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Czech and Slovak Ancestry - U.S. Sources Checklist

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By Duncan B. Gardiner, Ph.D., Certified Genealogist

© Copyright 1996 Duncan B. Gardiner and FEEFHS, all rights reserved

Duncan B. Gardiner, Ph.D., C.G., A.G.
(Certified Genealogist, Accredited Genealogist)
12961 Lake Avenue, Lakewood, Ohio 44107 USA
(216) 221-9460
Editor's Note: This was one of the printed notes provided by Duncan Gardiner for his lecture at a Sacramento German Genealogy Society workshop in September 1995. Most of it applies equally well to the conduct of any genealogy research in America.

All records connected with an ancestor's death:
  • Civil death record
  • Church burial record
  • Cemetery record
  • Headstone inscription
  • Obituary in foreign-language newspapers (also English-language)
  • Obituary notice in religious newsletters or newspapers such as Catholic Universe Bulletin, etc.
  • Lodge or fraternal organization burial or insurance records.
Church records:
  • Baptism
  • marriage
  • confirmation
Civil vital records:
  • Birth
  • marriage
  • marriage license
Probate records:
  • Wills
  • administrations
  • divorces
Other court records:
  • Law suits
Land records:
  • Registration of deeds
Military records, military pension records
U.S. and state censuses, mortality schedules:
  • Every 10 years 1790-1920 except 1890.
  • For East and Central European immigrants, 1850-1920 are most valuable;
Immigration records:
  • Declaration of intention to become a U.S. citizen
  • Petition for admission to U.S. citizenship;
Published sources:
  • City directories
  • compiled indexes to various records
  • local histories, foreign-language newspapers
  • local newspaper obituaries
A history of Czechs in America: Jan Habenicht, D jiny ech v americk ch. Written around the turn of the century, it mentions many early Czechs in the U.S.

Family sources:
  • Bibles
  • Early correspondence (especially from the Old Country)
  • Photos
Passenger lists:
  • U.S. arrival lists
  • steamship passenger lists.
The sources most likely to give a European town of origin are in bold face. This is a list of the major items to search. The location of each of these types of records varies from locality to locality.

If research on your direct ancestors does not uncover a town of origin then widen your search to include the immigrant ancestor's brothers and sisters and their children. Remember that immigrants almost always first arrived in an American community where they had either cousins or acquaintances from their European home town. If city directories and (especially) censuses show a neighbor came from the same country as your ancestors, find out what town the neighbors came from it may be your ancestors' home town as well.

If you are lucky, you may locate a distant cousin who has preserved a document (a baptismal certificate, a family Bible or photograph with an inscription, for example) showing the town of origin. Finding such a contact depends on researching immigrants' brothers' and sisters' descendants.

I would also suggest you consult two books on Czech and Slovak genealogy which will give more complete information on sources: My book German Towns in Slovakia and Upper Hungary (1991), available from me at the above address for $17 postpaid. It contains information about correspondence with Czech and Slovak city halls and archives as well as a section on personal research in the archives; Daniel Schlyter's book, A Handbook of Czechoslovak Genealogy (1989) (Now out of print, but available in many libraries).

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