For the first time ever in English, a rare look at an early immigrant community as well as more than one thousand immigrant family names will be available to historians and genealogists as a free, online resource. I am announcing here today the completion of a nearly year-long project to locate, secure, translate, and then provide the genealogy community with a unique and first-ever resource. In partnership with KENAX Translations, Onward To Our Past® will now be providing, free of charge on their website, (http://OnwardToOurPast.com) the first ever English translation of Hugo Chotek's work entitled "Ceska Osada, a jeji Spolkovy Zivot u Cleveland, Ohio, v Severni Americe" (Bohemian Settlers and Their Social Life in Cleveland, Ohio, North America). This book was published by the Ohio Czech community for the Prague Ethnographic Institute and their International Ethnographic Exhibition in 1895.
Originally written in Czech, this 192 page book contains one of the most comprehensive and detailed views of the early Czech immigrant community in Cleveland, Ohio ever written and published. The author, Hugo Chotek, was a well known Czech-American immigrant who was an author and a newspaperman.
"This is a unique resource for genealogists and historians everywhere as it not only contains a detailed look at early Cleveland, Ohio and one of its immigrant communities in the 1890s, but additionally it contains over 1,200 surnames of the earliest Czech immigrants in this area of Ohio" Scott Phillips, owner of Onward To Our Past® Genealogy Services said. "Rarely does anyone interested in family history come across a resource so chockfull of surnames from this time period. As a historical genealogist the fact that this helps to fill the frustrating void caused by the loss of the entire 1890 United States Federal Census makes its availability incredibly valuable."
Karel Kosman, owner of KENAX Translations (http://www.kenax.cz) calling the project "A difficult translation in places, but rewarding for certain," also said "There were points where I was quite moved and accepted the challenge of trying to translate the same, moving words into another language". The project took over 330 hours to translate, the equivalent of 41 8-hour work days or 8 full workweeks for the translation team at KENAX.
The work will be available free for everyone to access beginning Monday, September 23, 2012 at the Onward To Our Past® website at http://OnwardToOurPast.com as well as on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/OnwardToOurPast.
So how did this discovery and decision come about? Well, I was searching the Internet for resources relating to the early Czech-American immigrant community looking for information that would assist me with my work on my early Bohemian (Czech) immigrant ancestors who settled in the City of Cleveland, Ohio. In conducting my search one of my first hits was for an article in the journal MELUS (Volume 6, Number 2) published by the Society for the Study of the Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States. This article, written by Professor Clinton Machann of Texas A&M University, is titled "Hugo Chotek and Czech-American Fiction". Reading this scholarly article on author Hugo Chotek and early Czech fiction writing in America, I was so impressed that I gave Dr. Machann a call. Since that day we have enjoyed staying in touch and I am pleased to say we have now become friends.
One early sentence was sticking in my head as I was reading Dr. Machann's article. It was this one: "Although we have little biographical data on Chotek ..." I was finding this particularly interesting since Dr. Machann also pointed out that Hugo Chotek spent at least some portion of his life in the Czech community in Cleveland. So, always hoping to find a hidden gem, I began digging in to see what I might learn about this gentleman.
As I was wondering where to turn next, I decided on searching GenealogyBank.com to see what I might discover there about Chotek. I was especially hopeful since I was remembering that the article also mentioned that Chotek spent time living in the Czech communities of New York, Detroit, Texas, Nebraska, as well as in Cleveland, Ohio.
It was exciting to see how much data availability and access has improved since 1979 when Dr. Machann's article was written. Searching on Hugo Chotek, my first hit was stellar! It was entitled "Bohemian Editor Stricken By Death", dated May 11, 1911 and published in the Plain Dealer of Cleveland, Ohio. Opening this article, I was even treated to a portrait of Hugo Chotek himself. If you are like me in your genealogy work, you love getting to 'see' someone and there he was, looking quite dapper I might add.
My interest in author Chotek was deepening the more I was reading. Here was a fellow who, while not only an author, was also an accomplished newspaperman! As a genealogical historian I believe there is little better than reading work by newspapermen and women as they follow that old adage of the 5 W's - "Who, What, Where, When, and Why"; exactly the kind of information we so wish to find.
Quickly I was discovering Hugo Chotek's family history, connecting with his living descendants, finding more information about his work in the Cleveland Czech community, learning that he had written about the early Czech community not once but twice, and most excitedly of all, reading his one-on-one interview with Frantisek (Frank) Knechtl, my very first Bohemian ancestor who arrived in Cleveland in 1852 and remained there until his death in 1911.
Discovering that my own ancestor was interviewed in one of Chotek's articles, I decided that I should look into them in greater depth, which is what led me to undertake the full Czech to English translation project of both of these historic articles.