Genealogical Research for Czech and Slovak Americans, by Olga K. Miller, was published in 1978 by Gale Research Co., Detroit, MI. This old book is the best for its purpose that I’ve ever read. Order it through Interlibrary Loan if your library doesn’t have a copy. There is one at Largo Public Library, Largo, FL, Genealogy Department, but it does not circulate (reference only). There is a copy at the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library in Cedar Rapids, IA and probably findable online.

Chapter 1 lists the LDS (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) Family History Centers’ locations in 1978, and suggests that you use these centers for Cz. and Sl. work.  (The Cz. Rep. did allow the LDS to digitize the holdings of the Trebon archive which is online.  All other Czech archives are online or in the process.) 

Chapter 2 gives a concise history of the (then) Czechoslovakian lands, including that the Suchdol nad Luznici area was within the “Duchy of Bohemia” from 919-1125, ruled by the Premyslides. In the 12th century Bohemia and Moravia became members of the Holy Roman Empire — a large confederation of Christian states in central Europe, ruled by German kings, but were independent countries. In 1198 Ceske Zeme (Bohemia, Moravia & Silesia) became a kingdom. The Luxomberg dynasty ruled from 1307-45, until the mighty Charles IV came to power in 1346, transferred the center of the Holy Roman Empire to Prague, and left a Kingdom of Bohemia at the end of his reign in 1378.

The author states that Jan Blahoslav led the committee of Bratrska Jednota (church organized in 1457 by the followers of Jan Hus) who prepared an excellent and accurate translation of the Holy Bible (into Czech) compared with Latin, German, and Greek translations. It was published at Kralice and called “Kalicka Bible”. (Another history book states that the Bible existed in Czech by 1370 and another source has the Prague Bible as the first ever printed in the Czech language, in 1488).

Chapter 2 also eludes to the peasantry…….after the Hapsburgs defeated the Czech insurgents at White Mountain in 1620 (during the Thirty Years War), the Hapsburgs launched an oppressive and cruel catholicization of the Ceske Zeme. Governing from Vienna, they tried to mold the country into a province of their empire with a distinctly German character. The foreign owners of the treasured Czech estates held the population in a strict feudal system without relief until 1846. There is a huge bibliography for Chapter 2.

Chapter 3 explains the geography of the Czech and Slovak land, and describes the nature of the country and how one would find life in that place.

Chapter 4, a good account of Czech and Slovak emigration to America, including patterns of emigration, helpful if you don’t know your ancestors’ origins. 1848 was the year the Hapsburgs gave Czechs the right to emigrate (coinciding with the decline of Hapsburg control, several revolutions in Europe, and the abolition of serfdom). In 1850 there were approximately 20,000 Czech-born Americans. In 1870, per the census, 40,289 Czech emigrants were in the USA (many more Czechs and Slovaks would have stated “Austria” as their homeland). The Homestead Act of 1862 gave land to anyone willing to work it, in the unsettled territory west of Ohio, if you were a citizen or could prove that you had declared your intent to become one. Czech emigration peaked in 1907 when 13,554 left for America.

Chapter 5 lists Czech and Slovak sources for genealogical research and includes an extensive discussion of matriky (church registers). The Scitani Lidu are like census from feudal times. There is a 1158 census in Latin, the Soupis (religious census) of 1651, the 1753 census ordered for all Austrian lands, & annual census beginning in 1762 until 1805 when the “modern” census began. Land record types are shown and with their Czech names. And the suggestion that researchers first get familiar with common words used in the old records: grunt = family property, robotny = vassal, pacholek = male servant, devka = female servant, podruh = laborer, Pan = Mr., indicating lesser nobility, and more.

Chapter 6 covers the archives in (then) Czechoslovakia. Their state archives hold records pertaining to history and the legal administration of the country. District archives hold records pertaining to the jurisdiction of the district and called the most important for genealogical research so they must have the church and census records. County archives — the jurisdiction of the county. City archives, the jurisdiction of the city and some matriky of estates such as lists of vassals/serfs. Records of educational institutions and branches of the government like military are usually restricted. The (German word) Gemeindelexicon has place names in Czech, German, and Hungarian.

Chapter 7’s subject is names. In 1740 Empress Maria Theresia ordered that surnames be used. Genealogy relies heavily on surname consistency. It is important to remember how late surnames were required for our Cz. & Sl. ancestors, compared to surname use several centuries earlier in other countries. John of/de/von Hrdlorezy was Jan z Hrdlorezy in Czech, a place reference. Divoky means wild one, a reference to a characteristic. Sobotka means Saturday, perhaps the day for corvee for the first Sobotka. Novotny means new man, Pavlista a derivative of Paul, Vacek from Wenceslaus, etc. Name components include: bor = forest, slav = glory, mir = peace, mil = love. More detail is given on name forms and origins. Pages 86 to 103 shows given names in Czech, Slovak, Latin, German, and English.

Chapter 8 is about the calendar. Bohemia adopted the Gregorian calendar (Pope Gregory XIII, 1582) on 6 January 1584. The following day was 17 January 1584. Catholic feast days, like Adventio, the Sunday nearest 30 November, are referenced in Czech records.

Chapter 9, on language, talks about the nature of the Czech language and offers long lists of abbreviations used in old records and occupations mentioned in same. (see Peasant & Occupations…. page on this website)  Very few records exist from before 1600. Some priests wrote in Latin, some in Czech, some in German, and from the early 17th century till late 19th century, some in svabach, German script with the text in Czech. (JudyNelson08@gmail.com for translations)

Chapter 10 covers nobility and heraldry.
Chapter 11 is the conclusion and research suggestions.