Czech parish records are found in Latin, German, Czech, and strangely mixed versions of any or all of the above.
I recently did some transcriptions for a client from Latin, circa 1750. It was very fun, and I wanted to blog about the process, so I picked a record that was very similar those I had just done.
There are definitely some words that I failed to translate correctly, and because my time for blogging is limited, I’m afraid I will just have to go ahead and post this with some big, obvious errors. Nonetheless, I know that this post will be useful to somebody else out there somewhere who is struggling with the Latin, so I will do it anyway.
The first step is to transcribe letter by letter. Write down what you see. Well. What you think you see.
The second step is to go word by word try to figure out what you see. This involves consulting dictionaries, translators, Latin word lists, and just using your brain. I found an extremely useful book online called, “Parish Register Latin: an Introduction.” This proved to be invaluable to me. If only I had an actual physical copy and could see the pictures. It’s out of print though. Hmm.
The process involves skipping words that don’t make sense, and coming back to them later to try to guess from the context what they could mean.
I am extremely well aware that Latin’s cases add nuances to meaning that are easily lost in translation. There is something profoundly beautiful in a clear, concise translation that transfers all the layers of meaning.
It is definitely difficult to do this from Latin, a language which thrives on run-on sentences already without the additional suffixes and prefixes that add still more run-oni-ness in a translation.
The third step is to translate phrases so they make sense.
And finally, you can refine your translation so it is more beautiful.
Here is an example of the last two steps – a first translation, and then a second, much better translation. Notice how the second translation loses less meaning.
They are still not perfect, and I welcome input. It’s always a little scary to post stuff like this on one’s blog, knowing that your imperfections will be so visible. I hope that I am always able to learn from others around me, and conversely teach them from my own experience. We can share our expertise, and thus everyone can benefit. I know I have a lot to offer fellow Czech researchers, so I’m not going to apologize for not knowing everything yet.
Ano Domini 1743 Praemissus tribus consuctis promulgationibus inter
mis[s]ae Parochialis solemnia continuis tribus diebus dominicis quarum prima
22da Septembris, secunda 29 ejusdem et tertia 6ta octobris factae sunt,
nulloq[ue] detecto impedimento canonico honestum juvenem Josephum
+Joan[n]is Hofmann bubulci filium cum pariter honesta virgine Celesta
Christopher bennir gazary[us] in Czezow, filia subdites Czezovienses pro habito
consensu domini[us] et attestato de facus denuntiatiobus ni Czeszowiz prius
catechisatus, confesus, et communicatos ego Mathias Hetdorf proprius
hones[este?]d parochus die 8 Octobris in Ecclesia S: Nicolai Ep: Merklin[ius] di
coram facie S: Matris Ecclesiae de corum mutuo consensu interrogavi
cog per verba de praesenti cognito solemniter matrimonio conjungi
praesentibus testibus Joanne Rysuar [?] rustico in Czezow et Mar-
tino Hermaczek opilione[?] in Stenin.
As promised, after posting banns three successive Sabbaths [days of the Lord] in a row, of which the first was 22nd September, the second the 29th of the same month, and the third the 6th of October, [and] finding of the same that there were discovered no impediments [hindrances] in the Canon [law of the church], the honorable young man Joseph, son of + [the late, deceased] Joan[n]is Hofmann, bubulci [?], together with the virtuous woman Celesta, daughter of Christopher Bennir, a small peasant in Czezow, subject to the consent of their guardians and before [their fellow] Czeszowizites [people from Czezow] confessed the provided catechism.
I, the honorable [?] pastor Mathias Heldorf declared on 8 October in the Church of St. Nicholas [in] Merklin[y], to the Holy Mother of the Church of God I asked, knowing the present words were solemnly acknowledged by mutual consent, that [these people] ever might be linked in marriage, in the presence of Joanne Rysuar [?] farmer in Czezow and Martino Hermaczek opilione[?] in Stenin.
In the year of our Lord 1743, three marriage banns were published previous to the solemn mass [marriage] in our parish on consecutive Sabbaths, of which the first was 22nd September, the second the 29th of the same month, and the third the 6th of October, and no impediments having been revealed canonically, the honorable young man Joseph, son of + [the late, deceased] Joan[n]is Hofmann, bubulci [?], together with the honorable virgin Celesta, daughter of Christopher Bennir, a small peasant in Czezow, having previously gained the approval of [their fellow] Czeszowizites [people from Czezow] through the Catechism and Communions, I, Mathias Heldorf, the honorable pastor of the church of St. Nicholas [in] Merklín, joined [them in marriage] on 8 October before the face of the Holy Mother Church after I questioned them of their mutual consent [to be] ever joined in marriage, the present witnesses being Joanne Rysuar [?] farmer in Czezow and Martino Hermaczek opilione[?] in Stenin.