Tuesday, March 25, 2014

PortaFontium website guide

As many of you probably already noticed, Pilsen archives moved completely from ActaPublica.eu to PortaFontium.eu website. Website is available in two languages - Czech and German, English is missing and I'm not sure it's planned to be implemented. As many of you don't understand neither Czech nor German, I decided to prepare an illustrated guide through this website.

When you open mentioned website you will see welcome screen as above. There are four different types of sources - Matriky (registries), Kroniky (chronicles), Listiny (deeds) and Fotografie (photos). Matriky are the most important ones so let's focus on them.

Click on the name Matriky and it will get you to the search page. It also shows all of the registries included in the system. There is huge improvement when you compare PortaFontium to ActaPublica website. It's possible to search by several options.  Let's check them.

The columns are as follows: Archiv (archives) - cokoli (anything); Nadpis (caption of the registry book), Místo (place), Text (any text included in the registry description), Typ matriky (registry type) - cokoli (anything), where are following types - Matrika (registry) or Index (index) narozených (of births), oddaných (of marriages), zemřelých (of deceased); then there is possibility to limit the search by time span - od roku (from) do roku (to) in years.

We will use the easiest way - by the place our ancestors were from. I have taken village of Plichtice as an example, filled in its name and pressed Enter key (or you can click on Hledat icons to the right).

It listed all of the registries for this village. There is only one village of such name in Western Bohemia so it's quite easy to decide which registry to search. The registries are sorted in alphabetical order and the columns are as follows: Archiv (archives) - in which archives is the registry stored; Nadpis (caption) - name of the parish book; first part is a name of parish, second number of the book in the parish; Místo (place) - list of places covered by the registry; Datace (time span) - contains also information about type of the registry: * - births, oo marriages, + deaths, i = index; Obsah (content) - information about the content of the book; Obr. data (images) - link to the parish book's images.

You can limit the search by the type of the registry - when you choose one of the listed options, the search result will list only registries of such type. I have chosen index of births and it listed four parish books which I can search:

I choose the one which suits my needs to search it by clicking the magnifier to the right. If you click on the Nadpis column link you will get the description of the registry.

This is how the browsing window looks like. You can scroll through the pages in the left part of screen, type the number of the page in small window above the thumbnails.

When you scroll down the page you will get to the registry description - there are details about different sections of the registry, about localities included etc. Unfortunately - all in Czech.

The best way how to get back to the list of registries you have searched for is to click on Matriky link above the browsing window. It will give you the last search results.
May be an image of text
If you use indexes, you may notice, that they sometimes refer to numbers or letters of books that don't match the blue ones on the left side of the list. In this case see the right column where they keep information about the old name of the book - like highlighted 17 in this case. Sometimes they use also Roman numerals.

Good luck in your research!


  1. Thanks Blanka, this will be a great help!

  2. Thank you! Do you happen to know what is going on with the Litomerice Archive website? We haven't been able to access it for weeks.

  3. Also, just so people know, if you have Google Chrome on your computer it will automatically detect a foreign language on websites and ask if you want to translate it to English. I don't speak any Czech and only a few words in German, but haven't had any trouble using the portafontium website, even though it's not in English, with the help of the translate option. Good luck to everyone on their research!

  4. Thank you very much. I struggled learning my Czech genealogy vocabulary and the Kurrent script with Atacapublica. And I struggled when the "Who do you think you are?" (I believe it was) program made research so popular and the site slowed down so much. This new site is fast and easy. Unfortunately all the web addresses I included in my family history now need to be updated. I wish it had some way to suggest places as you typed.

    1. It unfortunately hasn't but the search of place includes German names of the villages which is very useful. Good luck in your research!

  5. Over the past several days I have been navigating the PortaFontium site and have a few comments that may help out those that first approach it. The actual folio pages do not match the page as listed to view. But the original written folio page is the correct record for reporting a source I would imagine. Look for an index first, if it exists as a separate book or appended at the end of a book it is sometimes the best place to start, especially if you are searching for a particular surname.

    Additionally, it seems, the further back in time one goes the more difficult it is (at least to English only) to determine who the participants are in the actual record. Later columnar records list child and parents with surnames first so it is easier to browse.

    Early records are written in story format and the surname is harder to discern, even when it is red underlined. When it is not I am entirely lost. The surnames are near the end of each narrative and when highlight is the name of the father, not the child.

    I am also occasionally having trouble with Czech naming of months and onine I can only find modern translations and as written in mid-1800s can differ dramatically. Just when I became comfortable with Czech naming I find the early 1700s records appear to be mostly in Latin. It makes some sense since these are Roman Catholic records

  6. When I first started researching my family history in 1977, the Cold War was on and Czech records were very difficult and very expensive to access. I never thought I would be able to search them myself, much less doing so in my pajamas in my own home! Thank goodness for all of the political events in the intervening years, the internet, and the public posting of the records by the Czech archivists.

    The records have been challenging to decipher. I find that I have to look very closely for several minutes at the handwriting and focus on the letters. With time, I learn where to focus on the narrative entries to see the names. Often I have to see a name or a surname in a number of entries to understand the spelling. I think I am making progress.

    I also learn something of the way of life - but only a little at a time. (I found out that nearly all my Czech ancestors were serfs of one sort or another and that serfdom ended in the Austrian Empire around 1848. Serfdom was abolished centuries before in Britain.) I have compiled the names families in which 8 of the 10 children died in infancy (heartbreaking to the parents and grandparents, and even a bit to me now). What a journey of learning!

    Thank you, Blanka, for your website! Good luck everyone in your research!

  7. I cannot thank you enough for the constant flow of information that you put out to help all of us. Steve Bornbach

  8. I was at the Plzen archive early last summer and was told that translation to nenglish would start after the completion of the German.

  9. I have a friend who lives in Prague, and she found a lot of my ancestor's records, however in browsing the records myself, I'm trying to compile a list of Czech words, translated to English. I also found online a Czech Alphabet that shows the printing/cursive used from 1600 to 1935 which I have found very useful. Note, most of the records are in Latin script, so it is the combination of the two. Here are the links for the script if anyone is interested.

    another page for the 2nd half of the alphabet:

    I had to copy the page 2 set into a word document for me to print it off. Maybe this will help you out.

    I do have a request. has anyone deciphered the header pages on some of these archive pages? it would help tremendously if someone could decipher these for us.

  10. hi, Do you happen to have a translation of the columns most found on these registeries? for example, I have translated some of the columns myself, just using google translate and finding some old Czech alphabet script (https://docs.google.com/file/d/10ismuFCUHzSx70S834_nyT6wQTApSdMRBEQzufMdKpegFlKVS73NJ3YYhwxj/edit ) for example
    I am trying to translate the columns on this record that shows my ancestor information:

    1. Donna Wise -- as you requested, the Column Headings for the record found here: http://www.portafontium.eu/iipimage/30070608/zebnice-07_0740-o


      Rok a den, čislo ;
      Jméno ženicha, Katholic, neKatholik, Svobodný, Vdovec, Věk, Svědkové ;
      Jméno nevěsty, Katholic, neKatholik Svobodná, Vdova, Věk ;
      Poznámenání (poznámky).


      Year and a day, number;
      The name of the groom, Catholic, notCatholic, Single, Widower, Age, Witnesses;
      The name of the bride, Catholic, notCatholic, Single, Widow, Age;
      Notes / Comments / Remarks.

      More often some are written:
      rok, měsíc a den oddaných = Year, Month, and day of Devotees.
      číslo domu = House number.

  11. Can someone explain how the house numbers worked? Were there actual numbers on the house, was each family assigned a number..how did it work. They are very useful