Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Why I like Czech research

Genealogical research is really fun. It's the closest I will probably ever get to time travel.

It's interesting, because I always hated my history classes in High School and college. But, as it turns out, I actually really love history as it pertains to individual people. Local history is fascinating. Studying the lives and events of my ancestors is addicting. I really, really enjoy it.

I have ancestors from all of the British Isles and Ireland, many places in Scandinavia, and, of course, the Czech lands. I can't prove it (yet), but my 6th great grandmother was supposedly, "a full-blooded Indian Squaw." My husband thinks this is awesome, because he can now say (completely politically incorrect, I know!), "Squaw! Makem sandwhich!" [He. He. Weak laughter.]

Almost all of my husband's ancestors are from the British Isles and Ireland, except for one lone line from Bavaria.

Some of my British Isles and Irish ancestors immigrated to the American continent early. I have ancestors in Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina, Massachusetts. My husband had ancestors in Northfield, MA during the French and Indian war. We can jump to a different line and research the Civil War, the Illinois frontier, or farm life in upstate New York just across from the Canada border. Between the two of us, we also have just about any section of Mormon history imaginable including almost all of the fringe break-off sects. This spans the continent, from Western Massachusetts, to upstate New York, to Ohio, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Utah, Idaho, California, etc. So much history! It's fantastic!

And yet, the ancestors that I really enjoy researching the most are the Czechs. Why? The four main reasons that come to mind are:

  • Cluster migration patterns - Many Czechs immigrated together, and lived together in the same geographic area for generations. For example: I am the fifth generation Czech in my family, and I was born in Texas. Many of my other ancestors have less predictable migratory patterns which can complicate research. 
  • Czech Catholic records - Czech parish records are excellent. They include many indentifiers, including house numbers and occupations, which allow you to distinguish your ancestor from others in the village with the same name. They have a low rate of error. They are thorough. They are available online. I really can't sing enough accolades of praise lauding the Czech records. Even if your ancestors wasn't Catholic, many, many records exist online, and many more are on their way.
  • Rates of legitimacy - This is a huge deal. My Catholic ancestors typically married around the age of 20, had families of 8-12 children, and sometimes remarried after the death of a spouse. On my non-Czech grandma's side, most of the grandparents had illegitimate children, married and divorced (sometimes several times), and had more children in between. There were also many marriages after the death of a spouse. This, coupled with a much more mobile migration pattern, leads to difficult research. I have not found a case of illegitimate birth in ANY of my Czech lines so far. When illegitimate births do happen, if the couple married, the father's name could be penned in later. Or, perhaps a margin note will lead to a clue. 
  • Frontier for research - I love that so many of these records have been held in reserve for decades because it means I am literally the first to discover many connections in my own family. It's exciting and fun. I enjoy collaboration with others working on the same tree; I don't much enjoy squabbles over incorrect information. This almost never happens in my Czech research, because it's so new!
What is your favorite place in your family history for time travel? Where and when do you like researching, and why?

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