Here are two general pieces of knowledge that I have discovered in my experience researching my Catholic Czech ancestors.
1. Marriages often took place in the village of the bride.
2. Sometimes a newly married couple may start their married life in close proximity to the family of the bride.
Here was my problem:
My father did extensive research on all of our Czech family but hit brick walls every time it came to the immigrating generation, which was usually 1865-1890's in my own family. There were many other Czechs that immigrated to Illinois, Texas and elsewhere between 1890-1920's, and I have read that the largest numbers of Czech immigrants came in these later years. That would be something to research and blog about later, for sure. But anyway, my ancestors came earlier, for Czech immigrants that is.
My father's information about Charles Klecka [sic] and Johanna Licka [sic] was only vague. He had found them on the 1880 US census in Fayette County, Texas with their family, and probably on the 1900 US census in Austin County, Texas. My goal was to find this family in their village of origin in the Czech lands.
The most difficult part of this process is determining a village of origin. Almost always, the village of origin should be determined from the original records found in the country of arrival, not country of departure. My father's information documented that the children of Charles Klecka [sic] and Johanna Licka [sic] were from "Mala Hrabova, , Mahren, Austria." This information was not cited. I scratched my head, wondering why he wrote that information down. The only source linked to this person was a US census record, which stated they were born in, "Moravia."
By the way, when doing Czech research, if you come across US census or vital records that state the person is from Bohemia, assume it is anywhere within Bohemia or Moravia. But if you see "Moravia," usually that means they are from Moravia or Silesia.
Karl Klečka and Johanna Lička were last people my father could research, the first of that Klečka line that immigrated to Texas. I wanted to link them past this brick wall, into the Czech records. First, I had to determine if "Mala Hrabova, , Mahren, Austria" was a legitimate village of origin.
Honestly, I'm not sure if this counts as finding the clue to the village of origin in the US or not. Ideally the clue would be in a more reliable, original record. However, because of my familiarity with this specific area, and the accessibility to these records for the relevant years, I decided to just go ahead and check the Czech records.
At first glance, it reminded me of a village close by my ancestors, currently Hrabová, Ostravá-Město, Moravskoslezský Kraj. To break it down: Hrabová, Ostravá district, Moravskoslezský Region. The word "Mala" looks a lot like the Czech word "Malé," or "small." Some villages have neighboring villages with similar names, like Upper Plainville, Lower Plainville, Old Plainville, New Plainville, etc. So I was looking for a village that was similar to Hrabová, but a diminutive.
I have researched in neighboring Hrabůvka, which sounds like a diminutive form of Hrabová. I started the search there, in this register:
Here is a rough transcription that I used in my notes. I didn't feel like transcribing the word "and his wife" in German because...I was lazy...so...I'm sorry.
1873 2 ledna narozen
2 ledna baptized
Parodni baba: Barbara Holan z velki Hrabove # 53
+6 ledna 1873
Catholic, male, legitimate
father: Karel Klečka, sedlak v Malé Hrabové, syn Josefa Klečka sedlák v Zábre a jeho manželky Johanny z rodin Ličkoveho sedláky ve staré b[a]lé
mother: Johanna, dcera Františka Ličzky scolláka ve Nove Biele a jeho manželky Mariany y rodu Jakob Krčmarskeho sedlák v Nova balé
It seemed very likely that this Karel was the son of Karel Klečka and Johanna Lička, a child who died young and never immigrated. My father had not been able to find him, of course, because this record hadn't been available. Obviously, I will need to go and actually find the death record for 6 January 1873, and all other available records. I don't think this will amount to the kind of "reasonably exhaustive search" that the BCG requires for their portfolio, without also finding other original records. It is not proof until all the evidence is found, correlated, and judged. What I have is evidence that this person existed. That's a good starting place! But, just wanted to clarify that lest I come across as a hack genealogist.
Back to the problem. The first thing I usually do in this case is to assume that it is possible that they were in the same house, so I scan my eyes down the pages going forward (or backward) for the house number only. I didn't find anybody. From the 1880 and 1900 US censuses, I knew this family immigrated ~1875. Karel was born in 1873. Hmm.
So then I started looking earlier and found Antonia:
1 Rijna born
2 Rigna baptized
midwife: Rosina Lehner z Nové Biele #48
Catholic, Female, Legitimate
father: Karel Klečka sedlák v Malé Hrabové syn Josefa Klečka sedklák v Zábru a jeho manželky Johanny z rodu Josefa Lička sedláka ve Staré Bielé
mother: Johanna, dcera Františka Ličky sedláka v Nové Bielé a jeho manželky Marianny z rodu Josefa Krčmarského sedláka v Nové Bielé
But...that was it. Unless this was the wrong Klečka family, they might have lived somewhere else. Hmmm. The first place I decided to look was the father's village of origin, Zábřeh. It's a neighboring village. The register there turned up nothing for this family.
I decided to look in Hrabová. This was also a negative search for the family, but I did find the index to both Hrabová and Hrabůvka. The index seemed more aggravating to decipher than going to the actual register and flipping through the pages. This happens when the villages are small, the indexes for several villages kept together, and the handwriting in the index is especially difficult to decipher. If the village is small, it isn't such a big deal to skip the index and find the years of interest (or estimated years of interest). It becomes a huge deal when dealing with Vratimov, and the register is 800 pages long...uh no thanks.
Then I remembered that second piece of information at the top: Sometimes a newly married couple may start their life in close proximity to the family of the bride. Why not check Nová Bělá records to see if that's where they were living?
I was right! I found several other siblings in this register:
9 October 1865 born
10 October 1865 baptized
#64 Nová Bělá
midwife: Rosina [?] in Nová Bělá #48
father: Karl Klečka, schmeid maister in Nová Bela, sohn des Josef Klečka, bauer in Zabro und his wife Johanna born Lička, bauer in Alt Běla
mother: Johanna, tochter des Franz Lička, bauer in Nová Běla and his wife Marianna born of Josef Křečmarsky bauer in Nová Bělá
19 June born
20 June baptized
+ 18/4 1868
father: Karl Klečka, schmidmister in Nová Biela, sohn des Josef Klečka bauer in Žábre and his wife Johanna geb Josef Lička bauer in Alt Biela
mother: Johanna tochter des Franz Lička bauer in Neu Biela und his wife Marianna geb Josef Křecmarsky bauer in Neu Biela
25 Oktober born
26 Oktober baptized
father: Karl Klečka, schmeidmister in Neu Biela sohn des Josef Klečka bauer in Zabro und of his wife Johanna geb Josef Lička bauer in Alt Biela
mother: Johanna tochter des Franz Lička bauer in Neu Biela und his wife Marianna geb Josef Krčmarsky bauer in Neu Biela
Along with some more compelling evidence that this is the correct Klečka family - in these Czech records and the 1880 census Karel/Carl is listed as a blacksmith.
I was unable to solve all the mysteries, though. Aside from gathering the death records referred to in the margin notes, I still wonder: where was Karel and Johanna's first son on the 1880 census, Joseph, born? Their last child to be born in the Moravia, Anna (again, according to the 1880 census) - what village was she born in? And I have not even started researching their next five children born in Texas. Were they even - gasp - their children? Could they have been a different relation and enumerated incorrectly on the 1880 census? Johanna did not speak English, according to the census. Hmm.
However, I feel confident that the family I found in Moravia is the same Klečka family my father was researching, and that with further document gathering, corroboration, and analysis, the sum of my evidence will prove an origin for all of them!
Maybe this post will help you learn how to do the same for your own family. I would love to help you. If you have questions about the handwriting, how to navigate the vademecum.archives.cz site (or any others on the "Resources" tab at the top of this blog), or how to find a village of origin, email me!