Directory of Jewish Families in Bohemia in 18th century

 

 Those who are interested in various aspects of Jewish population of Bohemia in 18th century are now provided with enourmous databank of all Jewish families that lived in Bohemia in 1793. The printed version formed by five volumes is a product of joint project between the Faculty of Philosophy, Charles University, Prague and the National archive, Prague. Team of undergraduate students of Department of Auxiliary Historical Sciences under the supervison of Prof. Ebelová transcribed Census books of all 16 regions of Bohemia (except Prague*). Recently published version is a transcription of the original records kept in German novogothic script „kurent“ so its study does not necessarily need old script and/or Czech language skills; moreover, the data are organised into easy-to-read collumns.

 

 The Census campaign was well organised; in January 1793 Czech Land Gubernium issued a decree with detailed instructions and a model format for data presentation. 

 The columns of Jewish Census 1793 show :

Name of the estate;

Name of village/town;

Surname and names of family members - head of the family, wife´s name, children´s names;

Names of single and/or widdowed Jews and Jewesses;

Place of  domicile;

Dwelling place;

Livelihood.

 

 Each collumn of Census sheets represents interesting source for further comparative survey, incl. the size and structure of Jewish community in different estates. It showed that Jews lived in Bohemia scattered virtually in the hundreds of villages and small towns, compared to Moravia where Jews lived mostly in larger towns.

 The Census 1793 was the first Jewish Census listing the surnames - the duty to adopt German surname was ordered by Joseph II.´s decree issued in 1787, just few years before the 1793 campaing was launched. For information on the earlier Jewish Censuses, see the paper in Avotaynu XXI, no.3. Each chapter in the book (~ corresponding to each region) contains alphabetically ordered surname index and bilinguinal (Czech/German) locations index. This can be very helpful for family historians who do not know where the family members lived in 18th century in Bohemia. It concerns the family names that were rather location-specific (Bleier, Wohryzek, Melnik, etc.) compared to common ones (Bloch, Kohn, Lederer, etc.). Comparing of Census 1793 data to Census 1783 data could provide a clue on the formation of surnames. In contrast to Census 1793, most of surnames in Census 1783 were patronyms and toponyms (usually a surname derived from former dwelling place). The surnames in Census 1793 brought “new” names related to the profession, to the role in community (Cantor, Katz, Schulklepper), etc. The surnames were however not 100% fixed so one can find different surname variants (Pahm vs. Bahm, Schuck vs. Schick, Wohrasky vs. Wohryzek), including Czech and German form of the same surname (Wotzasek vs. Wedeles). The phenomenon of surname formation dynamics deserves a special study that could be based on 1793 Census data.

 Besides the married couples, the Census also brought an information on those who dwelled  temporaly at the certain place as maids, apprentices, family teachers. To study the migration pattern of particular person or a family is then useful to compare the data in the two columns : dwelling place (name of village/town) and domicile (schutz gehören nach). Mostly, both places were the same, however, in some cases location of domicile reffers to the different former dwelling place of the person. Mostly it was a place in other region of Bohemia or Moravia which allows a cross-reference on families between the places in different volumes. Sometimes one can find as domicile Brod, Poland; Dresden, Germany; Lemberg, Galizia, etc. which also might help to trace the family backwards. The column „besitzen“ also indicates whether the person owned the house or owned its part; sometimes it also shows house number.

 Another issue which is reflected in Census 1793 is the impact of so called Familiant Law, Charles VI.´s decree issued in 1726.  Familiant Law implemented in Bohemia and Moravia a harsh population policy that (in theory) allowed only first-borns to get marry. The Census 1793 enlist the position of sons in terms of their born-status. However, the Census does not enlist who was a Familiant and who wasn´t . Since we know that there were quite a few exceptions to the Familiant Law, to compare the numbers and family history of those who were both Familints (allowed to stay for generations) and Schutzjuden (allowed to stay for one generation) and those who were „only“ Schutzjuden might bring interesting findings on how the Familiant Law was really observed and practised.

 An important subject for the study can be the profession of Jews in Bohemia that is shown in the last collumn under a title livelihood ( ernähret sich ). The most common profession was the peddling (textile fabrics, kitchen utensils, other items) and trading with corn, livestock, flax, tobacco, feather, leather, etc. In the larger community, rabbi or religious teacher(s), cantor(s), butchers (schachters) can be found. The Census also reflects arising phenomen of  potash-house and/or distillery renting that lately evolved into larger businesses. The Census show the limits imposed on Jewish population concerning the crafts. Only few crafts were allowed to be performed by the Jews, mostly only ones within the community (baker, tailor, shoemaker) to prevent concurrency with the non-Jews. One can also find specific professions like a post messenger, tax collector, Tora scroll writer.

 

 As shown above, the Jewish Census 1793 was rich of the data and its edited version can today induce several demographic, onomastic and other studies. Needless to say, this is the first systematic effort in Czech Republic to present a large amount of Jewish records to the public outside of archive´s reading rooms.

 

Julius Müller

Toledot, Jewish Family History Centre

Prague

 

Legend :

Picture 1.

Map of administrative division of Czech lands into 16 regions in 18th/19th century

 

Picture 2a.

Original page of Census 1793

 

Picture 2b.

Edited version of Census 1793

 

Picture 3.

Five volumes at once.

HBS edice.jpg

Five volumes :

 Bohacek J., Halek J., Kucerova K., Madlova V.: Census of Jewish families in 1793, published as: Soupis zidovskych rodin v Cechach z roku 1793 Loketsky kraj, Boleslavsky kraj, Budejovicky kraj, volume I., Prague 2002, ISBN 80-85475-91-X.

 Jirinec M., Reznicek M., Vacha Z., Bonkova J.: Census of Jewish families in 1793, published as: Soupis zidovskych rodin v Cechach z roku 1793 Kourimsky kraj, Bydzovsky kraj, Litomericky kraj, volume II., Prague 2003, ISBN 80-85475-96-0.

 Marek J., Skalicky K., Vesela I., Halek J., Kucerova K., Svadlenova M.: Census of Jewish families in 1793, published as: Soupis zidovskych rodin v Cechach z roku 1793 Prachensky kraj, Berounsky kraj, Taborsky kraj, volume III., Prague 2003, ISBN 80-86712-03-6.

 Holy M., Waskova M., Bohacek J., Madlova V., Sadlova R., Stepanova M.: Census of Jewish families in 1793, published as: Soupis zidovskych rodin v Cechach z roku 1793 Chrudimsky kraj, Plzensky kraj, Zatecky kraj, Hradecky kraj, volume IV., Prague 2004, ISBN 80-86712-12-5.

 Ebelova I., Hola M., Reznicek M., Sadlova R.: Census of Jewish families in 1793, published as: Soupis zidovskych rodin v Cechach z roku 1793 Caslavsky kraj, Klatovsky kraj, Rakovnicky kraj, volume V., Prague 2005, ISBN 80-86712-21-4.