The Czech Heritage Society of Texas and genealogy have enjoyed a long and productive relationship. When CHS was founded in 1982, genealogy was one of the several aspects of Czech culture and heritage that the society set out to promote and preserve.
While the promotion and preservation of genealogy is not our only charge, family history is a field that ties the other aspects of Czech culture and heritage together. Taken by itself one’s lineage would be rather bare. Jan begot Frantisek; Frantisek begot Josef August; Josef August begot Josef Petr; Josef Petr begot Robert. The other aspects of heritage and culture in which The Czech Heritage Society of Texas is interested add more information to the names, dates and relationships.
The study of Czech foods tells us what our ancestors ate, as well as what crops they grew and what animals they raised. The study of Czech music and dance tells us how they spent their free time. The study of Czech history tells us about their religious beliefs and practices, and about the myriad of forces around them that affected their lives. The study of language gives us a glimpse into their way of thinking. The study of kroje and kraslice give us an idea about their concepts of beauty and tradition.
These different aspects of Czech culture and heritage fill in the information not found in church records, census rolls and passenger lists. Together they paint a more complete portrait of our ancestors and their lives. Genealogy is but one of the aspects of Czech culture and heritage demanding the interest of CHS. It is an aspect, however, to which we have devoted a great deal of time and effort.
Just in the past five years The Czech Heritage Society of Texas has published thirteen books dealing with genealogy. They include six volumes of church records, thanks to the help of Rev. Henry Beseda of the Caldwell Brethren Church, and Rev. Dr. Mark Labaj and James L. Hejl of the Temple Brethren Church. They include four volumes of census records, thanks to the diligent efforts of Helen Layman of the Brazos Valley Chapter. They include one volume of cemetery records which this author managed to compile. They include our fifteenth anniversary book which contains family histories submitted by several CHS members, as well as our recollections book which is chock full of genealogical information for both this generation and for our descendants.
The Czech Heritage Society of Texas has a young but very respectable library with lots of books and materials of genealogical interest. This year CHS purchased some seventy-five rolls of census information on CD. They include records from 1860 to 1920 of many of the counties that have CHS chapters.
This year The Czech Heritage Society of Texas took its traveling research library to Corpus Christi for a festival put on by the Czech Heritage Society of South Texas (not affiliated with our organization), and for the past several years we have taken our traveling research library to the Kolache Festival in Caldwell. We do not charge to do this. We offer it as a service to the Texas Czech community and to anyone else interested.
The Czech Heritage Society of Texas put on a highly successful genealogical conference at Hill College in Hillsboro in 1999 and another highly successful one at the Brazos Center in Bryan in 2000. We are planning a similar conference for the Corpus Christi area for the summer of 2003.
The Czech Heritage Society of Texas continues to publish articles of genealogical interest in its newsletter Cesky Hlas. We need only for members to submit them. In fact, this is the determining factor in how much genealogy the society is able to do. We are a volunteer organization. If our members devote some of their free time to compiling information found in cemeteries, on census rolls, in county courthouses and in churches, the CHS will be able to publish many more quality books of genealogical interest. If our members donate copies of their family histories and Xerox copies of their family documents to the CHS library, we will be able to build a Czech genealogical collection unsurpassed in this part of the United States. If our members volunteer to help put on genealogical conferences, we will be able to continue a tradition that is as old as the society itself.
Besides all of this, several county chapters and the Czech Electronics Group have done many additional things related to Czech genealogy. In The Czech Heritage Society members have the opportunity to follow the particular aspect of Czech culture and heritage in which they are especially interested. In a similar way, county chapters are free to set their own agendas according to the interests of their members
Interest in genealogy is alive and well in The Czech Heritage Society of Texas. We are continuing along the path mapped out for us by our founder Albert J. Blaha some twenty years ago. And the great thing about our society is (and one of the great things about our society is) that we give our members the chance to expand their interest in genealogy in many different directions. We give them the chance to fill in information not found in traditional records. We give them the chance to paint a more complete portrait of their ancestors and the lives they lived. The promotion and preservation of genealogy are alive and well in The Czech Heritage Society of Texas, and so are the promotion and preservation of the other aspects of Czech heritage and culture that hold our members’ interest.
Mr. Janak, a resident of Beaumont, Texas, is a current CHS trustee, the society historian, and the first president of The Czech Heritage Society of Texas.