on the emigration from the area of Kutna Hora to America in the Second Half
of the 19th century
In the materials
from the 19th century at the State district archives of Kutna Hora we
can find several different recources concerning emigration to America.
For this article I have sorted them by the subject of these documents.
Among them one of the most important resources is the so called "presidialni
spisy" (documents of the governorate presidium) that were kept
among the district hetmanship of Kutna Hora and the governorate presidium
of Bohemia, or the police presidium of Bohemia. Relative to emigration,
they had a character of supervision for those people who decided to leave
for America, and to prevent the activity of those people who were hired
by the transport agencies to persuade people to emigrate. People who decided
to emigrate were questioned about their reason for emigration and who
persuaded them. Any perceived debts which could be left, as well as sufficient
travel expenses had to be paid by emigrants. In the catalogue of "presidialni
spisy" we can find 32 separate types of documentation concerning
the emigration to America from 1851-1917. These consist usually of official
applications (to the offices mentioned above) that were to be decided
by another office (mainly by the district hejtmanship of Kutna Hora).
For a better idea on how many people left the old country from this area,
we can use "vyhlasky" (promulgations), stored in the fund
of the police office of Kutna Hora, boxes No.38 and No.80. The promulgations
that were preserved up to this day are from the years 1875-1899. They were
done in two versions: hand-written promulgations and printed forms. Both of
these versions contain virtually the same information: name, domicile, person's
intent to leave the country, and date of making the promulgation. Also, sometimes
included was information about the emigrants occupation, and a list of family
members. By this promulgation (which was publicly posted on the so called
"cerne prkno"- a black board) an announcement was made about
a person leaving for America. Thus, neighbours had about 10-14 days to contact
the police-office if there were any debts left by that person. This was intended
to avoid later discrepances. In some of the documents we can find enclosed
small papers or notes where financial claims of other inhabitants were noted
on the people who prepared to emigrate. Usually those liabilities were cleared
very quickly since nobody wanted to have obstacles to depart. When all liabilities
were cleared, or a person was found to be without any debts, then the expired
promulgations were officialy taken down from the board (sometimes noted on
the promulgations). This was necessary before obtaining a passport as well
(notes about passports were recorded on some promulgations).
Each promulgation was provided by a reference number, e.g. the earliest preserved
promulgation is from Jan. 21, 1875, reference number 82, the latest is from
March 20, 1899, reference number 311).
Not all these emigrants intended to go to America (some of them went to Saxony
in Germany), but by in large it was the majority. Although these promulgations
concerned people who lived in Kutna Hora, in many cases their domicile differed,
and we can find people there even from very remoted areas.
Closely related to the promulgations were the "reversy" (pledges).
As we already know, people were obliged to clear their debts before leaving
for America. Nevertheless, some of them could not wait for the promulgation
to expire (for different reasons) so they found somebody who stipulated to
clear any of their debts / liabilities that might be found later. People who
decided to cover these debts were usually relatives of the person leaving
for America. They were recorded on the promulgations or noted in a special
"reversy", as was the case with pledges from 1875-1876 (the fund
of the police office of Kutna Hora, the box No.38).
Of course not all people were allowed to leave the Monarchy (for different
reasons - political activity, debts etc.), but despite that they did. Additional
records were kept about them. We could call them "vysetrovaci spisy"
(documents of investigations). In Kutna Hora are found two documents separated
from the resources mentioned above, which provide information of investigations
from 1853 (the fund of the police office of Kutna Hora, the box No.20, documents
No.447, No.4644). The first one was done by the county presidium of Pardubice,
forwared to the hetmanship of Kutna Hora (it is from June 6, 1853 concerning
Karel Jaeger, a tailor). The second one done by the district hetmanship of
Kutna Hora, forwarded to the town council of Kutna Hora on March 25, 1853
(concerning Josef Cerny, a businessman). Usually, it pertained to those who
left from Kutna Hora, if a person left with family, the approximate date of
the emigration, and if there were any debts.
This fund of the police office of Kutna Hora is valuable for another reason
as well. There we can find "knihy vydanych pasu" (books of
issued passports), done in 1824-1876, the books No.198-205, the box No.29.
"Matrika obce Sedlec" (the register of the inhabitants of
Sedlec), stored in the fund belonging to the locality of Sedlec, book No.12,
was originally not kept as a record of people who decided to emigrate. The
first intent was to keep a list of people who lived in Sedlec in 1857. Nevertheless,
this register does not only include the records from 1857, but also different
additional notes from the following years. Some of them concern the emigration
of people who intended to leave for America (or really did). The additional
remarks were noted about the years 1864-1873, done with a different ink than
the regular records in 1857, or with a red / blue pencil. The frame of all
records was kept in the same format. We can find there the following information:
number of page, house number, relationship of recorded people, occupation
of at least one parent, year of birth or full date of birth, additional notes
about different events (marriage, death, emigration, granting passports or
other documents). A lot of people in this register were recorded to be employees
of the factory of Sedlec. It means they were working in the well-known tabacco
factory that is found there up to this day. It is important to make a note
here that Sedlec is a suburb of Kutna Hora today.
Based on the materials mentioned above we know that the people who worked
in the tabacco factory were from the lower social classes, not satisfied with
their social conditions which caused a big wave of the emigration from this
factory in the second half of the 19th century. Most of these workers came
to Sedlec (or Kutna Hora) from different areas to work here, but the reality
was still hard for them, especially once they saw other people who were leaving
These resources which I have mentioned should not be thought of as all the
materials which could be used for genealogical or historical research of emigration
to America. These materials are but some of the different sources. Only through
further research can we hope to detect new resources.
Published in "Nase
rodina", St. Paul, MN, Volume 12, Number 2, June 2000, Page 54-59