Czech Republic Land and Property
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Land Books (Pozemkové knihy)
Czech Land Books include declarations of land and property possessed, land transfers and inheritances. The Czech name of these records has varied over time; they were sometimes called gruntovní knihy, or purkrechtní knihy. Historically, most land was owned by the nobility.
The most basic of land records are the land tables [zemské desky], dating from the 13th century, which record the actual ownership of land plus purchases, cessions, and exchanges of free estates. These have lesser genealogical value and could be categorized as nobility records. The land records of greatest genealogical significance are the land books [pozemkové knihy] which record landholders and land lease titles. These date from about 1600. The oldest land books [pozemkové knihy] listed the location of the property along with the financial obligations of the landholder to the estate owner. As peasants gained freedom from the estate owners (serfdom was officially abolished in 1848) the land books listed the landholders and describe transfers of title from parent to child and outright sales of land possession. No entry was allowed to be made in the books without the approval of the lord of the estate or of the city council in urban areas. These records are generally available for all of the Czech lands.
Contents: These records provide location and description of land and property, names of property owners and family members. Rural peasants with land rights and family members are also listed with the amount of financial obligations of the landholder toward the estate owner.
Location: District archives [okresní archívy]. Some are in state regional archives [státní oblastní archívy].
Research use: With the exception of church registers and civil registration, land records are the single most important source for genealogical research. In most instances the land records provide exact family relationships. Land books identify individuals in connection with their residence. They enhance the use of church registers and can be used to bridge gaps and are often essential for linking generations. When persons with the same name need to be sorted out, this can be done by house numbers and house ownership. A study of the records of a specific piece of property can give the sequence of generations of the family surname, as ownership was usually passed from father to son. Where names change from generation to generation, land books are helpful in making proper family connections.
Accessibility: Through correspondence with archives in the Czech Republic, a local agent or by personal search.
First Bohemian Cadaster (Berní rula)
The berní rula was formulated during the reign of Ferdinand III of Habsburg (ruled 1637-57), that is, not long after the end of the Thurty Years' War. The berní ruly are lists of tax payers based on the records of the estate owners or nobility. First completed in 1653-1654, these tax lists were prepared to study inequities in the tax structure. Properties were surveyed to determine dwellings, fields, and animals of the taxpayers. Other surveys were made in 1683-84, 1746, 1757, and 1792. These lists can be of help in genealogical research by locating the domicile of one's ancestor, and are of value for demographic studies, but they cannot be considered as a complete survey of the population. These lists do not include the poor who were without property or trade. Also, only heads of households are listed without indication of dependents. The berní ruly are available only for the the "Czech lands" of the Czech Republic (or the province of Bohemia), and not for the province of Moravia and Austrian Silesia. All text is in the Czech language. Tax lists have been deposited in various archives but are not readily accessible to researchers. Some tax lists have been published:
• general index to all 1654 tax lists - Berní rula : generalní rejstřík ke všem svazkům- General Index to all 1654 tax lists (published and unpublished), supplemented with the 1651 census if tax lists missing. FHL INTL Book 943.71 X2cc vol. 1-2
• some 1427-1435 tax lists for Prague - Berní knihy starého města Pražského, 1427-1434 - Tax books for the Prague subdivision Old Town. FHL INTL Book 943.71/P3 R4p
The following volumes were published:
The following volumes were not yet published:
The Family History Library has above listed published copies of the 1654 cadaster (FHL INTL Book 943.7 B4b).
General Index to All 1654 Tax Lists
Berní rula : generalní rejstřík ke všem svazkům- General Index to all 1654 tax lists (published and unpublished), supplemented with the 1651 census if tax lists missing. The Family History Library has a copy of the general index (FHL INTL Book 943.71 X2cc vol. 1-2).
Berní knihy starého města Pražského, 1427-1434 - Tax books for the Prague subdivision Old Town. The Family History Library has a copy of the publication (FHL INTL Book 943.71/P3 R4p).