01 June 2017

Sample Alphabet Letters

When trying to puzzle out a particularly tricky word, sometimes it helps to see several different examples of how certain Gothic letters were written.  I decided to compile a list of sample letters -- most of these samples came from online matriky books (vital records) on the Czech archive websites, and a few of them came from some of our old family letters.  I placed each letter in relationship to the line as it was written in the original source.

10 May 2017

Sample Town Names & Family Names

Several years ago my parents called me and told me they were going to the Czech Republic and they wanted to visit some archives to see if they could find any records about our ancestors.  That was back before my parents learned to transcribe the old gothic script, and at that time they didn't have much experience finding the peoples' names & town names in the records.  So I prepared a quick list with sample handwritten names from some of the records that we had for them to reference on their genealogy trip.  It helped them to find the records of our ancestors which they photographed, and we were able to transcribe & later translate them after they returned home.

So if you are just starting out with trying to find the names of places and people in records with Gothic script, it's a good idea to keep copies of sample handwritten names that you have found so far and use them as a reference while you are becoming more comfortable with reading the script.

29 August 2016

German Genealogical Word List

One thing that can come in handy for a new researcher is having a list of common genealogical terms in the language(s) of the records that they are researching.  One resource that has been invaluable in our research has been Ernest Thode's book, German English Genealogical Dictionary, which was one of my textbooks when I studied genealogy in college.  Some other helpful online word lists include FamilySearch.org's German Genealogical Word List & Latin Genealogical Word List.  And, although it is far from perfect, Google Translate can be useful tool too.

We found it helpful to keep a list of words that we came across for future reference.  Some of these are common terms, while others took a little deeper digging to find out what they meant in the genealogical/historical context.  Many of these words are German, and some are Latin.  Here is our word list:

  • adolescens = young person (an unmarried person) 
  • alhier/alhir/alh. = of here
  • alle = all
  • Altersschwäche = debility of old age
  • Altvatter = old father (or family patriarch or ancestor)
  • amtsbezirk wie ober = office district as above
  • Anmerkung = Note
  • Anno/Ann./A. = year
  • auch daher = also therefore [from the same place]
  • aus/auß = from, of
  • auszüger = retired farmer living on property for remainder of life
  • begrabe/bgrabe = bury
  • beide = both
  • bräuereibesitzer = brewery owner
  • bräuhauspachten = brew house renter/leasor
  • büchsenmachergesell = gunsmith journeyman
  • capellano = chaplain
  • daselbst, das. = residing in this place, there, the previously mentioned place
  • Derselbe = the same
  • dessen = its, whose, of which
  • eam ex sacro fonte = her godparents
  • Eheleiblich = legitimate(ly)
  • ehelige = before that time
  • ehemals = formerly
  • Einwohner = Resident
  • Einwohnerin = Female Resident
  • Eltern = Parents
  • Entkräftung = weakness as found in old age
  • eodem, idem = the same, in the same place, to the same person, to the same matter (ditto)
  • fabrikant = manufacturer
  • fraissen = infantile convulsions (cause of death)
  • galupner/kalupner = a small farmer
  • Gärtner = Gardener
  • Gazarius/Cazarius/Casarius = Cottager
  • Geschlekt = Gender
  • getauft/gtaufft = baptized
  • Gottesacker = God’s acre (name of a cemetery)
  • Grosjährigkit (or Grosjährigkeit) = Coming of Age
  • hausler/haußler = house owner/cottager
  • Hebame = midwife
  • hiesiger = local
  • infans = infant (or young child)
  • jetzt = now, currently
  • Juvenis = young person (an unmarried person)
  • k. k. privilegierten Schützenkorps = (k. k. stands for “Kaiserlich und Königlich,” or “Imperial and Royal”, referring to the Hapsburg Dynasty) Royal Imperial Privileged Rifle Corps
  • Katholische = Catholic
  • Knab = male
  • klein hausler = small house owner (cottager)
  • Levans/Lev: = godparent
  • lungenlähmung = lung paralysis (cause of death)
  • Mägden = Maid (female)
  • Messner = Sacristan (an officer charged with care of the sacristy, the church, and their contents)  [A sacristy is a room for keeping sacred church furnishings, sacred vessels, and parish records].
  • Minderjährig = underage
  • mittags = midday
  • mortuus = died
  • nachmittags = in the afternoon
  • Nottaufe = emergency baptism (performed before the death of a newborn)
  • Ort = place, town
  • p: t: = pro tempori, “temporary” OR p: t: = pleno titulo, “with full title”
  • Parens/Parentibus = parents
  • pathen/bathen = godparent or witness
  • Pfarramt = Parish Office
  • pistoris, pistor = miller or baker
  • Prolem = Offspring
  • Protestanth = Protestant
  • R: P: = Reverendus Pater, “Reverend Father”
  • sacerdote ecclesiastica = church priest
  • sepeliendum = burial
  • Sepulty = buried
  • Stand = status (information describing a person, such as their occupation, residence, etc.)
  • Söhnlein = little son
  • Syndikus = Counsel
  • Tauft Pathin/TauftPath = godparent
  • Teleonarius = Tax Collector
  • Telonarius = Toll Collector
  • Testes = Witnesses
  • Tochterlein = little daughter
  • Unehelich = Illegitimate
  • Unterschrift = signature
  • Unverehelicht, Unverhelicht = un-single (married)
  • Verehelicht, Verhelicht = single, unmarried
  • Verkündigungen = marriage bans
  • Virgo = virgin (an unmarried woman)
  • wirthschaftsbesitzer = businessowners
  • Zeugen/Züg. = Witnesses

17 August 2016


1801 Map of Bohemia and Moravia
Growing up, I knew that many of my mother's ancestors were German.  I remember seeing an old German beer stein that had been passed down through the family, and hearing stories about our German ancestors.

A selection from my US Federal Census search results for
the family of the Josef Ott & Maria Anna Strunz Ott family. 
When I started to do my own genealogy research about our German ancestors who came to the America, I found U.S. federal census records that listed different birthplaces for the same individuals in different census years.  But I knew our people were German, so I figured that those other locations listed on the census records, such as 'Austria' & 'Bohemian,' were just descriptive terms for different parts of Germany at different periods in history.
Not until later did I learn that these lines of my ancestral families were not from Germany.  They were from Bohemia (or About this sound Böhmen, as they would have known it).  Bohemia is located in modern day Czech Republic.  So when I first learned that these ancestors were Bohemian, I started to think of my ancestors as Czech.  

But when my parents and I started to research our Bohemian ancestors, I realized that my ancestors had German names, they lived in Bohemian towns with Germanic names, their vital records were almost exclusively written in either German or Latin, and from the records it appeared that the other townspeople also shared their German heritage.  So I started to develop a notion that my ancestors had been from Germany, and that sometime in relatively recent history they had moved along with large numbers of other Germans to Bohemia and settled there.  I thought of them as transplants in Bohemia from their native Germany.  When we started to research our Bohemian ancestors, I was interested to learn when they made the move from Germany to Bohemia.  

But what I learned surprised me.  First, I learned that my direct ancestors came from Bohemia to the United States in the early to mid-1880s.  My ancestors were definitely not Czech.  There have long been ethnic Germans and ethnic Czechs in Bohemia and Moravia, but my ancestors were ethnic Germans.  They left Europe over 30 years before the formation of Czechoslovakia in 1918. 
Interwar Czechoslovakia

And over time I began to form a different view of my ancestors: not as Germans who had resettled in (or taken over) Bohemia 200, 250, or 300 years ago; but as ethnic German Bohemians who spoke German, but who had lived in Bohemia back at least until the late 1600s (as far back as the recorded vital records go for many of our ancestral towns).  As far as we know, the land of modern day Czech Republic may have been the homeland of our ethnic German Bohemian ancestors for thousands of years.  And I learned that these ethnic German inhabitants of Bohemia have a name: they are called Deutschböhmen.

Historical map of Bohemia (Bohemia proper in pink, Moravia in yellow,
Austrian/Bohemian Silesia in orange).  
"Böhmen Mähren Österreich Schlesien," 1892.
Since then, I have learned a little more about ethnic Germans in the very early history in this part of the world:

"Bohemia is a region in the Czech Republic. In a broader meaning, it often refers to the entire Czech territory, including Moravia and Czech Silesia, especially in historical contexts, ie: ‘the lands of the Bohemian Crown.’  Bohemia was a kingdom in the Holy Roman Empire and subsequently a province in the Habsburgs' Austrian Empire. . . . From 1918 to 1939 and from 1945 to 1992 it was part of Czechoslovakia; and, since 1993, it has formed much of the Czech Republic.

Bohemia has an area of 52,065 km (20,102 sq mi) and today is home to approximately 6.5 million of the Czech Republic's 10.5 million inhabitants. It is bordered by Germany to the west and northwest, Poland to the northeast, the historical region of Moravia to the east, and Austria to the south. . . . 

Bohemia is named after the Boii, who were a large Celtic nation known to the Romans for their migrations and settlement in northern Italy and other places. . . . . The emigration of the Boii (before 58 BC) left southern Germany and Bohemia a lightly inhabited "desert" into which Suebic peoples arrived, speaking Germanic languages, and became dominant over remaining Celtic groups.  (The Seubic peoples were a large group of related Germanic peoples who lived in Germania in the time of the Roman Empire). . . . 

In late classical times and the early Middle Ages, two new Suebic groupings appeared to the west of Bohemia in southern Germany. . . . Many Suebic tribes from the Bohemian region took part in such movements westwards, even settling as far away as Spain and Portugal. . . . After this migration period, Bohemia was partially repopulated around the 6th century, and eventually Slavic tribes arrived from the east, and their language began to replace the older Germanic, Celtic and Sarmatian ones. These are precursors of today's Czechs." selections from "Bohemia," from wikipedia.com.

And I have also learned more about Bohemian genealogy:

"If your ancestors came from what is now the Czech Republic, Czechoslovakia, or if you go back far enough, Bohemia, you will find that your ancestors are Bohemian . . . You will also find that frustratingly little has been written about this country's history or immigration compared with many other immigrant groups and countries.  The history of Bohemia is incredibly rich and the country was at one time far more enlightened than [other European countries] in terms of higher education and religious freedoms. It was also known as the Breadbasket of Europe as a result of its farms and produce. Unfortunately, The Thirty Years' War (1618 to 1648) and the failed revolt of 1848 when Bohemian nationalists called for autonomy from the Habsburg empire, put an end to that period."   Selections from the article, "Czech Genealogy," from www.archives.com.  

It has been my experience that there seems to be relatively little information specifically about the genealogy, history, & culture of Deutschböhmens (ethnic German Bohemians).  Often searches for "Bohemian Genealogy" return results about Czech genealogy.  And searching for information about "German Genealogy" may provide an idea about language and culture.  But descendants of Deutschböhmen ancestors are often left wondering how much of the information about the German & Czech peoples actually applies to the lives that their ethnic German Bohemian ancestors lived.  So, the main purposes of this blog will be to share what we have learned so far in our genealogy research, and to collect and present useful Deutschböhmen research information from other sources.

Locations of Czechoslovakia in Europe before and after World War II

Location of the Czech Republic (dark green) in Europe
Map of the Czech Republic with traditional regions & current administrative regions
Maps courtesy of Wikipedia.com's articles, "Bohemia," "Czech Republic," & "Czechoslovakia."  
And from Wikimedia images. 

16 August 2016

Male Given Names in German Gothic Script

As a follow up to my previous post of sample female given names, here is my list of sample male names in the Gothic script:

Female Given Names in German Gothic Script

When learning to do Bohemian genealogy research, learning to read the German Gothic script can seem like an overwhelming task.  But with practice, it is possible to learn to decipher the handwriting (even if you don't speak/read German or Latin).  For most beginners, the easiest parts of handwritten vital records to identify are the peoples' names -- especially the more common names such as Anna, Maria, Joannes, Carl, Elisabetha, Andreas, Franz, Katharina, Anton, Georg, Rosina, Joseph, Theresia, Wenzl, etc.

Some time ago I compiled some samples of names in the Gothic script, which I found were helpful especially for beginning researchers who were learning how to recognize the letters and searching for vital records containing specific names.  Each of these samples came from the vital records of my ancestors, which were found on the websites of the Pilsen & Litomerice Archives in the Czech Republic.  I'll start by posting the female given names for now.

And these two cases are worth noting: