The Genealogical Rabbit Hole and IDNA

by Heather Kohles Hahn

Jumping In…

EPSON scanner imageRecently I acquired documents and photographs documenting my family’s history.  Included in the bins and piles was a passport belonging to the person I believe is my great great grandfather, Johann “John” Verhota.  The passport was issued by the Austro-Hungarian Empire circa 1879.  My family always identified as being of German ancestry, sometimes narrowing the scope to Bavarian, but as it turns out, we are of Bohemian ancestry.  Information gleaned from the passport has Johann’s place of origin as Brulic, in the district of Wittengau, which is modern day Třeboň in the Czech Republic

With this new information and using the International Directory of National Archives as a resource, I started down the rabbit hole to uncover more information about Johann.  The directory provided the perfect starting point, the website of the National Archives of the Czech Republic.  From there Google Translate allowed me to navigate as best I could through the website, identifying finding aids, digital repositories and other important information about the Archives.  When I reached a dead end, I went back to the Directory, where I found the email contact for the Archives.  I reached out, asking for any assistance they might be able to give me.

Further I go…

The National Archives was not able to assist me in my search; however they did provide me with the contact information for the Třeboň Regional Archives and that is where I hit what felt like the mother lode.  I received an email back from Markéta Hrdličková, the Head of the Fund and Collections Management Department.  Included in the email was an offer to make a genealogy for me of my family in Bohemia and she also provided me with the correct family name, Vrchota not Verhota.  Perhaps Verhota was one of those Americanized Ellis Island names given or chosen by Johann.  Ms. Hrdličková asked for a copy of the passport to review, which I excitedly provided.

Where She Stops…

This rabbit hole would have been much longer and more circuitous if I had not used the International Directory of National Archives.  The Directory gave me information in a familiar language and direct points of contact to begin my journey.  Hours that would have been spent finding the Archives’ website and trying to decipher its contents and contacts were drastically reduced, making the research process enjoyable and fruitful. As of this writing, I am waiting for a response from Ms. Hrdličková regarding my genealogical inquiry.  I will keep you posted on my progress.

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