This past week, I was researching German records, hoping that there would be records from my ancestors’ village. Alas nothing online yet but in the process, I discovered some great Czech records including birth and marriage records for my ancestors. If you have Czech roots, you might be interested in these resources.
Like many countries the area that is now the Czech Republic was ruled by many different groups. It’s useful to know the history during the timeframe that you are researching. Some Czech registers may have been in Germany or Austria. In the site I’ll show you next week, the records had resided in Munich, Germany at one time. Our ancestors likely lived in the same little village as their country or rulers changed. My branch is from the Bohemia region are which is on the western third of today’s Czech Republic. There are two other divisions: Moravia and Silesia. Often people from Bohemian are called Bohemian German. And you may have noticed that they are referred to as German or Bohemian in many US census records. The registers themselves reflect the German influence, depending on the timeframe you are researching. Documents are recorded in German or Latin in the 1800 records that I’ve researched.
Where to start? As with all geno research find as much information as you can here before you jump across the pond. I knew the birth years and place for the father and his children that I was researching. So, it was a matter of finding the correct online book and paging through those years. Finding the name within the document is relatively easy. However the handwritten records use Kurrentschrift—an old form of German handwriting rather than the Latin writing of which many of us are familiar. Kurrentschrift creates a challenge with some letters looking alike (examples: e, m, n, r and f, s, and h) and other letters that look like our current script letters but are not the same letter. Here’s a bit more about Kurrentschrift alphabet from Wiki.
A site that I found extremely helpful to both understand Czech records and Kurrentschrift is Czech Genealogy for Beginners. This blog is full of great information in English but written by a Czech native. I haven’t begun to explore all the information on history and culture that is available here. I’m looking forward to studying and reading more.
FamGenealogy Blog has an article about Kurrentschrift as well as some helpful tools. As you figure out words in your documents you can trying typing in word and the Schrift Generator will provide the Kurrentschrift version. I’ve found this useful to see if I was on the correct track. Try it with a word that you are familiar with like your ancestor’s name. Use it to better understand what a letter will look like in a word; it’s especially helpful when the scribe had terrible handwriting!
Check out this book by Katherine Schober “Tips and Tricks of Deciphering German Handwriting”. I’ve found it to be one of the best modern guides for translating German. Katherine has wonder tips about how to decipher words, great examples and translations for German…and this will help you with Czech as well since the Kurrentschrift is used for both. Here is a tool she recommends if you can only figure out the beginning or ending of a word called WordMine. This site allows you to enter the first few letters of a word or the last few letters and then generates potential words that contain them. And you can further narrow your list by indicating how many letters are the word.
FamilySearch has a useful page when includes Czech genealogical words to help you. This is especially helpful as you decipher the script as you can see what words are likely to be included in a document as it relates to genealogy research.
Next week we’ll dive into the site where the digital records are kept. In the meantime, spend some time getting to know the Kurrentschrift. It will help you as you search for records and when you start to decipher them. Have fun exploring this interesting script!
With a lifelong passion for genealogy and history, the author enjoys the opportunity to share genealogy tidbits, inspiring others to research and write their family story.