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!

1 comment:

  1. I have gotten pretty good at being able to pick out the names and dates in the parish registers, but these land records are very intimidating! When I see a whole page of Czech written in the old script and the handwriting is sometimes pretty bad, I just give up before I even start. But I have too many branches of my tree where I am stuck unless the land records can provide some help. So I guess I just need to bite the bullet and try my hand at translating one of them.