Monday, June 4, 2012

Ron's Relatives (part 1)

While we were over in the Czech Republic, Ron wanted to see where his ancestors came from.  He has done a lot of genealogy and had a list of places he wanted to see.  We found this statue of Saint Wenceslaus in Prague, that was a good start since his great-grandfather's name was Wenzel..

We rented a car and for the first time in 12 days, we were completely on our own.  Yikes!  Armed with a map, we took off to find Ron's roots.  His father's family came from some small towns in the southwest corner of the Czech Republic where I just knew nobody would speak English. 

In this post, all the ancestors are on Ron's father's side of the family.

The first town on his list was Janovice nad Uhlavou (Janowitz) where his grandfather's family attended this church.  (In each case, the name in parentheses is the former German name for the town.)

His grandfather lived in nearby Petrovice nad Uhlavou (Petrowitz) which is just a few houses in rolling countryside.  He left there for America at age 16.

Next stop was Hamry (Hammern) where Ron's grandmother was from.  She and her family emigrated to America when she was 6 years old, and settled in Luxemburg, WI, where she later met and married Ron's grandfather.

The town stretches for several miles through a lovely, but sparsely populated valley, and is very close to the border of Germany.

This area, known as the Sudetenland in the early 20th century, was occupied mostly by ethnic Germans.  After World War II, the German-speaking people were expelled.  We spoke to the owner of the local bed and breakfast who verified that fact and added that their houses were also destroyed.  It must have been a terrible time - neighbor vs. neighbor.  Of course Ron's grandmother had left long before this happened.

We were surprised to see a memorial to the exiled Germans in the church yard.

Here's the inscription on the first stone.  The other five stones list the names of all the displaced families.
With help from our friend Richard, we understand it to read:  
Remembering the German families who lived here for hundreds of years
Who were kicked out in 1946 and the relatives who rest in this cemetery.

The next stop was Cachrov (Cachrou) where we found the church attended by Ron's great-grandfather.

And a beautifully maintained cemetery.

The stones were very elaborate.

But what was a complete surprise was the number of graves with Ron's family name on them.  Especially since we had just had it confirmed that the Germans had been exiled.

We were confused, but moved on to Jeseni (Gesen) where Ron's great-grandfather and his family lived.  Although it was another tiny town, the houses were very nice.

And there was a nice restaurant there so we stopped for a snack.  After enjoying a pastry, Ron asked the two ladies in the next booth if either of them spoke English.  Luckily one did and she gave us the answer to our puzzle.  It seems that if the Germans were married to Czech citizens, they were allowed to stay.  In fact the other lady's maiden name was Ron's last name!

Here's a shot of the rolling countryside around Jeseni.

We ended our day in České Budějovice (Budweis) which is a large city and, incidentally, home of the original Budweiser beer.

This is the beautiful town square and we stayed at the Grand Hotel Zvon which is the third building from the left.  The towels said 'since 1533.'  It was very  nice, but ridiculously expensive.

Just for fun, here's a night shot of the Black Tower and St Nicholas Cathedral.

In part 2, we'll look for Ron's mother's ancestors.


  1. How special to be able to visit the places your family came from, Ron. We have visited where John's family came from in Sweden. When we were in England, we hadn't yet learned where mine came from. We were there, but didn't know it. You are fortunate.

  2. What a wondeful thing to be able to do. Amazing that Ron can trace his roots and you were able to see the ancestrial home area.

    Another gem on a trip you'll never forget. :c) Thanks for sharing it with us.

  3. Ron & Barb,

    Looks like you are having a great time time following Ron's ancestry.

    When Ron was describing some of his history it reminded me of my grandmother who was born in Ebanthal Austria (Gottschee — once an enclave within Austria-Hungary, now part of Slovenia).

    Just out of curiosity was Ron's family Gottschee's?

    Have fun!


  4. What a fabulously beautiful country! Thank you for sharing this trip back through time!

  5. Wow, you did good! Especially for not speaking the language.