Saturday, November 20, 2010

Surname Saturday - Liska

Map of Bohemia - 1882

After many years of research I finally discovered my great-grandmother's maiden name. The birthplace has been a little trickier to determine. On Mary Liska's death certificate her place of birth is listed as Czech-Slovakia. On the various census records she lists her birthplace as either Austrian-Bohemia or Poland. Mary was born about 1870 and immigrated in 1893 to Baltimore, Maryland.

Listed on Mary's death certificate is her father Paul Liska and mother Mary Slifka. Each of their birthplaces also listed as Czech-Slovakia. As a child I had been told that the family was of Bohemian ancestry, which I found extremely exotic. During preliminary research I discovered Czech-Slovakia did not become a sovereign state until 1918. So what is land of my ancestors Poland, Bohemia, or Austria?

Since I am not very familiar with the history of this region, the last several weeks have been spent trying to clarify what is fact from family lore.

Here are a few research materials located online :

Google Books - Bohemia and the Cechs

Hopefully with these resources we will gain more insight into the homeland of our ancestors. Anyone with help in researching this area would be greatly appreciated.


  1. This is difficult. To the question of whether the land of your ancestors was Bohemia or Austria, the answer is probably both. The Kingdom of Bohemia was a part of The Austrian Empire. Poland is a bit more of a puzzle. It is possible that your ancestors lived in an area in contention between Poland and Czechoslovakia, such as Cieszyn Silesia, or it might just be a mistake in the record.

    It is also helpful to keep in mind that place names might have multiple meanings, a cultural/historical one and a political one. Bohemia can refer to one of the historical regions of what is now the Czech Republic, alongside Moravia and Silesia. It can also can refer to the Kingdom of Bohemia, which included Bohemia proper and the other regions. The records usually reflect political realities, but tradition may not.

  2. Andrew,

    Thanks for the insight. Really appreciate you taking the time to give sound advice.