by Lee A. James
A seignior was a feudal lord of a manor or estate (velkostatek) and, because virtually all of our Bohemian ancestors were serfs of one status or another, seigniorial registers (pánův rejstřík) are a very valuable resource in the research of our ancestors. Seigniorial registers were listings of all serfs subject to the authority of the feudal lord. Some seigniorial registers date back to the 1500s, but beginning in the late 1600s they were usually conducted on an annual basis; in effect they were an annual census. The seigniorial register books in the Třebon Velkostatek appear to have been prepared in advance using the data from the previous year’s register. The enumerator would then go from family to family noting in the book changes that may have occurred in each family since the last register: births, deaths, marriages, “sale” of the cottage to another person, etc. Most seigniorial registers also show the status of the person: sedlák, chalupník, domkář, or podruh. In some cases, the register shows how much land a given person “owned”; e.g., 1 lán, ½ lán etc. There are times when the seigniorial registers can provide information not found in the parish registers (matriky). A few of my families lived on jednota (stand-alone cottages well away from the village) and, either because they were not particularly religious or because travel to the parish church was too onerous, births, marriages and deaths were not always registered in the parish matriky. However, these events were noted in the seigniorial register. Seigniorial registers for the Třebon Velkostatek are generally in Czech, while those in the neighboring Jindřichův Hradec Velkostatek appear to often be in German. Baptisms of illegitimate children are generally noted in the matriky, but they are also noted in the seigniorial registers, usually using a symbol much like an upper-case Greek omega: Ω. [Click to enlarge the images]
The above file, from the 1747 Seigniorial Register of Kolence shows my ancestor Mikuláš Saukup, his wife Mariana, daughter Juliana (age 27) and son Lukáš (age 20). Note that Juliana, also an ancestor of mine, had an illegitimate child as shown by the symbol Ω. The 1746 register did not display the symbol Ω by Juliana’s name suggesting the child had been born about 1747; this birth was not listed in the matriky, neither in the regular baptism registry nor in the registry for illegitimate births. This is important to me since that child, Eva, was my fourth great grandmother, and the details of her birth would not have been known without the seigniorial registers. Other relevant information may be seen in the marginal notations on the right, but have not been deciphered. The register also showed that Mikuláš was a podruh as he was listed in the podruzi section.
Sometimes a man will continue to be listed in the seigniorial registers for several years after he died. The listing of his name is preceded by Po Nebožtic (after deceased) – often abbreviated as Po Neb. or P.N. – and his vdova (widow) and remaining children will also be listed.
The above file of the same Mikuláš Saukup family in the 1748 Seigniorial Register of Kolence shows a line through Juliana’s name and the note in the margin “vdaná se Fanta” or “married to [my ancestor Vojtech] Fanta.” Their illegitimate child, Eva, was their only child and was also my 4th great-grandmother. Juliana Saukup and Vojtech Fanta married at Kolence 15 October 1747 a few months after their daughter was born. Sometimes notations like that above will also provide information about a person moving from his/her home village to marry in another village.
The seigniorial registers can also indicate when the “ownership” of a cottage changes from one person to another, although pozemkové knihy (land books) should be consulted for more details. These were “dominical cottages” and our serf ancestors never owned them in the sense that we own property in the US – they merely purchased the right to exclusively occupy the cottage and use the associated land. The above file from the 1777 Seigniorial Register of Hamr shows a line below the name Ondrej Eliaš (age 57) and a cross (+) on the line. The cross indicates that Ondrej had died since the last annual seigniorial register. There is a notation in the margin that my ancestor Prokop Sláma (age 29) had assumed “ownership” of the cottage previously “owned” by Ondrej Eliaš. In some subsequent seigniorials or matriky Prokop was often listed as Prokop Sláma neboli Eliaš where neboli translates as “or” because he lived in a cottage named “Eliaš”and persons were often known by the name of the cottage in which they lived (vulgo names).
The above examples provide a few illustrations of information that can be found in the (usually) annual seigniorial registers. To access the seigniorial registers for the Třebon Velkostatek go to the Třebon Archive website and click on “Seigniorial Registers” in the left-hand column. To access the records of the Třebon Velkostatek, click on “SRA Třebon – department Třebon,” then scroll down the listings of estates and click “on Třebon.” Scroll down the listings to find the year of interest, remembering that a given village may not always be listed in the same series of Ordinal books over a long period of years and may be found in a different series of books. The registers are organized on a village basis. Fortunately, virtually all of the seigniorial registers for the Třebon Velkostatek have a village index at the front of each book, while some of the registers for the Jindřichův Hradec Velkostatek do not have a village index and it will be necessary to search page-by-page to find your village of interest.