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The five Czech Republic city archives of Brno, Ostrava, Plzeň, Prague, and Ústí nad Labem are repositories for the majority of archival materials relating to the activities of the city, other towns and villages in the district, some offices, courts, schools, churches, political parties, businesses and private individuals. These materials are generally called the Town Books. Town books were established in the late 13th century and their content was based primarily on relations between citizens. Town books included testaments, marriage agreements, and debentures, as well as trade, property, criminal, military, political, and orphan records. Smaller towns usually had only one town book.
Many new town books were created in 1849 after the organization of the new political administration and contained meeting minutes, financial and tax records, lists of the poor, residency certificates, and move-in and move-out records. Records varied widely from place to place. One may therefore encounter specialty books such as vineyard books, mining books, criminal record books and books of executions. Due to the vastness of the holdings, study of the Archival Inventory is recommended. These inventories can be accessed upon arrival in each archive.
Some of the more common books are:
- Orphan books that list minor children, their birthdates, guardian (status, residence and the date of guardianship - usually shortly after father's death), and remarks that describe how the children were raised, their inheritance (if any) and it may also include the death and marriage dates for the children. In case of an illegitimate child, a father may be listed. This may be extremely helpful to a researcher if the father's name is not given in the birth record of the child.
- Books of foreigners that give the birthday and birthplace of the foreigner, including residence and dates of stay.
- A book of issued passports that give the birthday and birthplace of the applicant, including the passport issue date.
- Various formats of population books which usually include birthdates, birthplaces, and dates of residency.
- A variety of land and cadastre books, including lists of landowners and homeowners. Generally, no vital information is included.