Saturday, January 19, 2013

Surname Saturday ~ Bohemian Rhapsody

map courtesy World Statesman website
The Jerousek family has been one of the most difficult nuts to crack. The variations of spelling for this surname has caused moments of hitting head against the proverbial "brick wall".
Truth to tell, I knew very little about my Czechoslovakian and Bohemian heritage. Since my mother was the youngest (and a late in life surprise baby) many of these ancestors were gone before I became interested in genealogy.
The only facts we had were gathered from my great-grandmother, Anna Jerousek Gaphardt's obituary and death certificate. Even those documents give conflicting spellings for her maiden name.
My mother had a few memories of her childhood that gave some clues. With these bits and pieces I determined to uncover this family history.
Locating them in the United States Federal Census records required many detective hours. Using every spelling and wild card combination I combed pages of documents.
Finally, after what seemed like years I located them in the 1880 United States Federal Census. I knew this was the correct family as the residence matched Anna's birth certificate. The name on the census was transcribed as "Gerushek".
On the census the family lists their "nativity" as Bohemian. For days after I was humming the song "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen!
Last summer our genealogy group visited the Maryland State Archives. The librarian demonstrated Guide to Special Collections. In a previous post I shared locating Anna's baptism record in the church records.
With this information we have located several unknown siblings. Even more exciting, now we have additional surnames to research.
This all has engendered a great desire to lean all about the history and culture of these countries. I have joined the FamilySearch Czechoslovakia Genealogy Research on Facebook. Also, I plan on becoming a member of Czechoslovak Genealogical Society International.
So excited about this adventure of heritage discovery!


  1. Congrats on your first step, Deb! There's nothing more exhilarating than finding the roots of a line and knowing they'll be lots of off-shoots to trace. And, that solid research and persistence pays great dividends.

    1. Laura,

      Thank you! Finally, those hours of eyes-crossed reading census records paid off in a big way.

  2. Congratulations on your finds! Most of my Czech great-grandfather's siblings emigrated to Baltimore so I have found quite a few people down that way - mostly after I found a letter from one brother to my grandmother, who emigrated to NY much later. The letter was on stationery for the family blacksmith and wagon company and clued me in that they had changed their surname from Simanek to Shimanek once over here.

    The Bohemian community down there looks like it was especially vibrant - even more so than the upper west side of NYC where my closer family lived. The newspapers on Genealogybank and others have provided quite a bit of useful info on business, association and family events.

    Also, I was able to identify more family names and even get my 2x-great grandparents' names via a profile of my 2x-great uncle in this book on

    I don't believe even my Czech cousin back in Prague who has done research locally knew some of that info!

    Might be worth a look for you...

    If you haven't read it already, the Czech Genealogy for Beginners blog has terrific hints - I've used her table on writing styles to help when searching over at Actapublica. Even knowing quite a bit of info regarding my Czech family towns, etc, it can still be difficult reading the actual records. Another distant cousin in the Czech Republic has helped and even she complains about how hard it is to decipher! ;)


    1. J.T.

      Thank you for stopping by and reading the post. Also, the resources you suggested are wonderful. Will be using them as I try and decipher this heritage. Must admit to being a little jealous your having cousins to help!

      Love your blog and will be following along on your adventures.


  3. How wonderful, Deb! Congratulations on breaking through that tough census search. I'm sure you'll have many more exciting discoveries ahead.

    1. Shelley,

      Thank you! It has been a wonderful journey with incredible discovery. Love this thing called "genealogy"!

  4. This all sounds very exciting! I remember some of your earlier posts, especially about the Czechoslovakia Genealogy Research Group on Facebook. What a big difference in spellings between Jerousek and Gerushek! Not even a three-letter sequence in common! No wonder it took forever to locate them in the census, and congratulations that you achieved this feat at all.

    It will be such a fascinating adventure to learn about Bohemian culture, especially with others who are on similar quests!

    1. Mariann,

      Thanks for stopping by to read the post. There were a few hair pulling episodes during this adventure! I am looking forward to learning more about this heritage. More to come about the Facebook group!