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. Therefore, while it is possible to send research requests directly to the archives, answering them is not part of their primary responsibilities. Personal visits to the archives are possible, but the various languages used in the records, and lack of knowledge of archive procedures and materials can make it difficult. A preferred alternative for most 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.
Requests for Birth, Death, and Marriage Records after 1900 may be submitted to the Embassy of the Czech Republic in Washington DC. See Research Applications-Czech. CGSI continues to monitor the situation with the archives and their handling of written requests. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS) has received permission to digitize some archive records and individual archives have already started publishing their own records online. 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.
The Slovak Republic archive system is made up of the Central Archive in Bratislava, Regional Archives, and their branches. Written genealogical requests are accepted. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS) has been filming Slovak records for a number of years and the microfilms may be ordered through LDS Family History Centers. Requests for Birth, Death, and Marriage Records after 1900 may be submitted to the Embassy of the Slovak Republic in Washington DC. See Research Applications-Slovak for written genealogical requests to the archives or for vital record requests after 1900.
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.
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.