searchin’ for studničkas

Here’s a post I know some of you have been waiting for (Grandma that means you) …so I’m sorry this took me so long.  A few months ago, I was fortunate enough to be contacted quite out of the blue by a person from Austria.  It seemed a little strange at first and I even questioned if it was some sort of spam to my blog.  After some skepticism, we exchanged emails among some family members.

After lots of correspondence by email, we were able to put together the pieces.  From the generation of the Studničkas that moved to Nebraska, another brother moved his family to Vienna, Austria about 10 years before.  We decided to meet in Prague for a couple of days.  While in Prague, we spent the majority of our time at the Národní Archiv (National Archive) and the Státní oblastní archiv v Praze (State regional archives in Prague).  We were surprised to find that most of the information is now available online. The oldest books, especially the ones dating pre-1800, are mostly scanned online through http://www.actapublica.eu.  I found the last records of the Studnička’s before they left to America were in the books and had yet to be scanned.  With some white gloves, I carefully turned though the pages searching the difficult to decipher cursive writing that was a mixture of Czech, German, and Latin.  The most difficult part was reading the writing, although I got better with more practice.  At first the process seemed so daunting; I was unsure of the symbols, how the records were kept, and how to even read the scrawl hastily written across each page.  In some cases, the letters weren’t even written the same as they are now.  Over 2 days at the archive though, I felt as if I had accomplished much. I wanted to look up my own ancestor’s  records and see them for myself.  I was able to find out so much and draw my own conclusions from a few words scribbled into the church’s records of births, deaths, and marriages.

After 2 days at the archive, we felt it would be good to visit the towns where we shared common ancestry.  We took a bus to a small town about an hour outside of Prague and from there we changed to another bus that could take us to Kácov.  There we were able to find the place where the house once stood that was the birthplace of Anna Hlavkova.  She was born in 1768 at house number 18.  The house was no longer standing and a more modern (post war era) house was since built.  She would be my great grandmother x5.  Kácov was a picturesque, little Czech village.  There was a large hill surrounding the town with a river flowing through the valley.  Along the river there was a chateau and the town brewery.  We found the small church near the castle.  This is most likely the church where the Studničkas would have attended church, even the one’s from Řendějov would have went here.  Next we set off on a hike to Řendějov.

Řendějov is the second town where the Austrian and the Nebraskan Studničkas share common ancestry.  We looked for house number 12 and again I was unable to find it.  We asked 2 ladies who live there now if they knew anything about house 12 and they said no.  They even asked an elderly woman living in another house in Řendějov and she also never knew anything about a house 12.  Alena later told me that she was able to find some information about the history of the house.  I learned that it had been destroyed around 1955 and a new house was rebuilt on its location in the late 80’s.  The new number of the house is 188.  The Studnička’s lived in this house in Řendějov as blacksmiths for a very long time.  It was from this house and another house in a nearby town (Ostrov) that they immigrated to the United States in the 1880’s.

The last leg of our journey was along the trail from Řendějov to Zruč nad Sázavou.  We arrived muddy and tired to Zruč, yet I found the walk was so satisfying.  I found it gratifying to walk the same trails from town to town that my family had once walked.  It was difficult and steep at times.  We were lucky that we had a nice February day for the hike.  I can’t imagine what it would have been like in the winter to traverse those trails on foot or horse to attend church each Sunday.  When we reached Zruč, we searched for the house of Austrian Studničkas but we were unsuccessful in finding it.  Most of the houses we assume do not still have their same numbers.  We walked though the castle grounds and found the church and cemetary, which has lots of current Studnička family headstones.  From here we walked up the hill to visit the present day Studničkas still living in Bohemia. Another woman, also a Studnička visited with her own ancestry research.  We were unable to determine any relation tying the Nebraska/Austria Studničkas to the ones we know from the Czech Republic from the information we have now.  So far, we’ve been able to trace Studničkas as far back as about 1715.  From this point, were unable to determine any other generations, although were quite certain they must have moved to this area from another parish or area.  I can’t explain the feeling I get sitting in a room with 4 other people from 3 different countries, spanning over 5000 miles all with Studnička names in their families, yet I do know its incredibly humbling to learn your roots and to see first hand where you come from.

 

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Berlin ist arm, aber sexy…

…as Mayor Wowi said about Berlin, “it’s poor but sexy”.  I  was so curious about this anything-goes German city.  Berlin is wonderful, vibrant, fun and full of history.  I loved every minute being in Berlin, except for when we were in our hostel, which was last cleaned before the wall fell. Hey, its okay though we survived and we ate currywurst, went to a secret bar you entered through a red phone booth, and even missed our bus back to Prague so we could stay an extra day.

My first Czech Christmas

Now that I have returned to Prague, it’s time to write a post about the most wonderful Czech christmas I spent with family in Zruč nad Sazavou. On the 23rd, I arrived by train  and found Vlasta waiting for me at the station. We walked to the house and I was greeted by the warmest welcome.  It was so great to see the entire family again since I hadn’t visited since I first arrived to Prague. Shortly after I arrived, Alena returned from a trip to Brno with the most christmas cookies I had ever seen. The two large boxes were baked by their aunt in Brno.  Alena told me it takes her about 3 days to do all the baking and decorating.

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That afternoon we trimmed the tree.  Vlasta told me that its tradition for them to decorate the tree on the 23rd. We spent the afternoon adding lights, ornaments, and lots of tinsel.  The day of the 24th or Štědrý den, the living room remains locked creating a day full of magic for the kids.  Czech children receive their Christmas gifts from Ježíšek or Baby Jesus.  It did strike me as a little odd that Ježíšek would bring the gifts to the children. I had spent my childhood with Santa Clause fixed as the gift giver on Christmas.   Also, the wise men had always brought gifts to adore the Baby Jesus, not the other way around.  Regardless, I was amazed that even in a predominately athesist Czech culture, Baby Jesus remain the center of christmas.  So often you hear the phrase to “keep Christ in Christmas”, how better than to have Him as the giver of the Christmas gifts?

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Štědrý den or Christmas Eve is the night of the traditional carp feast as well.  The carp is commonly purchased days ahead of time and is sometimes placed in the bathtub.  I was sad to find that Alena’s friend from whom the carp was purchased had beheaded it for us and therefore there was no new family pet in the bathtub.  Alena had purchased a 4 kg carp which tipped the scales at about 9 pounds (thats a lotta fish).  Alena’s mother prepared the wonderful Christmas dinner.  We started with the traditional carp soup followed by fried carp and potato salad. I admit that at first I had my doubts about eating carp but of course the meal was delicious.  The carp feast is a wonderful continuation of yet another Czech tradition eaten only once a year.

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After the Christmas dinner comes another Christmas tradition. Each person cuts an apple in half.  Both halves are shown to everyone around the table with a round of applause. If the core is shaped as a star, it means that everyone will get together next year in happiness and health. A four-pointed cross is a bad omen and means that someone at the table will fall ill or die within a year.  Luckily for each of us there were no bad omens presented in the apples.

This truly was one of the most special Christmases I’ve ever had.  I am so blessed to have met such a wonderful family that I can call my family.  131 years after my great great grandparents immigrated to America, its wonderful to return and even call it home here.

Veselé Vánoce a šťastný nový rok.

 

 

Veselé Vánoce

Vánoční Trhy v Olomouci

Christmas Markets in Vienna

Düsseldorf and Cologne