Anyone starting the process of researching a family history that includes Czech or Slovak ancestors will soon learn that this may involve searching information sources in both the U.S. as well as the Czech or Slovak Republics. The search process can be quite different depending on the specific country’s sources you are attempting to access. A brief overview here and the following sections will outline a process for beginning to research your family history.
The Czech Republic has an archive system made up of the National Central Archive in Prague, seven Regional Archives, and numerous District Archives. The major focus of the archives is the acquisition and preservation of archival materials.
The regional archives are all in the process of digitizing and publishing their birth, marriage, and death records online. The records are images of the pages and therefore you will need to acquire the skill necessary to read the content which is typically written in Czech, German, or Latin. The handwriting styles have also changed through the centuries, but in a little bit of time along with taking advantage of the education materials we provide to our members on this website and you will be off and running! Most villages have records dating back to the late 1600’s or early 1700’s. In a nutshell, this is a great time to be starting to learn about your ancestry!
Personal visits to the archives are still possible, but you will want to learn the basics before you plan such a trip. There are numerous other types of records at the various archives that are not digitized and most likely will not be for quite some time. Be aware that none of these records will be found in English.
Most archives will not longer conduct research for you. A preferred alternative for you may be hiring a professional researcher. Professional researchers have the advantage of being familiar with the various languages, the holdings of the archives, as well as research hours and procedures. If you know the village of origin, the research can proceed fairly easily.
Requests for Birth, Death, and Marriage Records after the early 1900’s will most likely need to be requested through a professional genealogist, as the current laws do not allow making births of less than 100 years or deaths of less than 75 years available to the general public.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS) has received permission to digitize some archive records and the information can be viewed on FamilySearch.com. Be aware that not all archives have granted the same permissions for the LDS to digitize their records. If you are a member of CGSI and already know the identity of your ancestral village(s) but do not know which archive to research, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be glad to assist you with this process.
As of 2002, the Slovak Republic archive system is made up of eight Regional Archives, and their branches. These archives have contracted with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS) to post their records of birth, marriage, and death and most of the records are already online at FamilySearch.com.
The archives will not longer conduct research for you. A preferred alternative for you may be hiring a professional researcher. Professional researchers have the advantage of being familiar with the various languages, the holdings of the archives, as well as research hours and procedures. If you know the village of origin, the research can proceed fairly easily.
Research can be conducted at the archives, but be aware that the records will be in some combination of Slovak, Hungarian, and Latin. If you do plan to visit the archives, you will need to review the specific details involved in reserving time and what is available. Review the information in the Using Archives section of this website for more information.
Overview of the Research Section
The sub-section titled Getting Started outlines the basic steps to be taken in compiling information on your family found in the U.S. The next sub-section, Which Records to Search, lists the most likely records to contain specific information of interest. For each record identified, Where to find the Records, lists various sources for that record. Organizations that may also be of help are listed: Research Resources USA, Research Resources Can, and Czech Genealogical Clubs.
The Education and Webinars section of our website is a digital library extremely valuable resources in helping you no matter what level of expertise you have in doing Czech and Slovak research. There are over 100 hours of video, 30 hours of audio, and hundreds of books and articles aimed specifically at helping you specifically in Czech and Slovak research. As a member of CGSI, just log in and start your journey!
Where to Find Help
The Internet has become a popular tool for family history researchers and the contents of the Czech and Slovak archives are increasingly becoming available through this means. The extensiveness of the records beyond vital records, the language challenges and the access issues require that the family researcher become educated on the process and informed of the alternative approaches. Joining a society dedicated to Czech and Slovak genealogical research is the most effective means to accomplish this. CGSI welcomes you as a member! We have over 30 years of history in helping our members conduct research. Our website is constantly growing in content. Our physical library is also a great asset to help you learn and explore. And our publications, webinars, and conferences will introduce you to new concepts, and other members who are conducting research in the same ways and locations that you are.