Jewish Genealogy
in Bohemian and Moravian Regions of former Austrio-Hungarian Empire

73 608 Jews from Bohemia and Moravia were taken to the Terezin Ghetto and then deported to eastern death camps while very few survived. The name of each of those nazi terror victims including those Jews who were deported directly to Minsk and Lodz ghetto has been listed in Memorial Book of Terezin in a form of heart-tearing "entry", the term originally used by nazis. Many valuable genealogy sources vanished together with the people in flames of holocaust.

However, quite a lot of various family records which were collected within the last 300 years have survived. The main documents which could be still studied are listed below. Jewish settlements can be studied in certain districts as early as 1724 while the data from other towns/villages were heavily damaged. However, there are always alternative records to be studied, see the section Readings.

Throughout the history of Jewish settlement in the region, several attempts were made to institutionally reduce the number of Jewish families. In 1724, the first census of all Jews in so called Czech lands was carried out. Approximately 30 000 Jews inhabited 168 towns and 672 villages in Bohemia and approx. 20 000 lived in Moravia. Prague had 2 335 Jewish families (approx. 10 500 Jews) registered.

An extremely valuable source of information on Jewish genealogy in Czech lands are (if available in each district of 17 regions) The Registers of Jews which collected the data of several census campaigns.
In 1726, due the order of Charles VI., the number of Jewish families was limited to 8,541 in Bohemia and 5,106 in Moravia. The implementation of "Familianten Ordnung", this so-called numerus clausus, was issued. According to this order, only first-born son of each Jewish family was allowed to marry e.g. to obtain "copulatio consensus". The list of so called "Familiants" were then collected in Books of Jewish "Familianten".

In 1784, Joseph II. issued an order to replace rabinate circumcission/birth books by standard record books similar to Catholic parish books. The birth records, marriage records and death records were collected at district rabinates. Local rabbis or school teachers were ordered to collect those data ( see an example of Novy Jicin). The accuracy of such records was verified, because duplicates (control records) were kept by local Catholic priests. In fact, Catholic priests often copied only the records which were already collected at district rabinates ( see examples of duplicate records).

The original rabinate records were heavily damaged during WWII., but duplicate records were allowed to serve as original records to partly fulfill the gaps. Interestingly, sometimes the Jewish records could be also found within regular Catholic parish books between the records of Catholic inhabitants ( see an example in Zbyslaw parish book of the year 1840).

Besides the Book of Familiants, the Registers of Census Campaigns and Birth/Marriage/Death Records, family documentation can be augmented by the records of different taxation duties. Requests of marriage permission called "inkolate" were associated with a duty to pay "inkolate" taxation. Submitted requests, evidence of all taxation duties, and several other documents of Jewish communities were collected by Committee for Jewish Agenda (Commissio in rebus Judaeorum). The Committee was established by Czech Vice-Regency and Czech Chamber by Charles VI.´s edict on January 1, 1714. Its original intention was to prepare drastic restriction of Jewish population, in Czech lands, primarily in Prague. The plan was imposed in 1715, but it was never practised due to the resistance of both Jewish and non-Jewish circles. The activity of the Committee was reduced to gathering several documents, requests etc. The Commitee ceased its activity by the order of Josef II. on February 15, 1782. The documents which depict the life of Jewish communities in the period 1714-1782 were collected as Committee for Jewish Agenda documents.

In 1808, all old taxation duties were discharged, while three others were re-established : family tax, property tax and food tax. The corporation, "K.K. Direktion des Judischen Steuerefalls", was in charge of collecting these taxes. The documents of "Jewish Taxation Headquarters" were available as a separate collection.

Books of Jewish "Familianten". Records were collected in 1799 and in 1811. Each record comprised the name of county, registration number of the family in the whole land (based on "copulatio consensus"), the registration number of family in the county (set up in 1725), name of the father, his wife, his sons and few other family details. See examples of Löwy Wölfner from Praschno Aujezd, (Prasny Ujezd), Westhern Bohemia.

The Registers of Jews. The Jewish population was registered several times both for the measures of restrictive population policy and for tax purposes. Former two campaigns were performed by Comittee for Jewish Agenda, the latter ones by Czech Gubernium. The registers comprised the list of the fathers, their wifes and all children including girls. See an example of register of 1793 campaign Straz nad Nezarkou (Platz a.d. Naser).

A very specific and painfully heart-felt piece of Jewish history which should be mentioned is : Mappach (wimples), a special type of Torah binder used since 1600 in central Europe. The strips of cloth torn from newborns blankets were used to inscribe a child's name and date of birth and a standard blessing. Like birth certificates, it also depict the Jewish custom. In a sense, wimples are documents constituting genealogies for whole communities. Recently book on wimples based on an exhibition named May God let him grow was published by Prague Jewish Museum.