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Census Records (Sčítání lidu)
The government of Austria which governed the Czech lands periodically took a census of the population for statistical purposes. The results of censuses were used to follow and regulate various aspects of society particularly taxation and conscription.
The earliest censuses were simply head counts taken for taxation purposes. The first census to record people by name was conducted in 1651. The Catholic Habsburg rulers ordered the 1651 census of the Czech lands to determine the religion of the people (Bohemia and Moravia had been predominantly Protestant prior to 1624) and the prospects of their conversion. Summaries remain of a 1702 count of all people over the age of 10. Censuses were carried out in 1754 and 1762 and revisions were to be made every few years. Counts were taken in 1770 and 1776. These lists were largely for military purposes.
The first true census was conducted in 1857. Afterward, censuses were taken in 1869, 1880, 1890, 1900, 1910, 1921, 1930, 1940, 1950, 1961, 1970, 1980, and 1991, and 2001.
Beginning in 1724 a census of Jews was periodically taken.
Some census returns, including those for the 1651 census, are kept in the archives. Unfortunately, most census returns, which included lists of inhabitants, have been lost. In most cases, only summary information from the censuses is available. Generally, archival researchers will not consult census records. Some census returns have been published.
Contents: The contents vary according to census. Some censuses list only head of household, conscription number of house, and taxable property. Many census returns of the 1800s give house number, head of household, names of members of the household (including servants), ages, occupations, religions, and relationships to head of household; some also give date and place of birth.
Location: District archives [Okresní archívy] and City archives [Mĕstské archívy]. Census returns are usually not stored in the State regional archives [Státní oblastní archívy]. Parts of the 1770 census have been published in book form. The Family History Library has a published copy of the census for parts of the city of Prague and published copies of the parts of the 1651 census.
Research use: These records link families together into family groups and greatly supplement the research process. They are extremely valuable in locating birthplaces, and determining ages, and relationships and lead to primary vital records sources, making them very valuable for pedigree links. Each census is important by itself but each should also be used with church records and other censuses.
Accessibility: Presently, census materials may be researched in person at the Czech archives, or you may be able to hire a private researcher to search the records for you.
1651 Register of Subjects According to Their Religion (Soupis poddaných podle víry z roku 1651)
The Register of Subjects According to Their Religion lists town by town, village by village, almost every man and woman, and many children in Bohemia in the year 1651. The census was ordered by the Habsburg ruler as part of the re-Catholization process. The goal of the census was to determine how many people had remained loyal to the Roman Catholic faith, who had become protestant, and whether they were willing to say they would convert to Catholicism.
The Register of Subjects According to Their Religion was drawn up in 1651 as part of the attempt of the Habsburg monarchy to re-Catholize Bohemia after victory at the Battle of the White Mountain in 1620. Bohemian nobles and higher clergy were largely anti-Habsburg and continued to hope for a restoration.
When the Thirty Years War ended in 1648 the situation in Bohemia became much calmer. This made it possible to establish a politically stable government, to begin to re-Catholicize the Protestant sections of the population, and to create a new and functioning organization of local parish churches. A prerequisite was to obtain information about the true situation in all Bohemian regions at that time.
The issuing of a Patent by the Governors of Bohemia on 4 February 1651 provided the direct impulse for creating the Register of Subjects According to Their Religion that year. This Patent (royal edict) ordered every overlord in Bohemia to ensure that a register was made of all subjects living on his estates. It was sent out with a standardized form enclosed. The register was suppose to include not just subjects, but also overlords, manorial officials, burghers living in towns belonging either to the crown or to the nobility, and freemen. The only persons excluded were clergyman and soldiers.
At the end of the register for each estate, the enumerators were suppose to write up a report on the condition of the local church administration.
Most feudal estates had complied with the requirements of the Patent by the summer of 1651. But on June 1651, before the project of writing up the register had been completed in all regions of the country, the office of the Governor of Bohemia issued a second Patent, abandoning the detailed, standardized form and ordering local administrators simply to provide a brief report concerning non-Catholic individuals. As a result, on some feudal estates the register in the original format was never drawn up at all. In others, it had already been written up but it had not yet been sent in to the central government. The situation differed from one region to another, and it is sometimes impossible to discover, why it has not survived.
The standardized form was organized in columns. The enumerator was suppose to write down each person's name, social status, occupation, age, religious affiliation, and the family status of all members of each household, including all servants and farm laborers.
The columns in the 1651 register were completed fully and accurately, for the most part. As a general rule, each family or household in the register is separated from the next. The given names recorded are mainly biblical. Some names are much more frequent than others. Many surnames were just being created and established in that period, and the clerks did not pay much attention to whether they used capital letters or small ones. In such cases, it is difficult to decide whether what one is reading is an actual surname, a nickname, or an occupation, such as "Anna Stará Řeznice" (Ann Old Butcherwoman). There were some individuals who had no surname recorded and some without even a given name.
Some individuals in the register have notes appended to their names, such as "has gone away because of religion". It is not unusual to see comments on people's state of health, such as "blind since youth". Other notes give us an idea of the wealth of the individuals, their moral offenses or places where they originated.
The column for occupation displays a whole range of more or less common jobs. Occupations vary according to the region of the country and the altitude and other natural characteristics of the village or town. Besides numerous trades and crafts, the register also records a whole range of descriptions for servants and farmhands.
People's ages are recorded with varying accuracy. In some places, all children were registered, in others only from the age of 10 or 12 onward. The choice of age from which to record children is related to the age of taking first communion 10 or 12 years.
The closing footnotes in the registers give us a very vivid depiction of the actual situation on each estate in the middle of the seventeenth century Bohemia. General chaos and a desperate situation emerge very clearly - ravaged villages, burned-down churches and rectories, homeless people, wartime misery, and outbreaks of plague in 1640s.
In conclusion, we can state that the Bohemian Register of Subjects According to Their Religion accomplished its purpose. It mapped out the "terrain" of Bohemia in 1651 and provided a certain basic foundation of information which the ecclesiastical hierarchy needed in order to make progress with re-Catholization and obtain restitution of church property.
The Register of Subjects According to Their Religion (Soupis poddaných podle víry z roku 1651) was published by The National Archives in Prague for the following regions:
The final volume of each regional set contains an index of place names and a fold out map of 1:200,000 scale. The Family History Library has published copies of the 1651 register (FHL INTL Book 943.71 X2).
1770 Census of Prague
The Family History Library has a published copy of the census for parts of the city of Prague.
The 1770 Prague census of heads of families for the subdivision Old Town (Popis obyvatelstva hlavního města Prahy z roku 1770). FHL INTL Book 943.71/P3 X2p
1783 Jewish Census
Unlike the previous Jewish census of 1724, this enumeration was not conducted to help limit the Jewish population, but rather to produce data for taxation purposes. The individual sheets include the name of the region, family residence (farm estate,village), the name of the head of household (including widow), status (married, single) and number of children, his profession, the amount of tax paid, and notes.
Emperor Joseph II's decree mandating that Jews adopt fixed surnames was not announced until 1787, three years after this census. As a result most individuals in this enumeration use patronymics rather than family name. In the larger towns, however, surnames already were being used in 1783 to distinguish between individuals (and taxpayers). Obviously, having surnames would also help the authorities to register individual families according to the Familiant Law (issued in 1726). As elsewhere, the surnames reflected professions (Fleischer, Glaser, and Mautner), previous dwelling places (Brandeis, Raudnitz, and Wotitzky), and roles in the community (Cantor and Katz). In small villages and towns the householders used patronymics (Jakob Abraham and Joseph Herschl).
The brief introduction is written in Czech, but all census text is kept in its original German language. Because of the structured format, the content is easy to understand. Personal name and locality indexes for each of the regions are included.
The 1783 Bohemian census of Jewish families (Soupis židovských familiantů v Čechách z roku 1783) was published by The National Archives in Prague for the following administrative regions:
The Family History Library has the following published copy of the 1783 Jewish census:
- Ebelová, Ivana. Soupis židovských familiantů v Čechách z roku 1783 = Verzeichnis der Judenfamilianten in Böhmen von 1783. (List of Jewish families in Bohemia in 1783). Praha : Národní Archiv, c2008. (FHL INTL Book 943.71 K3e)
1793 Jewish Census
The 1793 Bohemian census of Jewish families (Soupis židovských rodin v Čechách z roku 1793) was published by The National Archives in Prague for the following regions:
The Family History Library has published copies of the 1793 Jewish census (FHL INTL Book 943.71 K3s vol. 1-6).
19th Century Censuses
1869, 1880 and 1890 censuses are usually housed in the District archives [Okresní archívy].
The census forms, called Aufnahmsbogen, were written in German. The headings included the following: successive number of person, name and surname, gender, year of birth, religion, status, occupation, place of birth and citizenship details. An important element of this census is the place of birth.
20th Century Censuses
1900, 1910 and 1921 censuses are usually housed in the District archives [Okresní archívy], however censuses of the following cities are probably housed in the City archives ["Mĕstské archívy"]:
- Ústí nad Labem
Extracts from the following census forms are available from the National Archives in Prague:
- 1930 (Czech lands and Transcarpathian Ukraine)
- 1939 (ceded borderland of the Czech lands)
- 1950 (Czech lands)
- 1970 (Czech lands)
- 1991 (Czech lands)
Click here to download an application in the PDF format. E-mail form to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The South Bohemian Census 1857-1921
Click on the Census link under Digitized Materials on the left.
A wiki article describing this collection is found at:
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