Czech Genealogy: Check that Czech and Let’s Go Bohemian!
I relish finding lesser known people, articles, and items of genealogical and historic interest as I work on family history and genealogy. This has been especially true as I work in the realm of those of my ancestors who emigrated from Bohemia back in the middle 1800s as well as their roots in ‘the old country’ before the families left for America. Far too little has been written and researched on this immigrant group. It is a mission of sorts to find those lesser known individuals whose work made a difference, and continue to make a difference, in our work and ancestry today.
In my very earliest work on my own Czech genealogy I was somewhat challenged by all the various nationalities I found listed for my ancestors. These national notations fluctuated between Bohemian, Slav, Slavic, Czech, Chech, Austrian, German, Austro-Hungarian, Bohunk, and a few others from time to time. As all good genealogists do when confronted with a conundrum, I brought my observation and question to the attention of our eldest family member, my mother who at the time was 92. She was nonplussed and immediately told me, in no uncertain terms, our ancestors were Bohemian. Period!
Being a smart and loving son, I embraced my mother’s directive and began researching in an attempt to understand where this confusion originated.
For those early, first wave Bohemian immigrants, it is important to note it was not until 1882, which was well into the second wave of Bohemian immigration, the U.S. Immigration Service even agreed to acknowledge ‘Bohemian’ as a recordable nationality for incoming immigrants. So the ‘authorities’ had to pick something else even if the immigrant said ‘Bohemian’. Thank goodness for genealogists everywhere this changed in 1882.
With these memories still rambling around in my memory, my interest was pricked when I happened across a footnote in an article I had found in a previous footnote in a previous article, which was titled “The Bohemian Language in America”, authored by J. B. Dudek. This article was in the April, 1927 edition (Volume 2, Number 7) of American Speech, which is the journal of The American Dialect Society.
It didn’t take me long to decide that I really liked this dude, Dudek, or as he was most often referred to Monsignor Dudek of Yukon, Oklahoma. Yes, the same Yukon known as the Czech Capital of Oklahoma and which holds one of the premier kolache/Czech festivals in the country — and just occurred this past weekend for 2015.
This article takes on the issue of the various names used (especially as the nation of Czechoslovakia was being unveiled) for the people who inhabit and have inhabited Bohemia. Monsignor Dudek makes no bones about it – it was, is, and always should be just as my grandmother said, Bohemian!
Throughout his article, Monsignor Dudek does an excellent job of explaining the differences that exist between Bohemians, Slovaks, Moravians, and Silesians. He addresses the issue of capital ‘B’ Bohemian and small ‘b’ bohemian. Th.e fact that in the Czech alphabet doesn’t even have a Cz in it, but British and American publishers used it to replace the “Č” they couldn’t print. All the while he stays focused on the fact that Bohemians are Bohemians and do not need to be called by any other name, least of all a Czechoslovak and then he wonders why Czechomoravioslovako was not considered.
Much of Monsignor Dudek’s point of view can be summed up in an aside he includes in his article from a letter written by an Englishman, Mr. C. K. Chesterton, as follows:
“I am glad that he called himself a Bohemian…I suggested to my American friends that the abandonment of the word Bohemian in its historical sense might well extend to its literary and figurative sense. We might be expected to say, “I’m afraid Henry has got into some very Czecho-Slovakian habits lately,” or “Don’t bother to dress, it’s quite a Czecho-Slovakian affair.” Anyhow, my Bohemian would have nothing to do with such nonsense, he called himself a son of Bohemia, and spoke as such.”
Dudek’s article is well worth reading and quite an enjoyable piece with a good moral to the story…Bohemians are Bohemians and deserve to be and remain Bohemians!
So they shall be, at least in my family tree and writing.
Join us here tomorrow as we bring you the 1927 article from Monsignor Dudek as authorized exclusively to Onward To Our Past® by Duke University.
Onward To Our Past®