Bohemian and Czech Genealogy, Onward To Our Past®, and ‘The Harding Bohemian Genealogy Treasure Chest’
- The lack of research and study that have been undertaken on Bohemian immigrants to the United States, their histories, and communities, and
- The fact that there is no nationwide repository/index/clearinghouse for materials related to Bohemian/Czech immigration, immigrants, and their communities in America.
Rather than simply bemoaning these shortcomings, Onward To Our Past® made a series of decisions, which resulted in our establishing two specific goals and an action plan to address and ameliorate these deficits.
First we decided to undertake a series of translation projects of historic books and articles that relate directly to the earliest Bohemian/Czech immigrants to the Cleveland, Ohio area. To date we have translated one book, two substantial articles from Amerikán Národní Kalendár, and multiple shorter articles and letters. This work continues, in a wonderful way, as you will soon read.
Second, we decided to begin working towards the establishment of a national Bohemian/Czech Archive/Clearinghouse. Our work on this goal also continues. What we thought would be a simple proposition “to establish a central archive/clearinghouse for Bohemian/Czech immigration history” has unfortunately met with early failure. It seems as though the organizations we have approached to date are more interested in maintaining their status quo as well as their ‘silo’ approach than to collaborate on this archive/clearinghouse concept. It is disappointing, but our search for a partner continues and we remain hopeful.
Now on to the good news
As so often happens in our genealogy, ancestry, and family history work something quite wonderful occurred almost by accident here in the offices of Onward To Our Past®. We received what we now refer to as the “Harding Treasure Chest”.
Here is the back-story on ‘The Harding Bohemian Genealogy Treasure Chest’
Hugo Chotek is actually responsible for the ‘Harding Treasure Chest”. While he may have passed away in 1911 Hugo was at work in December of 2013. You see, Ms. Harding, at a the spry age of 76, was searching the Internet for information on her Czech ancestry when she came across our English translations of the book and article by Hugo Chotek and the article by Václav Snajdr. Ms. Harding emailed us with some information and questions on her Bohemian ancestors, the Mudra, Pecanka, Kulish, and Viton families. One thing led to another and our communications and interchanges became more involved and wider ranging as they began to include a variety of aspects of the Bohemians of early Cleveland. It wasn’t long before Ms. Harding mentioned that she held a multitude of photographs, clippings, etc., many of which detailed various aspects of the Cleveland Czech community from the 1800s and into the 1900s. Our interest was exceptionally high as you can well imagine.
It was then that she made mention of holding a clipping from The Cleveland Press that was headlined “Doctor Now 72, First Bohemian Baby” and might we have any interest in seeing this? It didn’t take us a nanosecond to respond in the affirmative to her question.
It was during this conversation that Ms. Harding explained that no one in her family had any interest in genealogy and she was concerned over what might happen to these precious family heirlooms. We explained our policy of accepting such items, preserving them digitally for posterity, and then having them stored with an appropriate archive.
The rest, as they say, is now history. Ms. Harding told us she gathered these precious materials from drawers, boxes, deteriorating scrapbooks, and attic hiding places in her home and shortly after that the box arrived intact.
And what a box it was!
What does “The Harding Bohemian Genealogy Treasure Chest” contain?
What did we find when we opened the box? We found far more than we had allowed ourselves to imagine. Our initial ‘census’ recorded a truly astonishing 107 items and being the somewhat corny genealogist that I am, it actually brought tears to my eyes as we lifted out item after item from her carton.
We found class photos, fraternal organization photos, newspaper articles, obituaries, funeral cards, baptism notices, wedding announcements, gravestone photos and much more. Most of these items are in English, but many are in Czech so we will prepare our translating team for some interesting assignments.
Every one of the newspaper articles is yellowed and brittle just as you would expect. Where taped, the tape has yellowed even further and some are literally disintegrating. Our work is cut out for us, but the materials are fabulous so it will be done with ease.
Oh, and of course, there in the materials, about half way down was the article “Doctor Now 72, First Cleveland Bohemian Baby”.
This who happens to be Dr. Joseph Sykora and the son of one of ‘The Originals’. Dated April 6, 1925 from the now defunct Cleveland Press it covered almost half a page and even includes a photograph of Dr. Joseph Sykora. As we were blithely reading the article we stopped dead in our tracks when we came to the following sentence:
“It’s a boy,” went up the cry one fine day in 1853 in the homes of the eight Bohemian families then living in Cleveland.”
Eight Bohemian families?
Then we read this:
“Sykora was born on old Irving St. two years after his parents came from Bohemia”
Two years before 1853?
Our minds were whirling. Were they only 8 Bohemian families in Cleveland? Or perhaps there were just eight Bohemian families in East Cleveland and they were not familiar with those who might be on the West Side? Did the Skyora family truly emigrate in 1851?
As you can tell, Ms. Harding was absolutely right that we would find this article of interest. This offers some new thoughts and avenues for us to investigate and add to the mix as we continue our work on identifying, documenting, and preserving our story on “The Originals” of the Cleveland Bohemian immigrant community.
Watch our site and our Facebook page as we share many of the treasures from ‘The Harding Bohemian Genealogy Treasure Chest” in the coming weeks. We know you will enjoy each and every item!
Onward To Our Past®