Austria - Czech
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http://www.jewishgen.org/austriaczech/czechguide.html
- latest update 08/19/2013 


Getting Started With Czech-Jewish Genealogy
by
E. Randol Schoenberg
and
Julius Mueller

I.      Introduction

        By finding this page, you have already made an important step toward learning how to research your Jewish ancestors in the lands of what is now the Czech Republic, but before 1918 were the Habsburg lands of Bohemia and Moravia in Austria-Hungary.  Our sponsor, JewishGen's Austria-Czech Special Interest Group, through its web site and mailing list with over 1,200 amateur and professional Jewish genealogist, is the best source outside the Czech republic for information on your ancestry.  We strongly encourage you to subscribe (for free) to the mailing list and post your research queries to the group.  Also take the time to explore the rest of the Austria-Czech web site, and especially GemeindeView, The Web Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities In Bohemia and Moravia. JewishGen's Austria-Czech Database will allow you to search for surnames or towns.  The results from JewishGen's Family Finder can help you locate other researchers with similar interests.  The JewishGen SIG Lists Archive allows you to search postings to the Austria-Czech mailing list, which are a treasure trove of information accumulated over the years.  For specific information about Austrian-Jewish genealogy, see also The Beginners Guide to Austrian-Jewish Genealogy.

II.      A Very Brief History

        There are records of Jews living in Bohemia and Moravia for almost 1,000 years.  As in most places in Europe, Jews were subject to various discriminatory decrees, pogroms and expulsions, but until World War II the Jewish presence was always substantial.  At one time, Jews made up over 20% of the population of Prague, the largest city in the Czech Republic.  In 1724, the first census of all Jews in the Czech lands was carried out.  Approximately 30,000 Jews inhabited 168 towns and 672 villages in Bohemia and approximately 20,000 lived in Moravia, while 2,335 Jewish families (approximately 10,500 Jews) were registered in Prague. 

        The project Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia Judaica seeks digitize much of the earliest Jewish records from 1520-1670.  A summary of the data and list of towns is here.  There is a fee for access.  Note that in most of these records, Jews are not listed with family names, so the data is of limited utility for genealogical research.

III.     Book of Jewish Familianten

        In 1726, due the order of the Habsburg ruler Charles VI, the number of Jewish families was limited by quota to 8,541 in Bohemia and 5,106 in Moravia.  To enforce this quota (or "numerus clausus"), a so-called "Familianten" order was issued.  According to this order, only the first-born son of each Jewish family was given permission to marry (called a "copulatio consensus").  The permits could also be sold if there were no son to inherit them.  The Familianten order was in force until 1848.  As a result, many Jews who could not obtain marriage permits emigrated from Bohemia and Moravia.  For example, by 1900 almost half of the Jews in Hungary were of Bohemian or Moravian descent.

        One other result of the Familianten laws was that the government kept very good records of which families lived in which towns.  The list of Familianten were collected in the Book of Jewish Familianten (also called "Mannschaftsbuecher" in Moravia).  Records were collected in 1799 and in 1811 and updated until about 1830.  Each record comprised the name of county, registration number of the family in the whole land (based on "copulatio consensus"), the registration number of family in the county (set up in 1725), name of the father, his wife, his sons and a few other family details.  These records provide a very good resource for researchers investigating their family histories.  For some families, up to three generations are included.  The Familianten record books for Bohemia can be accessed at the Czech National Archives.  (See IX.C.)  For Moravia, the surviving books are not collected in one place, but are available from the various regional archives, such as in Brno or Olomouc, or in the Czech National Archives or the Jewish Museum in Prague. 

          An index of all Bohemian towns with Familianten records in the Czech National Archives is available at http://www.jewishgen.org/austriaczech/familianten.html

       Julius Müller is working on an index of all persons mentioned in the Familianten Books.   You can access his site at http://www.toledot.org/kraje.html.
 

IV.   Birth, Marriage and Death Record Books

        In 1784, a patent of Joseph II. was issued to replace rabbinate circumcision/birth books by standard record books similar to Catholic parish books.  The birth records, marriage records and death records were collected at district rabbinates.  Local rabbis, mohels or school teachers were ordered to collect those data.  To verify the accuracy of such records, duplicates (control records) were kept by local Catholic priests.  In fact, Catholic priests often only copied the records which were already collected at district rabbinates.  Only rarely were Jewish births, deaths or marriages recorded directly in the Catholic parish register book.  Some of these are available in regional archives, such as the Opava archives which are online at http://www.archives.cz/zao/matriky/index.html.

       During WWII, the Nazis ordered that all the records be gathered together in Prague. At the very end of the war, many valuable documents were damaged.  After WWII, most of the surviving Jewish record books, as well as the Catholic parish control records, were collected and deposited at the State Archives in Prague (See IX.C.).  An index of all the communities with surviving Jewish birth, death and marriage records, as well as their archival locations, are available from The Gundacker List.  

        The Czech National Archives has digitized the 4,000 volumes of vital records in its collection, about 250,000 pages, and has begung making these available from its website.  To read these early records, you may need to take a hard look at the old German script, Kurrent.

To get started in the Czech Jewish Registers, go to http://www.badatelna.eu/fond/1073 or http://www.badatelna.eu/fond/241:

1. Click on the green tab that says "Inventář" next to an icon of a book.
2. Click on the green circle with the white plus sign next to "UREDNI KNIHY (matriky a indexy)"
Now you see a list of towns, page 1/30. Some have had scans attached; some will be posted later this year.
3. Click on the small green circle with the white plus sign next to the town you want (scroll ahead to the next page using the green arrows). You will see a list of files (with dates):
N = Births (narození)
O = Marriages (ohlášky, or banns)
Z = Deaths (zesnulý, or deceased)
4. Select the register you want, click on the first icon – the one that looks like three computer screens – and you should see a new screen with the cover of the book.
5. Scroll through the book by using the green arrow buttons. First look at the bottom of the screen – in a few cases, individual Register books were indexed long ago, and such pages clearly look different even in thumbnail versions.
6. Use the - and + buttons at the bottom of the image to zoom in and out.
7. Click and hold your mouse button and drag to move the image around on your screen.
8. To take a screen shot:
on a Mac, use command-shift-4.
on a PC, use Ctrl-PrtSc. It’s convenient to drop the saved image into PAINT (an Accessory in Windows) and from there, save it as a .jpg for further cropping and enhancement.
Note that hitting Ctrl-PrtSc will immediately cause the image on your screen to zoom out.
The directions given in Czech at the bottom of each image say: "Click on the Print icon to generate a PDF reproduction. To print multiple reproductions, write their numbers separated by spaces (1,3,4,5) or range (1-18). A maximum of 20 reproductions can be generated into a single PDF file."
Note: taking screenshots is more effective than the .pdf's that result from the "print" process the website describes.
The website also provides the following viewing "shortcuts.” For them to work, you need to first click onto the image.
Ctrl-A zooms in
Ctrl-Z zooms out
Arrow keys move image side-to-side
ESCAPE returns image to original size
        
Felix Gundacker has assembled vital data from a few Moravian communities -- Slavkov (Austerlitz), Podivin (Kostel), Damborice (Damboritz)) -- which can be searched from http://www.genteam.at.  Search under Indices:Jewish Indices.

V.    Tax Records

        Family documentation can be enriched by the records of different taxation duties.  Requests of marriage permission called "inkolate" were associated with a duty to pay "inkolate" taxation.  Submitted requests, evidence of all taxation duties, and other several documents of Jewish communities were collected by Committee for Jewish Agenda (Commissio in rebus Judaeorum).  The committee was established by Czech Vice-Regency and Czech Chamber by Charles VI´s prescript in January 1, 1714.  Its original intention was to prepare for a drastic restriction of the Jewish population in Czech lands, primarily in Prague.  The plan was elaborated in 1715, but it was not never practiced due to the resistance of both Jewish and non-Jewish circles.  The activity of the committee was reduced to gathering several documents, requests etc.  The committee ceased its activity due to the order of Josef II in February 15, 1782.  The documents which depict the life of Jewish communities in the period 1714-1782 are collected as Committee for Jewish Agenda documents and are available at the Czech State Archives in Prague. (See IX.C.)

        In 1808, all old taxation duties were discharged, while three others were re-established -- family tax, property tax and food tax.  The corporation, "K.K. Direktion des Judischen Steuerfalls", was in charge of collecting these taxes.  The documents of "Jewish Taxation Headquarters" are available as a separate collection at the Czech National Archives.  (See IX.C.)   

VI.   The Registers of Jews -- Bohemian Census

        The Jewish population was registered several times both for the measures of restrictive population policy and for tax measures.  Two campaigns were performed by the Committee for Jewish Agenda, and one by the Czech Gubernium (regional districts).  The registers are comprised of a list of the fathers, their wives and all children including girls.  The registers are located at the Czech State Archives.  (See  IX.C.)

        The Bohemian Jewish Census taken in 1783 and 1793 has been transcribed by scholars at the University of Prague and published by the Czech National Archives in Prague under the title Soupis židovských familiantů v Čechách.  The data is not yet available on the Internet.  For further information, see https://wiki.familysearch.org/en/Czech_Republic_Census

        The Prague City Archives has also started a project to digitize its census data from 1830-1949. See http://www.ahmp.cz/eng/index.html?wstyle=2&catalogue=1&lang=en  As of August 2011, the letters A-H are available. 

VII.  Judaica

        Mappach (wimples) are a special type of Torah binder used from around 1600 in the German-speaking parts of Europe.  A strip of cloth torn from a newborn baby's blanket was used to inscribe a child's name and date of birth and a standard prayer.  A few of these have survived and are housed in the Jewish Museum of Prague.  (See IX.B.) 

VIII. Books on Czech Jewish History

        There are a great number of books written on Bohemian and Moravian Jewry, although not all of them will contain useful genealogical information. The best way to begin your research is to go to your nearest university library and browse the sections that contain books on Czech Jews. At http://www.jewishgen.org/austriaczech/books.html is a list of some of these books, located using the University of California's on-line catalogue, The California Digital Library, at http://www.cdlib.org. Most of the books are written in English, German, Czech or Hebrew. 

        If you are looking to purchase an excellent book in English on the Jewish communities in Bohemia and Moravia, we highly recommend Jewish sights of Bohemia and Moravia : guide book by Jirí Fiedler with an introduction by Arno Parík. (Prague: Sefer, 1991. 224 p. : ill. ; 25 cm.)  It is available from Amazon.com.

        The best books by far on Bohemian and Moravian Jewry were compiled by Hugo Gold in the decade prior to the Nazi invasion and destruction of these centuries-old Jewish communitites.  These books are written primarily in German and Czech, and are often very difficult to locate.  They contain detailed essays on a large number of Jewish communities and often contain a wealth of useful genealogical and historical information.  The chapters of the Bohemian book are available at http://www.hugogold.com/bohemia/.  The entire Moravian book can be downloaded from http://www.hugogold.com/moravia/.  You can search the text of these books at http://www.hugogold.com or from http://www.genealogyindexer.org.

        Contributions to JewishGenerosity support our efforts to translate the articles in these books and make them available from Austria-Czech SIG's GemeindeView page.  For more information on this project, or to request a copy of an article in one of Hugo Gold's books, please contact randols@bslaw.net.

IX. Resource Locations

 A.   Federation of Jewish Communities in the Czech Republic

        The Federation of Jewish Communities of the Czech Republic maintains most of the Jewish cemeteries and synagogues in the Czech Republic.  It also owns and operates the Jewish Museum of Prague.

Federation of the Jewish Communities of the Czech Republic
Maiselova 18
CZ-110 01 Praha 1
Czech Republic. 
Tel: +42-2-231-8559
Tel: +42-2-231-040
Fax: +42-2-231-6728
contact: Alena Rubesova - fedzid@vol.cz

There are active Jewish communities in Prague, Brno, Plzen, Olomouc, Ostrava, Karlovy Vary, Decin, Usti nad Labem, Teplice and Liberec.


B.    Jewish Museum of Prague

        The Jewish Museum in Prague has a large collection of Jewish records going back well into the 18th and in some cases into the 17th century.  In JUDAICA BOHEMIAE Vol. VII , Jan Herman published under the title ěThe Jewish Community Archives from Bohemia and Moraviaî a detailed description of these holdings.  This important publication is available in larger Jewish and University libraries and is described in great detail in the article by Henry Wellisch.

         The address and contact information for the Jewish Museum of Prague is

Jewish Museum of Prague
Zidovske muzeum Praha
U stare skoly 1
110 01 Praha 1
Czech Republic
Phone: +420 2 24819456
Fax: +420 2 24819458
Mail: office@jewishmuseum.cz
Web: http://www.jewishmuseum.cz/aindex.htm
C. Czech NationalArchives

        The birth, death and marriage records of the former Jewish communities of Bohemia and Moravia, as well as the Catholic parish duplicates, are located at the Czech National Archives in Prague.  These records are in German, and are usually in old gothic script, making it difficult for most people to take advantage of these fabulous resources.  There is a catalogue of the archival holdings organized by town name.  Reviewing the records takes at least two days if you have not arranged your visit ahead of time.  On the first day, you request retrieval of the record books and then must return the next day to actually review the records.  The staff will make copies or microfilm for a modest fee.  The Czech archives also will conduct basic genealogical research.  Contact:

PhDr. Lenka Matusikova 
Czech National Archives
Státní ústřední archiv v Praze
tr. Milady Horakove 133
CZ-166 21 Praha 6
Czech Republic
http://www.nacr.cz/eindex.htm
E-mail:na1@nacr.cz
Tel: +42-0-974-847825
Fax: +42-2-333-2027-4
D.    Regional Archives:
The addresses of all of the Czech archives - Central, District, County and City and their branches - are listed on the following website:
http://www2.genealogy.net/gene/reg/SUD/crarch-list.html#g1. Given are telephone  numbers, times of opening and even availability of parking lots (in German with a few key words in English).

Some specific archive addresses can be found on the Austria-Czech web page for The Gundacker List.


 E.   Terezin/Theresienstadt Memorial

        Terezín, known in German as Theresienstadt, was the ěmodel ghettoî established by the Nazis in Czechoslovakia.  139,517 Jews from Bohemia and Moravia, Germany, Austria, Holland, Denmark, Slovakia, and Hungary were deported to Terezín Ghetto.  33,521 of them died there and 87,063 of them were taken to the eastern death camps, such as Treblinka, Maly Trostinec and Auschwitz-Berikenau.

        Due to Nazi record-keeping, an almost complete lists of people and their transport numbers has been collected and the lists then remained in the Terezín Ghetto History Department.  The recent document Terezinska pametni kniha (Memorial Book of Terezin) collects in strict hearttearing form the names of each of 73,608 Jews (in a form of "entry") from Bohemia and Moravia.  The large book was issued in 1995 by Terezinska iniciativa and Melantrich Publ. 

        There is a complete list of transports to and from Terezin Ghetto in two volumes - written in Czech.  In the case of Jews from Bohemia and Moravia, there is a complete name index, date of birth, date of their arrival to Terezin, the date and the code of their next deportation, the date and the place of their death, and possibly an indication whether he or she survived.  Jews of other countries who were detained in Terezin can be looked for by name directly in Museum History Department in Terezin.  The document helps to identify the transport record which included the date of birth and pre-war addresses.  The list will be supplemented soon by the names of detainees of other nations.  The document also contains a names of those very few who survived in Terezín or in other locations. 

Terezín Memorial
Památník Terezín
411 55 Terezín
Czech Republic
http://www.pamatnik-terezin.cz/en?lang=en
Tel: +42?416?782-225, 782 442, 782 131
Fax: +42-416-782-245 , 782 300
E-mail: archiv@pamatnik-terezin.cz

F.      Prague Conscription Database

        A collection of 700,000 registers of Applications for Residence Permits from Prague Police Headquarters from 1850-1914 has been digitzed by the Czech State Archives and is being made available from http://digi.nacr.cz/prihlasky2/indexen.php.  The final installment, letters S-Z, should be on-line by the early 2012.  A description of the project is at http://www.nacr.cz/english/conscriptions.aspx.  Be sure to search all name variants, as spellings often vary between records.  The records include birth dates, but often these are approximate and also vary vetween records of the same family.

G.      On-line Family Trees

       Peter Rohel has assembled an extensive collection of Czech-Jewish trees, including 45,000 names.  Rohel's data is presently being migrated to http://www.geni.com

H.      Prager Tagblatt  

       The Austrian National Library has digitized old newspapers, including the Prager Tagblatt, where many Jewish families placed death notices. These death notices often include lists of family members.  You can search the Prager Tagblatt at Felix Gundacker's website http://www.genteam.at.  You can also search for some of these death notices at Traude Treibel's website http://www.grave-pictures.at and Logan Kleinwaks' website http://www.genealogyindexer.org (append {h21} to the search).  Austrian death notices from the Neue Freie Presse and Hungarian ones from the Pester Lloyd are available at Felix Gundacker's website http://www.genteam.at.

I.      Other Guides and Articles

          Lenka Matusikova, Czech Archival Sources on the History of the Jews in the Czech Lands

          Daniela Torsh, “Má vlast and my Czech Genealogy”


X.    Internet Resources


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