Czech Republic Finding Your Ancestor in the Records
Czech Republic Getting Started
Researching in Czech Records can seem like a daunting task when thinking about the handwriting and the records; however, by using the following suggestions and learning a few basic key words and some background information, using Czech records can be quite easy.
Suggestion 1: Learn the Basics of Czech Language and Handwriting
You do not need to completely master the Czech language in order to use the records. Records written before 1918 may be in German, Latin, or Czech. Most of the Czech genealogical records follow a common format and use common terms. Once you understand some of the key words and become familiar with the handwriting a whole treasure trove of information will be open to you. Use the following links for word lists and language.
Suggestion 2: Previous Research Sources
Most genealogists do a survey of research previously done by others. This can save time and give you valuable information. You may want to check the Internet or FamilySearch. Remember that the information in these sources might be wrong, depending on who did the research. Therefore, you need to analyze and verify the information you find from these secondary sources.
Suggestion 3: Obtain Background Information
You may need some geographical and historical information. This can save you time and effort by helping you focus your research in the correct place and time period.
Suggestion 4: Search Original Documents
After surveying previous records, you will be ready to begin original research. Original research is the process of searching through original documents, which are usually handwritten in the native language. The documents can provide primary information about your family because they were generally recorded near the time of an event by a reliable witness. To do thorough research, you should search each place where your ancestor lived, during the time period he or she lived there. You will be most successful with Czech research if you can examine the original records. In some cases, transcripts of the original records are available. Although these may be easier to read, they may be less accurate than the original record.
The best sources of genealogical information in the Czech Republic are Church Records (Parish Registers) kept by the local parishes. The Family History Library has microfilms of vital records from only a few German-speaking communities and a limited number of published census returns. Use the FamilySearch Catalog to determine what records are available for the locality.
Most of the Czech vital records were digitized and made available on the Internet. To find out which archive holds the records that you need click here. You may use this gazetteer for free however you will have to register first. Please be sure to spell the locality name correctly. When you know the respective archive, locate Online Databases section on the home page in the FamilySearch Research Wiki.
Suggestion 5: Research by Mail
If the records you want are not available through the Family History Library or online they may be available through the individual Czech regional archives. Please refer to the Letter Writing Guide for detailed information. Remember to enclose photocopies of any old documents or mementos that you may have.