Czech Genealogy: Facts and Figures from “Harvard Encyclopedia” on Czechs
Recently I wrote a short review of the reference book “Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups. If you missed it, you can read it by clicking here.
While I won’t try and capture all of the useful information to be found in the Czech section of this book (pages 261-272) I thought some readers and those of you who are fellow Czech genealogy, ancestry, and history aficionados would appreciate and could use some of the facts and figures the author, Karen Johnson Freeze, provided us.
Before I get to the facts and figures, let me just say I tried to get in touch with Ms. Freeze, but discovered she passed away in 2009 after a career that included studying and living in Czech Republic. According to her daughter, Karen truly loved the Czech people, their culture, and their history. I think it shows in her work in the “Harvard Encyclopedia”.
Now on to some of the good stuff from Ms. Freeze:
- As of the writing of her work, there were circa 400,000 who had come to the United States.
- Of these 400,000, about 350,000 had come to our shores between 1848 and 1914.
- The Czechs were the earliest Slavs to reach the United States in significant numbers, their literacy rate never was less than 97%, and they largely emigrated as family groups.
- In 1970, the U.S. Census estimated circa 450,000 Americans had grown up in homes where Czech was spoken and only ca. 70,000 of those were immigrants.
- The following, related to Czech assimilation deserves to be directly quoted: “Although their skills, education, and values enabled them to adapt to their new environment quickly, the Czechs did not assimilate rapidly. Their language was unrelated to that of most of their neighbors, and while they could usually communicate in German, they found English difficult to learn. Wherever they congregated in sufficient numbers they remained aloof, preserving ethnic traditions longer than most groups of a similar socioeconomic background – even while considering themselves loyal Americans. As former Austrian subjects, they were accustomed to preserving their distinctiveness within a large state.”
- By the time Columbus ‘discovered’ America, the Bohemian state was already 500 years old.
- Following the defeat of the Czechs in 1620 at the Battle of White Mountain and the execution of their leaders, ca. 36,000 Bohemian families (“virtually the whole Czech intelligentsia”) emigrated to Protestant lands rather than convert to Catholicism.
- It is estimated no more than 500 Czechs arrived in the United States prior to 1850, but by 1890 there were ca. 170,000.
- The Czechs established heir major cultural institutions before 1890 – fraternal and gymnastic societies, newspapers, labor organizations, Free Thought congregations, and churches.
- The Czechs brought more money to the United States than most immigrants. In 1902, the average financial declaration of the Czechs was $23.12, far in excess of the average of $14.84 for all entrants. This enabled further transportation and settlement in the western lands.
- In the early decades of Czech immigration, women and children made up over two-thirds of those immigrants.
- By 1900, two settlement and occupational patterns had been established: 45% of foreign-born Czechs lived in New York City, Cleveland, and Chicago. Well over half the first generation Czechs were engaged in agriculture with71% of those in the states of Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Texas, and Wisconsin. In 1900 the aforementioned three cities and five states accounted for 84% of the foreign born Czech population. The remaining 16% were scattered in small towns, villages, and rural areas of the Dakotas, Kansas, Michigan, and Missouri as well as such cities as Baltimore and St. Louis.
As you can see from this small sampling of just the first few paragraphs there is a lot of genealogy and historic gold in this book!
Tomorrow we will continue with more insights from the “Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups” and its section on our beloved Czechs.
Onward To Our Past®