Czech Republic, Northern Moravia, Opava Archive Church Books (FamilySearch Historical Records)
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|This article describes a collection of historical records available at FamilySearch.org.|
Access the records: Czech Republic, Northern Moravia, Opava Provincial Archive church records, 1571-1905 .
Foreign Language Title
This section of the article is incomplete. You can help FamilySearch Wiki by supplying a translation of the title in Czech here.
Collection Time Period
The earliest Czech book was created in 1441 (a book of christenings from Horní Jiřetín). Books have been kept to the present, but because of privacy laws, they are available for research only through 1905.
Entries are usually arranged in chronological order and, after 1784, in a columnar format. During certain times, one book was used to list all the baptisms, marriages, and burials for all the villages in a parish for one year. At other times each village has its own section of baptisms, marriages, and burials, which were listed chronologically. Some records are on preprinted forms, and most records include indexes.
Czech church records are usually in one of three languages: Czech, German, or Latin. Often, one parish consists of books written in all three. Records from one state regional archive (statní oblastní archive) may favor one or more languages. For example, records from Litoměřice are usually written in German or Latin. Records from Plzeň or Třeboň are usually written in Czech, German, and Latin equally.
A filmed security copy of each book is stored at each state regional archive, but because of poor film quality, some of these are unusable for research. Books from the early 1900s (even though they may have been started earlier) are still stored in local city halls or other institutions. The Family History Library does not have filmed copies of the books but did begin capturing the images digitally in 2007.
• Names of the child, parents, and witnesses or godparents (often included are grandparents, great-grandparents, and more rarely, great-great-grandparents)
• Date and place of birth and baptism (sometimes includes the time of birth and baptism)
• Residence and religion of the parents and other direct-line ancestors
• Occupation of the father and other males listed
• Whether the child was legitimate or illegitimate
Marriage entries contain:
• Names of the bride, groom, their parents, and witnesses (often included are grandparents, great-grandparents, and more rarely, great-great-grandparents)
• Date and place of marriage (sometimes includes the time of marriage)
• Ages of the bride and groom • Residence of the bride, groom, and their ancestors
• Religion of the bride and groom
• Occupation of the groom and other males listed
Burial entries contain:
• Names of the deceased and spouse or parents (often included are grandparents, great-grandparents, and more rarely, great-great-grandparents
• Date and place of death and burial (sometimes time of death and burial)
• Age and residence of the deceased
• Residences of other ancestors listed
• Cause of death
How to Use the Records
Czech church books are the best source for identifying ancestors from the Czech Republic. So many relatives are listed in these books that you may be able to create a miniature pedigree chart for almost each entry in a church book
The edict of the Council of Trent in 1563, which mandated the creation of church books, applied to Czech congregations. Austrian emperor Joseph II issued the Edict of Toleration on October 13, 1781, which allowed Protestants, Jews, and others to keep their own church records under the supervision of the Catholic Church. Though the Protestants were allowed to keep registers starting in 1771, they were copied into Catholic registers. In 1781 Protestants continued to keep registers under Catholic supervision.
Starting February 10, 1784, Joseph II required that all church birth entries include the full names of both parents and all grandparents, along with their towns of origin and their military conscription numbers or unique address, such as Plichtice č. 5 (č is an abbreviation for čislo, or "number"). The emperor also required that records be kept in Latin or German, though Czech was often used. Column headings, which had started around 1784 (sometimes earlier), became mandatory.
In 1790 the Austrian government (under which Czech records were kept) created a law requiring indexes to be kept. In 1802 another law was passed requiring all older matriky (church books) to be indexed. Only rarely are volumes not indexed.
Starting in 1869, the civil authorities took charge of the record-keeping of births, marriages, and deaths. However, individual churches continued to actually record these events. The official legal copy was kept by local officials when many of the clergy refused to perform Catholic rites for non-Catholics. Everyone was registered under this new system, not just those appearing in Catholic or Protestant registers.
The church books cover a majority of the population.
Why This Record Was Created
Church books were first created to identify those who had received church sacraments. After 1869 they were also used as an official record of vital events by civil authorities.
Czech church books are extremely reliable, more so than census and other records. Ages, birth dates, and birthplaces found in marriage and death entries are only as accurate as the informant’s memory.
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Sources of Information for This Collection:
“Czech Republic, Opava Archives Church Records, 1552-1905,” database, FamilySearch; 2009, from State Regional Archives of Opava. "Church Records." State Regional Archive of Opava (Czech Republic). FHL microfilm, 1684 reels. Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.
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- United States. Bureau of the Census. 12th census, 1900, digital images, From FamilySearch Internet (www.familysearch.org): September 29, 2006), Arizona Territory, Maricopa, Township 1, East Gila, Salt River Base and Meridian; sheet 9B, line 71
- Mexico, Distrito Federal, Catholic Church Records, 1886-1933, digital images, from FamilySearch Internet (www.familysearch.org): April 22, 2010), Baptism of Adolfo Fernandez Jimenez, 1 Feb. 1910, San Pedro Apóstol, Cuahimalpa, Distrito Federal, Mexico, film number 0227023