Monday, July 7, 2014

Bohemia or Moravia?

You most probably bumped into that case. Your ancestors listed in census records, obituaries and other sources as from Bohemia - and then you search and search and search to find out they came from Moravia or Silesia. How is it possible? Why Bohemia is written instead of Moravia? What were the reasons?

In fact the reason was just one: it was easier. You have to have in mind that before 1918 word "Czech" was used only for nationality. There was no Czechoslovakia or Czech Republic, just Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia. People from these lands were of Czech or German (less often Polish) nationality, not Bohemians, Moravians or Silesians.


If someone said he was from Moravia, almost no one knew where it is. But if you said you were from Bohemia - almost everyone knew. Ah, yes, part of Hapsburg monarchy, right? Central Europe, Prague, tasty beer (yes, even in 19th century), great craftsmen! So people tend to say they were from Bohemia because then they weren't forced to explain where Moravia or Silesia is. And as people tend to make their lives easier, they started to use Bohemia instead of Moravia.

David wrote in a comment to this blog "I have also noticed in U.S. Census records that we seen Bohemia listed often, but Moravia hardly ever." Well, it's not completely true - for example 1900 U.S. Census shows 461,269 records for Bohemia and 310,418 for Moravia. But many of those who had Bohemia listed were in fact from Moravia. My experience says that about half of people who left  to U.S. was from Moravia - and Moravia is much smaller than Bohemia (about 2/5 of Bohemia's area)...

So if your ancestors stated anywhere (even in their memories) they were from Bohemia... Trust, but verify as one Czech proverb says. :)

11 comments:

  1. Same story for Prague.... many people listed ( or it was listed for them ) that they were from Prague. Some were, but many were not.... Most people knew about Prague, but no-one had heard of some tiny village 40 miles from Prague.... do keep an open mind !

    Mark Bigaouette, founder CGSI.org

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    1. Hi Mark, Prague is exactly the same case. I mentioned it in previous blog about Prague conscriptions but I think I should have mentioned it in this one too. Thanks!

      And thanks for visiting my blog, it's an honor. :)

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  2. Have you ever heard of the surname Bartu? Im not sure if the spelling was changed when they arrived in the U.S.

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    1. Hi Michael, yes, I have heard about this surname, I even have Bártů family among my ancestors. Do you know from which part of Moravia they were?

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  3. Anyone have site suggestions for Duchcov, Bohemia records? My gggrandparents came from there in 1865 to USA. I have no information about their life except they were Catholic...

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    1. Their names were Simon and Barbara Robl. ..maybe Ruhl or Roeble? It was americanized to Rable...

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  4. Looking for Weiss/Horzinek about 1880 to 1910

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  5. Looking for Weiss/Horzinek about 1880 to 1910

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  6. Well, it's not "Czechoslovakia" or "Bohemia" or even "Czech Republic" anymore, but "Czechia"!

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