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Vital records form the primary source for genealogical research in the Czech Republic. The Catholic church historically was given the responsibility of recording all baptisms, marriages, and deaths. Later, Protestant churches and Jewish communities were allowed to maintain records for their own congregants. Finally, civil registers were allowed, and, eventually, the recording of vital records was transferred to civil authorities. Older parish registers are available in the seven regional archives and the Prague City Archives. Thanks to intensive digitizing, a majority of the registers are now available online, either through FamilySearch.org or on the websites of the Czech archives.

Living registers

Recent registers are still kept in town halls, where different rules apply than in archives. Due to privacy laws, all birth records less than 100 years, marriage records less than 75 years, or death records less than 30 years old are not accessible by the general public. It is possible to access these records through the local town office if you can prove a direct relationship to the person(s) being searched. In such a case, the following form can be used and along with documentation proving a direct relationship to the person(s) being searched (e.g. birth certificate of the applicant and birth & marriage certificates of their parents and other direct ancestors). These papers must be mailed to the town hall where the records are kept. All documents must be notarized, some registrars might require apostille authentication of the notary stamp through the Department of Foreign Affairs. Records that are older then the above mentioned limits, but still kept in town halls, are since 2014 freely accessible regardless of your relationship, but we still recommend providing documentation when requesting copies. The following website can help you locate the mailing address for a specific town hall and its registry office (matriční úřad): http://www.uir.cz/obce

  • The keeping of parish registers became mandatory in 1605 in Bohemia; 1591 in Moravia. Some 16th century parish registers still exist, but the majority of the early records were destroyed during the Thirty Years War (1618-1648) and as a result of Counter-Reformation efforts of the Catholic church after the Battle of White Mountain.
  • In 1631, Prague's Archbishop Harrach ordered a reform of church administration, which resulted in the establishment of parish registers in the majority of Catholic churches. This period usually represents the threshold of available parish records about our ancestors and, in many cases, the end of research in general. The first registers recorded baptisms, marriages, and deaths in one book. Individual entries were in the form of a continuous text. The prescribed Latin formula defined by the Roman Ritual was, in most cases, replaced by a brief, heterogeneous matriculation, until the 18th century dependent on the whim of the writer. The entries were ususlly written down by the parson, chaplain, or teacher.
  • In the second half of the 18th century, the Habsburg Monarchy realized the importance of statistical data and they increasingly exerted their control over the parish registers. In 1770, they decreed that all entries had to be recorded on standardized forms with pre-defined sections to avoid omission of important data and to make entries more transparent.
  • Also in 1770, Emperor Maria Theresia ordered that all buildings be marked with numbers. Consequently, from 1771, house numbers begin to appear in the register entries.
  • In 1779, the rule to use stable surnames came in force. The common practice of frequently changing family names was forbidden. This is the basis of the modern-day identification of individuals by given name and surname. Nicknames, however, stayed in use for a long time after.
  • The Patent of Tolerance, issued by the Emperor Joseph II in 1781, allowed non-Catholics to worship openly. From that time, separate registers were maintained for Augsburg & Helvetic Evangelical congregations, as well as, Jewish communities. Later, other churches were permitted.
  • Beginning in 1790, alphabetical indixes were supposed to be kept for all registers. This rule was later extended to older registers retrospectively.
  • In 1868, an imperial law was issued, which allowed civil marriages. In 1870, the keeping of birth, marriage, and death registers for atheists and people not belonging to any confirmed church was allowed. The main management of the registers, however, remained under the control of the Catholic Church.
  • The responsibility for recording vital records was transferred to civil authorities in 1949. In 1952, all contemporary registers were centralized in town halls and all pre-1870 books were transfered to the state archives. Today, the older parish registers are kept in the state regional archives, where most have been digitized and are available online.

Birth records

Birth records
Category: Vital records

Births typically occurred at home. During the actual birth, the woman's mother or mother-in-law was present. In many cases, the baby arrived long before the midwife could be summoned. It was

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Marriage records

Marriage records
Category: Vital records

The most important event in the life of our ancestors has always been the wedding. The success of the individual farming enterprise depended heavily upon the character, personal qualities, and

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Death records

Death records
Category: Vital records

When a person was nearing death, the parish priest was called in to confer the sacrament of extreme unction. During the final hours, the closest relatives walked around the dying person carrying

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