Onward To Our Past http://onwardtoourpast.com Genealogy Tips, Help, and Fun with a focus on family and history Thu, 24 Jul 2014 10:16:54 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 In Our Genealogy: Let’s All Take PRIDE in our Family Treeshttp://onwardtoourpast.com/genealogy_blog/in-our-genealogy-lets-all-take-pride-in-our-family-trees.html http://onwardtoourpast.com/genealogy_blog/in-our-genealogy-lets-all-take-pride-in-our-family-trees.html#comments Thu, 24 Jul 2014 10:14:39 +0000 http://onwardtoourpast.com/?p=3491 In Genealogy: Let’s All Take PRIDE in our Family Trees

PRIDE for all people!

PRIDE for all people!

It is impossible to pick up a newspaper or watch a news program and not read about the equality movement, or as some call it, the new civil rights movement. Finally American society all around us seems to be changing and, in this case, changing for the better. State after State are enacting long overdue legal reforms designed to insure equality for many more Americans. Equal legal footings for same sex marriages, LBGT equal rights in the workplace, and more are sweeping our Nation. And for good reason!

All one needs to do is re-read the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution for what is termed the ‘Equal Protection Clause’. This clause states, simply and quite eloquently, that no State can deny United States citizens “equal protection of the laws”.

We ARE all equal under the law!

We ARE all equal under the law!

So it should be with our genealogy and family trees. We, as genealogists, who pride ourselves on finding “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth” about who our ancestors were, where they lived, what occupations they held, where they are interred, etc. need to be just as determined in our pride to have our family trees and genealogy reflect ALL the people in our families.

Personally I use Family Tree Builder genealogy software made by MyHeritage.com for our family tree. This allows for all manner of equal representation within our family tree. I suggest you make certain that your software does the same. No longer is the excuse ‘my program won’t let me show a same sex marriage’ acceptable.

Again, in our quest for accurate and truthful genealogies, we must be certain to also reflect that some in our family tree are adopted, came to be created by ‘artificial’ insemination, surrogate mothers, etc.

The 1950s are long gone and so should the unnecessary shame and ignorance that were so prevalent at that time in matters regarding single parents, adoption, race, sexual orientation, mixed marriages, divorce, and more.

Just as we would not dare to manufacture some artificial history for one of our ancestors, so we should not dare to be anything less than FULLY open and honest with any and all matters of fact for our family trees and in our genealogy. Certainly I would not disgrace my immigrant great grandfather who came from Bohemia in 1866 by saying he was a Mayflower descendant. Likewise I would not dare to disgrace a same sex couple by not representing their lives, love, and commitment properly in our family tree.

Not long ago I found myself having a discussion with a genealogy fan who took great pride in explaining to me that she had been working for years and years to try and find the link in her family tree to a family story of having a Native American ancestor. Yet in this same conversation this same genealogist proclaimed that she would never reflect a same sex marriage in her tree and would not add any photographs of her mixed race niece and nephews. I asked her what the difference was and pointed out that a mixed race marriage of a white woman and a Native American man back in the 1890s might well have been seen as scandalous. After some stammering on her part our conversation ended. I guess all I can say is that she considered it genealogically ‘acceptable’ to have a Native American ancestor, but not people of certain other races or sexual orientation. So here was a genealogist who was spending years trying to find one fact for her family tree while admitting that she considered other facts to be unacceptable for inclusion in that same family tree.

It is time for every one of us genealogy fans and family historians to paint each of our family trees in the rainbow that has come to represent equality and acceptance of all peoples.

To those of you who already have that rainbow arcing over your family tree, I say to you: ‘Hear, Hear’!



Onward To Our Past® with PRIDE!

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Czech Genealogy: Once in a Lifetime News for Bohemian (Czech) Genealogy and History Thanks to the University of Chicagohttp://onwardtoourpast.com/genealogy_blog/czech-genealogy/czech-genealogy-once-in-a-lifetime-news-for-bohemian-czech-genealogy-and-history-thanks-to-the-university-of-chicago.html http://onwardtoourpast.com/genealogy_blog/czech-genealogy/czech-genealogy-once-in-a-lifetime-news-for-bohemian-czech-genealogy-and-history-thanks-to-the-university-of-chicago.html#comments Tue, 22 Jul 2014 10:22:01 +0000 http://onwardtoourpast.com/?p=3483 Czech Genealogy: Once in a Lifetime News for Bohemian (Czech) Genealogy and History Thanks to the University of Chicago

If you love Czech genealogy and Czech history, if you have Bohemian blood coursing through your veins, then the recent news from the University of Chicago will be of huge interest to you!

Located in the Joseph Regenstein Library of the University’s campus, which is found at the corner of Ellis Avenue and East 57th Street, Chicago, you will find a very special library-within-a-library with the name of Archives of Czechs and Slovaks Abroad, which more often is referred to by its acronym of ACASA.

ACASA holds some rare and marvelous resources for those of us with an interest in Czech genealogy, Czech history, and the communities Czechs immigrants formed here in the United States. One of their ‘crown jewels’ is the most complete set of Amerikán Národní Kalendář (ANK) anywhere in the United States. These fragile Czech-language journals, which were published once a year from 1875 through 1958, have until this time been available only onsite at ACASA. But not any longer!

A sample cover of Amerikan Narodni Kalendar.

A sample cover of Amerikan Narodni Kalendar.

Just days ago, June Pachuta Farris, the ACASA Director, or as she is officially known Bibliographer for Slavic and East European Studies, made the following announcement:

“We (ACASA and the University of Chicago Digital Services Department) have just finished the second stage in our digitization of pre-1924 issues of the Czech-American journal Amerikán Národní Kalendář. PDFs of the volumes we have can be accessed at: http://pi.lib.uchicago.edu/1001/cat/bib/10017213.

Stage three will put these volumes together within an XTF or other interface, but at least they are now available as pdfs for those who might be interested in using them.”

This is absolutely fabulous news for every Czech genealogy fan in the world now! Not only does ACASA have these wonderful journals, but they have made them digitally available for anyone who is interested. As you might guess, I have already been looking at every issue of ANK that is now online for the wonderful biographies and stories about Czechs in America and they are truly amazing and extraordinarily helpful! Plus you can do word searches on any term you are looking for within these many PDFs.

A sample of one of the title pages from ANK.

A sample of one of the title pages from ANK.

So be sure to bookmark and save this url: http://pi.lib.uchicago.edu/1001/cat/bib/10017213. I am sure you will be back to it over and over!

I should add the issues of ANK are not the only ACASA resources available for all of us Bohemian genealogy fans.

The following is from their website (http://www.lib.uchicago.edu/e/su/slavic/acasa.html)

“The Archives of Czechs and Slovaks Abroad (ACASA) consists of several thousand books, brochures, periodicals, anniversary publications, almanacs, and personal papers of Czechs and Slovaks who have lived outside of Czechoslovakia for some portion of their lives. Much of the material found in the archives was published in North America in the past 150 years, although titles from the countries of eastern and western Europe, Australia, South America and elsewhere are also well represented. Esther Jerabek’s Czechs and Slovaks in North America: A Bibliography (New York, 1976), provides a guide to much of the older material found in the archives and a detailed inventory of the collection is currently in progress.

ACASA contains a wide variety of books on the general and local history of Czech and Slovak emigration, such as those written by Jan Habenicht, Tomas Čapek, and Jaroslav Bubenicek. Information on the achievements of socially active immigrants can be found in the substantial collection of anniversary publications of fraternal, social, political, religious, cultural, and sports organizations. Among its many journal and newspaper holdings, ACASA has a nearly complete run of the almanac Amerikán Národní Kalendář (1875-1958), and Jerabek’s bibliography provides an index to many of the memoirs and articles found within its pages. Likewise, a wide variety of periodicals such as Hospodár (1891-1992) provide information on the history of Czech and Slovak settlements throughout North America. One of the most unique reference sources within ACASA is a list of nine thousand refugees from Czechoslovakia who were registered in Regensburg, Germany, from January to August 1948.

The Archives of Czechs and Slovaks Abroad is a separately housed collection and its contents are not reflected in the Library’s online catalog. As a preliminary step in providing users with a comprehensive interactive online finding aid to ACASA holdings, the compilation of two inventories of ACASA materials are now in progress. Even though incomplete at this time (with Inventory I reflecting approximately 50% of ACASA materials housed in the Special Collections Research Center and Inventory II as yet reflecting less than 5% of the material housed in the ACASA Reading Room in Regenstein Room 260), it is hoped that these two checklists will be of use to researchers and provide a broader picture of the wealth of material found in ACASA.”

There are often wonderful images in ANK.

There are often wonderful images in ANK.

You can use the following links to see what holdings are currently cataloged at ACASA:

Inventory I: Holdings in the Special Collections Research Center Room — 130 Joseph Regenstein Library

Inventory II: Holdings in the ACASA Reading Room — 260 Joseph Regenstein Library

If you love Czech genealogy, don’t pass up this great resource! June, the director, is incredibly knowledgeable and helpful, which makes any use of ACASA a dream.

And don’t forget the newest addition – those digital copies of Amerikán Národní Kalendář!

Onward To Our Past®

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Czech Genealogy Augustin Heřman: The First of the First Bohemians on American Shoreshttp://onwardtoourpast.com/first-czechs/czech-genealogy-augustin-herman-the-first-of-the-first-bohemians-on-american-shores.html http://onwardtoourpast.com/first-czechs/czech-genealogy-augustin-herman-the-first-of-the-first-bohemians-on-american-shores.html#comments Mon, 21 Jul 2014 11:30:47 +0000 http://onwardtoourpast.com/?p=3475 Augustin Heřman: The First of the First Bohemians on American Shores

Augustin Herman.  First of the first Bohemians on American soil.

Augustin Herman. First of the first Bohemians on American soil.

Someone always has to be first. First up to bat. First to go off the high dive at the municipal pool. First pick for teams on the playground. First in a Formula ®1 road race. So it is with America’s Bohemian immigrants. There had to be a first and as far as research tells us at this time the first Bohemian to come to the shores of America (actually Nieuw Amsterdam, later to become known as New York once the English won control from the Dutch) was Augustin Heřman.

If you are unfamiliar with this name (or the various other spellings you will encounter such as Herrman, Hermann, Heermans, and several others) don’t feel badly. While Augustin Heřman was truly an amazing immigrant he, like the majority of our Bohemian immigrant ancestors and their communities, has basically been overlooked in history books and neither adequately recognized nor memorialized.

In an effort to make a small dent in this oversight in history, we, at Onward To Our Past® are providing this primer on Augustin Heřman, first Bohemian immigrant to the shores of the future United States of America.

Augustin Heřman in Bohemia

Precious little is known for certain regarding the earliest times in the life of Augustin. There are conflicting reports of both his age and the year of his birth. These reports vary from 1605, 1621, 1623, and 1625. Likewise the city of his birth is also disputed with some reporting that he was born in Prague while others report that it was the town of Mšeno, which is some 53 kilometers due north of Prague. Actually in Mšeno, you will find a plaque commemorating Augustin Heřman placed in 1935 on Cinibulkova Street at the purported site of his birthplace. However, Professor Jan Kozák related to this author that when he last visited Mšeno for an extended period of time about two years ago, no one in town knew any additional details of the story of Augustin Heřman and his roots in the village. He went on to say “Actually, some scholars believe that Heřman was born there; others think there were some ties between the Heřman family and the town; and, finally, some people think this is a fantasy that Heřman and Mšeno were related.”

Some researchers, such as Miloslav Rechcigl, Jr., refer to Augustin as being from Prague. They base this on the fact that on occasion Augustin referred to himself as being from Prague. However, in our genealogy work we find, time and again, immigrants who when referring to their home use the largest nearby city as a reference. Personally, the author, in his years’ long quest to locate the Bohemian home village of his Vicha ancestors, had only the tiny clue of the single word ‘Pisec’ (sic) to lead him. When the Vicha ancestral home was finally discovered he found this word did not refer to a village at all, but simply the district of Pisek. Additionally, the author often refers to the fact that he is from ‘the Chicago area’, rather than his specific hometown in Northwest Indiana, especially to those unfamiliar with the finer points of United States geography. Perhaps this was the same situation with Augustin. Could it be that he would refer to Prague since it would be the only city in Bohemia any North American at the time might possibly ever recognize.

To add to this mystery, there are also conflicting reports as to who the parents of Augustin were. Again, Miloslav Rechcigl, Jr. in his monograph “The First Czech Settler in America” makes the undocumented claim that his parents were Augustine Ephraim Herman, a. wealthy merchant and councilor of Prague, while his mother was Beatrix, a daughter of Kaspar Redel, of a wealthy and high ranking Bohemian family. However, noted Czech historian, Tomáš Čapek, in his seminal book Czechs (Bohemians) in America makes the case that Augustin was the son of an evangelical pastor in Mšeno, by the name of Abraham Heřman. Abraham was forced to flee Bohemia, with his family, due to the brutal religious persecution of non-Catholics by the Hapsburgs during and after The Thirty-Years’ War. Čapek backs up his claim with an entry from the Mšeno village register as follows:

“In the Memorial Book of the Town of Mšeno (Bohemia) Litt.D., p. 39, the following entry is recorded: “A.D. 1621, the Sunday before Christ’s birth, on a cold day, our beloved pastor, Abraham Herzman, went into exile, with his family to the City of Zitava (Zittau). His noble-minded and pious wife did not live to see this humiliation, having died of grief one month before his departure. Before the parish house waited a vehicle, in which sat the entire family, that is, son Augustine and three daughters. The pastor blessed his flock and followed the conveyance on foot, the people meanwhile chanting, ‘ From the depths of my sorrows, I appeal to Thee, Oh Lord,’ and accompanying their minister to the village of Bezdedice.”

If the Augustine Herzman of Mšeno, disregarding the slight variation in the spelling of the surname, is not the Augustine Heřman of Bohemia Manor, it is, admittedly, a remarkable coincidence, in date and name.”

When we reviewed a transcription of the Last Will and Testament of Augustin hoping for some statement of his being from Prague or elsewhere, we found that in the will of Augustin, dated 27 September, 1684 found in Volume 15 (1891) issue of Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography there is no reference to his origin, beyond ‘Bohemian’. However, there is the enticing notation made, in pencil on some unknown date and by some unknown hand Aetatis 63 (age 63), which would, if true, place his date of birth circa 1621

As you will read a bit later, one of the crowning achievements of Augustin was his crafting of the first and remarkably detailed and accurate (geodetically surveyed) maps of the American territory of Virginia and Maryland. In the 2012, Volume 4 of Journal of Geographic Information Systems in the article “Map of Maryland and Virginia 1660-1670 Created by Augustin Herrmann” coauthors John R. Hébert (retired head of the Geography and Maps Division of the Library of Congress) and Jan T. Kozák (Institute of Geophysics, Prague, CR) provide some excellent detail about Augustin’s early life in their ‘Introductory Remarks’. While their article is concerned with Augustin’s now exceedingly rare map (only 5 original copies remain in existence) the authors nevertheless provide a detailed section on young Augustin’s life. Unfortunately while there are many specifics regarding his early years, beyond listing his birth year as 1623 in Bohemia, there is no mention of either a birth town or who his parentage.

The sign in Mseno, Bohemia today.

The sign in Mseno, Bohemia today.

In Volume XV (1920) of Maryland Historical Magazine there is the continuation of an article titled “Seven Pioneers of the Colonial Eastern Shore” written by Percy G. Scriven. In this article, which is Part II, is the story of Augustin Heřman. It includes a transcription of the application made by Augustin to the Provincial Assembly of Maryland in 1663 for the naturalization of his family and himself. This reads, in Augustin’s own words:

“Augustine Herman, born at Prague in Bohemia…”

Scriven also goes on to state, unfortunately without attribution to any records, the following:

“Augustine Herman was the son of Augustine Ephraim Herman, Councilman of Prague, Bohemia and his wife, Beatice Redel, daughter of Casper Redel, also of Prague. He was born in Prague in 1605…”

Likewise in Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Volume III (1892) on page 188 you can find a brief biography of Augusine Herrman. This biography states simply that Augustin was “…b. in Prague, Bohemia, about 1605…”

Certainly, while it is obvious many very capable and determined researchers have tried to answer the question of the parentage and exact year of the birth of Augustin Heřman disagreement exist and the answers to these challenging genealogy questions are as yet undiscovered.

What will we find next as we look into Augustin’s time in America? Coming soon!

Here is a hint!

Here is a hint!

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‘Czech, Please!’ wants YOU! How you can help with this exciting genealogy projecthttp://onwardtoourpast.com/first-czechs/czech-please-wants-you-how-you-can-help-with-this-exciting-genealogy-project.html http://onwardtoourpast.com/first-czechs/czech-please-wants-you-how-you-can-help-with-this-exciting-genealogy-project.html#comments Fri, 18 Jul 2014 08:06:00 +0000 http://onwardtoourpast.com/?p=3470 ‘Czech, Please!’ wants YOU! How you can help with this exciting genealogy project

Here is how you can help.  Just like Uncle Sam, We Want YOU!

Here is how you can help. Just like Uncle Sam, We Want YOU!

Now that you have joined us on the ‘Czech, Please!’ team, we wanted to give you some ideas about how you, as our teammate, can help this exciting genealogy and history project. We believe in K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple & Short) here at Onward To Our Past® so here we go:

 1) As you go about your regular genealogy work, please keep ‘Czech, Please!’ and our mission: “To identify, document, and preserve the names and stories of the first Bohemian* settlers in the cities, towns, and rural counties across America”.

 2) Review your personal genealogy and family history and identify who the earliest Bohemian* immigrants to the United States were in your family tree and submit them for our site and our ‘Czech, Please!’ map.

 3) No matter where you live, please take a few moments and reach out to your local genealogy group, historical society/organization, or museum and ask what records they may have regarding the first settlers to your home area and if they know when the first Bohemian* settler(s) came.

 4) One of the best aspects of genealogy is that we are, by and large, a very collaborative community so ask your friends and perhaps make an announcement at your next genealogy society meeting if any members have Bohemian* roots. If they do would they consider joining the crowdsourcing ‘Czech, Please!’ project.

 5) If you have Bohemian* roots in your family, please consider asking your elder family members if they recall any stories, legends, etc. about who the local Bohemian* families or individuals were who were early settlers or arrivals in the area.

 6) As you become aware of any local institutions, organizations, societies, museums, etc. that hold historic information on local Bohemian* immigrants, families, and/or settlers, submit that information to ‘Czech, Please!’ via Onward To Our Past® for our compilation of Bohemian* historic resources across America.

 7) If you have any favorite or ‘go to’ reference books that cover either in total or in part Bohemians* in America, please submit their titles to ‘Czech, Please!’ via Onward To Our Past® for inclusion in our listing of valuable written resources on Bohemians* in America.

 8) Most importantly, have fun and relish what you are helping to accomplish!

*Bohemia(n) refers to the ancient Kingdom of Bohemia and her peoples. This Kingdom included Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia. This basic area would later become known by various names such as Czechoslovak Republic, Czechoslovak Socialist Republic, Czechoslovakia, and currently Czech Republic.

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ONWARD TO OUR PAST® ANNOUNCES ‘CZECH, PLEASE!’ A NEW GENEALOGY CROWDSOUCING EFFORT TO DOCUMENT AMERICA’S FIRST CZECH/BOHEMIAN IMMIGRANTShttp://onwardtoourpast.com/first-czechs/onward-to-our-past-announces-czech-please-a-new-genealogy-crowdsoucing-effort-to-document-americas-first-czechbohemian-immigrants.html http://onwardtoourpast.com/first-czechs/onward-to-our-past-announces-czech-please-a-new-genealogy-crowdsoucing-effort-to-document-americas-first-czechbohemian-immigrants.html#comments Sun, 13 Jul 2014 20:23:42 +0000 http://onwardtoourpast.com/?p=3457 Onward To Our Past®

Contact: Scott W. Phillips FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tel: (312) 718-1769
Fax: (219) 861-0178
Email: onwardtoourpast@gmail.com

Crowdsourcing to be used to identify, research, document, and preserve the first Czech/Bohemian immigrants to cities and towns across America.

Onward To Our Past® Genealogy Services Company is pleased to announce the first-ever initiative to identify, research, document, record, and preserve the names of the first Czech/Bohemian immigrants to cities and towns all across America. From the largest to the smallest, “Czech, Please!” will be a unique project in the history of Czech and American history.

Historically, the Czech immigrants and their communities have been some of the least studied of all the immigrant groups that came and established themselves in America. In an effort to bring to light one important historic aspect of the Czech/Bohemian immigrants, Onward To Our Past® has initiated this project called ‘Czech, Please!’.

Scott Phillips, founder and owner of Onward To Our Past® Genealogy Services Company located in Duneland Beach, Indiana, announced the initiation of this exciting, never before attempted project in Czech genealogy. Scott said “Never before has any attempt ever been made to identify, document, and preserve who the first Bohemian/Czech immigrant settlers were in the cities and towns across America. In our view, this should be an integral part of Czech immigrant and American history, but it is not….yet. Onward To Our Past® is coordinating a crowdsourcing initiative to make this history happen and be available, free of charge, to all genealogists in the future.”

Acknowledging that this undertaking is a huge project that will reach from New York to California and Texas to Minnesota, Onward To Our Past® is calling on all genealogy fans, especially those with Czech roots and heritage to help out by joining this crowdsourcing initiative.

Scott continued “‘Czech, Please!’ will have a significant geographic reach, touching almost every state in America. Consequently, we are seeking help from anyone and everyone who’s interested. The project’s hefty scope is what drove our decision to ask for crowdsourcing to make our vision become reality. Crowdsourcing should also make the project move faster and be a lot more fun. In order to help, all you need to do is post a comment on our website at http://onwardtoourpast.com/genealogy_blog/czech-genealogy/whos-on-first-bohemian-czech-genealogy-and-immigration-across-the-united-states.html, comment or private message on our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/OnwardToOurPast, or email our offices directly at OnwardToOurPast@gmail.com. We will then follow up with specific assignments that match your ‘Czech, Please!’ interests. We look forward to every Czech-American giving us a helping hand.”

In addition to being a regular genealogy columnist for Huffington Post United Kingdom Scott also writes a regular series for the e-publications of GenealogyBank.com. He has been published by Internet Genealogy Magazine, Family Chronicles Magazine, and organizations such as the National Genealogical Society, MyHeritage, Save Ellis Island, the Ohio Genealogical Society, National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library, Archives.com, Czechoslovak Genealogical Society International, Minnesota Genealogical Society, and others.


If you’d like more information about this topic, or to schedule an interview with Scott Phillips, please call (312) 718-1769 or email OnwardToOurPast@gmail.com

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Who’s on First? aka ‘Czech, Please!’ Bohemian (Czech) Genealogy and Immigration Across the United Stateshttp://onwardtoourpast.com/first-czechs/whos-on-first-bohemian-czech-genealogy-and-immigration-across-the-united-states.html http://onwardtoourpast.com/first-czechs/whos-on-first-bohemian-czech-genealogy-and-immigration-across-the-united-states.html#comments Tue, 08 Jul 2014 10:53:17 +0000 http://onwardtoourpast.com/?p=3442 Who’s on First? Bohemian (Czech) Immigration and Genealogy in the United States

A somewhat odd and decidedly peculiar thing happened on the way to the world’s history books. The early Bohemian (Czech) immigrants and their communities were, and continue to be, largely ignored, omitted, unstudied, and undocumented.

We've all been searching!

We’ve all been searching!

Granted, this lack of study and documentation is not 100% true. However, compared to other immigrant groups and their early communities, the Bohemians/Czechs in America are one of the least studied groups. Consider the following: According to the Czechoslovak History Newsletter, 1 (1976), it was not until 1914 that future Harvard University professor, Robert J. Kerner, would complete the very first doctoral dissertation on Bohemian history. Equally amazing is it would not be until 1930, at the University of the University of Southern California, Berkley, that the second such dissertation would be completed. The first dissertation on Moravia was not undertaken until 1957 and the first on Slovakia not until 1961. Compounding this overall lack of study and research is the fact that in the relatively few areas where the Bohemian/Czech immigrants and communities have been studied, the ensuing research materials are far flung, uncoordinated, and not held in any centralized location or Internet site.

Early on in my personal genealogy work, at the time I first started studying my Bohemian ancestors, I was shocked by my discovery of this lack of research and documented history concerning the early Bohemian immigrant community. The impact of this lack of information made all of my Czech genealogy work on my hometown of Cleveland, Ohio all the more challenging and difficult.

In addition to working on our personal family history, my firm, Onward To Our Past® simultaneously began researching, documenting, and accumulating all the information that we could locate that held historic significance for the early Bohemians in Cleveland. Many of the documents we uncovered were in their native Czech so our efforts also include translating these materials to English for the first time.

One of the earliest questions we encountered was this: “Who exactly was, or were, the earliest Bohemian/Czech settlers in the City of Cleveland?”

Who were the first Czech immigrants to you town?

Who were the first Czech immigrants to you town?

Who’s on First?

Back in the 1930s, the famous comedy duo of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello honed to perfection a sketch in their performance that I think everyone is familiar with yet today. Abbott is identifying players on a baseball team who have particularly ambiguous surnames. It has some incredibly fine timing and wordplay and it all begins with ‘Who’s on first?’

This skit is what got the staff at Onward To Our Past® asking the question of just who were the first Bohemian/Czech immigrant settlers in Cleveland. It wasn’t long and we began working though this puzzle. We found, as we worked on Cleveland, that it wasn’t long before we were asking ourselves the additional question of just who the original Bohemian/Czech settlers were in other cities and towns and when did these communities begin to establish their Bohemian/Czech roots?

While we were interested in the larger cities such as New York City, Chicago, St. Louis, Cleveland, etc. we also found that we were intrigued by the same question for the smaller ‘Bohemian’ communities throughout the United States. We wondered just as much about who were the first Bohemian/Czech settlers in towns such as Protivin and Spillville, Iowa; Yukon and Prague, Oklahoma; and in towns in the Dakota Territories, Minnesota, Texas, Wisconsin, Virginia, and elsewhere across America?

What do you say? Let’s Put the Bohemian/Czech ‘First Team’ and for the First Time Determine ‘Who’s on First’!

In the interest of Bohemian/Czech immigrant history, Onward To Our Past® is initiating a crowdsourcing effort to determine the first Bohemian/Czech immigrant settlers across the United States.

We will begin with the accumulation of all known first Czech/Bohemian immigrants to their communities that have already been identified. At the same time we will begin expanding to every community can find with Czech immigrants. We need YOUR help! What do you know about the Czech roots of your community? Would you be willing to share what you know about the first Czech immigrants in your community or one you have lived in or have researched or studied? Would you share your leads, ideas, theories, and suggestions? We need them all!

We ask that you begin by leaving your comments here on our website or our Facebook page. Let us know that you are interesting in participating in this exciting and fun project as well as any information you have already learned.

Already ‘Under Construction’, in the very near future we will be launching a new webpage designed specifically for tracking this project.

We hope everyone with an interest in Czech genealogy and ancestry will join in!

Here is the memorial for one of our first Czechs!

Here is the memorial for one of our first Czechs!


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A HAPPY GENEALOGY 4TH OF JULYhttp://onwardtoourpast.com/genealogy_blog/a-happy-genealogy-4th-of-july.html http://onwardtoourpast.com/genealogy_blog/a-happy-genealogy-4th-of-july.html#comments Fri, 04 Jul 2014 10:28:07 +0000 http://onwardtoourpast.com/?p=3426 A happy genealogy fourth of July to everyone!

A very happy 4th of July to all!

A very happy 4th of July to all!

I wish you all a happy Independence Day! A wonderful, l-o-n-g weekend of celebrating our nation’s Declaration of Independence, summer, barbeque season hitting full throttle, fireworks, family gatherings, parades, and so much more. It is a truly wonderful summer holiday!

As genealogists we should all be right in the thick of celebrating each and every aspect of this holiday.

4th of July Elvis jpeg

Many of us genealogy and ancestry fans know that we have ancestors who came to these shores seeking better lives and opportunities for themselves and their families. My ancestors certainly did. Many came and were welcomed by the promise of the Statue of Liberty or “Mother of Exiles” as she is referred to on her pedestal. Emma Lazarus, in her sonnet, ‘New Colossus’, penned the following words that have become immortal:

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

In the case of our family, this poem fits our family to a ‘T’. They came as poor, often disenfranchised, discriminated against, humble, ‘plain folks’ seeking a new life. Some came before Lady Liberty came to symbolize America in 1886. Some came after her lamp lit Bedloe Island (now officially Liberty Island), the harbor, and the entrance to all of America. But no matter, when they arrived they all came as immigrants. They had called ‘home’ Italy, Bohemia, and Cornwall, but came seeking to call America home.

It was never easy. None came with silver spoons in their satchels. None came with wealth beyond some meager savings. Some, at the time of the Declaration of Independence were deemed ‘Loyalists’ and were forced to flee, but decades later returned albeit to a different area of the country. Some found only backbreaking labor in mines, sweatshops, farms, or factories. Some fought for their new homeland while some tended the home front. Almost all lost loved ones; either children or spouses, and some lost asea before they ever touched the shores of America.

America IS diverse!  Celebrate inclusivity!

America IS diverse! Celebrate inclusivity!

Many came and met with success and good fortune. Some came and met with heartbreak, unimaginable loss, and failure. Some came, failed, returned home, and then still tried again. All, I like to imagine, certainly did their best.

They all spoke a language other than English or had an accent that made them ‘different’. They wore different clothing, ate different foods, held differing religious beliefs, often also physically looked different, and yet here they came to America, a land that reputedly offered acceptance and opportunity no matter what you looked or sounded like. (Kind of sounds like what many of us believed in the ‘70’s.)

As genealogy and family history fans, I think it is important that we remember what it was that lured our ancestors to the shores and heartland of America. We, as genealogists should also be sure to remember who they were. Not just in terms of their names and ‘data’, but what kind of folks they were. We need to hold their memories and history in a place of honor. In our family we take great pride in calling ourselves Italian-Americans, Cornish-Americans, and/or Czech-Americans. Being a hyphenated American is worn, in our families, as a true badge of honor. There is much in our ancestors’ histories for all of us to be very, very proud of. Many of the customs, foods, music, books, language, and more have remained ingrained in our lives and though our DNA in our very being. These pieces of our history permeate our lives today and we celebrate the fact that this amalgam is exactly what has made America great.

So as you enjoy this marvelous holiday, be sure to celebrate ALL that has made and continues to make America great – our diversity.

Oh, and be careful with those fireworks. :-)

4th of July Disney

Cheers and Happy Birthday America!

Have fun and hit the grill!

Have fun and hit the grill!

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Cornish Genealogy and A Diaspora Profilehttp://onwardtoourpast.com/genealogy_blog/cornish-genealogy/cornish-genealogy-and-a-diaspora-profile.html http://onwardtoourpast.com/genealogy_blog/cornish-genealogy/cornish-genealogy-and-a-diaspora-profile.html#comments Mon, 30 Jun 2014 10:19:49 +0000 http://onwardtoourpast.com/?p=3417 Cornish Genealogy and A Diaspora Profile: The Thomas Phillips Allen Family — Perranzabuloe to Ishpeming — From Cornish to Yupper.

Many of my ancestors were a part of the Great Cornish Diaspora. While each left Cornwall for their individual reasons, it is interesting to note that not all followed in each others’ footsteps, but rather set out for a wide ranging set of locations across the United States and, at times, Canada.

The following is one example.

Thomas Phillips Allen was born 17 September, 1865 in Perranzabuloe, Cornwall to Mary Phillipps and Thomas Allen. Thomas Phillips Allen was one of seven children and the youngest son.

Thomas became a tin miner and in 1894 married the first of his three wives, Elizabeth Ann Wicks, in Redruth. In 1905 Thomas left his wife and young son, Jacob, and immigrated to Kofa, Yuma County, in the Arizona Territory. Now a ‘ghost town’, Kofa, an acronym for King of Arizona, was an early gold rush town that was home to the richest single gold mine in the American Southwest. Stories of those riches may well have reached St. Teath Parish and been what enticed Thomas to emigrate.

The mines in Kofa played out by 1910 and lo and behold in the 1910 United States Census, Thomas had moved all the way from the played out gold mine of Arizona to the copper and iron mines located in Negaunee, Marquette County, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. In 1914, Thomas married a Cornish girl, Bessie Trebilcock, in Negaunee, but Bessie dies less than a year after their marriage. Then in 1917, Thomas married another Cornish girl, Elizabeth Jane (nee Tomms) Southey from Redruth.

Thomas Phillips Allen's marriage certificate.

Thomas Phillips Allen’s marriage certificate.

In the ensuing few years, Thomas’ nephew, William H. Huddy, of Probus, and his wife, Lillian Barron of Truro would follow their uncle to the mines of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan as would his nephew Clifton Huddy of Perranzabule, and his son, Jacob Allen, from his first marriage, who had been living in Illogan.

Thomas and Elizabeth had a son, Lloyd, and a daughter, Lucille. One of their four grandsons would be Paul Dean Urquhart. On May 28, 1971 Paul, a helicopter pilot, would be shot down during his second tour of duty in Vietnam in the sky above Thua Thien Province, Vietnam. To this day Paul remains MIA/KIA (missing in action/killed in action) and his remains have never been recovered.

My cousin's name from The Wall.

My cousin’s name from The Wall.

Keeping Cornish: I made many wonderful and valued discoveries while I was researching the Allen and Huddy families and their lives in Upper Peninsula towns of Negaunee, Marquette, Ishpeming, Palmer, and Iron Mountain.

One of our typical pasty parties!

One of our typical pasty parties!

However, as much as I enjoyed finding the documentation and history surrounding these ancestors and meeting ‘new’ cousins, the best was that I happened upon Lawry’s Pasty Shop. Located in Ishpeming and Marquette, Michigan and with deep Cornish roots of their own, they make a pasty that is the closest to my Nana’s that I have ever found! Plus they pack them fresh and send them to me through the post!

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Genealogy is Blossoming on The Great Plains and Across America with Stephen Oureckyhttp://onwardtoourpast.com/genealogy_blog/genealogy-is-blossoming-on-the-great-plains-and-across-america-with-stephen-ourecky.html http://onwardtoourpast.com/genealogy_blog/genealogy-is-blossoming-on-the-great-plains-and-across-america-with-stephen-ourecky.html#comments Fri, 27 Jun 2014 10:51:37 +0000 http://onwardtoourpast.com/?p=3411 Genealogy is Blossoming on The Great Plains and Across America with Stephen Ourecky

As one of our many online, free services, Onward To Our Past® (OTOP) Genealogy Services Company, conducts periodic interviews with individuals of interest to the genealogy community.

In the past we have interviewed genealogy experts from across the globe, including the likes of Dick Eastman, editor of Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter, Alan Pateman-Jones, at the time the Director General of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Peter Farina, expert in Italian genealogy, Myra Cordrey, lead genealogist for the Cornwall Online Parish Clerks organization, Miroslav Koudelka, Czech genealogy expert, and others.

Now today we bring you a brand new exclusive Onward To Our Past® interview for your genealogical edification, enjoyment, and enlightenment.

If you have an interest in Czech (Bohemian) genealogy, family history, ancestry, and culture you will find this interview of special interest I am sure. So sit back, grab your favorite beverage, maybe a nice glazed donut to accompany it, and enjoy today’s interview.

OTOP: Will today’s Onward To Our Past® genealogy guest please sign in!

“Hello, I am Stephen (Steve) Ourecky, Editor and Owner of Czech Slavnosti newspaper, in Wilber, Nebraska.”

Steve Ourecky

Steve Ourecky

OTOP: Steve, can you begin by giving us a bit of background on your newspaper, Czech Slavnosti?

Steve: “The Czech Slavnosti newspaper was originally started in 2008 by Tim Linscott as a supplemental publication to the Wilber Republican newspaper that he also published. With Wilber, Nebraska being a community that is very proud of its Czech heritage it was a good fit.”

OTOP: What led you to buy and become the Editor of Czech Slavnosti?

Steve: “Tim sold his publishing titles to a larger publishing company and Czech Slavnosti was not a very good fit with their other, mostly local, weekly newspapers. The new owners thought it might have potential with someone else, so they decided to put it up for sale and see if someone who would be interested in it might come forward. When I saw the ad, I knew if someone didn’t take it over, it would die. I had been getting more involved in the Czech festivals and had made connections all across the Midwest. I thought this paper might be a good way to help promote and unite the Czech-American communities across the States.”

Czech Slavnosti is growing and a great newspaper.

Czech Slavnosti is growing and a great newspaper.

OTOP: That sounds like a terrific mission and purpose for your newspaper, Steve. What is your vision for the revitalized Czech Slavnosti?

Steve: “Tim laid a great foundation with the slogan “All things Czech”. I want to put a little more focus on the U.S. Czech-American culture that our ancestors created in their new country. Like all the ethnic groups in the U.S., the Czech-American culture has its own unique food, music, dance, history, and even language. The many area festivals bring the people together and teach others about our beloved culture. I want to report on all aspects of this. I also want lots of photos!”

OTOP: Lots of photos, eh? Now you are talking the language every genealogist loves, Steve. Every genealogist and family historian I know certainly loves photos! It must be fun to see these pictures from across the U.S. So what do you like best about working on Czech Slavnosti?

Steve: “The people I meet and work with. It is also a great excuse to “have” to go to festivals!”

OTOP: Steve, I am sure that it is all not wonderful all the time, so what is your biggest challenge as the publisher and editor-in-chief of Czech Slavnosti?

Steve: “I have zero background in publishing. I asked around to all the people I knew to see if they knew someone who could be editor for me. Not finding anyone willing, I took the job on myself. I am lucky that the company I bought the newspaper from has been very helpful in teaching me the ropes. I hire them to do the layout, printing, and mailing. I handle the subscriptions and ads, and I provide them with the articles, general guidelines as to where I’d like to put them, and then proofread the newspaper before it is printed.”

OTOP: Speaking of backgrounds and your evident love of all things Czech Steve, is it safe to say you have Czech roots in your family?

Steve: “I certainly do. My father is 100% Czech, my mother is 1/8 Czech with the rest German. My paternal grandmother, Irma, was very active in the Czech-American community in Wilber and across neighboring states.”

OTOP: With such a great Czech background and an active grandmother, have you done any work on your own family history and if so do you still find time to work on it now?

Steve: “My Mother was the family genealogist and kept all the records. When she passed away 18 years ago, that job got passed to me. The Internet was just starting to have many great resources at that time and I took advantage of that to add to what she had accomplished. This was at the time when I only lived in Omaha and didn’t have the weekend house in Wilber yet, so I had plenty of free time.

It got to the point I needed to learn some Czech to help in my research. I found a class that a woman was teaching in her basement. It was there that I met the then Miss Czech-Slovak Nebraska. She encouraged me to join the Omaha Czech Cultural Club and it all snowballed from there. Since then I have joined other Czech heritage organizations and have become more involved in my businesses. I just don’t have the time anymore to do much family history research.”

OTOP: I certainly understand the wish for more free time to work on all the family history we’d all like to, Steve. Being so involved in Czech heritage, what do you think the future holds for preserving our Czech culture, roots, etc?

Steve: “Where I am involved there seems to be a renaissance in interest. Young people getting involved especially the girls researching the kroj from their home regions. When I was young, the Czech lands were still Communist and we were in the Cold War. Now that those are over and travel and communication is much easier, I see people becoming more interested in their roots.”

OTOP: That is great to hear, Steve. You might find it interesting to know that Dr. Francis Dvornik in his book “The Czech Contributions To The Growth of The United States” said, way back in 1961, the basis for his writing this work on Czech-American immigration and history was “the surprisingly vivid interest, which the Clevelanders of Czech extraction had manifested in the history of their fathers and forefathers who became American pioneers in the mid-West and West…”.

OTOP: Is there anything else you would like to add for our readers to know about you and Czech Slavnosti?

Steve: “Ha ha, no. I think I’ve gone on enough.”

OTOP: Thank you so much Steve! We certainly wish you and Czech Slavnosti well in the future. Personally, I certainly enjoy every issue of my subscription and look forward to it every other month.

Scott’s Note:

By the way everyone, the cost for a year’s subscription to Czech Slavnosti is inexpensive at only $18.00 a year, delivered directly to your mailbox. You can subscribe to Czech Slavnosti by using the form found on their website or you can give Steve a call at (402) 616-2635.

It really is a great Czech heritage newspaper and a whole lot of fun to read!

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Don’t Blink in Your Genealogy and Fight Against the Dimming of Our Family Treeshttp://onwardtoourpast.com/genealogy_blog/dont-blink-in-your-genealogy-and-fight-against-the-dimming-of-our-family-trees.html http://onwardtoourpast.com/genealogy_blog/dont-blink-in-your-genealogy-and-fight-against-the-dimming-of-our-family-trees.html#comments Mon, 23 Jun 2014 10:45:13 +0000 http://onwardtoourpast.com/?p=3402 Don’t Blink in Your Genealogy and Fight Against the Dimming of Our Family Trees

I am not sure where I got my ‘music appreciation’ genes, but the more I study my genealogy, the more I realize my musical tastes are what my mother used to refer to as a ‘Heinz 57 Varieties’. My tastes are wide ranging and diverse. So it was that I found myself listening to a county-western song by Kenny Chesney song, “Don’t Blink”. You are most likely familiar with it, but it opens with the following lines:

“I turned on the evening news
Saw an old man being interviewed.
Turning a hundred and two today
Asked him what’s the secret to life
He looked up from his old pipe
Laughed and said “All I can say is
Don’t blink”.

Chesney continues this song with several verses in which the old man explains how fast our lives move and how quickly things change.

Naturally this got me to thinking about my passion for genealogy and family history.

How quickly the Czech language disappeared from our family!

How quickly the Czech language disappeared from our family!

Genealogy is a marathon

When I talk with folks who are just getting started in their genealogy and family history I always give them my point of view, which is that I see our searches for our ancestors as a marathon and not as a sprint. It is a marathon where our only goal is to set our ‘personal best’. It is not a competition to be measured by how fast we can grow our family trees, how large it is compared to someone else’s tree, etc. Rather it is our effort to do our personal best to accurately research, discover, and document our ancestors and their lives. This, I also explain, means that we cannot constantly sprint though our work, but we should set a pace that we can maintain, that stretches our limits, and that avoids burning out.


There is, however, one big flaw that I constantly find myself fighting in this, this marathon genealogy analogy. The flaw in the concept of keeping a pace and not running a sprint comes with our contacts with our family elders. The sand in the hourglass is constantly running and time is of the essence for us to get all the stories we can, all the knowledge, and all the information we can from each of these elders. Their stories add incredible value and humanness to our genealogy and come as close as possible to making some of our ancestors come alive.

The light that is our family tree

Over the years that I have been working on our family history and genealogy I have actually created, in my mind’s eye, a manner of seeing our family tree that is not in the form of a tree, but rather a huge manor. It is a manner of seeing the families of our ancestry that I particularly enjoy. I see each family branch as a room in a big manor. I guess it actually now is more of a manor or small castle with the number of rooms in it. As each new ancestor is discovered a new room is added to the manor and then as we learn more about them through our research each room lights up brighter and brighter. These well-lighted rooms often cast their light into new areas that help us to find more ancestors and to add more rooms and illuminate those rooms as well. It reminds me of some Thomas Kinkade painting, with a lovely manor with a warm, welcoming, and beautiful light cascading out of their windows. The more we research and understand about each ancestor, the brighter these lights shine. I have to admit that I really love this analogy and enjoy thinking about all my ancestors in this way.

Home, Sweet Home!

However there is another side to this analogy. It’s unfortunate, but the more I understand and acknowledge it the more effectively I can deal with it.

The unfortunate side is this: While I see our ‘family home’ with all its many rooms lit up, warm and welcoming, there is the conflicting phenomenon that I call the continual dimming of portions of our family trees when we lose a family member.

When we lose a family member, instantly a room in our ‘home’ that was just moments ago illuminated, warm, and inviting is cast into total darkness. Our grief makes this room pitch black. All the light is gone and we are left to stumble around in the dark without the help, support, love, and friendship that had found in that room before.

My mom enjoying a nice, big, cold Czech draft beer on her 90th birthday!  Genealogy IS stories!

My mom enjoying a nice, big, cold Czech draft beer on her 90th birthday! Genealogy IS stories!

I felt this darkening in my life and my genealogy acutely when my mother recently passed away. She was a source of light for so much of my genealogy work since she was the elder of our family and had always been the ‘family glue’ keeping the family gatherings doing. She knew so many of the old great aunts and uncles, the second and third cousins, and more. Perhaps the best part was that she wanted me to ‘know’ them as well! She, too, relished every discovery I made in our family history and she could help me as no one else with plotting attacks on whatever brick wall I might be confronted with at the time we were visiting. Similarly the Czech pronunciations of family names and villages lightly tripped off her tongue. In her case, not only did the lights go off in her ‘room’, but it seemed as though I could lights going off in room after room as the living connection to those ancestors was broken.

So it was when my Italian father-in-law and mother-in-law passed away. So much knowledge was cast into the darkness.

My Bisnonna and Bisnonna at their happiest!  The wine they would make each year with Mondavi grapes shipped in by Robert Mondavi in California.

My Bisnonna and Bisnonna at their happiest! The wine they would make each year with Mondavi grapes shipped in by Robert Mondavi in California.

However, just as when we are suddenly cast into a dark room and it seems as though its darkness is impenetrable, our eyes ever so slowly begin to adjust. The room is still dark, but we can make out certain things. It is never seen with the same clarity or light as when that room was warm and wonderfully lit up, but we do come to realize there is still much there for us.

Our work as genealogists and family historians is to keep these dark rooms as illuminated as we can. We do this with our data and documents, but we do it more so, at least in my mind, with our memories, stories, and if we are truly lucky, photographs.

It is also why we continue to work on our genealogy ‘family manors’. We never know how many secret rooms may be out there that we can’t see for the darkness. We go down dusty, dark passageways, following blind leads, and delving into family history mazes all in the hopes that we will arrive at a previously unknown room in our ‘family manor’. And then when we do find one, we will do our best to bring as much light as we can to that room to help illuminate our ‘family manor’ as much as we can!

So just remember…”Don’t Blink”….

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