Guest post by Lukáš SvobodaTranslated by Kate Challis and Lukáš SvobodaOriginal post found here
It was like the genealogical version of Cimrman’s externism. Information about the Šnajberks is where we believe it is not, and is not where we believe it is. All through 2015 I did not want to face the facts, but now that it was the new year, I started to do what I had been trying to avoid from the beginning: go through all the possible registers in which the Šnajberks might show up, one by one. The time had come to use my genealogical muscles instead of using my genealogical brain.
Initially I focused on the area around Benešov, then worked my way towards Vlašim and then to other parishes stretching along the Sázava river. I finally made it to the left bank of the Vltava River, where a clue from an internet search led me. As a result, I passed through about fifty parish registers, from fifteen different parishes. I went through the same time period only up to 1780, because I knew what eventually became of Martin.
These were hours spent in tedious, boring searching, although fortunately, some of the registers had indexes. Still, though, the Benešov registers are among some of the worst I have ever seen. They look like they were written by someone who suffered from uncontrollable hand tremors and then poured a bucket of lard all over it, rendering the pages mostly transparent, with the text on the other side bleeding through. Though I found several other ancestors in these terrible registers, still, there was no trace of any Šnajberks. But that retired tax administrator František Šnajberk promised me the first Šnajberks showed up in 1626, but (of course) I approached his information with an understandable mistrust. Still, I can’t actually rule out that there weren’t any Šnajberks in those registers, because the shepherds or master shepherds were recorded simply as “Václav, field master of Pomněnice” or “Jan, shepherd.” I felt helpless, as if the centenarian father Jiří was slipping through my fingers.
As a result, I not only traced almost 400 birth, marriage, and death records of bearers of the family name, but also the records on which they acted as witnesses or godparents. The oldest record is from 1681 from Kdyně, but they probably aren’t my Šnajberks, and perhaps aren’t actually Šnajberks at all, but more on that later. In vicinity of Benešov, which I always considered to be their home area, I found the first record in Pomněnice, in which the daughter of Jan Šnajberk, master shepherd, was buried in January 1704.
The more names I added to the table, the more I learned about the interesting lives and fates of shepherds. In December 1741 in Benešov, Pavel Šnajberk, village shepherd from Myslíč, was buried in the cemetery of St. Mikuláš, While rushing to defend his flock, he was stabbed by a Hussar’s sabre. The sad thing is that apparently he fell by the hands of his own army. The Austrian army was that time near Benešov, while Prague was occupied by Saxons and the French. (On the same day as the unfortunate Pavel Šnajberk’s burial at St. Nicholas, was another burial of a soldier who, after the army retreated, was found dead and buried in a haystack in a cowshed on the property of Martin Chlístovský across from Vyskočil’s property. At the beginning of December, the Saxons and French left occupied Prague for Benešov to confront the Austrian army, which retreated in a hurry.)
A multi-needled haystack
One day, luck finally found me. On 10 October 1743 in Poříčí na Sázavou Martin Šnajberk, son of Jiří and Kateřina was baptized. It was perfect. I had finally found Martin’s birth and his parents. I can not even describe the feeling of satisfaction… which lasted only three days.
Eventually came the inevitable. It started when I found entries for Jiří and his wife Lidmila in the birth registers. I tried to persuade myself that it was probably just his first wife, when one evening the second Martin jumped out of the register. He was the son of Jiří Šnajberk and Lidmila, and was born in Radíkovice almost exactly twenty years earlier than his name-doppelganger on 24 October 1723.
And then, to top it off, appeared a third Jiří Šnajberk with his wife Anna. Fortunately, this one didn’t have a son named Martin, but at the time that was only a small consolation to me.
Also, from the parish registers I noticed that the couple Jiří and Lidmila had a daughter named Magdalena at the same time that the couple Jiří and Kateřina had a son named Jan. It was obvious that there must be two couples.
Jiří Šnajberk and Lidmila
This couple’s first child was born in 1719 in Pomněnice and their last was born in 1738 in Benice. All throughout the 1720’s they showed up in Radíkovice, until eventually in the 1730’s they settled in Benice.
Jiří Šnajberk and Kateřina
This couple’s first child was born in Ondřejovice in March 1728. Then, apparently they moved to Radíkovice where they succeeded/followed the above Jiří Šnajberk and Lidmila. Then Jiří’s job as master shepherd took him to Malensko, then Mrač, and finally to Požáry.
Jiří Šnajberk and Anna
This couple looked suspicious from the beginning. I first noticed them in a birth register for Ondřejovice in May 1729. This seemed dubious because exactly one year previously, in March 1728 in Ondřejovice was the birth of the first child of Jiří Šnajberk with Kateřina. Another reason for my suspicion was the fact that the couple reappeared again only in 1753 in Požáry, where Jiří and Kateřina were known to be living. Is it likely that they would have one child, disappear without a trace, and then have their next child 24 years later somewhere else? Was this an entirely different couple, or merely a mistake in the register?
Putting the puzzle together
Frustration can be a powerful motivator. With renewed effort, I began to search for more and more Šnajberks until gradually I began to put the pieces of the puzzle together. Václav, son of Jiří and Kateřina was born in September 1748 in Požáry. Half a year later, in late January 1749, Vaclav died and was buried in Benešov. And five days later, his mother Kateřina, wife of the shepherd Jiří Šnajberk of Požáry, was also buried there. She was 40 years old. Jiří Šnajberk, like most widowers, probably remarried. That meant that the Šnajberk couple Jiří and Anna, who in 1753 celebrated the birth of their daughter Dorota, was certainly Jiří, widower of Kateřina, who most likely remarried, even though I haven’t found it yet.
Dealing with the first Martin born in 1729 was difficult enough, but seeing that a child was born to Jiří and Kateřina just a year previously in Ondřejovice, and that no other child was born to the couple Jiří and Anna, I believe that this is a case of the clerk making an error in the register. Also one of the reliable method for establishing the kinship - the godparents - showed that most probably it was registrars mistake. One of the godparents (Paris of the Hanzel Mill House) of the children born in 1728 and 1729 is identical. Another godparent (Martin Šabat of Benešov) matches the 1729 child and also all the children born to Jiří and Kateřina in 1729 and later.
So I had a choice of two Martins and two Jiřís, but which one was mine? I thought the more probable candidate was Martin born in 1743; at the time of his marriage to Anna Voukonová, he would have been 27, which fit perfectly. But eventually everything fit together much more simply than I had expected. In the burial register “Benešov 15”, I found the death record for Jiří Šnajberk of Radíkovice who died at age 50 in July 1754. I looked for the death of the second Jiří for a long time. First I found the death of his wife Lidmila in Mariánovice who died at age 60 in September 1759. Jiří outlived his wife by a long time. He died in 1779 at Velký Chvojen number 3 at the age of 97 (!). Chvojen also had that “other guy” Martin Šnajberk who I already knew from the tolerance applications.
It was actually quite simple. Since “my” Martin was described in his 1770 marriage as the son of the late Jiří Šnajberk, then that meant his father must have been dead by 1770. Therefore, Martin could have only been the son of the Jiří Šnajberk who died in 1754, since the other one did not die until 1779. Jiří Šnajberk who died in 1754 had his Martin in 1743. Voilá. Resolved. Or is it?
Actually...I must confess that I felt no triumphant jubilation, but instead the angry gnashing of teeth; among other Šnajberk burials, I found a certain Jan Šnajberk who died in 1756 in Pomněnice at the age of 100
! At that time Jiří Šnajberk (with his wife Lidmila) was working in Pomněních, so the centenarian father whom I really wanted to add among my ancestors from sheer genealogical vanity, was just barely missed. I was reminded
of what Ondřej Macek wrote in his paper. Jiří had a centenarian father, it matched. In 1756 Jiří was prosecuted for concealing heretical books, together with his wife Anna. Wait, with Anna? With what Anna? Who is Anna?!
Was she Anna the wife of Jiří who died in 1754, which would have been two years before his conviction? Or could it have been Anna, who should have actually been called Lidmila, the longtime wife of Jiří Šnajberk? It was not a coincidence that Anna, the second wife and widow of “my” Jiří, remarried Jan Šnajberk son of Jiří Šnajberk (we will of course, return to this); so was Jiří the convicted heretic in fact Jan?
Nothing made sense, except that my current theory was crumbling. I wondered for a few days. Someone had to have made a mistake, be it me in my own thought process or the source from which I derived this information. I started reading again “Praxis pietatis haereticorum” where I found this information. It was only when I returned and reread this, as well as the article in the book “Following the Example of the Bereans:” several times that I realized that the author refers to Ferdinand Hrejsovi and his processing of basic data from the Archive of the Prague archbishopric published in 1921. Was that the Reformation Proceedings to which Šnajberk from Prešov referred in his article?
In May this year I ordered the first year of Reformation Proceedings in the National Library in the Klementinum, because it was nowhere to be found in any used bookstore, and honestly I’m not even sure if I would have ordered it after that previous fiasco. Keeping my expectations low, I opened the borrowed book and my heart skipped a beat.
The author compiled more than 110 pages of reports of parishes and vicariates belonging to the Prague archbishopric of 1762 about people convicted or suspected of heresy for a range of about 20 years. On page 126 I found exactly what I was looking for.
In 1756, convicted of heresy: Josef Skrčený, shepherd, with his wife Magdalena, Frant. Šnajberk, shepherd, and his father Jiří Šnajberk, shepherd on the estate of Konopište, and Anna, wife of Jan Šnajberk, shepherd on the same estate, the latter guilty for second time, mostly of harboring heretical books. They all received absolution.
So after all that, it was just a small mistake in the work of Ondřej Macek. Anna was the wife of Jan Šnajberk and undoubtedly the widow after my “Jiří” (which marriage will be discussed in the last part). Not only did I solve an otherwise unsolvable problem, but I also learned about the other Šnajberks who got labeled as heretics. Among them was also the “second” Jiří and his centenarian father Jan. Hrejsa writes that on 13 May 1756 Jiří Šnajberk, shepherd of Pomněnice was examined. Jiří is identified in this record as the father of four sons and three daughters, and the son of one Jan Šnajberk, 104 years old. Jiří was 66 years old at the time of the questioning; that would put his birth to 1690 (while his birth year calculated from his death record differs by 8 years). It is reported, that during the examination he testified in Catholic sense, repented and begged for admission to the church.
Thus, I had finally sorted all Martins and Jiřís. There was only last step left to be fully satisfied, and fit the last tiny piece into the proverbial puzzle.
To Be Continued...