Marriage 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 work skills of both the bride and groom, and on the initial contributions of their families. Most parents began the search for a prospective spouse for their son or daughter before he or she reached a marriageable age. Markets in nearby towns, pilgrimages, and the various festivities for which people from the region gathered in great numbers all served as good opportunities for such looking about. The house-to-house peddler or itinerant craftsman occasionally served as another helpful source of valuable information.

The most efficient means of securing a suitable partner, however, was to enlist the help of a professional go-between. This was customarily a trustworthy older man known for his wit, eloquence, and a wide range of acquaintances in the area. Once the marriage broker had made a suitable selection of partners and both families had agreed to his choice, it was necessary to arrange the terms of the marriage union -- that is, how much each partner was to bring to the marriage, how much compensation they were to provide siblings if they were to lose their share of the farmstead, what the terms of retirement were to be for the old couple, and the like. The personal feelings of the prospective bride and groom carried little weight-the rule was that parental wishes must be obeyed. Only exceptionally did a child disobey, usually when the partner selected by the parents proved completely unacceptable because of an excessive age difference or some undesirable physical trait.

When both parties came to a mutually satisfactory arrangement, a request was made for the banns to be read in the parish church(es) of the betrothed. After the second banns were read, the first cakes were baked, which were taken around to potential wedding guests. After the third banns were read it was the custom for the invited guests to send some sort of contribution toward the wedding feast. On the eve of the wedding the bridesmaids met at the home of the bride to make garlands for the female participants and to tie rosemary twigs with streamers for the males.

After the church ceremony, the feast was celebrated in the house of the bride and the obligation to arrange for it fell on her parents. As a rule, however, the negotiations with the groom's parents included some arrangement for their contribution – customarily to supply flour and beer.

Before the newlywed bride could join the wedding feast, she took part in the custom of “bonneting” (čepení), during which the bridesmaids replaced her ornamental wedding crown (a symbol of an unmarried girl) with a bonnet. The women tied a veil to the bonnet and bound the bride’s head with an ornamental headband. This arrangement was to be worn by the bride during the entire first year of her marriage whenever she left her home.

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 Marriage record 1698  (Regional archive in Třeboň, Czech language)

Example of marriage record written in Czech language. Surnames of groom and bride are often underscored which makes the search in the full text entries of early records easier. 

English translation of this record

 Marriage record 1797  (Regional archive in Plzeň, Czech language)

Later records with pre-defined sections allow much better orientation. Persons marked with '+' were deceased at the time when the entry was recorded.

English translation of this record

 Marriage record 1910  (Prague City archive, Czech language)

Marriage record of Jaroslav Hašek, well known Czech writer, humorist, satirist, journalist, bohemian, and anarchist, author of the famous novel The Good Soldier Švejk. Jaroslav Hašek married Jarmila Müller on 23 May 1910 in the church of St. Ludmila in the Vinohrady district of Prague. Despite a long courtship, the marriage proved an unhappy one and lasted little more than a year. Jarmila went back to live with her parents in 1911 after her husband was caught trying to fake his own death 


WHY were they collected?  Church evidence of marriage sacraments
WHEN were they collected?   16th century – present. Few registers from the end of 16th century have survived
WHO collected the records? Parish offices, district offices, and municipal authorities
WHAT information can be found? Name, date of event, status, religion, name, occupation & place of residence of parents & grandparents, names of godparents & witnesses
In which ARCHIVES are they held?

State regional archives, town hall registrar offices

In which archive FILES can they be found?  Registers
LANGUAGE of records Czech, German, Latin
AVAILABILITY  Very well preserved
What must be KNOWN before getting started? Name, date & place of birth, names of parents
Czech expression Matrika oddaných (matriky oddaných)