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Czech and Slovak Genealogy

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

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

Some basic facts about geography, history, population, and culture are important parts of our genealogical research. Here is a short list of source references about the Czech and Slovak Republics.

I have not tried to include diacritical marks since they will not reproduce on many computers and over the internet. Listed are those which I use frequently, but there are others which are just as good.

  • Columbia Encyclopedia. Fifth edition 1993 (and earlier editions). A good one-volume encyclopedia with articles on Czechoslovakia, Slovakia, Austria-Hungary, Ruthenia, Bohemia, Moravia, Hungary and other subjects of interest. The articles are nicely brief, but accurate, and you can read through everything of interest in an hour or two. There are other good single-volume encyclopias also.
  • Encyclopedia Britannica, various editions. I like the earlier editions (without the Micropedia, Macropedia breakdown) and have a copy of the 11th, published 1910-1911 when Austria-Hungary still existed. The articles are longish and reflect opinions and attitudes prevalent at the time. No matter what edition or encyclopedia you use, the basics are very important reading for every family historian.
  • Harvard Dictionary of Ethnic Groups. This book has some errors and may now be slightly dated, but if you want to know about the Gypsies (the Rom), the Slavs, the Rusyns, here you have it. 
  • Magocsi, Paul. Historical Atlas of East Central Europe (University of Washington Press, 1993). Now available in paperback for $45, this is the only systematic presentation of political-geographical boundaries from before the Middle Ages to the present.
  • Velky Autoatlas. The road atlas of the Czech and Slovak Republics, with maps at 1:200,000 scale, published by Kartografie Praha. The excellent index shows all towns, cities, and almost every little village in Slovakia. The only towns missing are those which were wiped out to create the border zone in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The other missing element: Names used before World War II in Bohemia and Moravia (German) and names used before World War I in Slovakia (Hungarian).
  • Pfohl, Ernst. Ortslexikon Sudetenland (Preussler Verlag, Nurnberg, 1987). Available from Preussler Verlag, Rothenburger Str. 25, 8500 Nurnberg 70, Germany. This little book, at a cost of about $35, is a bibliographic gem. It is a reprint of 'Orientierungslexikon der Tschechoslowakischen Republik' originally published in the 1930s. It covers not just the Sudetenland (the German-speaking portion of pre-1945 Bohemia), but all of Czechoslovakia between the two World Wars. Sub-Carpathian Rus (Ruthenia) is there in detail, Slovakia, Silesia, Moravia, and the Czech lands (Bohemia). The German town names are cross-referenced to the Czech names, so Taus and Domazlice both appear (the main article is given under the Czech name) and Locse (Levoca) and Szepessombat (Spisska Sobota) are cross-referenced to their Slovak names. Each very short article gives the population at the 1930 census, the county, the nearest railway station, and the major community institutions such as industries.

Town Names and Population Statistics

To identify town names and basic population statistics, there are a number of more obscure sources which are very useful to the specialist but marginally interesting to most family historians.

  • Statisticky lexikon obci v republic ceskoslovenske, Prague 1934. In 4 vols. (Czech lands, Moravia/Silesia, Slovakia, Podkarpatska rus), this is the summary of the 1930 census of Czechoslovakia. Similar lexicons exist for every such census, taken every 10 years. Each town is listed under its county and indexed at the end of the volume. Listed are: Area in hectares, total population, population broken down by male/female, by nationality, by religion. Under nationality are shown Czech, German, other (volumes for Czech lands and Moravia), Slovak, Ruthenian, German, Hungarian, Jewish, others (for Slovakia). The term 'Czechoslovak' is used for both Czech and Slovak. By religion: Roman Catholic, Greek Catholic, Evangelical Lutheran, Reform, Czechoslovak church, Jewish, and 'unaffiliated'. The 1928 statistical lexicon, based on the 1921 census, the first census of the new Czechoslovak Republic, is even more interesting because it cross references most of the Hungarian and German town names in Slovakia and German towns names in Moravia, Silesia, and the Czech lands.
  • Vlastivedny slovnik obci na Slovensku (Bratislava, SAV, 1977-78). In three volumes, this is a 'homeland dictionary of towns in Slovakia' which gives the basic geographic, historical, and cultural information about every city, town, and small village in the country (about 3300 of them). Produced during the Socialist period, it has a Marxist bias, but is very, very good source material: Census statistics every 10 years 1869-1970, early geographical name, county, early and modern history, important architectural monuments, detailed maps of the country, and, in many cases, a photograph. It does not include demographic material such as the predominant nationality or religion of a village: Most towns are Slovak, but there are Rusyn and Magyar villages and some still have a sizable German-speaking minority. This marvelous source book is in Slovak, is out of print, but if you can consult a copy it will give you the basics about your ancestral Slovak village.
  • Historicky mistopis Moravy a Slezska v letech 1848-1860 (Ostrava 1972-). 'Historical geography of Moravia and Silesia', in multiple volumes (the latest being volume 13), with 1:100,000 county maps, this work shows nationality statistics for each town and village in the 1880, 1900, 1921, 1930, 1950 censuses. Any German name for the town is shown. For instance, we learn that Nova Ves in Krnov county (judicial district Albrechtice) was a purely German town, population 685 in 1850, which in 1900 had 403 arable hectares, with 15 horses, 229 cattle, 123 sheep. It also gives the parish church name.
  • Kotyska, Vaclav. Uplny mistopisny slovnik kralovstvi ceskeho (Praha, c. 1895). 'Complete geographical dictionary of the Czech kingdom.' This book covers only Bohemia, not Moravia or Silesia, and gives the area, population by nationality (for instance, the German name of Domazlice was Taus and in 1890 (?) it had a total of 7703 population, with 629 houses, 7575 Czechs and 106 Germans. Even more importantly, it gives the county, the Roman Catholic parish and diocese to which the town or village belonged, the name of the church, and the nearest post office and (where applicable) nearest railroad station.
  • Majtan, Milan. Nazvy obci na Slovensku z 200 ostatnych dvesto rokov (Bratislava, SAV, 1972). 'Slovak town names of the past 200 years', a thorough list of names, Hungarian, German, Latin, Slovak, with main entries showing the county and other administrative subdivisions before 1919. Very accurate.
  • Sarmyanova, Jana. Cirkevne matriky na Slovensku zo 16.-19. storocia (Bratislava, MVSR, 1991). 'Church registers in Slovakia from the 16-19 centuries', a thorough source showing which archive has which church registers. Throughout Czechoslovakia, church registers were gathered into State regional archives in the 1950s. This included those up to about 1895 - the so-called 'dead' registers. This book shows the years covered and the archive in which they are located. It also has a short dictionary of terms used in parish registers and genealogy-Latin, Hungarian, and German to Slovak, and an English summary of the introduction. (Probably available on LDS FHL microfilm).
  • Schlyter, Daniel. Czechoslovakia: A Handbook of Czechoslovak Genealogical Research (Genun Pub., 1985 with 1990 update). A basic book, now out of print, which gives the basics and much. There is an emphasis on the LDS FHL holdings.
  • Gardiner, Duncan. German Towns in Slovakia and Upper Hungary: A Genealogical Gazetteer (Lakewood, 1993 update of 1991 third edition). This book has chapters on the German settlement of Eastern Europe, German settlements in Slovakia and Sub-Carpathian Rus, obtaining genealogical information from the Czech and Slovak archives, and a cross-referenced list of the 130-odd Slovak towns which had German population in the 1880s to WW I, the period of peak emigration. It has maps showing their locations and cross references to the German town names from the Slovak and Hungarian names. There is also a valuable bibliography.

These are the basic books which I use to identify town names and locations of church registers.