Dr. Miroslav Koudelka
Ancestry Research, Tours, Translation
Listed here, are the main ways I can assist your genealogical research in the Old Fatherland, presently known as the Czech Republic.
A major part of the research will be most likely performed at the State Regional/Provincial Archives preserving the #1 source of information to any genealogist - birth, marriage and death records. Excerpts from them are the main output of my work.
These records were conducted by Roman-Catholic parish offices from the late 1500's. But not all of the registers survived a number of wars, fires and other disasters afflicting the country in the middle of Europe, namely in the 17th century. Therefore it is impossible to predict without committing to research, when the available records for a particular village or even family begin. Protestant churches in our country were permitted to perform their activities from the 1780's. Up to then, all persons were recorded in Catholic registers. As for Jewish records, not many of them survived the 1939-1945 period of Nazi rule.
To protect personal data of persons possibly still alive, registers containing birth records younger than 100 years or marriage/death records younger than 75 years respectively are confidential and have still been kept by town hall registrar offices. Information from them usually is rather more complicated to obtain.
To launch my research, I need three pieces of data:
- The name of a person,
- the date (at least approximate) of his or her birth or marriage or death,
- and the town/village it took place.
It is helpful, however, if you provide more information. First of all, the person's religion (in our conditions, Catholic, Lutheran, Calvinist, or Jewish). The house number, his or her parents, siblings, spouse, children, and if it is the one who emigrated, the departure/arrival time. The more precise data you provide, the more hopeful my search to locate the family will be. For some of the names -- both personal and town -- were in a foreign neighborhood misspelled, a copy of the document (certificate, passport, declaration of intention, newspaper article, etc) the information was taken from may be useful.
Vital statistics records were organized by parishes, and inside the parishes, by villages. There were around 18,000 communities in the Czech Lands in the mid-1800's, so you can imagine how much time would have to be spent, if you, as the location of your family, provide just something so vague like "near Prague", "Moravia" or even “Austria”. Some tips to obtain the initial specific information are in the START page of this site.
Most of my clients are English speaking, that is why most of my research reports are presented in English, however, Czech or German versions are possible as well. During my career as a professional genealogist, I have worked out a unique design of research report that provides my clients with the largest possible amount of information extracted from the records. This format allows you to understand the family relations as well as the terms used to express the persons' professional/social status, and offers both the ancient and contemporary forms of personal and town/village names. The report also refers to the source of every piece of information, while still offering the best possible balance between the research results and the expenditure to get them.
Some genealogists work out, as the only result of their research, family charts. Most records though, offer much more than just names and dates. When you get all the information the records provide, you "get behind the curtain", and are able to discover a colorful picture of the family. A whole web of relations, personal stories, common happiness and sorrows are revealed to you.
Having undertaken the endeavor to locate the records, it would be a pity not to learn everything available. That is why I always make very detailed excerpts from the records for the client's direct ancestors. The birth records for the whole generation of brothers and sisters enrich the family history and sometimes provide the needed trace for further research (and missing cousins in the US?). To avoid wasting research time and the client's funds, I only make concise excerpts for the ancestors' siblings. Personal and town/village names and occupations in my excerpts are copied in the record's original language and spelling (often ancient forms, Germanized, Latinized, misspelled, etc). Reference to the source of the information (register volume and page/folio) is certainly enclosed with each of the excerpts.
To make your understanding of the records easier, my reports include, in addition to my own comments, several important enclosures: The key to the registers researched; the key to the town/village names giving their present form compared to the ancient forms appearing in the records; a "dictionary" of professions; and eventually, a chart in the form of family tree summing up all the discovered names, dates and places of the client's ancestors and their relations.
Research of census and/or land records at the State Regional or State County Archives is possible too, they may bring additional information and enrich the picture of your family. However, you have to take into account that it may be more difficult and less fruitful. Some of these records have not been preserved at all, unfortunately.
Research in the Ancestral Places
My side trip to your ancestral area, combined with archival research, can be very fruitful too. I can try to look up the ancestral homes or at least find out if they have been preserved, as well as churches, cemeteries, whole villages, chateaus of your ancestors' feudal lords and similar sights that are of interest to you, and take their pictures. More information on the village history may be obtained there as well. And eventually, a visit to the place is usually the most efficient way to locate possible relatives of yours living there. These results, among others, can be a good basis for your own visit. If you think you'd enjoy a "pilgrimage" to the ancestral country, it may be of interest to you to visit the TRIPS page of this site.
It is helpful both to the researcher and the client to establish a monetary frame of the work. I usually suggest my clients to agree on two limits. First, some 30-50 USD to verify the initial data. If the location of the family turns out to be incorrect, I'll stop further search and inform the client on the places/periods/records researched and suggest the next step. And second, if this initial search is successful -- which is the usual case -- I will be authorized to immediately work on up to the other limit. The cost in both the cases is all inclusive. To learn my detailed price list, please go to the RATES section.
My work consists of three substantial kinds of activities. The research itself - either at the archives or the ancestral areas; translation of the excerpts and working out the reports at home; and in between, guiding clients who come to visit the Old Fatherland. In addition, at some of the archives it is necessary to reserve the seat at their research room weeks ahead. That is why my research projects are usually performed within 3-6 months.