Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Scan for the Person

Here's a handy tip that you might have known already, but I thought it was worth sharing.

It can be really tempting to just scan the pages for the house number, especially when the clerk had extremely scribbly handwriting. I find that this is more common in the 1830's-1880's. Surprisingly, the further back you go in the Czech parish records, and probably in most Germanic script registers, the more legible they become. Sometimes the earlier registers print their entries in a hybrid German-Latin. But that can be easier to decipher than scribbled German Current! 

Don't fall for the trap of scanning the page for the number. Yes, it's easier to recognize, but there are many reasons that can explain house numbering discrepancies, for example: the house number changed, the person moved, the clerk made a mistake, the person writing it had their child in the house of a neighbor, etc.

It's really easy to think that these people never moved, but the more practice and experience I get with transcribing and translating Czech land records, the more I'm realizing that they were a lot more mobile than I thought. Maybe they weren't traveling thousands of miles away, or even hundreds (or...tens!), but that doesn't mean that you should assume they spent their whole life under one roof. In fact, it seems that most people moved at least once in their lives, unless they were the eldest son or whoever happened to be inheriting the house they grew up in...As for number changes, they seem a lot less common in rural Moravia/Silesia, but I'm sure they were not unheard of, in particular when families subdivided properties, which I'm fairly certain that wasn't a legal thing to do until the 1860's. 

Anyway, as long as you're taking the time to look through a parish register page by page, you might as well take the extra time to scan for surnames as well as house numbers.

My Anton Hruby apparently moved from #13 Pustkovec to #12 Pustkovec. I'm glad I was looking for the surnames instead of relying on the house number; I would have missed his twins!

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