Sunday, September 1, 2013

Checking out the Czechs – with a Personal Guide

My husband, Bert, and I have been planning a trip to Europe for about a year. One of the most indispensable tools in planning our trip has been Europe Through the Back Door 2013 by Rick Steves.

Used by permission of author

 Rick has guided us through packing light
and finding the best phone for use in Europe to how to make friends with local people and identifying the memorable sights to visit, and so much more. And all of this must-have information is written in an entertaining, easy-to-follow style. 

Earlier this year, my sister, Monique, made a fantastic discovery through lots of good research techniques. She located our maternal grandfather’s (Frank Holub) baptism certificate from the Czech Republic (see post of April 22, 2013 for more details.) This document provided us with a wealth of detail, including the place, Naceradec, Czech Republic,

Načeradec, Central Bohemian Region, the Czech Republic, 3 May 2009, cs:ŠJů, Wikimedia. 

where Frank and his family were living at his birth in 1903. The country was then known as Bohemia.

 Bert and I decided to begin our European trip by flying into Prague

View over Prague Old Town, Czech Republic, 15 May 2008, Petritap, Wikimedia.

as Naceradec is just 39 miles or 64 kilometers  from the capital city. To help prepare for the visit, we checked out Rick Steves’ book, Eastern Europe.
Used by permission of author

 Although Steves does give some information about Prague in Europe Through the Back Door, we wanted a more in-depth picture.

I was excited about visiting Naceradec but had some concerns about not knowing the language. I was hoping to find a cemetery that might have some Holub graves and maybe the church where Frank Holub was baptized. But our time was limited and I didn’t know how much I could accomplish. Then, as sometimes happens in life and genealogy, what I needed appeared!! As I was reading Eastern Europe, I came across a section on p. 70 called “Tours in Prague.” You can imagine my joy when I read this passage:

To get beyond the sights listed in most guidebooks, call Tom and Marie Zahn from P.A.T.H. Finders International. Tom is American, Marie is Czech….Their specialty is Personal Ancestral Tours & History (P.A.T.H.) – with sufficient notice, they can help Czech descendants find their ancestral homes, perhaps even a long-lost relative.” (p. 71)

In Steves’ book, you will find Tom’s and Marie’s web site: www.pathfinders.cz and an e-mail address: info@pathfinders.cz. I immediately sent a message:

Hello Tom and Marie,
My husband, Bert Schuster, and I are traveling to Europe this year. I am a family historian and very interested in visiting Naceradec where my grandfather, Frantisek (Frank) Holub was born 20 April 1903. I attached a copy of Frank's baptism that my sister received from a relative here in the US. This is a recent discovery and was very exciting.
The Holub family lived at house # XXX (not listed for privacy) in Naceradec at the time of Frank's birth. 
I am hoping to visit the cottage and to see if any Holubs are currently living in the area. 
We are interested in having you be our guides.
Pat

Here is Marie’s first response:

Dear Pat,
Thank you for contacting us.

We would be happy to help you visit Naceradec, try to identify the house No. XXX where Frantisek was born, visit the parish church he was baptized in and try to locate living relatives in the area....Thank you for sending the copy. Please let us know what date would you like to travel to Naceradec and how many people will be joining you. We will send you our proposal when we hear back from you. You can visit our site at www.pathfinders.cz for more information about our services. You can also visit www.pathways.cz for more travel information.
Do not hesitate to ask questions. We will reply as soon as possible.
Best regards from Prague
Marie






From there, we discussed fees and payment and arranged for us to send a deposit. Now the fun  part began. We waited to see what Marie was able to find.
And soon came Marie’s first report:

Pat,
The community your grandfather Frantisek was born does have its own parish church and it is the church where the child was baptized. Parishes also have cemeteries and therefore in Naceradec, it will also be possible to visit the cemetery.

Part of making the local contacts is arranging for the church to be opened during your visit. We will try to arrange this so that you can see the church inside as well.
I will be your guide - driver on Sept. 5th and I will come to your hotel at 9 AM to pick you up. Please let me know if this time meets with your approval.
As for your question about the cemetery in Naceradec, burial traditions in the Czech Lands are similar to those of all parts of Central Europe. The lack of land available formed the burial traditions and cemeteries could stay relatively small. It is good to visit the cemeteries though since we can find a forgotten grave site. It would not be the first time it happened.
Best regards from Prague
Marie



In short order this amazing message came from Marie:

Dear Pat,
We are sending the results of the Local contacts in Naceradec.

We contacted the local office in Naceradec and spoke to Mrs. Svecova. She was very helpful and identified the house No. XXX in the present town. The house is still standing, did not change so much in past years and still is owned by family Holub. The present owner is Mr. XXX Holub who was born in 1934. I am trying to determine now, what is the relation between your and his ancestors…I hope a visit will be possible.
We have arranged for the church to be opened during your visit. Mrs. Svecova also asked that we stop at the local office before you leave the town.

Best regards from Prague
Marie


None of this information would have been easy to find on my own. The language barrier, time constraints and lack of local contacts would have made it unlikely for me to have found this wonderful news on my own. Again, I recommend working with genealogy professionals, (see post of November 5, 2011 for more details) such as Marie Zahn. I will report back in this blog on our trip with Marie to Naceradec.


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