Search for content in message boards

Need Help Reading/Translating Parish Record

Replies: 15

Re: Need Help Reading/Translating Parish Record

Posted: 1370800137000
Classification: Query
Ok, here are some general principles to help in translating once you've transcribed.

I am assuming you can determine what the column headings mean, as sometimes they are in German, sometimes Czech.

In Czech church records, most of the words are nouns, with some adjectives and a few predictable adverbs. As in French and Latin, there are "cases", which aksamitnik01 refers to as "inflections". Nominative case corresponds to the English subject in a sentence. Accusative is the direct object. Genitive is like possessive, and locative is what it sounds like, "from" a location. In English, the only time we change spelling for a case is with pronouns, i.e. he, him, his. Unless you've studied a language like French or Latin, there's a bit of a learning curve.

The nominative case words are fairly easy, because you can find them in a dictionary. Son = syn, daughter = dcera. It's the other three cases that can confuse. For example, nominative is Vaclav, Jan, Josef, etc. But in both accusative and genitive, these same male names are Vaclava, Jana, Josefa, etc. It is a common mistake to assume that these are feminine names. If a record is saying "son of Vaclav" it comes out "syn Vaclava". Note, however, that this rule does not seem to apply to all surnames. Mach in this record stays Mach. Whether that's grammar or the style of the writer, I don't know. Sometimes foreign names do not have to follow the rules.

Vavrinec gives us another example. When the word ends in "ec", it is typical that the c and e just switch places for accusative, i.e. Vavrince. When you see "ce" or "če" for that matter in a place-name, switch to ec, and then look at the map. I had a little trouble with Žiče, because there just isn't any place named Žieč. But then I thought about the pronunciation. "Zhitche" has an implied t sound, so it wasn't spelled out Žitče a hundred years ago because that would have been a redundant letter, and the Czechs are VERY efficient. Žiče conveyed the sound perfectly of the locative version for Žiteč. Back to nouns: I recently saw "son of the father" which was "syn otce". Nominative for father is "otec". Again, the "e" and "c" switched for the genitive/possessive case.

Place names in locative that end in ich just drop that off and put in an e to get nominative. Kundraticich is locative for Kundratice. The reason that so many folks get this wrong in their databases is that when they were growing up, the only time they heard the name of the town was when someone said "We are from xxx." No one ever said, "Kundratice is a nice place." (It is. I've been there.) In your case, the record says Žiče but the place name is Žiteč.

A little oddity: place names that start with "O" sometimes have "v" in front of them, and you have to know that's the preposition for "from". For example, Vokřesance, one of my places, is really "v Okřesanec". Well, in the records written in German, it was Wokresanetz or something like that. Looking at my map book, there are dozens of place names that start with Voj, none that start with Oj, but only 4 that start with Vok. Therefore, I would assume a place name starting with Voj was correct, but if I couldn't find a place beginning with a "V", I'd remove it, and then see if I could find the town.

I have yet to find a woman's name that didn't end in "a" or "e". Josefa, Frantiska, Rozalie, Therezie, Sofie, Anna, Marianna, Marie. There probably are some, just not in my ancestry. In accusative or genitive, the name typically ends in u or ou. Mariannou, for example. Folks who have a name ending in "ou" in their tree have the wrong case. They need to end the name with "a" or "e".

The most difficult thing is the father's occupation. I happened to know that "sedlak" is a certain sized farmer, thanks to earlier posts, so with the hint from aksamitnik, I got it right the second time. Other farmers are lahner, which is German, I believe, and pul lahner, which is a farmer with half as much land. Pul is half. (Pul noc is midnight, halfway through the night.) About all you can do is decipher as many letters as you can, then ask for help. A good project would be to collect snips of the occupations and post on one of the research sites. (Or has someone already done this?)

When you get to adjectives, the rules are altered. The grandfather was a "retired farmer". Well, we got the "sedlaka" part really being accusative for sedlak. But what is this výměnkáře? It's the adjective for "retired" and note how when it is modifying an accusative it ends in "e", not "a"? All I can say is that if both adjective and noun had the same ending, it just wouldn't sound good. Sing-songy, kind of the rhyming words I say to our parakeet. But having alternate endings makes the language truly melodic. There's enough letters there that you can look in a dictionary and make an educated guess about the adjective. However, I couldn't find výměnkáře in my dictionary. In the English side, "retired" didn't work, either. That's why we need aksamitnik. Language from 150 years ago used different words. (What is a "crofter" anyhow?) And if you ever find a Czech dictionary from the early 20th century, buy it! (Because the language usage would be closer to the 19th century language.) The only one I have is my grandfather's for the Czech speaker learning English, and I can't make it work for me.

About the only thing I didn't describe was the prepositions. "Of" is expressed in the genitive case, not as a separate word. For locative, you will see z, ze meaning "out of" or "from", and sometimes v, ve which sort of means the same thing back in that day.

One last thing: if you see a female surname ending in "in", that is German for feminine. Svobodin would be German feminine for Svoboda. I think Czech would be Svobodova, but I'm not sure. This detail had me confused for several years until aksamitnik told me that.

This is the end of survival lesson 1. If I have something wrong, the expert posters will correct it. :)

SubjectAuthorDate Posted
jcovey713 1370416020000 
ZlaticaBeca 1370445492000 
aksamitnik01 1370453751000 
marylevesque2... 1370712721000 
aksamitnik01 1370717428000 
marylevesque2... 1370724232000 
jcovey713 1370738036000 
marylevesque2... 1370800137000 
aksamitnik01 1370815635000 
jcovey713 1370816735000 
per page

Find a board about a specific topic