Thursday, September 29, 2016

Can't find the record? Use a historic map!

Yesterday a friend sent me a fun jurisdiction problem which I was able to solve quickly, and with her permission I am blogging about it.

The main takeaway is that, at least in the Opava Archives, records are categorized under their current place name. This is very important to understand in Czech research where the same village changed names several times over the last 200 years, depending on whether Germans or Czechs were in charge at the time.

She wrote:

"Are you familiar with the records in the Moravska Ostrava area, particularly Lhotka?  I am helping a friend search for some of his ancestors and I have found them in an index book, but I can't find the corresponding book to find the records.  I can't figure out if I am just looking in the wrong place or if the books are just not available (kind of like those missing Vratimov records).
In Book MO I 41 (Inventory #1840a) on image 43, I found the following:
Hruzek Adolf des Franz - Lhotk. - 1869 - page 196
Hruzek Maria dc. Frantisek - Lhotka - 1870 - page 2
Hruzek Vojteska dc. Frantis. - Lhotka - 1872 - page 15
These are the exact people I am looking for.  Names and dates all correspond to his information that he has from them in Texas.
If you are familiar with this village and can point me in the right direction, I sure would appreciate it!"

Here is my response:

So, inv. č. 1840a, archive signature MO I 41  is not supposed to contain records for Lhotka...but then on ep 43 it totally does, like you said. 

It looks like "Hruzek Adolf des Franz" is actually from a different place, maybe Elgoth? or Elgt?

When I look at the historic map on, I see that yes, there is a teeny tiny village named Ellgoth that borders Moravska Ostrava and Lhotka. 

What I also notice is that Lhotka is totally on the other side of the border with Prussia!

Here's a modern map:

Here's the exact same view on a historic map from

Here's the map zoomed out a little bit:

I noticed that Ellgoth is in the exact same place as "Mariánské Hory" today. Probably its name was changed when the Sudeten Germans were exiled, and everything German was destroyed or banished. So I looked up the first record under "Marianské Hory" and I found it. There was an error in the index, it is actually page 197: 

N • inv. č. 1856 • sig. MO IV 2 • 1843 - 1869 • Mariánské Hory 

Adolf born 15 April 1869 in Mariánské Hory/Ellgoth 13 to Franz Hruzek häusler, son of Wenzel Hruzek häusler in Elgoth and his wife Anna, born of Franz Ruchni [Kuchni?] of Elgoth, and Johanna daughter of Franz Kuniek, gärlter in Rakovec, and his wife Maria Anna born Pastrnak.
Witnesses: Florian Blahut schmeid of the Nordsahn [northern part? not sure at a first glance] in Elgoth and Johanna Blahut, his wife
Midwife: Elisabeth Herrmann N 182 in M. Ostrau [Moravská Ostrava]

I found the others in this book: N • inv. č. 1857 • sig. MO IV 3 • 1870 - 1889 • Mariánské Hory

Here is Maria Hruzek:

Here's Vojtěška Hruzek:

Here's my hypothesis as to why they were not in this book, where you would think they would have been!

N • inv. č. 2602 • sig. H I 15 • 1860 - 1891 • Hlučín, Bobrovníky, Darkovičky, Dlouhá Ves, Hošťálkovice, Koblov, Lhotka, Lud…

It seems like this area of Silesia that bordered Prussia/Poland had a mixture of peoples and cultures living there. It seems like maybe there was some amount of segregation, perhaps because of prejudice, or maybe simply for more practical reasons like language and culture etc. So maybe the family moved to Lhotka but still attended church in Ellgoth (today Marianské Hory), or maybe the Czech population of Lhotka just always went to church in the nearest Czech speaking parish, which could have been Ellgoth.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Final "h"

"h" can look very different depending on where it is in a sentence.

And obviously, who is the scribe, and when they were writing, where they are writing, what language they are writing in, what kind of day they were having, how drunk they were, and millions of other fascinating unknown/unknowable variables.

To transcribe a document correctly, it is very important to notice that beginning and final letters can be shaped very differently in the same record.

Here is an example from a 1734 land record from Zabřeh. These h's were taken from the same record.
Link to the record

On this line we see the words "wmezech, hraniczých, and užýtkach."

A modernized Czech transcription would be: "v mezích, hranicích, užítkách."

This translates in English to, "in bounds, borders, and benefits."

Notice how each of these words ends in a final "h" - the first time I transcribed this, I thought it was some kind of weird un-dotted "j." Not so. The entire shape is one letter.

Like this:

 Notice how on that last one, the scribe did not exactly write the same shape. However, as you trace the shape, you can clearly tell that the strokes were made in the same motion. It is the same letter even though he was a little bit sloppy on that last word.

These are very different from the strokes of the beginning "h" in this record.

Now, I'm not exactly 100% sure yet, but I'm pretty sure that this could be transcribed as "huven až do hranicz." Possibly "hoven až do hranic.", as in "zahony hoven až do hranic."

Which is hilarious as seen through google translate because it turns into, "[three garden plots of] shit up to the boundaries [...of such and such field etc.]"

Of course, I could be totally wrong here, so please correct me if I am. I'm not entirely sure that middle w thing after the u is actually a w. It could be an "m"...

However, one thing I know I am not wrong about: the beginning "h" is a very different shape than the final "h". Notice how it starts at the top and does a little jumpy thing before looping below.

Both beginning "h" and final "h" have a long stem that stretches both over and under the invisible line at the bottom of the letters, with loops on both ends - but they are distinctly different shapes, so pay attention when you are transcribing!

Monday, September 26, 2016

My "Whys" of Czech Family History Research

About six months ago I read a fascinating article in National Genealogical Society Quarterly called "Thinking Philosophically About Genealogy" by Stephen B Hatton. He writes: 
Th[e] substance and properties view, held by philosophers from about the fourth century BC until the 1780s, tends to focus on how people think and know. This view sometimes reduces individual identity to a conceptual framework, including retention of past events in memory and contemplation within a rational scheme. The advantages of this view for genealogy are that it supports concepts of genealogical identity and different attributes of each personal substance. The disadvantages are challenges in specifying an identity and accounting for change. Philosophical and neurobiological reasons raise questions about identity after traumatic events. The substance view also ignores social objects (created by society), and it is weak in its accounting for events.

Alternatively, humans can be viewed as passionate and emotional beings. Individuals can visualize their identities as life narratives involving an overarching rhythm acquired, expressed, lived, and told from their life experiences. Identity arises from encounters in living and in acting in unique impassioned relation to specific events, times, and places. Each individual is a unique blend of emotions and passions. (10)
The article goes on to discuss ontology and etymology, which have been subjects of an ongoing discussion I have been having with my husband for the past year about truth and how we can know it. It's a fascinating discussion, and I have discovered myself coming back to these thoughts over and over. This article was really fascinating to me, and you should read the whole thing. The TLDR conclusion:
Unlike practitioners of other disciplines, genealogists have not considered philosophy. For genealogists to acquire deeper insight into their most basic assumptions and concepts and deepen genealogy's theoretical foundation, that interaction should occur.
This ontological framework can serve as a foundation for understanding the discipline of genealogy. The framework's key elements are objects, relations, qualities, and events. It may shape future theoretical thought about genealogy. It lays the groundwork for considering the field's basic concepts, for example, genealogical identify. The framework also suggests how to approach genealogy epistemology, and it has implications for genealogical methodology. It prepares for grounding the Genealogical Proof Standard. (18)
And so, I will take Hatton's challenge and attempt to write about my own personal Philosophy of Czech Family History Research.

I know for sure that part of "why" I research my Czech ancestors has to do with understanding myself better. This comic sums up my brain pretty well:

Of course, it's funny, but it is also somewhat true. Who in the heck am I and what am I doing here!? Okay, make the kids their school lunches. Do a load of laundry. 

For me, the "existential dread" isn't usually about long term spiritual identity so much as thoughts about the continuous paradox that I live as a smart woman who chooses to stay home and perform the semi-brainless job of mothering small children. Semi-brainless, and yet some of the problems I face are literally unsolvable. Like, menu planning. I estimate that a good 1/3 of the documents in my google drive are attempts at streamlining this process. All of them spectacular failures. Spectacular, because if I am anything, it's tenaciously passionate (myopic?!) about my interests. 

This paradox of being a homemaker is extremely, uber-sensitive. When I became a new stay-at-home-mom, I attempted to blog about it, and it turned out that my post(s) not only offended a lot of people within my family, but they also generated a lot of traffic from voyeuristic working mothers who I had never met and who decided absurdly to side with my view (that it's worth it to stay home, and that women should try to do so). I think I took that post down because dealing with it was a headache.

But I've thought about it for years and years. I almost feel boxed in to my original perception: that women who can should stay home with their young children. 

What the heck does this have to do with Czech genealogy?

So. Freaking. Much.

When I study these women of the past, I see the pattern of parenthood played out over and over again. What kind of mothers were they, what did they think and feel about their role, how were they perceived by society, how did they perceive themselves, how did their relationship with their spouse affect their role as a parent, and especially, what do all of these things that happened 100, 200, 300+ years ago mean to me?

I have been working on a blog post for a few weeks for my personal genealogy research blog about, "Am I glad that my ancestors were polygamists?" This was initiated from a casual remark made by my friend as he analyzed the text of an Ellis Island entry form. This form specifically asked, "is this person an anarchist or polygamist?" He wrote something like, "Well, I for one, am glad to know that my ancestors were neither anarchists nor polygamists!"

Obviously, this caused me to ask myself, "Hey. Some of my ancestors were polygamists. How do I feel about that? What does that mean for me?

This is not the time nor the place to broach that fascinating topic. Indeed, I will probably just end up writing a book about it instead of just one blog post, because it is way, way too complicated of a task. But the essence of that question is this: I decide who I am through the choices I make each day, but I have no control over what came before me. How does my past determine what I am today? 

This is one big reason why I want to study my Czech ancestors. I want to understand how their choices affect my identity. 

My other reasons, in no particular order, include:

I like feeling smart, and it takes a lot of brain power and effort to solve these puzzles. It works a part of my brain that I really enjoy using and expanding: languages.

I want to do temple ordinance work for my ancestors. My Czech ancestors are an obvious choice because literally nobody else in the world is working on preparing these lines for temple work.

Another reason has to do with the connections I make with real live people who are interested in the same thing, or who are part of my family. 

I suppose on some level I'm a voyeur. Curiosity. Novelty. My patý cousin Roman said that life goes much faster when there are new things that happen each day. It's my answer to ridding my humdrum life of its humdrumity. Because literally, I feel like I would go insane if I lived my life like some of my peers: completely focused on the mundane tasks of motherhood. I. can. not. handle. that. Not only do I need an outlet for creativity, but I urgently need to learn new things, and genealogy is the perfect field for that. Czech genealogy even more so, because even though many of these topics have been studied, few of them have been studied in English. So it's a novel territory of fascinating research. 

Here are some few examples of the kinds of questions that continue to flood my mind: 
  • How did my 18th century Czech grandmothers deal with their menstrual periods? Or did perpetual pregnancy make this a non-issue? (ha. ha. Very punny) What material(s) did they use to clean the blood? Did they, like my Mayflower American ancestors, ritually isolate themselves from men in a cave outside the community for several days, or is that a completely ridiculous thought considering that Czechs in the 18th century were far more technologically advanced than the puritans of 1620's Massachusetts? 
  • What did my Czech grandmothers think when they learned they were pregnant? Did the ridiculously high infant mortality rates cause them to worry about the pregnancy? Were they nervous that their child would die before baptism and thus be lost forever in purgatory (am I even understanding this doctrine correctly?)? When they found out they were pregnant, were they generally far enough into their pregnancy that it was out of the question to consider a medicinal (or mechanical!?) abortion? Or would that have even crossed the minds of the majority of these women? 
  • Thousands of questions about the sexuality of my ancestors: When, where, and how often did they have sex? How was it logistically possible for them to be intimate without privacy? What was their concept of privacy, anyway? How does it differ from my perception of it? When did they learn about their sexuality? I imagine it was not the Great Prudish Victorian Secret it has devolved into in American culture; the fact is that you can't live an agrarian lifestyle with animals and not know about the physical mechanics of sex. 
  • How were women perceived, valued, and treated in Czech culture? Does Czech sexism exist and if so, what does it look like? This is a question that deeply intrigues me. I am finally getting some answers through the painfully slow translation of some books on Czech historical demography and culture, and I intend on sharing what I learn on this blog so that you do not have to go through the same excruciating process. My observations of modern human interactions while in the Czech Republic, the way language was used in Czech documents, Czech art, music, clothing, and even architecture - all of these lead me to this hypothesis: the sexism of my world is not the same as the sexism in the Czech lands. The experience of being a Czech woman in the 19th century would have been extremely different from that of English or American women at the same time. Perhaps the oppressive struggle for solvency served to unite families instead of divide them into specific, dehumanizing gender roles. And obviously this is also a paradox for me, because I do believe in gender roles: I just don't think that they involve wearing corsets, submitting to the missionary-position sexual appetite of a man, or for my generation, "being pregnant and barefoot in the kitchen." I mean...!!!!!!!!!
This is why I study my Czech ancestors:
  • To learn about who I am
  • Because it brings me joy
  • To perform temple work for them
  • To connect with other people interested in the same thing
  • To learn truth. Because truth is good. 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Historic Life Expectancy: Trojanovice 1781-1783

My friend challenged my assumption that life expectancy rates were pretty similar across Europe in my last post about this subject, so I decided to look into it further.

I used a parish register that I had recently been examining to gather some data. This is the 1781-1783 Birth, Marriage, and Death register for the village of Trojanovice, which is a mountain town bordering Frenštát. It did not have its own separate church, but during the Josephine reforms of 1781, priests were required to keep each village's data in separate registers even if they were part of the same parish.

The data I gathered *should* have all the births and deaths for the 3 year period for this village. There are no known protestants or Jews living in this village, though I suppose that it is possible that they were missed. The registers include all the baptisms, so that means that some stillbirths and deaths before the child could be baptized were not recorded, which skews the numbers slightly. Illegitimate children were baptized.

During this three year time period there were 331 baptisms (and thus births) and 241 burials (and thus deaths).

My husband, who analyzes plant population data all day, made me some nice graphs with the data I gathered. This data reflects ages that are to the day. Most children who were born or died before the age of 1 had their age recorded to the exact year, month, and day.

Here is a graph that shows the average age at death, including all the children who died before the age of 4. As you can see, the average age for women is slightly less than 19, and for men slightly over 19. But you can also see the extra huge concentration of deaths under the age of 4. Clearly, that is skewing the data; every line represents one death, and you can see that there are some people who lived past 80, even up to 90!
Here you can see the graph plotted out with all of the data again. Notice that there seems to be a slight curve, if you do not count the children who died young. 

This graph should be the most informative of them all. It certainly shocked me. I had always read that the infant mortality rate in the 18th and 19th centuries was ~25%. This data shows that in Trojanovice, it was over 50%.

Here is another graph including all of the data. That little white line at the bottom represents the median age at death.

For women, it was 2.2 and for men it was 2.16. That means the median age of death was slightly over two years old. This data is from 110 female deaths and 134 male deaths.

Here is the data if you remove all the deaths for children aged 4 and younger. My husband says that there needs to be more data in order to truly see a curve; that 45 female deaths and 54 male deaths does not give you enough data points. You can see the curve more clearly here. It's so interesting that the mortality rate spikes for women in their early 40's. Maybe this is due to complications with pregnancy; it is true that the older you are, the more likely you are to have birth-related problems. Doctors today label any pregnancy for a woman over 35 as "high risk." 

Notice also that the male mortality rate is much higher in their 20's, but it goes nearly flat during that same time period for women. Were there more risks for men, who were certainly laboring in the field, during this time? The data does not seem to support a great risk of childbirth for younger women. Note, though, that women in this village tended not to marry extraordinarily young. In fact, the age of majority was 24, and any marriage before that age would have required the written consent of the bride's father. Not that young marriages didn't happen, but women really did tend to be ~21-25 when they married for the first time, at least from this place.

This graph, without the children who died before the age of 4, shows that the average age of death for men and women is almost exactly the same: 44.62 for women and 45.59 for men. 

And this final graph shows that the median age of death was exactly 50 for both men and women, for all people who lived above the age of 4. 

So, basically, my friend was correct: 30 would not have been considered old. And assuming that the mortality trends stayed relatively stable throughout all Europe is not a useful or meaningful assumption; we can see that 18/19 would have been the average life expectancy for Trojanovicans between 1781-1783, which certainly would not have been considered "old." I do know that the Josephine reforms brought about huge changes in laws having to do with health and sanitation regulation, but I'm sure they were not implemented instantaneously, and certainly not wayyyyy over on the eastern corner of the country in a tiny, rural mountain village. 

The most shocking, jaw-dropping revelation I had from this data was to observe the infant mortality rate. Of 241 burials, 142 of them were for children under the age of 4. 

That means that ~60% of the deaths were for children who died young.

There were 330 births in this same time period. 142 deaths for children <4 / 330 births = ~43% of children died before the age of 4.

This is horrifying.

I have slowly (but surely) been translating for myself the book Narození a smrt v české lidové kultuře by Alexandra Navrátilová, (Vyšehrad, 2004). I wish that this book were available in English. It has the exact information that I want to know, including folk traditions, beliefs, customs, and rituals associated with birth and death. 

It's so relevant to me, as a 29 year old mother of 4 children who were spaced very close together. I sometimes feel a close kinship towards my Czech ancestors because my husband and I lived the reality of having "an annual pregnancy" for a few years. I think it's a little bit way too personal to share my own thoughts and feelings about birth control online; I don't even do this face to face with anybody besides my husband (um...obviously) and *maybe* some select (female) friends and family members, but I will say this: I am really humbled by my Czech ancestors. It seems that up until my great grandfather's generation, my Czech ancestors strongly believed in (or at least were resigned to) having many children. Whether or not they used means to prevent pregnancy (either magical or medicinal, both of which are mentioned in Navrátilová's book, and deserve their own blush-worthy blog post), the fact is that my Czech grandmothers had many children. 

And many of their children died. Far more than 25%.

I knew from experience searching in the parish registers that no family was untouched by infant mortality, but I had no idea it was this high or prevalent. Of course, now I need to go back and gather some more data. Danny says I need several thousand data points in order to see the broader statistical patterns and curves. I'm pretty sure that some other people have gathered this data before; I should try to collaborate with them and see if we come to the same conclusions. No sense in working in a bubble when we can all mutually benefit by sharing our research freely.

I turn 30 in one month. If I were living in 1780's Trojanovice, I would not be "old."

But I would almost certainly be pregnant. 

(And Pop, Joe, Sarah, Mary Lynn, and all other curious people who aren't afraid to ask even though that's the most socially un-askable question that exists, no, I am definitely not pregnant.)

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Medial lowercase "s" before a vowel

That is kind of a mouthful for the name of a letter. But it describes the precise phenomenon about which I am compelled to write. Mainly, because I was totally unable to find any other information on this subject elsewhere online.

How this came up: I was transcribing a record with my friend and colleague Lukáš and we kept disagreeing about how to transcribe this funny s/t letter.

I was still utterly convinced it was a weird spelling anomaly where sometimes the writer, for whatever reason, decided to add a "t" after an "s."

He said there's no way. It makes no sense.

It is totally obvious that the "t" is missing from the modern orthography, but hey, sometimes the old Czech writing includes random z's after c's to make it a "c." So, I thought anything was possible. Spelling conventions are largely completely arbitrary.

It was only after poring through pages and pages of UČEBNICE ČTENÍ STARÝCH TEXTŮ nejen pro rodopisce that I realized that I had lost my argument.

Notice how this ess looks like two distinct and different letters.

Apparently a medial ess before a vowel could *sometimes* be written in a different style than other esses. It is really strange, and I don't know if there is a specific name for it. But see for yourself:

owsa = ovsa = oats

Not ovsta

Dnes = today

Not Dnest

flusarnj = flusárny/flusárna = potash works (the place where you make potash)

Not flustárny

Notice in the above examples how there is a little squiggly line at the top of the arch when it is this funny medial "s."

Notice here in a real example of "st" how the arch is completely smooth.

jest = is

I do not know exactly if this should be transcribed as "ss" or just "s." I think I will transcribe it as simply one single "s" because "ss" generally evolved into š, which this letter definitely 100% is not.

I think we're just going to have to cut the author some slack and be forgiving here. It seems he made a mistake here with the squiggly line. It is definitely Šternbersken and not Šernbersken, even without a smooth arch.

It's okay, at least he took the trouble to copy the record at all.

Also, I've tried to write with a dip pen, and it is much more difficult than it seems to do it consistently. And if I had to include all stuff I backspace and delete in the documents I write, they would be utterly illegible.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Trojanovice 14

If you are interested in Czech history, you should visit the Valašské muzeum v přírodě in Rožnov pod Radhoštěm, in English: the Wallachian Open Air Museum. I feel like I should add some sort of superlative here, but there really are no words that can do justice for what the experience of going there was like for me. Basically, it gave me the experience to feel and understand my ancestors and their way of life in a way that nothing else can even come close to approaching.

I have been to many historical villages: the Shaker village, Old Nauvoo, the Living History Farms. None of them were quite like this. 

What I would like to write about in this post is not a general overview of the museum, but rather the specific experience of visiting Trojanovice 14. This is literally a house from my ancestral village in the Wallachian mountains, transported to this museum and preserved for future generations to see what life was like in the mid 1850's-1870's.

The English guidebook has a really great description:

Lid'ák, Petr, Mill Valley, (Rožnov pod Radhoštěm: Printo), 48-51.
The house is a reconstruction of the original building that was situated on a slope under the forest, on the border of the sparse settlement in the mountain village called Trojanovice - Bystrá until the 1980's. The look and design correspond to the traditional houses from Ostravice and Čeladná where iron mill employees used to live. The interior and surroundings of the house illustrate the situation in the second half of the 19th century. The house is an example of a not very large household that was run by a socially disadvantage family, whose livelihood was based on farming and cattle breeding, along with work in the forest, charcoal burning in charcoal piles, and weaving at home in winter. 

So, basically, this house was very similar to the houses of the majority of my Trojanovice ancestors.
The house consists in a large rustic room, a hall, a chamber and farming rooms located under one roof. Later, at the south side, in front of the barn gate, a timbered pigsty and lavatory were added while at the north side a stone cellar with a hayloft was built - which was not installed here in Mill Valley as it became a part of the house much later, at the beginning of the 20th century.

 The original ground plan and construction were preserved. Certain changes in the construction are connected with the continuing development of the house in the course of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. The house is simply built with wide, mostly halved beams. The entire structure is covered with a saddle roof made of collar beams, provided with sprockets and semi-spherical hip on both gables. The roof is covered with chopped shingle. At first sight, you will notice white reveals in the window and doors. This is a good example of one of the methods applied for the insulation of cut and chiselled areas in order to protect them against dampness, typical for the region of Ostravice. In addition, this is perhaps a decorative element as it was occasionally white-ashed by their owners. Another interesting feature is the ceiling boards that protruded above the window beams. This indicates replacement of the ceiling, probably in the second half of the 19th century. 
The house was installed on a slope under the forest, in the same way as it was in the original location. Th stone doorstep was built in order to level the slope around the house from two sides.
The house was probably built in the second half of the 18th century. The first owner was František Milocha, mentioned in the oldest records of farm houses in the area. His descendants lived in the house until the beginning of the 19th century. From 1813 the house was owned by Jiří Dobiasch. In 1830 the homestead went to Franz Zeman, who lived there with his family until the mid 1850s. The official records of that time confirm the appearance of the house as we know it from the 20th century, however, without the cellar, hayloft and pigsty.
Here is Zeman ("Seemann") on the 1833 cadastral map, which you can access for all of the Czech lands for free at

In 1861 the owner changed for the last time. The homestead was sold for 244 florins to Josef Šmahlík, son of a proprietor of a clearing from Frenštátu pod Radhoštěm. His direct descendants still own the house. Josef Šmahlík and his wife Rozálie raised 6 children. The not very fertile land, sized 1 hectare, could not provide enough food for the whole family. In addition, the animals who lived in the neighbouring forest posed a danger to the crops.
Josef Šmahlík was a pasekář.
The father worked in the forest, cut trees and moved the logs to charcoal piles where charcoal was produced for the iron mills nearby. In winter, he had another job, as a weaver. He produced cotton cloth - coarse cotton, damask or muslin. Along with woodcutting, home weaving was a frequent job for many people in the region of Frenšát pod Radhoštěm. Most home weavers worked for the textile factories in Frenštát, form which they purchased cotton yarn. They supplied the woven cloth to the agents. Their earnings varied: The annual income per weaving family was, on average, approximately 100 to 150 florins. A producer of damask and coarse cotton made up to 5 florins per week.
Home weaving was the job of the Josef Šmahlík daughters, named Johana, Barbora, and Rozálie, who later worked in the textile factories in Frenštát. His younger sons, Josef and Antonín, were fully educated. Not only were they able to read as their sisters could: in addition, they were able to write too. Josef trained as a tailor and found a job in Frenštát pod Radhoštěm. At home, he occasionally repaired garments for other members of the family or made clothes on order. At that time, there was a son named Josef, who was a deaf-mute, and another Josef, the illegitimate son of Johana. They both helped in the fields or aroudn the house. The family owned a cow, as well. Later, they had a pig and several hens. They grew potatoes, oats and rye for bread flour, as well as buckwheat. It was very important to have enough fodder for the cow for the winter. They stored hay in the loft above the large room, which also served as heat insulation. Straw was stored in the barn, on the upper floor, or in the area above the pigsty.
 At the end of the 19th century the assets were inherited by Rozálie, one of the daughters, who married Jan Cochlar, a weaver.
The present installation demonstrates the life and work of Josef Šmahlík in the middle of the 19th century. The furnishings were rather modest at that time. The entrance area comprises a through hall with an open stone oven where the housewife cooked meals and baked bread. The meal was cooked in high stoneware pots or pots in trivets.
From the hall, you enter a small chamber used as a storage area for food and dishes. There is a hand mill used for milling coarse flour and semolina. The other door from the hall will take you to the pigsty. The opposite door provides access to the large room. The large room was the only residential room in the house. The whole family lived here. There is a rather small space occupied by a bread oven ,which was used as a heater in winter until the 1930s, when a stove and tiled oven were installed. Opposite the oven you will see the loom used by both Josef Šmahlík and his wife. The rest of the equipment in the room remained unchanged for many years. There were a simple table, a bench that was also used for sleeping, a bed and a wardrobe with carved decorations on the front. The wardrobe is the only newer piece of furniture in the house. It was probably bought due to the influence of the town environment to which Josef Šmahlík's children were exposed through their work in Frenštát.

The tailor's craft, the livelihood of one of the sons, is demonstrated by means of a wooden board with typical tailor's equipment, which is placed on the bed fronts. It was used as a workplace, as the tailor used it for unfinished items of clothing on which he was working. Next to the oven you will notice a bench and a shelf with dishes. The area above the table is traditionally occupied by a holy corner with pictures on glass and colour prints. There is also a Holy Cross between the windows that symbolizes the Christian orientation of the family. As regards light, torches were used. The master of the house made them himself. The spare torches were stored and dried behind the oven, where the younger children would sleep. The top beam was used as a clothes hanger. Cotton yarn was dried there, too.

The loft was used as a storage area. The area above the large room was the area where hay was placed. In addition, there were moulds with crops, flour boxes and miscellaneous spare items.

The agricultural background comprised a pigsty where the cow was also kept. A young calf was often taken into the room. There was a designated place near the oven. In the rear part, behind the sty and chamber, a small barn was added. Farming equipment and the woodcutter's tools were stored there (saws, axes, wedges and clubs). There is an interesting item here, the stool used when straw was processed for fodder. The log hut on the opposite side was used for the pig. The corridor between the pigsty, the lavatory and the cottage was used as a storage area for tools. They were suspended on the walls.
The entire museum was amazing, but this house - well, it was was literally exactly what my ancestors would have lived like, in the same kind of house, from the same exact village. It really gave me some perspective and appreciation for their technology and culture. I would highly recommend a trip to this museum.

Roman: "Silesians don't believe in smiling."
Kate: "Vallaks do."
Danny: "I'm British."

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Historic Life Expectancy: What being "old" means

Would I rather be old, or young?

To me, the answer is obvious. I would much rather be old, but not old enough to lose my mind. 

There are so many obvious reasons why being older is better than younger, but mostly it is summed up in one of Stephen Covey's ideas about maturity, which is that as we grow older, we move from a state of dependence to a state of independence, and then finally to interdependence. Interdependence is, "when people work together to achieve a common goal," and it is, "how mankind has achieved things together that no single person could do alone...[It] is the state of human development of greatest maturity and power."

Childhood is about learning dependence. 
Adolescence is about learning independence. 
Adulthood is about learning interdependence.

But how do you know when you have reached adulthood? I know plenty of adults who are not interdependent at all. And of course, upon self-reflection there are many (many, many) areas of my life where I am still trying to reach that state of interdependent maturity.

I read Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross this year. This book was set in the darkest part of the middle ages, the 850's. It was really interesting because I had never really thought about what every day life would have been like then. Apparently boys were considered men at the age of 13. Girls became women, meaning they married and started having children as soon as they became fertile (so, 11-14). If you lived to reach your 30's, you were considered an old person.
This graph is from Our World in Data. It shows the trend of life expectancy increasing over time from the 1540's to 2011 in three countries: the Czech Republic, Germany, and the United Kingdom. Of course, these countries didn't all exist since the 1540's, and we can see that the data is only available post ~1875 (probably the creation of Germany). We can assume life expectancy trends were generally similar across Europe, though I'm sure there were some significant differences at key points in history, such as Bilá Hora, etc.

It is interesting to note that through the 18th and 19th centuries, the average Czech life expectancy probably hovered around 40-43. I would really like to analyze the data from the parish records more carefully to see if that is true. I'm positive this has been done before, and has been written in a Czech genealogy periodical like Naše Dějiny, Naše Rodina, or Česky Hlas. The first I have access to as a member of CGSI, but the others...well...I will have to write some emails.

It's a pity that this graph combines data for men and women, because I'm sure that gender played a significant role in life expectancy. After all, in a time and place with limited medical knowledge and no reliable or socially acceptable birth control, women would have been at greater risk of death related to childbirth. I imagine it wasn't very sexy back then to think, "hey, I could get pregnant!"

What it meant to be old 200 years ago is very different from what it means to be old today. I am sure that this fact is hugely influential in modern politics and legal policies. I know that a 40 year old doesn't act or think like a 20 year old, and certainly neither does a 60 year old. No wonder the dark ages were so "dark" - teenagers were ruling the world! Imagine how hormonally hellish that would be!

I will turn 30 in the beginning of November. My husband and I joke that I will finally be, "a real adult."

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Víra, Naděja, a Láska - Faith, Hope, and Charity

Here are two poems from Josef Al. Svoboda's 1893 book

Svoboda, Josef Al, Víra, Naděja, a Láska. Modlitební kniha pro vzdělané dívky katolické. [Faith, Hope, and Charity. Prayer Book for the Education of Catholic Girls.] (Královske Vinohrady: A. J. Cellerina a syna, 1893). 

Image result for shamrock

Zde svatá >víra<! Jež jste obtíženi,
a jimž tak těžko v klamech světa číst,
a jimž ne světlo na tmu děsnou mění,
Vám světím tento první světlý list.

>Naděje< sladká! Vy, jež trpělivě
nelásku snášíte zde štěstěny,
jei bespráví ponásleduje divě, -
Vám >naděje< ten lístek zelený.

A pro ty, jež jsou ze všech nejbídnější,
jímž přátelství a přízeň daly klam,
pro ty, jež nic už v světě nepotěší,
tu >lásku< - ten list zlatý ještě mám.

Vám, duše drahé, byste neklesaly
a oželely světa vratký vděk,
mé ruce > Víru! Naděj’! Lásku!< vpsaly
v ten, jejž vám světím, - svatý

Here holy “Faith”! To whom are heavy laden,
and to whom read the deceptions of the world,
and to whom have no light to illuminate the maddening darkness,
I observe [as] the first bright leaf.

Sweet “Hope”! You, who patiently
endures love’s fortune,
and is astonished by haunting injustices -
You[,] “Hope” [are] the green leaf.

And for those who are the most miserable of all,
which gave the illusion of friendship and patronage,
for those who are pleased by nothing in the world,
you[,] “Charity” still has the golden leaf.

You, dear soul, do not fall
and gladly give gratitude to the faltering world
 Written on my hands in one [are] “Faith! Hope! Charity!”
We observe you, O Holy
Útěcha v modlitbě.

Když k Tobě, Bože, ruce spínám,
na lásku Tvou se rozpomínám,
mír bol od skrání odvěje, -
v modlitbě mi tak blaze je!

Když těcha mi a rada schází
tmu zoufalství když v cestu hází,
duše se k Tobě utíká,
v modlitbě síla veliká.

Když polepšit chci svoje žití,
když před vlastním se srdcem chvíti,
má slabá vůle začíná, -
v modlitbě spása jediná.

Vír člun kdy žití schvátit hrozí,
a pokušitelé když mnozí
na děs mi žiti promění, -
v modlitbě jen mé spasení.

I přátelé když opouští mě,
a nelásky jen mají símě,
když poslední mne zanedbá,
mne sílí  - vroucí modlitba.

Když radosti mé umírají,
a hvězdy blednou na mém ráji,
a každá naděj shasíná,
v ní radost moje jediná.

- 7 -

I na nejdražším hrobě matky,
v němž zavřen všechen cit můj sladký,
kde tisíc slz jsem prolila,
jen modlitba mne sílila.

A jest-li Bůh mi dá to štěstí
s blaženým klidem i smrt’ snésti,
ret svůj jí dát, by políbila,
pak dím: >Já si to vymodlila.<
Consolation in prayer.

When to you, Lord, [in] clasped hands,
Your love I remembered,
Peace blows away the sorrows from my temples, -
Prayer to me is so blessed!

When advice is missing from me
and when the journey throws darkness and despair [at me]
[My] soul to you flees,
[I find] great strength in prayer.

When I want to reclaim my life,
when[,] before my heart breaks,
when my weakness begins -
the only salvation [is] in prayer.

When life threatens to overturn my ship,
[and becomes as] a tempter to transform
my life to dread -
Prayer alone [is] my salvation.

Even if my friends should leave me,
And all my family fail to love me,
[Even] when the last neglects me,
I am strengthened - [by] fervent prayer.

When my joy is dying
and the stars fade in my paradise
and each of my new hopes are dashed,
in [prayer is found] my only joy.

- 7 -

And even on the grave of my dearest mother,
where all my sweet feelings ended,
upon which I shed thousands of tears,
My prayer only grew stronger.

And if God should grant me the good fortune
to endure death in blessed serenity,
Place your lips [on mine], and kiss [me], and say,
“I am praying for you.”
Here is the poetic version I came up with. It was very fun! 


O holy “Faith”! Thou, laden with burdens,
and thou who buyest the world’s deceit,
thou lacking light to make doubt certain,
thou art there: the first bright leaf.

Sweet “Hope”! Those meek and ever patient,
enduring love’s inconstant fate,
confounded still by offense blatant,
“Hope”, this next leaf commemorates.   

For those most miserable of all,
that myth of friends and patrons give,
for those whom this world dost appall,
thou, “Charity,” canst still forgive.

O soul dearest! Thou shouldest not lapse,
to wavering world submit affinity.
“Faith! Hope! Charity!” art within thy grasp,
We see thee, Holy trefoiled
Consolation in Prayer.

Before thee, Lord, I clasp my hands,
rememb’ring thine true charity,
peace fills my brow and pain remands, -
O prayer, sweet familiarity!

When counsel fails or yet is lagging
and life brings nought but dark despair,
to thee, my soul flees fast, unflagging,
for I find strength in thee, O prayer.

When for redemption still I strive,
but when, unwittingly I err,
When weakness ‘gainst me yet contrives,
Salvation lies in thee, O prayer.

The torrid blasts, my ship capsizing,
become a tempter to transform
to desolation, still belying
thee, prayer, safety in my storm.

If all my sympathizers leave me,
and all my family’s love should fail,
Even when the last aggrieves me,
    Fervent prayer my heart avails.

When mirth and wonder liest dying,
and all the stars in heav’n should fade,
dissolving all my hopes. Complying
to thee, O prayer, my joy is staid.

And to the grave of mother dearest,
whereon my tender feelings ceased,
on which I shed a thousand tears, it
still my power did increase.

If God should grant the choicest blessing:
serenely suffering death - to me,  
then place your lips on mine, caressing,
and whisper, “I now pray for thee.”  

This is exactly why I love this work: you really never know what your next project will be. Not only was this new and interesting, but it also gave me a glimpse into the mindset of turn of the century Catholic pedagogy, which was certainly relevant to my own Czech ancestors! 

What interesting documents to you want translated?