3 Different Languages used in Bohemian (Czech) records.

+11 votes

There are 3 languages used in Czech parish records. Latin, German, and Bohemian ( Czech) oh and apparently Yiddishsurprise (rarely). One year a parish uses German another year using Latin and another in Bohemain (Czech). The same year a parish next door will use a different language.

Old Latin records add -in to the end of the surname. It wasn't spoken with the -in and I don't believe we should add -in to the end of the name.

So, we have 3 different spelling variations and a orthographic reform  in the 1850's.

For example 1857 Czech census spelling is Nemetz & 1869 Czech Census spelling is Nemeč.

Gedcom import approval will miss these duplicates just like some of the NNS profiles.

Having Multiple spellings in Latin, German, or Czech is starting to become a real problem.


A profile is added for Anna using her birth record written in Old Latin.

Someone else comes along looking for Anna using her marriage certificate listing her name in German. Won't find her so a duplicate is created.

Someone else comes along looking for Anna using the Czech census record listing her name in Czech. Won't find her so a duplicate is created.

Someone else comes along looking for Anna using her death record which lists her name with the orthographic change. Won't find her so a duplicate is created.

All four records are clearly the same Anna. Surname, dates and locations are all spelled differently beause each record is in a different language.



1. What spelling should be used?

2. Which language should be used?

3. Is it acceptable to use Old Latin? It's not a spoken language. the -in  wasn't pronounced in the surname. I don't believe that Latin should be an option for surnames. (At least in relation to Czech names)

4. If unsure about a spelling due to legability of records should a profile be created? Unsure spellings will most likely result in a LNAB change or a merge.Both we want to avoid. One issue  is most people can't read the language used to validate correctness of the source. Handwriting is a another big issue.

Added examples 11 Jul

The following are spelling variations used in one family (parents and children)

Burkhardin, Burckardin, Burghardtin, Purghart, Purkart, Burghartin, Purchartin

Kampfmüllner, Kampfmüllnerin, Kumpfmillner, Kumphmillner,Kumphmillerin

Baysteiner ,Beistainer, Beistainerin, Beysteiner, Beysteinerin,  Beystainerin,  Peistainer, Peysteiner, Peystainer

Roczenpock Ratzelbeckin, Raczenpock, Racenpockin, Razenpock, Ratzenpockin, Ratzenbock, Ratzelbek possibly more.

in Policy and Style by Michelle Hartley G2G6 Pilot (152k points)
edited by Michelle Hartley
Please pass the Excedrin!!!

This sounds even worse than some of the name problems I've been dealing with on Holocaust profiles ... then again, some of those people were in Czechoslavakia, so maybe that's the same cause of my headaches.

Using "names they used" in "their" language and at the time "they" lived there sure sounds like a nice, simple way ... and the RIGHT way, too, for cultural reasons.  In practice, it doesn't seem to be working out so nice and simple!!!

I agree that proper spelling of Czech names is important. I am Czech and my ancestors were Czech (Bohemian and Moravian). So, for female last names I use -ová endings. If someone has German ancestors from German speaking areas he might perhaps use the -in or -iana endings but only if they are written in parish register of births. However, in most cases there are listed first names only. Which means that you have to create the last name according to the last name of the father. For German I would use a female last name identical with the father´s last name (ie. without -in ending). If someone is not sure whether his ancestor from Bohemia or Moravia was Czech or German I would recommend to use the Czech variant with -ová ending.

Both for the first name and the last name I use exact spellings according to the parish record of birth. However, if there were more children in the family I use the last name variant which is listed most frequently (e.g. Neckarž, Neczkarž, Netzkarž). There might be also different spellings in each generation. Thus in one generation I have e.g. the last name Oktábec, his father was Ochtabecz and his grandfather was Octabecz. It is so written in parish books, so I transcribe it exactly. I use the same variant of the last name for all siblings.

Spelling variations before the orthographic reform is a problem too. I transcribe names exactly according to parish books, e.g. including keeping cz (č), rz (ř), tz (c) (e.g. Hořzawa/Hořava, Pernitza/Pernica) etc. However. for g/j, j/i I use the new variant (e.g. Fojtu, not Fogtu; Krejczi, not Kregczi).

It is necessary to discern Czech, German and Latin declension too. E.g. there is written in the parish book: "Matthias, filius Georgy Strachota", where Georgy has to be put into the first case which is Georgius. It is very important to put both first name and the last name into the first case if it is other way in the parish book.

It is true that in most German and Latin birth records the infant is only listed with the first name. However, if female witnesses, godmothers, midwives in the same record are consistently listed with the female name form, and further more, contemporaneous marriage and death records also consistently use the female name form why would you believe a female infant would not be named that way?
I must admit that using -in or -iana ending according to other female last names in the parish book makes sense. However, I am afraid that not many people will be aware of this principle or will be able to consistently apply it with all their female last names.
A place like WikiTree brings together all sorts of people with vastly different levels of experience in genealogy and access to sources. Ideally, if we all used primary sources none of the discussions about spelling differences etc would matter, we all would have the same record to look at and quibbles would be reduced to handwriting questions. Technically, we who have research interests in the Czech lands are in a particularly advantageous situation because of the accessibility of primary records. It's people who do not have that access or who have not yet found their ancestors who need a way to connect to these profiles. I just wished there were a way to list all spelling variations for search purposes that would not end up cluttering the profile. The case of a Maria/Marie/Marya Dworschakowa/Dvorschakowa/Dworzakowa/Dvorzakowa/Dworschak/Dvorschak/Dworzak/Dvorzak/Dvořáková/Dvořák/Dvorak and whatever other variant I may have left out is just a bit too monstruous for my taste.

The case of g/j/y is a bit difficult for me since it seems that the Czech literature is trending to go back to using the g for historic spellings again. But that could just be my impression.
Just ran across this query and while much good discussion has followed, I would point out that there is considerable scholarship available in English regarding language and nationality in the Czech lands. Not only were many people bilingual in Czech and German, but some of them flipflopped as far as census identification. (While of course others were firmly identifying as Czech OR German.) In Slovakia, Hungarian would figure in as well.

There is no shortage of recent scholarship relating to this topic and just for starters I would recommend looking at work by Jeremy King and Tara Zahra. I would not be too quick to assume that written records prior to 1900 give an accurate idea of a family's home language, unless you're dealing with letters and diaries. For that matter, many of the 19th-century Czech nationalists grew up speaking German and had to work on their Czech language skills as adults. Czech had fallen largely out of use as a written/literary language after 1620 and was only revived as one in the 19th century.

4 Answers

+4 votes

the -IN ending is very common used in Germany as well, not only in those Bohemia parts, mostly it's used for female.

You can find all practices of taking the name over, just LDS search for it and you will find the -IN endings there as well.

What I do in these cases (and yes, there are a lot of orthographic changes over time from different pastors etc.) I would note down the name that is on the birth certificate (LNAB) and use the other variants in the AKA (also known as) field. I think this way the search algorithm ensures they are still found when new data is entered (I hope, can someone confirm this?).
by Andreas West G2G6 Mach 5 (54.2k points)
This orthographic change I'm referring to was the entire Bohemian language not the pastors. (although they probably made their own).

There aren't birth certificates only parish registers.

Yes, the search algorithm works. But, then you need to add the spelling with and without diacratical marks. (some of the marks it isn't necessary). For this to work all known variations will need to be known and then added.

the -in that I'm referring to here is numerous profiles have -in but the documented name on the image doesn't use -in.
+7 votes

There are two main issues here and a few minor ones. The first main issue is the language politics of the Habsburg monarchy. Since 1627 German was established as an official language in Bohemia next to Czech and due to the political, academic and educational dominance of Austria became the leading language in those areas. The Charles University of Prague used Latin and German and only in 1882 established separate German and Czech faculties.

The second main issue is the number of German speakers in Bohemia and their distribution. In 1921 1/3 of the population in Bohemia was German speaking, concentrated in the border areas to Germany and Austria where they constituted a majority until 1945. Even Prague only became majority Czech speaking in 1880. In predominantly German speaking areas German was the language of records and on the street.

As for the -in ending: This is the German female name form. It was used in records in the 17th and 18th century and was later replaced by the common (male) name form, but it was still used well into the 20th century in Bavarian/Austrian dialect areas in informal speech. The Latin female name form ended in -iana.

My conclusions from these facts are that it would be historically incorrect to use the same spelling rules for all of Bohemia. We need to be dilligent enough to discern what language was spoken in the area we are researching and then use those rules for the Last Name At Birth. The Other Name field could then be used for the other language and modern spelling.

Maria Scholz, born in a German speaking area could be Maria Scholzin, Scholziana or Scholz depending on the historic period; born in a Czech speaking area she could be Šolc, Šolcowa, Šolcová. In all cases Scholz and perhaps also Šolcová should be in the Other Name field if it is not the LNAB. I agree that nobody ran around using their Latinized name from the official records but for this situation we do have the Current Last Name field which should contain their German or Czech name, which ever they used. (By the way, last name is not a good indicator for the language spoken in the household. I have census records for one town listing a Schaffelhofer family as Czech and a Dworschak family as German.)

by Helmut Jungschaffer G2G6 Pilot (523k points)

I disagree. If German was the language of the records why do German speaking areas have records in Latin or Czech?

Rodofov Parish Records have 9 Registers in German, 14 In Czech and German, 4 in Latin mixed with Czech and German.

Czech Hussite Church uses Czech

Churchless civil registers use Czech and German


Lisov (close to Rodolfov) Czech minus a few in Latin or Latin mixed with Czech

Borovany (near Rodolfov) Czech.

Many Czechs (Bohemian) were prohibited from speaking their mother tongue due to Oppression. Prohibited doesn't mean they didn't speak Czech on the street or in the countryside. Oppression of their language shouldn't be a reason to use a German name. Our family (Surname Nemec) lived in a German speaking area. Most peope in their village didn't speak German as their daily language. They only spoke German when needed for business. (they called it German for business).



Perhaps it is time to start citing sources for statements made in this discussion. For this purpose I have tried to use English sources whenever possible, as well as easily accessible websites.

Germans have been living in Bohemia since as early as the 12 century. "In the late 12th and in the 13th century the Přemyslid rulers promoted the colonization of certain areas of their lands by German settlers from the adjacent lands of Bavaria, Franconia, Upper Saxony and Austria during the Ostsiedlung migration." (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sudeten_Germans) In 1921 3.2 million Germans lived next to 6.6 million Czechs in then Czechoslovakia.  (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sudeten_Germans) This population, however, was not equally dispersed throughout Bohemia, it was concentrated in the border areas and in the cities. ("Sudetendeutsche" by Fext - Own work, Statistický lexikon obcí v Republice československé I. Země česká (Praha, 1934), Statistický lexikon obcí v Republice československé II. Země moravskoslezská (Praha, 1935). Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sudetendeutsche.png#/media/File:Sudetendeutsche.png)

As can be seen from the map, Budweis and surrounding areas were not in a majority German area in 1921, however, they were majority German until the 1880's. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C4%8Cesk%C3%A9_Bud%C4%9Bjovice) Many surrounding villages like Lišov were alsways majority Czech and their records were kept in Czech. The question here is not about majority Czech areas, it concerns how to treat German speaking areas. In this context it would be interesting to see some sources for the claim that "many Czechs were prohibited from speaking their mother tongue."

The constitution of 1627 established German as a second official language of the Czech lands, but "the Czech language remained the first language in the kingdom." (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bohemia)

As to the question of German speaking areas I unfortunately did not find any scholarly web-based source in English, but if someone wants to go through the trouble to read up on it "Liberalism and the Habsburg Monarchy, 1861-1895, By Jonathan Kwan, Palgrave Macmillan, Nov 20, 2013", especially pages 160 forward provide a good discussion of this issue. Further evidence for the existence of German speaking areas are now extinct villages "due to displacement after 1945" (from the entry for Wangetschlag/Mýtinka by Státní oblastní archiv v Třeboni (https://digi.ceskearchivy.cz/DA?doctree=1zm&id=23395&menu=4&lang=en "This locality no longer exists due to displacement after 1945")


As for the Czech entries in Rudolfstadt's church books: the first entry in Czech for a birth/baptism is from 1867 (https://digi.ceskearchivy.cz/DA?lang=en&menu=3&id=7003, image 87) a time nobody disputes the presence of Czechs in town since they became the majority population only 20 years later. For my contention that the name alone is not sufficient to determine whether it should be recorded in Czech or in German form, see the 1890 census for Rudolfstadt (no earlier available on line): https://digi.ceskearchivy.cz/DA?lang=en&menu=3&id=630240 A quick perusal of the first few pages will reveal Dvořaks whose colloquial language is given as deutsch and Hofhansls whose colloquial language is given as česka.



Helmut my response was to your comment ''In predominantly German speaking areas German was the language of records and on the street''.

It's misleading to state 'In predominantly German speaking areas German was the language of records". Parish records themselves are recorded in 3 different languages. smiley

The questions at hand pertain to both Czech and German speaking areas.   Regardless of location, records are recorded in 3 languages. Resulting in multiple speling variations within in each language. These variations will lead to duplicates and seeking out those duplicates won't be easy.

Determining German or Czech useage for the LNAB won't be easy. I'm not sure how to solve this issue.

A solution is needed to establish some guidelines . Otherwise  we just have an unorganized mass of Czech profiles.

+7 votes
As Gaile pointed out, the WikiTree policy is to use the name they would have used in their time. That definitely rules out the Latin variants, though those should be listed in the Other Last names field. Then we'd need to look at whether they spoke Czech or German-that should help direct what the last name should be.

One thought is to apply the same approach used in the EuroAristo projects and the NNS project here, which is to bring up and discuss, using sources, what a LNAB should be for a family in G2G before creating a whole family, in order to have a little continuity and come to agreements. I have Czech ancestors, but am not very well versed yet in that research, and feel much better talking it out with other members than making too many mistakes that will take a lot of merging to fix.
by Abby Glann G2G6 Pilot (411k points)

Thanks Abby! I don't see how we can decide if they spoke Czech or German. Other languages were spoken as well.

If we are to determine laguage spoken what would determining factors be? I think that's easier said than done.smiley

Records were kept usually by a local church. Records could be kept by parish or congregational priest, layman  or local administration official. He could have been Czech, German, Slovak, Hungarian, Polish, Ruthenian you name it origin.Names recorded are usually phonetic spellings. Those spellings are usually then written in the individuals language making the entry. Or a version from pressure to germanize (or adjust to local custom in general) outlandish surnames.

I agree that using the Latin form shouldn't be used.




For late 19th century records the language spoken can be ascertained from the censuses as they did have a column "Colloquial Language". However, by that time it has become custom (at least in South Bohemia) in many church books to record the entry in the language of the family in question, hence the common occurence of an entry in Czech followed by an entry in German for the same day and obviously in the same handwriting for the time roughly after 1867.

For the time before that circumstantial evidence can sometimes help. It is known where minorities lived, it is also known that in these areas the Czech population increased over time, and we have 20th century maps showing minority settlement. This can be combined with the town histories to come up with a fair assessment.

An example from another multilingual country: Johann Friedrich Oberlin was born in 1740 in Straßburg, France. The church entry is in German as is every other entry for his family. The Alsace was a traditionally German speaking area. Would we make a Jean-Frédéric out of him because he was born in France?
+8 votes
Just my two cents as I was asked to weigh in.  

Ultimately, whatever language you end up using, the important part is have you provided enough information so one can find and hopefully access the original record?

As Wikitree profiles become more valuable as repositories of information.  How do we add information so that it can easily be found and accessed?  While you may pick a language that seems most relevant, have you included the other languages and variations that other records may have been used?

Use the Aka fields to add the surnames in alternative languages.

Ultimately what you are suggesting is that we need a search function that finds these alternative spellings as others search for this profile from different surname and location spellings.

Make your best rational guess and provide as many alternatives as you think is best.

Thanks for making the effort to be as accurate and accommodating as possible. Sometimes these seem to be at odds.

That leaves us with coping with the inadequacies of the technology and the policies .
by Michael Stills G2G6 Pilot (394k points)
I am somewhat new to this and unsure what the capabilities of the software here are.

It appears that some form of translation software be incorporated allowing drop down windows for the name fields that could denote the surname in any language. The difficult part would be to have an association program to provide one Wiki ID that would encompass all of the variants.
The problem central to this is how to avoid creating duplicates due to different language use, orthographic changes in the Czech language, idiosyncratic spelling by various different scribes and priests, etc. If we use the spelling in the original record we create opportunities for duplication of profiles when profiles are created by people who do not have access to the primary records. If we use standardized spelling of one sort or another we create opportunities for duplication when profiles are created with spelling according to the primary record. Another complicating feature is the use of the female name form which was dropped by emigrants in their new home country and their descendents may be looking for Anna Dvorak when she should be Anna Dvořáková. All this creates a multitude of names which would have to be considered for searches and in my personal opinion would make profiles look absolutely abominable if we add them all under Other Names. Another option needs to be found to deal with this issue and I still think the most elegant solution would be a Last Name Search Field on the edit page that would not display on the profile page. It would allow the addition of multiple variations of a name in different languages, different orthography for different time periods, and the most common spelling mistakes made, as well as male and female forms etc. without cluttering up the profile.

 I don't think we should use Latin names. 


> Use German suffix -in for women.

I won't recommend that. In German, this is not the same as the czech "-ová", as no women would--and would have--written or spoken her own surname with the "-in" attached, nor this would have been the offical surname of the women.

The addition of "-in" is a conventient way, used mostly in spoken everyday language, to describe her as "women of <surname>".

And be aware that there are also exceptions to the "-ová"-scheme, e.g. female surnames could end with "-á" if the male surname ends with "-ý"!

> Another option needs to be found to deal with this issue and I still think the most elegant solution would be a Last Name Search Field on the edit page that would not display on the profile page.

Better: seperate the content of the "Other last name"-field from the displayed name! Put them as seperate line as e.g "Wife of <>", "Mother of <>". This would be more logical and simpler as an extra field.

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