5 June 2009
In a recent course I took from Karen Clifford, A.G., she conveyed several common laws of genealogy. Of them are:
• Start with ‘what you know’ and move back in time.
• Have a research plan before visiting a repository.
• Be polite and respectful of the staff.
I know these rules. I follow these rules — at least in the U.S. Today I broke all of these rules.
I had found out almost at the last minute that I was going to the Czech Republic for work. I quickly remembered the Czech genealogy project in my back pocket, waiting for me to have time to work on it.
I quickly started my research, but only have the family in question traced back to the late 19th century – and still in the United States. At this point, it would be futile to do research during my brief free time in Prague. Despite this, I decided to go visit the Czech National Archives. I figured I would just see what it was like — and perhaps poke around if they had a browsing library.
I prepared by reading the website for the archives. I also took a chance and entered my client’s last name in the database, but got no results. Since I only speak the bare minimum of tourist Czech, I found a list of helpful vocabulary words at FamilySearch.org.
The archives are housed in a beautiful, new building in the southern part of Prague. Like any archive, you really need to know what you’re looking for, in order to ask the staff members, who then bring you the book, manuscript or microform.
Staff members there at the time did not speak much English, but were eager to help me. I felt a little guilty about wasting their time, since I was only there to look around. Fortunately a Czech genealogist who speaks English (thanks, Karel!) was there and helped me out. He explained the purpose and how to use the county/parish books I had randomly picked up. This helped me do a little exercise of looking at the county/parish formations and then finding them on the map. Basic, but at least I learned something!
Was my trip a waste of time? I don’t think so. I made contact in case I need to hire a genealogist in the future. And I now know the rules of the archives if I ever go back. I’ve come to the conclusion from my recent trips that genealogists are nice all over the world.
© Corey Oiesen and Genealogy Heroes 2009.