Friday, November 18, 2011

Theme for every week: Lost and Found

Many of people who are living in the Czech Republic today have their relatives over the ocean - but they are not aware about them because the family history got lost in some point and no one knows now that for example great-grandfather's brother emigrated from Bohemia to United States. I acted as a guide in few cases where people from U.S. wanted to meet their relatives here in Bohemia or Moravia. Have you ever tried to contact you relatives?

If not because you are afraid they are not going to like it, don't be afraid. Just sit down, write a letter and send it - but where? If you don't have any information about the relatives (or possible relatives) the best way is to write a letter to the municipal office of the village your ancestors were from. 

Describe there who are you, who were your ancestors, why they immigrated into U.S. and who you want to find. Attach a family tree with any information of siblings of your ancestors and simply ask for help. You can use both regular mail or an e-mail, because almost every village office is using e-mail communication today. 

You can also write a letter to local parish office (or to parish office where the village belongs) - the priest will probably ask old women from the parish about the information you provided him. And the best source for any information are definitely old women who remember everything and know who is (or was) related with who and so on.

All it needs is just a little of courage - and I believe you have it.

Another tip from me who is using Family Tree Builder - publish the information online and you'll sooner or later get some matches with other family trees. Then it's again just the question of courage to contact the owner of the related family tree to ask him/her about other people who are related to you both. Good luck!

Do you have any story about meeting or connecting with your Czech relatives? Post it into comments!


  1. I was lucky last year that a 2nd cousin in Prague found my tree online - so the "cousin bait" technique definitely works!

    In fact, he is a double 2nd cousin as both of our grandparents were siblings, and he was able to share a fairly extensive tree of the family that remained in Czechoslovakia. (We're in NY.)
    We also found that I had photos of his father and grandfather with my grandmother on one of her visits back home.

    I tried a variation of your first trick as well before I heard from my cousin, but was a little disappointed there. I found that the History page on the current web site for my grandparents' home towns mentions some people that are probably relations - including a story we knew a bit of:

    My grandfather's brother was sent to the Russian front in WWII and didn't make it back home until 2 years after the war ended. We even have a newspaper clipping from the time:

    The web site mentions his story briefly and says "(It would certainly be an opportunity to publish it in a future issue)." So I sent them an email mentioning my family research, that he might be my great uncle, and that I would love to hear any more details they might be able to provide.

    Sadly, I never received a response. A month or three later I thought that perhaps it was rude of me to send my message in English, so I tried again using Google translate to recreate it in Czech (with apologies for grammar), but still no luck.

    Guess that means I just need to visit in person!

    I'm just trying to learn the possibilities of researching records in the Czech Republic, so appreciate your blog posts - thank you!

  2. My grandfather was five when he came to the US. In 1990, my dad wrote to the local newspaper (possibly having someone translate his letter into Czech), asking if any relatives were still there. He found a third cousin, and they corresponded (through a translator) until the cousin died a few years ago. Several years ago when my husband and I were living in Germany, we had the chance to visit. This cousin still had letters our branch of the family had sent from New York. The eerie thing was, he looked like my dad, and his personality was very, very similar--even though they had never met.

  3. You are right about the women remembering everything. I think it should be a law that only women give information about parents on the death certificate.

    It took me four years to learn the name of my husbands Bohemian great great grandmother. I found it in the Archives of the Diocese of Pittsburgh and her name was recorded, Anna M. Fleishner of Rosshaupt Bohemia.

    Her grandson did not know his grandmothers name when his mother died. I was surprised that at the local RC Church the priest had recorded the names and town that they were born.