The seven regional archives are the repositories for most pre-1900 parish books and, therefore, are the archives of primary importance to Czech genealogical researchers. In addition to early...
Although the Czech Republic is quite small (about half the size of Iowa), a large and impressive network of archives is supported by the Czech government. The seven regional archives, which are the repositories for most pre-1900 parish books, are the archives of primary importance to Czech genealogical researchers. Seventy-two district archives, five city archives, and a plethora of specialized archives also contain important information about the lives of our ancestors.
The Genealogical Society of Utah is currently working with the Czech archives to scan documents and make them available on the internet. Many of the church books (a.k.a. matriky) are already available online. The remaining church books are scheduled to be scanned within the next couple of years. The following map shows regional boundaries and the links to the corresponding online databases. If your ancestors' records have not yet been scanned and you don't want to wait, it will be necessary to either hire someone else to do the research for you, or to personally visit the various archives. Both options can be expensive, but the latter option, personal research, is certainly more rewarding. If you do decide to personally visit the archives in the Czech Republic, it's important to be prepared before you arrive.
Many of the archive employees do not speak English. Since many of the documents in the archives' holdings are in German, the employees usually have some level of proficiency in the German language. An English-speaking researcher can still be successful in their quest, but it can prove to be exasperating, both for the researcher, as well as the archive employees, if Czech or German is not spoken. If you go this route, it might be helpful to fill out a dual language English/Czech family tree. With this in hand, you will have a mutually understandable copy of the information necessary to start your search, namely: who, when & where.
Language can also be a barrier in reading the original records. The records were recorded in a mixture of Czech, German & Latin. A collection of excellent Czech/German/Latin genealogical dictionaries was published by the Czech Genealogy & Heraldry Association in Prague. These dictionaries, along with a good Czech-English/English-Czech dictionary, will be immensely helpful in your research.
Deciphering German Gothic handwriting is probably the most difficult aspect of doing genealogical research in the Czech Republic. Most vital records in the Czech Republic were recorded in this handwriting style prior to the mid-1800s. To the uninitiated, these records appear to be random scribbles. There are a number of books to help uncover the mystery of German Gothic script, but a certain amount of time staring uncomprehendingly at these chicken scratches seems inevitable. It's probably a good idea to work on this before you arrive at the archives.
Requests to borrow archival materials (e.g. books or documents) should be submitted well before arrival at the archive. We strongly recommend asking about availability in advance.
Each regional archive has approximately 20 to 30 desks for use by researchers, about half that number are available in the district archives. In some archives (e.g. Prague and Brno) this is not a problem and a researcher can safely assume that an unoccupied desk will be available at any time during normal business hours. Other archives (e.g. Zamrsk, Trebon) are almost always full and you will most likely be turned away at the door if you have not made reservations well in advance.
The archive personnel are generally overworked and underpaid, so don't expect them to do your genealogy research for you. Their main task is to help you locate the appropriate parish books (and other documents). If you need help deciphering a particularly illegible entry, ask the person seated next to you for help. Genealogists are usually eager to lend a hand.
Before you can begin your genealogical research in the archives, you will be asked to fill out a Badatelský List (Researcher's List). You are required to fill out all of the fields on this form (e.g. name, address, passport number, nationality, subject of your research, etc.). When you return the form, an archivist will check your passport in order to verify your identity. The Badatelský List is used to keep track of the documents that you use in your research. Each time you borrow a parish book (or other archive record) you must sign a space on the Badatelský List acknowledging receipt. This is as much for your protection as for the protection of the original documents.
One Badatelský List must be completed for each archive you visit. A Badatelský List is usually valid through the end of the calendar year in the year it was completed. If your research stretches over two or more calendar years, you will need to fill out a new Badatelský List each calendar year for each archive.
We've uploaded copies of the Badatelský List (Researcher's List) from the Czech National Archive in both Czech and English versions.
The seventy-two district archives in the Czech Republic are repositories for a variety of 19th & early-20th century archival materials including: census schedules, civil...
The city archives of Prague, Brno, Ostrava, Plzen, and Ústí nad Labem are the repositories for the majority of archival materials pertaining to these city-districts. Most materials...
The National Archive is a central state archive and repository of Jewish registers, public records, yeaomans books, cadasters, applications for residence permit of Prague police...
Most military records for the Czech Republic can be found in one of 4 archives. For personnel records of soldiers born before 1865, the War Archive in Vienna is the primary repository. Later...
Other archives responsible for care of documents pertaining to state government, universities, industry, art and others.
As part of the recent restitution of church property, some archival documents were returned from the state archives to the church archives. From a genealogal point of view,...