows: 1. Boleslavsko, 2. Hradecko, 3. Chrudimsko, 4. Čáslavsko, 5. Kouřimsko, 6. Bechyňsko, 7. Prácheňsko, 8. Plzeňsko, 9. Žatecko, 10. Litoměřicko, 11. Slánsko, 12. Rakovnicko, 13. Podbrsko, 14. Vltavsko, 15. Loketsko, 16. Pražská města, 17. Kladsko, 18. Chebsko, 19. Ašsko.

Additional detailed maps of some of the provinces are also available:

Bechyňsko

Click to enlarge

Boleslavsko

Click to enlarge

Čáslavsko

Click to enlarge

Cheb-Eger

Click to enlarge

Hradecko

Click to enlarge

Kladsko

Click to enlarge

Kouřimsko

Click to enlarge

Plzeňsko

Click to enlarge

Prácheňsko

Click to enlarge

Podbrsko

Click to enlarge

Rakovnicko

Click to enlarge

Vltavsko

Click to enlarge

Žatecko

Click to enlarge

Most of these maps are color-coded according to a scheme similar to:

  • Stav duchovní — Monastic or clerical estate
  • Stav panský — Noble or aristocratic estate
  • Stav rytířský — Knightly or military estate
  • Stav městský — City or town municipal jurisdiction

German Toponyms

Most, if not all, of the regional census documents listed above includes a table translating German-to-Czech place names, so you have a bilingual reference to city and village names — e.g., you can deduce that Liberec is also Reichenberg, or that Okna is also Wocke, which might not be so obvious just by looking at the respective names.

The following German-Czech Ortsnamenverzeichnis can also be helpful — it appears to be as complete as the larger Czech Census PDF documents, and it can be searched electronically much more easily:

The Czech Republic is a country where every province, with the exception of the central Prague district, touches a foreign border — moreover, four of those five borders have historically been German (Silesia, Saxony, Bavaria and Austria). This has changed since the end of WWII with the transfer of Silesia back to Poland, but a knowledge of German Ortsnamen in Bohemia can still prove very useful in doing historical research.

Regional Archives

The following map is immensely helpful for doing actual genealogical research:

Regional Czech Genealogical Archives (click to enlarge).

Birth and death records will generally be kept in the regional archive (indicated above) where the individual was born or died, so you may have to jump around between different regional archives to track down all your relatives.

Finally, even though you manage to track down the correct archive, the battle has only just begun — even if you’re fluent in both Czech and German!

Click to enlarge

Reproduced above is the frontispiece to a matricula from 1723 kept at the parish church in Červený Kostelec in northeastern Bohemia near Náchod. Even if you think you know Latin, good luck deciphering that script! [1]

Click to enlarge

The actual genealogical records themselves can be an even bigger challenge.

From the 19th-century onwards the records are generally kept in a more standardized format, and recorded in more legible German or Czech, but if you’re looking for earlier records it may be worthwhile to hire a local, professional genealogist who’s trained in reading these older, hand-written Latin scripts. [2]

Update — October 11, 2020

Many matrices and archives have been digitized, the following Web site is an excellent resource for locating the various regional archives:

However, the link to the Zámrsk archives in northeastern Bohemia is outdated, to reach those archives use the following links:

Update — October 20, 2020

The Litoměřice Archives are available online here:

Footnotes

  1. Reproduced here under Fair Use.
  2. As far as I know, all of the documents and images cited here are in the public domain. Nevertheless, I found many of these documents on the following Web site: https://www.ahnenheidrich.eu/

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s