Birth records

Births typically occurred at home. During the actual birth, the woman's mother or mother-in-law was present. In many cases, the baby arrived long before the midwife could be summoned. It was important to arrange the christening as soon as possible - usually within three days of the birth - since the high infant mortality rate posed the danger that the child could be relegated to purgatory if they died without being baptized. In an emergency, a child could be baptized by the midwife just after the birth. Midwives instructed in conferring the sacrament are marked in the records as ‘certified’. A cross by the name of a child in the registers indicates that he or she died soon after the birth.

The selection of godparents was an important decision. Although anyone in the village was eligible to be a godparent, the parents would endeavor to secure esteemed and well situated persons in order to bring honor to the child and family. If asked, a person was expected to accept the role as godparent; to refuse was considered an insult.

The godparents were consulted in the naming of the child. A child was often named after a godparent. The godparents carried the child to the church for the christening and they were expected to pay the fee for the ceremony. They were rewarded with a festive meal after the christening. The parents consulted the godparents on all of the important decisions in the life of the child and, if necessary, the godparent acted on the child's behalf. More recently, since legal guardianship was instituted, the godfather is typically designated as the guardian.

For six weeks after childbirth, the mother was confined to her home and wasn’t allowed to work or visit the inn. After this period of recovery, the woman was welcomed back to the congregation in a churching ceremony in which she was given a blessing and those present gave thanks for her survival of childbirth.

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 Birth record 1680  (Regional archive in Třeboň, Czech language)

Early records are characterised by their use of a continuous text; heterogeneous forms were used in different dioceses. Until the middle of the 19th century, the date recorded in the register reflects the date of the baptism rather than the date of birth, as shown in this example.

English translation of this record

 Birth record 1780  (Regional archive in Plzeň, Latin language)

By a 1770 decree, only Latin was to be used in the registers; universal pre-defined columns were prescribed, which better delineated the information; and house numbers begin to appear in the register entries. This example shows twins born to parents Andreas & Magdalena Janeček in Svrčovec, West Bohemia.

English translation of this record

 Birth record 1890  (Regional archive in Zámrsk, Czech language)

This example shows the birth record of well known Czech composer Bohuslav Martinů, on 8 December 1890 in Polička, Eastern Bohemia. His father, Ferdinand, a shoemaker, served as fire watchman, and small Bohuslav was born in the tower of the St. Jacob Church.

WHY were they collected?  Church evidence of persons who received sacraments, statistical needs of state
WHEN were they collected?   16th century – present. Few registers from the end of 16th century have survived
WHO collected the records? Parish offices, district offices, and municipal authorities
WHAT information can be found? Name, date of event, status, religion, name, occupation & place of residence of parents and grandparents, names of godparents and witnesses
In which ARCHIVES are they held?


State regional archives, town hall registrar offices
In which archive FILES can they be found?  Registers
LANGUAGE of records Czech, German, Latin

Very well preserved

What must be KNOWN before getting started? Name, date & place of birth, names of parents
Czech expression Matrika narozených (matriky narozených)