Today I had an associate ask me:
"Yesterday we had a man come into the FHC helping a friend on his research. I'm not sure if Ron will be coming back for further research on this family or not.
Anyway, on the 1940 census, the family's country of origin was Czechoslovakia, earlier censuses Austria [crossed out] then written Hungary, and 1906 naturalization said Hungary. Language spoken Slovak. I'm not aware of any mapping program like the Gold Bug map program we have for US county boundary changes for this area of Europe. Are you aware of a website that has overlays of boundary changes for Europe? It would be so helpful to explain/show people how the boundaries changed. Just curious if you know of a website or program that does this. Thanks."
To which I replied:
"When the US census lists a person's birthplace as "Austria", "Germany", "Hungary", "Austrian Empire", "Bohemia," "Czechoslovakia," "Moravia", etc. remember that these could all refer to the same place.
It's slightly more defining when the birth place is listed as, "Moravia," because usually that refers to a place within Moravia. Bohemia could refer to anywhere within Bohemia or Moravia. It was used interchangeably with the others. Many of the immigrants came when the place was still under Austrian occupation, so they would have been leaving the Austrian empire. Sometimes the enumerator lumped them into a general "German" category with their similarly foreign looking and sounding neighbors.
A broadly helpful site that shows territory changes in Europe can be found here:
A more specific site that I have found to be more helpful for my Czech research is the territorial changes of Poland, found here:
It's a complicated mess.
If Ron wants to connect his Czech ancestors to their Czech origins, he should search like crazy for the village of origin in records found in the country of arrival...The hint that he spoke slovak is a very good clue. It could refer either to Czech or Slovak, but certainly gives us the idea that he was not from Hungary, Austria, or Germany. Or, rather, that he self-identified with a Czechoslovak heritage more than a Hungarian heritage, even if his homeland was currently under occupation from a foreign government."