The easiest way to start looking for a relative in the Czech Republic is to sit down, take a sheet of paper, a pencil and draw a family tree – something you remember about your relatives and ancestors. List the siblings of your father and mother, your cousins, their children, and collect all the photos stored at home. Provide details as accurately as possible but do not discard information you are not sure about.
Also look for documents at home such as birth, marriage, and death certificates. If you are lucky enough, you will find preserved copies of birth certificates from the protectorate of the Czech Republic and Moravia (1939), when your ancestors were asked to confirm their non-Jewish origins. What to look for? Of course, you will be interested in the names, dates, and places of birth, information about the marriage, which church and parish in the Czech Republic issued the document. This information will give you answers to the questions WHERE and WHEN.
Archives in the Czech Republic
Now it’s time to find out which registry archive to look for. Registers in the Czech Republic are divided into so-called living and dead following Law 301/2000 of the Collection, as amended by § 23. Еhe oldest record is 100 years old and in the same death register, the oldest record is 75 years old. Since only the so-called death registers are publicly available, this means that in 2021 you can search the registers where the oldest record is 1921. Smaller municipalities can also keep registers from 1784 to 1949 for all types of records. If you are looking for your direct ancestors, you have the right – after proving this relationship – to require a copy of the registry entry to the level of your great-grandparents.
The so-called registers of the dead in the Czech Republic are now stored in public archives. There are eight main archives – the State Regional Archive in Prague, the State Regional Archive in Plzen, the State Regional Archive in Litomerzyce, the State Regional Archive in Třebíč, the State Regional Archive in Zamrsk, the Regional Archive in Opava, the Moravian Regional Archive in Brno and the Archive in Prague. In addition to these, there are two other large archives – the National Archive, which stores Jewish registers, and the Military History Archive, which stores information about soldiers.
How to determine which archive is “yours”?
The Czech Genealogical and Heraldic Society website in Prague http://www.genealogie.cz/nc/en/aktivity/forum/ contains a map with the division of archives. Then all you need to do is open a regular map and find out in which archive you should look for your relative. The second thing you need to do when you find out the archive you need is to determine if the registers are available on the Internet or if you can only visit the archive in person. Moreover, keep in mind that the registers available on the Internet will not be presented to you in the archive.
Transliteration of the name in the archives of the Czech Republic
Most of the ancient registers in the archives are handwritten and not only Latin and Czech were used in the Czech lands. At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, the registers are likely to be written in Czech and Latin. In a German area such as the Sudetenland, you are likely to come across German or Kurrent, which will initially remind you of “mistakes” rather than letters. We recommend that you find a table for reading old texts in HÁSEK, Václav a kol. Učebnice čtení starých textů: k výuce v kursech ČGHSP i pro samouky and carry it with you. Alternatively, download a font called Sütterlin to your computer, write down the names you are looking for at home, print them out, and take them with you to the archive. Sütterlin doesn’t look exactly like Kurrent, but they have a lot in common. From about 1850, Kurrent and the German language were used throughout the Czech lands. As for the German language, you will soon find that the same words are still repeated; it’s up to you to write your own dictionary or keep searching for the necessary names in the dictionary.
How far can you go using archives? The oldest preserved register in the Czech lands dates back to 1650. Older archival references can sometimes be found through intangible resources such as land books or religious records.
If you are looking for heirs in the Czech Republic, seek the help of lawyers and genealogists of Advokat v Europe Ltd.