Sunday, October 27, 2019

Serfs register according to their faith from 1651 (updated)

One of the oldest sources which covers most of Bohemia is the Serfs register according to their faith (soupis poddaných podle víry) which was created in 1651. It covers just Bohemia, not Moravia or Silesia. If your ancestors were from Bohemia, it is a wonderful source of information.

The register was created shortly after the Thirty Years' War and it was a basis for the recatholization of Czech lands. Most of the serfs were of non-catholic, yet Christian views - they were Czech brothers, hussites, we can call them protestants or evangelicals. The aim of the register was to track those people and families who were non-catholic - and persuade them (or force them) to become catholic. To be sure no one was missed the register was created. 

The register was created for all of the Bohemian regions. These regions were usually called after their "capitals" - Bechyně, Beroun, Chrudim, Čáslav, Hradec Králové/Nový Bydžov, Kouřim, Litoměřice, Loket, Mladá Boleslav, Plzeň/Klatovy, Prácheň, Rakovník, Slaný, Vltava (after river Vltava) and Žatec. The register was unfortunately destroyed for four regions - Litoměřice, Prácheň, Slaný and Vltava region.

 Chrudim region on a map from 1712.

National Archives in Prague published the registers for those regions which still exist as books. And as it was almost impossible to buy these book, National Archives decided to publish a digital version of these books and make them available for anyone who is interested. They published them on their website: As it is a bit complicated to download the PDF files, here are two screenshots from the website (first click on Detail and then on E-kniha ke stažení zde):

And what can you find in these books? There are lists of serfs divided by the estate and the town they lived in. Here is an example of a small village called Votice (today Otice) on Uhříněves domain, Kouřim region, south from Říčany.

Otice on Müller's map of Bohemia from 1720.

The register shows following information:

First column contains name (and surname, if available, if not, just N. is showed), second column informed if the person is serf of the domain (p for poddaný, ie. serf, np as nepoddaný, ie. not serf of that domain), third column contains occupation or social status of the person (see list below), fourth column contains age of the person, fifth and sixth column contains information about the religion (k for katolický, catholic, n for nekatolický, non-catholic). The last column, containing +, means there is a chance to convert the person to the catholic religion. 

Not all living people were included in the list - as you can see, there are usually not mentioned children under 12 years of age. Those were excluded because they didn't go to confession yet and because of it were not so important from the church point of view (they were considered to be able to become catholic).

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The most common occupations or social status of the people listed in the register:
Czech English
chalupník cottager
čeledín young male farmhand
domkář house renter
dcera daughter
děvečka, děvka young female farmhand
hospodář householder
kolář wheeler
kovář blacksmith
krčmář innkeeper
krejčí tailor
manžel(ka) husband/wife
matka mother
mlynář miller
otec father
ovčák shepherd
pacholek groom
pekař baker
podruh(yně) farmhand (female form)
pohůnek plow-boy
rybář fisherman
řezník butcher
sedlák farmer
sirotek orphan
soused neighbour / inhabitant
syn son
švec shoemaker
tchyně mother-in-law
tesař carpenter
tkadlec weaver
tovaryš journeyman
vdova widow
vdovec widower
zahradník house renter
zedník bricklayer
žena wife


  1. Thank you for the translation of the common occupations. I had looked at this book a year or so ago and was puzzled by děvka as shown in my ancestral villages in Chrudim. Google Translate translates it as "whore"!! I like your translation of "young female farmhand" better! :-)

    1. I did have a relative, sister to my gg grandfather, who had a few children and wasn't married. She was listed as "farmhand."

  2. Thank you for making a post on this! I've been wanting to look through these books for years, but was unable to find them anywhere in the U.S.! Without this post, I never would have known about the National Archives in Prague uploading them.

  3. Thanks for the post. Were there books like that for the Liberec region?

    I've been looking for Lomnice nad Popelkou and Nová Ves nad Popelkou but I have not found in these books, even in Hradec Králové's ones.

    Greetings from Brazil!

  4. Do you need to be a member to see the e-books. I am having trouble locating as the site looks different than your reference photos.

  5. yes, the link goes to a page that says Page Not Found. It's like the list is no longer available.

    1. It took me a few hours, but I finally found the link:

  6. Although "soused" indeed means "neighbor" in modern Czech, it is better translated in these old records as "property owner."