A common problem for researchers of Czech lineage is finding double surnames in records or in results received from Czech Archives and professional researchers. Men and women can be found to have two surnames in church and civil records of Czech people. Sometimes the word “vulgo” appears in-between two surnames, sometimes “or”, and sometimes “known”. Vulgo means “alias”, or “also known as”. In Ivan Poldauf’s Czech-English Dictionary, vulgo = obsolete colloquialism for alias, in the vulgar (common) tongue.  In Czech you might also see “vubec” (in general, altogether, actually) , “take” (too, else, just as, such as), “neb.” for nebo (otherwise), “jinak”, “ci”, “vel”, “vide”, or simply the letter “v”, indicating a vulgo name.  In German, sonst, oder, and gennant might be used.  In Latin recte, nomeninis, seu, aut, and aliter dicti or just aliter.

The use of an alias surname was sometimes due to a nickname, but most of the time due to a house name or “jmeno po chalupe”. As the peasants in rural Bohemia began to own property in the early 17th century, that property which might have been a house or a house and a few small buildings, took on the surname of the owner. When another family moved into that house, they took on the house name as an alias. If a man married a woman who was living in her family home or had inherited it, he took her surname as an alias, retaining his original surname as his legal name. In the vulgo instances that I have seen, the blood/legal surname is stated first and the house name second. However, some old records have the house name first and the blood name second. Jan Koranda vulgo Sazma in his marriage record might be Jan Sazma vulgo Koranda in his death record. Vulgo names can be more complicated, but this simplified explanation will be enough for most genealogists. This naming practice continued into the 20th century.

To determine your ancestors’ true inherited/blood surname, you can research the ancestry of the most current double-named ancestor, continuing back enough generations to the point that the alias stops appearing. For example, if two generations of Soudek vulgo Valdin lived in Suchdol No. 23 and in the next generation back Jan Soudek married Anna Valdin who was born in Suchdol No. 23, the answer is obvious. Renters using a house name can be discovered by checking the non-nobility homestead records, called Pozemkove Knihy or Gruntovni Knihy in Czech Archives. Should you have a double-surname situation and cannot resolve it by ordering older records, seek professional assistance. Researching firms are listed on the page, Researchers for Hire.

Addendum – Vulgo (“by the house”) names were used mainly in southern Bohemia, in some regions of western and central Bohemia, and in some regions of Moravia.

Comments by the professional researcher, Olga Cerna of Czech Ancestry:  Click on it to enlarge.