Although the Czech Republic is quite small, a large and impressive network of archives is supported by the Czech government. The seven regional archives, which are repositories for most pre-1910 parish books, are the archives of primary importance to Czech genealogical researchers. However, seventy-two district archives, five city archives, and various specialized archives also contain an astounding amount of material about the lives of our ancestors.
The five 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.
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 registers are:
- Orphan books that list minor children and their birthdates; included is the name of their guardian.
- Books of foreigners that give the birthday and birthplace of the foreigner, including residence and dates of stay.
- A register of issued passports that give the birthday and birthplace of the applicant, including the passport issue date.
- Various formats of population registers which usually include birthdates, birthplaces, and dates of residency.
- A variety of land and cadastre registers, including lists of landowners and homeowners. Generally, no vital information is included.