17 August 2016

Bohemia

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. 

No comments:

Post a Comment