Registered Emigration from the Suchdol – Kojakovice area 1850-1900
Olga Cerna, Rozmberk Society, Trebon, Czech Republic. contact:  dulfer@rozmberk.org

In 1848 unrest throughout most of the Hapsburg Empire flamed into a revolution against the feudal Hapsburg rule. Although the revolution failed it did forced large changes, including the abolishment of serfdom and of the restrictions on free movement and settlement. In the 1850s, newly created “District Offices” took over most of the administrative tasks that where until then maintained by parishes and manors. Abolishing serfdom and freedom of movement became visible in the wave of emigration, mainly to North America but also to Russia, Rumania, and other countries. The reasons for emigration were mostly economical. The 19-century Industrial Revolution resulted in mechanization of farm practice and of transport. Improved medical care resulted in lower mortality and population increase. There was not enough land for every potential farmer and not enough work for all potential farmhands. In these circumstances, the opportunities of free land in the new Mid-West states of the USA offered a good, if scary alternative (1,2).

People who wanted to emigrate had to ask for passports in the new District Offices. When requesting a passport, people had to submit several documents including a copy of the birth record (krestni list), marriage (oddaci list), evidence of residence and occupation (domovsky list), supporting documents, and references. Applicants had to sign that they would waive their residence right to live in the village. If not, the village could be held liable for paying for return costs if emigration was refused. Most of those documents have been destroyed but the District Archive in Jindrichuv Hradec, which is part of the State Archive Trebon, still has some material concerning request for passports from the Suchdol – Kojakovice area.

The Rozmberk Society conducts research on emigration from the Suchdol – Kojakovice region as part of our ongoing research into the history of the region (3, 4). We are now building an Emigration Database based upon information collected from what is left of the Trebon District Administration concerning passport requests made between 1850 till 1910.

Preliminary results show evidence of 339 requests for passports. This concerned requests for a passport for a single person or passports for entire families; in those 339 requests the emigration of 825 persons was covered.

A copy of the birth record was required for the passport application. Often, when receiving a request for a copy, the parish priest would make an entry in the concerned record in the Registers of Birth stating that a copy was provided. Sometimes the remark also mentions that the copy was needed for emigration to America. Many people immigrated also illegally. Applications for boys or young men could be rejected because that person still had to fulfill his military service in the Imperial Army. In the 19-century, obligatory military service could be 10 years in the army with an additional 2-3 years as standing reserve, or longer. We have one application concerning a 6-year old boy that was rejected because “he had not yet fulfilled his military obligations”. For many young men, illegal emigration was a way to avoid the military service. The German and American Authorities were not interested in passports, only in some form of proof of identity, and a copy of the birth record was sufficient proof.

Our research in the Registers of Birth shows that more people asked for a copy of their birth record than we have evidence of requests for passports. Preliminary results show that in the period 1850 – 1910 from the villages of Bor, Cep and Hrdlorezy 27 requests for passports were made, concerning in total 41 persons. Preliminary data from the Register of Births show that in the period 1867 – 1886 from those three villages 261 copies of birth records were provided for emigration.

The material in the Regional Archive is kept in several „unsorted“ boxes and is only a fragment of the original number of applications. All the details included in the remaining applications, however, provide good if sketchy demographical information on emigration and on the emigrants from this region. At this moment it is not feasible to use this material as a source to find a specific family. However, the Rozmberk Society will publish the database on the Internet as part of its activities. For descendants of those whose applications still exist it will be an additional and interesting source of information.

1) Korytova-Magstadt, S. To Reap a Bountiful Harvest: Czech immigration beyond the Mississippi. Rudi Publishing, Iowa City, USA, 1993.
2) Hora-Horejs, P. Toulky Ceskou Minulosti. Via Facti, Prague, Czech Republic, 1998.
3) Dulfer, R. Historic Migration as a Tool to Raise Understanding for Today’s Migrant. Elsewhere in this publication
4) Cerna, unpublished research