A few years ago, I stumbled on an amazing resource: the Zamrsk Regional Archive in the Czech Republic. This archive, which manages records from the region of Eastern Bohemia, has been working on digitizing all of the church register books in its collection and making them available for free through their website. All you need to use them is a little patience and a lot of free storage space on your computer.
My maternal grandfather is a half-Norwegian, half-Czech Midwesterner. I grew up hearing stories about my Norwegian ancestors, but not so many about my Czech relatives. However, we were lucky enough that the name of the family’s hometown in the Czech Republic (then Bohemia and a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire) got passed down to my generation. My grandfather’s grandparents immigrated separately to Wisconsin in the 1870s and 1880s, where they met and married. Using the church register books available from the Zamrsk Archive, I was able to take that side of my family back three more generations.
The Zamrsk Archive’s website can be confusing and overwhelming, though it does contain some instructions in English. Each church register book (Matriky) must be downloaded in its complete form as a zip file, which you then unzip and browse through until you find the record you’re after. Many of the church books are indexed, making locating records even easier. Unfortunately, as the inventory with associated links is in PDF form, each time it gets updated the URL to access the inventory file changes. So much for saving it as a bookmark! (I speak from experience…)
Though the books are organized at the parish level, the inventory always lists which particular villages appear in each book if there are deviations from the parish boundaries. This makes it easy to search the PDF document to find your ancestral village, though diacritical marks can throw a wrench into this strategy. The inventory itself is an impressive document. Its most recent iteration (from August 2019) is over 2,600 pages long, and lists church registry books that date from 1587 to 1949. Catholic records make up the bulk of the collection (about 2,440 pages of the inventory), while Evangelical church records make up the remainder. Items with no blue, linked zip file have not yet been digitized but should be coming soon.
Like most other church registers – no matter their place of origin – the Czech registers are organized by birth, marriage, and death for the most part, though earlier records are lumped together. Occupations and places of residence are typically recorded. Unlike our street addresses of today, the traditional Czech system was for each house to get a number, and those numbers were not based on location. So while “Dzbanov 71” might not seem like a specific address, it does in fact refer to house #71 in the village of Dzbanov, which can be found on a contemporary cadastral map (located between houses 70 and 88, and in front of house 72). These cadastral maps are not part of the Zamrsk Archive’s website, though they can usually be found elsewhere.
Unlike our street addresses of today, the traditional Czech system was for each house to get a number, and those numbers were not based on location.
For me, a deep dive into the church books at the Zamrsk regional archive results in twenty-five new direct ancestors over three new generations, as well as dozens of collateral ancestors like siblings, nieces, and nephews. Undertaking research in a language you don’t read or speak is certainly intimidating and challenging. But the more records you look at, the easier it gets. And in the end, the payoff is new branches of your tree!
A current version of the Zamrsk Regional Archives online inventory can be found by going to https://stare.vychodoceskearchivy.cz/zamrsk/ and clicking the purple hyperlink that read “seznam matrik, z něhož lze stahovat jednotlivé digitalizované matriční knihy.” Using a built-in browser translator is recommended.
FamilySearch has put together an incredibly helpful genealogical word list, which gave me the skills to decipher some of the occupations (gravedigger, peasant, smith) and causes of death that I encountered throughout the register. It can be found at https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Czech_Genealogical_Word_List.
A guide to understanding and locating Czech cadastral maps can be found online at http://czechgenealogy.nase-koreny.cz/2014/07/stabile-cadaster-maps.html.
11 thoughts on “Bohemian church registers online”
Spectacular article! Thank you! I don’t have any Czech ancestors, but articles showing how best to use these ever-increasing foreign language sites would be great.
Thanks for your comment, Joe!
Very interesting, congratulations! I’ve been looking for something like this for Central Bohemia Stechovice – Stechowitz (south of Praha) Do you know anything about that? Thanks in advance
I haven’t done any research in the Central Bohemia region, but a quick search online led me to two websites that looked promising. Have you tried these?
Do you know where I could locate information on Pobezovice, fka Ronsperg, (Western Bohemia) Austro-Hungarian Empire?
Pobezovice, also known as Ronsperg, is now in the district/county of Domažlice in the region of West Bohemia in the Czech Republic. The regional archive is at Plzeň. Church registers are available online (the website is available in Czech and German): http://www.portafontium.cz/searching/register. You can search by town (Pobezovice or Ronsperg) by entering the town name into the “Misto” search field.
I often check German Wikipedia for basic information on Central-European topics, as there tends to be more available than on the English page. This is true with Pobezovice, too. I’ll then use a browser extension or Google translate to read the page. https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pob%C4%9B%C5%BEovice
Finally, here is the official town website: https://www.pobezovice.cz/.
I hope that helps! Best of luck with your research.
Hi I am Ted Winter from Kansas, USA I help my friend collect her Stransky and Pliva family tree information in Dolni Dobrouc, Bohemia. I noticed some people getting the copies of church records. where can I find the specific website that I can search thru the church records in Dolni Dobrouc? FamilySearch and Ancestry. does not have any church records in Bohemia area.
Thank you for your comment! It looks to me like there are church metrical books from Colni Dobrouc in the regional archives at Zamrsk. You can see the inventory here: https://vychodoceskearchivy.cz/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/8700_Sbirka-matrik-Vychodoceskeho-kraje-1587-1949_NAD_190-stav-2020-08-18.pdf. Search the page for “Dolni Dobrouc” and you will see many hits. It looks like the main Catholic records are listed on pg 311 of the inventory and Lutheran records begin on pg 2217. Click the blue hyperlink under the relevant inventory description to download that metrical book, and then you can browse through for the family you are researching.
Many thanks! I will look thru it. Wish me good lucks. Ted Winter
I am trying to learn more about my grandfather and grand-grandparents. I am so grateful for your guide but I am so overwhelmed by the enermous data. I don’t know what I supposed to search…
In my grandparents’ familiebuch (marriage certificate) it says “Parish Office of the Bohemian[Czech]-Moravian Church in Brünn [Brno], volume no. IV, page 318, line 174.” for my grandfather’s vital records.
What does that mean? How am I going to find my family’s records?
Thanks in advance.