Saturday, March 22, 2014

Why it's OK to include unsourced family trees in your research

Here's an article that sums up my opinion on why it is okay to include unsourced family trees from in my research. 

Basically: "Effective family historians...exclude no potentially useful source, and they trust no unverified source." 

USUALLY people have a reason for linking people in their online family trees. Maybe the reason is illogical, ill-thought out, or otherwise erroneous. 

Well, guess what? Maybe the original records themselves have errors. Humans make so many mistakes. How is it ever really possible to come to know the truth in genealogy?

Here's how: gather many, many records. Analyze the information. Consider the informant. Correlate the evidence. Realize that it is not the number of sources that state a fact, but the quality of the sources. Are they reliable? Are you reading a transcription? Genealogical proof is about gathering many records (including original records), correlating them, citing them, and coming to a written conclusion. 

I do think it's generally better to start with original records when you can, rather than to look at others' online genealogies. You can unknowingly introduce a bias in your analysis when you see something presented as "truth." 

There is a big family reunion on my husband's side of the family in June for the Challis and Wood families. One of the nights will be a family temple trip, and some of us are working on preparing some names from these families so that we can do temple work for them. I have been working on some Northamptonshire genealogy research, and a lot of it involves rechecking others' work. 

I love all of my ancestors. What's nice about Czech in comparison to English genealogy research is that so many original records have recently been made available for free online. English records are not even close to as accessible online, but there are many, many people who have been researching in them for decades (centuries!). Basically, there has been a lot more time for people to make erroneous conclusions, and it's a lot more inconvenient for modern researchers to recheck what has been done. 

Hip hip hooray for Czech genealogy! 

Friday, March 21, 2014

"Did Vlčovice records really begin in 1720?" OR Using finding aids on to undertand Czech Jurisdictions

I've been struggling with the idea of jurisdictions ins the Czech lands.

Jurisdiction is the official  power to make decisions. The jurisdiction matters in genealogy because most of the documents that are left behind are remnants of various religious or political events. Vital records were recorded both for religious reasons (the Bible illustrates the importance of record keeping in Revelation 20:15, for example) and political reasons, such as for military drafts (Empire level politics), and to make sure that the taxes and duties were performed (Estate level politics).

The land of my ancestors is old. OLD. Very, very old. Most villages in my corner of Moravia can claim things like, "the first known record of this village is in 1250 AD, when so-and-so conquered such-and-such neighboring village and built a fort directly outside of it, naming it after such-and-such place/event/person/thing."

 Here's the Czech wikipedia article on Vlčovice. It says that the first written mention of Vlčovice dates from 1437 (under the name "Velicovice").

Okay, so...why do the earliest available parish records for Vlčovice begin *only* in 1720? And why don't land records appear to begin until 1762 - for almost any village on the Hukvaldy estate?

As an American genealogist, it's actually pretty comical. Pre-1720 vital records? Uh...yeah, I don't think so. Yes, there are reliable records in the 18th Century United States - or Colonies - or whatever it happened to be called during the year of interest. That's just the main thing: from my perspective, jurisdictions change a lot.

So, I had been approaching this problem with the idea that, "Well, if I can't find pre-1720 records, but the village is clearly as old as 1437, and Catholics were probably keeping records in the 1650's (because other towns do have vital records that go back that far, and even into the late 1500's), then maybe I have the jurisdiction wrong."

Maybe the village wasn't called, "Vlčovice." Maybe the Vlčovice records were stored with the Hukvaldy Estate records. Maybe they are located in a completely different archive.

One thing that occurs extremely frequently in Czech history is village name changes. Depending on who has "official" jurisdiction over the land, German, Czech, or Russian names for villages may be used. And guess what; some of them are totally not similar in any way at all. But that is fodder for a different blog post.

I was puzzled, because I understand that the way works is to organize village records by the modern Czech spelling. This greatly facilitates searches, because a researcher may not know that the name of the village in the early 1800's was actually Kunzendorf, as opposed to Kunčice. So, apparently the archivists in the Regional Archives of Opava were thorough when they organized these records; I would assume that if there were any mention of Vlčovice under a different name, it would still get the label of "Vlčovice" on the record. were the other records?

I searched for "Huk" and really I could not find anything that I knew included records other than those for the village Hukvaldy. I felt like I was going around in circles. It's hard to find information about the Hukvaldy estate online in English.

So I started to search for information in Czech.

"Velkostatek Hukvaldy" is Czech for "Hukvaldy Estate." I happened to have one of the land record pages open. It was then that I noticed there, at the bottom of the page, in a list of, "Related Records" the words, "Velkostatek Hukvaldy."

I clicked it.

I found a link on the next page that said, "Finding aid's intro."

I clicked it.

And here we have 23 pages of detailed information about the Hukvaldy Estate holdings in the ZAO (regional archives of Opava)!! This is exactly what I had been looking for!!

At the end? A bibliography of books written about this place during this time. I don't know how I will find some of these books; they had better be digitally OCR'd or at least copy-and-pastable so that I can plug them into google translate, otherwise, even if I find them, they will be basically useless.

Which is exactly what I did to this document, and quickly learned that there was a huge fire in the Hukvaldy castle in 1762, which destroyed many records. That some did survive, but not very many.

Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Bummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmer. Almost 100% of my ancestors lived on this estate.

But hey, it answered my questions! And now I know how to use these great finding aids! And hopefully, so do you!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Land Records: Introduction

I often find myself in the position of trying to research something online, and not being able to find an answer. I then do my own research, and realize that if I share what I have learned, the next person who comes along might be able to build off the knowledge that I shared. Usually, an even more experienced person will comment and teach me more about the subject matter. 

Basically: I feel like I am not yet a "true" expert in Czech Land Records, but it is okay for me to share the knowledge that I have gained through my experience with them anyway because other people will benefit from my knowledge, and I will benefit from others' knowledge. I just feel like this is an important disclaimer that will help the readers of this post to understand the source. I love to learn. I'm always learning. I have a lot left to learn about Land Records. Yet, I think what I can share with you may be useful.

What is a Czech Land Record?

According to the familysearch article about the Czech Republic Land Records in their historical collections: 

The Czech name of land records has varied over time; however, the records listed in this collection are named gruntovní knihy. These books initially were kept at the landholder level, then at village level, farm level, and finally by a district administrator and his scribe. Land registers are written mostly in German, with some in Czech.

Although there are several different kinds of land records. We are going to start with Gruntovní Knihy because they are the most useful. There are other record books lumped with the "land records" that include lists of marriage contracts, lists of orphans, Urbary records, land holders, land lease titles, etc. 

What is in a Land Record?

Again, from that same article:

Land records usually contain the following information:
  • A list of serfs with land rights, including their ages and type of obligations toward the estate owner
  • Residences and often relationship to previous landholder
  • Lists of all the inhabitants of the estate, testaments, debts, orphan matters, mortgages, marriage contracts, inheritance, and other matters
  • Changes in ownership of properties, succession of farmstead holders, prices and payments of property and goods
The further your go back in the parish registers, the more difficult it is to establish identity with certainty. When you don't have a house number, and the enumerator did not write down the names of the parents on every record, or even their profession, sometimes it can be impossible to know with certainty which person is your person. But land records often have lists of heirs to the estate, which is, in a way, its own kind of census. They can establish relationships, residence, and even ages. 

They are also really interesting records because they allow you to glimpse into the daily lives of your ancestors. What currency did they use? What farm implements did they have? What kinds of animals did they have? Were they overloaded with debt? Were they extensive land holders? Did others owe them money? 

Basically, a land record is a hybrid cross between a probate record and a deed. It is extremely fortunate that these were kept, and that many of them survive. The best part? Most of the have indexes!

Brief Overview of the Babinec project

So, you know how I mentioned that recently I've been focusing my efforts on getting my BCG portfolio prepared for submission? Well, I decided I would write about it on my blog.

One of the requirements for the BCG portfolio is that the work be completely your own; no critique, review, or help from others. The BCG wants to certify you for your own skills. It's not unlike a computer programming final exam where they expected us to not use the internet for help. In the real world, my computer programmer husband totally uses outside help. Crowd sourcing, forums, collaboration - these are just tools to solving a problem efficiently. They are also helpful in the real world of genealogy.

BUT...this isn't the "real world." This is the world of becoming certified by a world-class organization. Technically, I am allowed to publish posts on my blog that contain material that I would submit. However, when I do this, I get lots of feedback, lots of really great, helpful suggestions about what a word might actually mean, where to search next, etc. I don't want to do a ton of work and then have to not use it in my portfolio because somebody else gave me super helpful albeit unsolicited feedback. So, I've made a conscious choice to not blog the specific material that I want to submit in my portfolio.

Huh? I didn't I just say in my first paragraph that I want to write about my recent BCG portfolio efforts on this blog? Isn't that a contradiction? Why? Because all that work I spent the past two months on, yeah...all that work...pretty much all of it...I decided I can't use it in my portfolio. Lots of reasons, mainly: it isn't the best display of my work. I don't have enough varied kinds of sources. I don't have enough solid evidence to "prove" my theories. It's good work, but it's not really portfolio-worthy, and sadly, it probably can't be because of the lack of available records for the village of Vlčovice. The parish registers start in 1720 and the land records start in 1764 - well, there are some Urbary records in the 1500-1650's, but they are too early. There's a 70 year gap of records.

I actually feel satisfied because I learned a lot from this experience. I was given the advice to never, never, never submit your first-ever client report in the portfolio; I suppose the same is true with the case study portion. And, even though it's not as strong as I would like, I have a case study. I gained a lot of experience with land records.

And now I have fodder for this blog for the next few weeks! So, that's good. The feedback I will get from these blog posts will help me with my BCG portfolio work.

The Babinec Project
Here's a brief summary of the project that I was working on. A friend and client's ancestors came from Mniší, Moravia. I found the marriage record for her direct line ancestor, Margaret Babinetz, in the neighboring village of Vlčovice. I wanted to trace her family back. I gathered all of the records of the Babinec/Babinetz's in that village, and figured out how they relate to each other. I gathered land records, transcribed and translated them, and was able to learn even more about the family.

Many questions and mysteries remain, and I intend to blog about them.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Stay focused, Kate!

Hey blogosphere! I haven't posted in about a week, but it's because I have actually been working on some exciting genealogy work related to my BCG application.

I have a dream of becoming a Certified Genealogist. It started over a year ago. I have been plugging along on my portfolio since the beginning of 2013.

Well, that turned out to be the year we moved from Texas to Iowa, and life got really crazy. On top of it, I decided to start taking clients. I quickly learned that I love client work. It is fun, challenging, profitable, and best of all, I feel like I am really helping others. I love that!

I don't regret starting taking clients when I did. I had no idea what it would be like, and I had serious doubts that I even could. I learned a lot about myself; how I work, what kinds of projects I enjoy, and what I want my future goals as a professional genealogist to be.

The reality of my world is that my time is scarce. If I am going to become a CG, I need to focus all of my efforts and limited genealogy time on my portfolio. I know that I will be a better professional genealogist if I obtain this credential.

I have decided to temporarily "take down my shingle" and stop taking genealogy clients until I become certified.

I have decided to continue with my blog goals, though, so stay tuned :)

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Another way of putting "illegitimate"

Scrolling through the parish registers, I found this entry.

"Spurius" is probably another way of saying, "illegitimate." The other big clue from this register is how his mother is enumerated; instead of listing a father first and then a mother, it's, "Apollonia, filia defti Georgii Lekesch" - Apollonia, daughter of the late George Lekesch.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Where oh where did my little George go? Oh where oh where can he be?

You marry the widow of Franciscus Babinec who has 9 children in 1745. You have one child with your wife in 1747, and no others (probably because she is getting on in years and no longer in a fertile stage of life).

In 1755, your wife predeceases you. 5 of her children from her first marriage are still living and they are Veronica (32), Magdalena (30), Joannes (28), Rosina (25), and Jacobus (10). Your son Ignatius was 8.

Where do you go? What do you do with your life?

In 1787, the house transfers to Joannes, the son of Franciscus Babinec. All of the children (plus one who is probably a cousin) are enumerated in the exact order of age in this land record. Their marital status, spouse, and residence locations are listed. For example, Ignatius is recorded as being in the army.

But there isn't information about you, Mr. George Kladiva. What happened to you? Did you remarry? Did you stick around this place? Did you leave the older children to care for the younger ones? Were they already apprentices? Did you return to your village of origin? Did you die around the same time as your wife and never get enumerated on the parish registers? Did you move to a neighboring town and remarry?

There is a Georgius Kladiva, son of Ignatius Kladiva, in the neighboring village. But it appears he dies in 1790 at the age of 36, which means he would have been born the year before your wife died; wrong generation. Maybe Ignatius Kladiva had a brother named Georgius, and they both named their kids after each other?

Still...what happens to you? And why 1787? Usually these land transfers seem to occur when somebody dies or marries into the family, or some crazy political thing happens. They certainly aren't random, at least usually. Hmm.

I'm not sure what to do about you. I can't find you at all.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Do you want to inherit...goat cheese?

I am translating a land record and I saw something that made me laugh.

"jedne hever dvoje šýrý"

Google translate had this coming up as:

"one two jack cheeses."

To me, this sounded like "pepperjack cheese." Yum yum. But I was seriously confused. It doesn't really make sense to inherit...cheese. Especially because this was listed with the rest of the farm equipment stuff like plows, wagons, tills, horses, etc.

I also played around with the idea that the word "hever" was really "Chevre" - goat's cheese, my favorite! Yum yum yum. But...yeah...still...that makes no sense. Not grammatical sense, and not actual sense.

I wouldn't say no to inheriting cheese. But farm equipment would probably be handier for feeding my family in the long term!

This is the real take-away from this post: ý and í are basically interchangeable in archaic Czech.

A transcription to modern Czech would be something like: "jedne hever dvoje šíří." This translates to "one jack [and] two spread[er]s."

A jack being a device used to lift heavy objects, and a "spead" presumably being something used to spread something (manure? seeds?) on the ground.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Look at the Historical Map, Duh!

Hindsight is always 20-20.

Czech people married in the bride's parish of origin, and frequently began their married life in the groom's parish of origin.

I knew where the groom was from. Mniší.

I knew the bride's first name, but not her surname (her maiden name). After they married, they went back to Mniší to live, and went on to have 9 kids there. I knew her approximate birth date because I had her death record in Mniší. I knew the couple's approximate marriage date because I had found their children (well, all the ones born in Mniší).

I wanted to learn more about the wife's family. I guessed she was probably from a neighboring parish. I pulled up google maps and saw that a close town to them was Kopřivnice.

I decided to search those parish registers for their marriage. No luck.

I decided to look at historical map for ideas. An easy, easy, easy, easy, EASY way to do this is to go to, search for a village, click "změnit mapu" and then select "Historická." This will give a basic historical map. It's not as detailed as other cadastral maps, but it is great at giving you an overall aerial view of the Czech lands, it's free, and it's fast.

Doing this, it became clear that Nesselsdorf, probably the pre-Kopřivnice name of this place, was a lot further from Mniší than I had thought, and that Vlčovice, Tichá, and Lichnov were more probable candidates. I searched these parish registers.

I found the marriage record in Vlčovice.

The best part? It identified the groom from Mniší. This was the right record!

Obviously, it would be best to get a TRULY contemporary map. I was searching for a record in the mid 1700's. The historical maps on are circa 1830-1840, so a century later. But, as I said, they are easy to use, free, and fast. I needed a 275 year old map, but a 185 year old map was better than a current map at giving me an idea about what the landscape was like.

In hindsight, if I had zoomed in closer on my google maps search, I would have seen Vlčovice. Doh!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Church Record Sunday: Jan Valum-Ann Rekelna Marriage in Merklín,1698

Here is a direct link to the original image.


Z Merklýna

23 9bier [1698] Potvrzen jest Wstavu [v stavu] smateho Manželstvy
pocztívy Mladenecz Jan Valum, S Anau Rekelnau
Smiedkome Waclaw Kottna, Josef Jelynek,
Potvrzeni oddnajuzti hodneho P. Patera Ssymona Janoty
v Pýesnelyzch.


In Merklín

23 November [1698] [I] confirmed in the state of marriage
Honest lad Jan Valum with An[n] Reklana
Witnesses Waclaw Kottna, Josef Jelynek,
The person confirming the marriage: Father Šymon Janoty
of Pýesnelyzch [not sure where this is]

Saturday, March 1, 2014

March Blog Goals

Here's my very meta-blogging post for you that is probably not going to be that interesting. I apologize in advance.

Here are my blog/research goals for March:
  • Blog every day!
  • Answer at least 5 genealogy related emails every day! I am so backed up! I really apologize, blah blah blah. Seriously though. I feel embarrassed at how I look at my inbox overflowing with emails, and instead of answering them, I sigh and go do something else because the task feels too daunting. Of course, this does nothing to improve the situation. So 5/day is my goal! I think I can manage that.
  • Completely finish my Case Study for my BCG application.
  • I will also figure out all (er, well, yeah) the people for my Kinship Determination Project and start on ordering films that will be required for completing a reasonably exhaustive search.
  • By the end of March, I will be 7 blog posts ahead. And my April goal will be to maintain that 7 post buffer between me and the Looming Deadline.