How to trace Czechs before House Numbers

House numbers in the Czech lands are great. But they were not a thing until the 1770s/1780’s.
And not all of our ancestors were the “knedlíky” kind. If you have ever eaten dumplings before, you know exactly what I’m talking about. They sit in your stomach forever, like bricks.
Well, it’s nice when ancestors are like this: “forever” staying in one village, never moving to greener pastures. Would that we were all so lucky to have to deal with problems of identity instead of problems of haystack-needle-picking.
So what do you do when you lose the trail of your ancestors before house numbers?
Helpful hint: look at all the clues!
Here’s my 7th great aunt Marina Šperka’s birth in Staříč on 17 January 1716.
I found no births of any other children to František Šperka and Magdalena ? in Staříč before this time. When I looked for her parents’ marriage in Staříč, I found nothing. I looked in Sviadnov. Nothing.
I noticed that only on Marina’s birth was there anybody mentioned from outside the parish. It was a witness listed as “Anna Vojtěchová ex Místecensi Parochia.”
I decided to try my luck in Místek, and was not disappointed! Here is the marriage of František Šperka and Magdalena Matěj:
Notice that they married 14 February 1708. <3 <3 <3 Happy Valentine’s Day, 7th Great Grandparents! <3 <3 <3
Hey, look, a pretty substantial gap between 1708 and 1716.
A missing child, Anna Šperka, born in Místek in 1713.
But now, there are so many other questions. I didn’t find any other births to this couple in Místek. It is kind of weird that they didn’t start having children until 5 years after they were married. What is the story?
Someday my descendants might wonder the same thing about our birth control habits. We had 3 kids in a row 14 months apart, and then there was a 3 year gap. Will my descendants ask, “Was there a stillborn baby?”
Answer: No, there wasn’t.
I decided to look around. GUESS WHAT. I found other missing children in neighboring Sviadnov:
Joseph Šperka born 22 January 1709
Catharina Šperka born 5 October 1710
Other questions:
  • Did they move, or did they just have the baptisms done outside the parish? If so, why?
  • If they moved, why?
  • What happened to these three kids: Joseph, Catharina, and Anna? I could not find their deaths.
Fun fact: as of this writing, this is the farthest back in time I have been able to trace my ancestors.
I was just super ecstatic to cross over into the 1600’s. It was a huge accomplishment, and very exciting. I hope to be able to take all my Czech lines that far back, and beyond, someday.

But in order to do that, I will have to remember that people in the past moved around, too. Fortunately, they didn’t appear out of thin air, and I will be able to trace their movements by employing a combination of luck and logic. The logic includes noticing all the information on the records, including where the witnesses were from.

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