Czech Genealogy: Leo Baca to the rescue
Every once in a great while someone does something truly phenomenal, not just outstanding, but truly phenomenal, in the field of genealogy. You know, not just the everyday kind of stuff, but something monumental. Something with the ability to impact others beyond their own work, have a truly lasting effect, and stand the test of time as an indispensable resource. Such is the case of Leo Baca when it comes to Czech genealogy and family history.
If you have worked on your Czech genealogy at all you know the name of Leo Baca and, in one form or another, have accessed the fruit of his labors. After all, there isn’t anyone around with Czech ancestry in America who doesn’t know the nine volumes of “Czech Immigration Passenger Lists”, Volumes I though IX.
Recently, Leo Baca agreed to be interviewed for the readers of Onward To Our Past® Genealogy & History Services Company and the newspaper, Czech Slavnosti, about his work and I know you are going to find it as interesting as I did. So here we go!
OTOP: Thank you for agreeing to answer a few of our questions for the readers of Onward To Our Past® and Czech Slavnosti, Leo. First, can you tell us if you have Czech roots yourself?
Leo Baca: “Yes, I am of Czech ancestry. In fact all of my ancestors are Moravian.”
OTOP: Have you ever been lucky enough to visit Moravia?
Leo Baca: “Since I am fourth generation Moravian Texan, I have many Moravian ‘home villages’. I have visited twice. Not only did I visit the home villages, I actually looked for the specific houses my ancestors came from.”
OTOP: What was it that first made you consider such a wonderful, but massive, undertaking as your nine volume work “Czech Immigration Passenger Lists”?
Leo Baca: “Back in the mid to late 70s while I was working in Maryland I would go to the National Archives and Library of Congress after work on Fridays. At one time I even had a stack pass to the Library of Congress. From wandering around there I learned that there were only a small number of books on Czech Texans at that time. I was also working on trying to get arrival data on my Czech ancestors. I eventually figured out how to do that at the National Archives. After doing about three arrivals it occurred to me that this was repeatable process. From there I had the thought Czech arrival data could be abstracted and complied in book form.”
OTOP: Do you have any idea how many hours you spent researching, writing, compiling, and publishing your volumes?
Leo Baca: “I have no idea how many hours I spent on this, but it did take twenty years to complete. I had lots of help from my wife and children and from wonderful people like Marjorie Sobotka, Doug Kubicek and many others.”
OTOP: Twenty years! That is almost beyond comprehension. What a marvelous effort for you to dedicate yourself to. Plus it is fun to see you employed what has now become fashionable, “crowdsources” or as us old-timers used to call it – helping. Speaking of old-timers, did you do this work pre-computer?
Leo Baca: “A portion was completed using typewriters. Volumes I and II were published before PCs. After Volume II, PCs and Microsoft Word were used on the rest.”
OTOP: What was the most challenging part of working on this project, Leo?
Leo Baca: “The most challenging part of this was organizing the data in the early days, but I eventually came up with a form for abstracting the data. Then I would manually sort the forms before each of the books were typed.”
OTOP: I know your information is available on Ancestry.com and some other paywall protected sites, but are your volumes still available in print? I know I love having a set in my bookshelf as they are one of my most critical ‘go to’ Czech genealogy references.
Leo Baca: “Yes, all volumes are still available from me except Volume V which is now out of print.”
OTOP: On behalf of all our readers, we would like to say thank you, Leo, for your time and insights. Of course we all want to say an even bigger thank you for the work you did to bring us all such a wonderful and unique resource as your nine volumes of Czech passenger records.