Tracing roots... and finding a family castle!

Friday, April 8, 2016

Thanks to a penchant for pilsner, classical music concerts and antique bazaars, my Great Uncle L and Aunt B keep returning to Prague. Uncle L used to teach Journalism classes at Charles University, and even after retirement, he and Aunt B keep coming back, which is a real treat.

Most recently, they were here for two months. All sorts of fun was had with these two, yet one day was exceptionally memorable, as we spent it visiting the area where my great-great-great-great grandmother Rosaria Kapinosova and her kin lived. (BW was on a cookery course in the UK, hence his absence from the post.) Follow along with us as we trace the roots of the Kapinos family clan...

The seekers: Uncle L, Aunt B, family friend MontanaMan, his other half Učenec, me and Jayda the dog
The place: The Vysočina region of the Czech Republic, namely the village of Čížkov
1. Pumping a pub for information

What do you do when you arrive in an unknown town and need to get oriented? Make way to a local watering hole, of course.

We had copies of a publication on the Kapinos family written by a distant relative in Texas about 30 years ago, so we knew a few things, such as addresses and family names. At the pub, the staff pointed us to our sought-after address, though nobody knew anything about the Kapinos family name.

2. Chatting up a local

At the address the pub staff pointed us to, a very nice builder corrected our location and actually knew a little about our ancestors, who were a family of pub/innkeepers. Thank goodness Czech friend Učenec (not her real name; this translates to "scholar") was with, as she did heaps of translation.

Thus, here is Čížkov 4, the home where our family lived! It's of course been renovated and is still in use.

The kind builder told us that the family who lived at #4 (the Kapinoses) at one time also owned the local chateau, Čížkov Castle. (!) We were shocked, to say the least, and it was just a short walk away...

3. Poking around Čížkov Castle 

The buildings and grounds were completely dilapidated - a sad display of decayed decadence. We wandered around outside, snapping many photos.

In subsequent research, we found a dissertation online in Czech - wholly about the very chateau! It contains fascinating information and recent photos of the derelict insides of the buildings. At one time it had a granary, sheep, cattle, gamekeepers, a brewery and more. Uncle L communicated with the dissertation's Czech author over e-mail, and it's evident that in the 1700s and 1800s, the estate passed through a number of hands, one of them likely being Rosaria's. She was a wealthy widow who bequeathed gold and cows to her four daughters prior to their families making a very expensive emigration to the American Midwest in the 1850s or 60s. 

Sadly, the castle was of course confiscated by the State in 1945 and fell into disrepair under the Communists, when they returned it to its prior owners in 1992. 

4. And finally, we went to church

Buzzing with excitement over our castle find, we drove a few kilometers to Nová Cerekev to visit the Catholic church where two of our ancestors had been married in 1796. MontanaMan found a member of the parish who let us in; iwas stunning yet riddled with cracks and water damage. We nosed around the adjoining cemetery as well but didn't find any familiar names. 

We completed our family history tour just as it began to rain and drove to nearby Tabor for a delicious Indian meal. Walking the paths of our progenitors was nothing short of profound; as if being on this Czech expat journey wasn't already special enough, this experience is one that I will someday be able to tell my grandchildren about. What a gift!

*Huge thanks to MontanaMan, Učenec, Aunt B and especially Uncle L, whose extensive research made this possible.

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