Hi, my name is Kris Quinn and I am a US citizen from the state of Maryland.
During the Fall of 2019 I visited the Czech Republic for nine days, living a childhood dream. To fulfill this dream and find where my maternal and paternal grandparents were born and where many of my ancestors lived, I wanted to visit the two little villages that I thought would be easily reachable from Prague. I also was hoping for new information about my ancestors. I wanted to relive my grandmother’s stories about “the old country”, to see what she so vividly colored for me as a child.
Trying to find options, my friend, Ruth and I researched different tour companies, we chose CzechAncestryGuide.com. There I found Dagmar. I contacted her and we exchanged emails several times and she reassured me that the trips to the villages was doable. I sent her information about my family that I already knew.
To prepare myself, I researched family photos from Europe, some I knew, some I did not know, but I made copies just in case because of the names on the back of these photos might help. My great uncle had written a story about the villages and area with names of neighbors, relatives, and roads near my grandparent's homes and that was the most help of all.
We settled for a day trip. I contacted Dagmar when we arrived, she assured me that everything was set, the distance to the villages was very doable in one day. She would arrange the van and driver and have all the history she had found. They would meet us at our hotel at 7:00am sharp. As we walked out of our hotel, the driver greeted us, then running around the corners was Dagmar with a bag of kolaches for our little group, my friend and my niece and grandniece. I had mentioned to Dagmar in an email that I was going to have one every morning while I was there as this was a Saturday morning baking event in our house growing up. We introduced ourselves, hopped into the van with Dagmar and I sitting next to each other so we could go over her research and she could give me copies of the records she found. As we headed out the first stop which was a planned an open-air historic village museum, designed with buildings from all over the region. They were arranged so we could visualize how people lived in the country villages 100 years ago or later. This was a surprise and we were very excited to see the typical living, how families shared their trades and children learned.
The second part of the itinerary was the trip to my grandmother’s parents home in Hradek. Dagmar needed the house location information, so we made a quick stop at the city hall. Directions were given and we found the home in relatively good shape with a newer addition that had been erected after my great grandparent’s departure in the early 1900s. The house was abandoned and we could not walk on the property. Tears and excitement filled my heart. Dagmar walked the street showing us where the original house was with a fallen shed in the back. The huge brick barn was in bad shape, but it was still standing. We spent about a half hour taking pictures and imagining how they lived. We then went to the local cemetery where she pointed out the tombs of many family members and explained toe spelling from Czech to English.
Dagmar discovered that my maternal great grandfather was a steel worker, that my paternal great grandfather was a barrel maker. All of My father’s maternal family eventually emigrated to the US, two or three children at a time, but sadly my maternal great grandparents were the last to arrive in Chicago and the first night there, never seeing gas lamps, went to bed after blowing out the flame, were found dead in bed the next morning from carbon monoxide. They never saw their eight children all together again, never enjoying the fruits of their hard labor.
Our third part of adventure was to a lovely traditional Czech restaurant and Inn between the two villages of my grandparents. This is where we found the only restaurant on our entire nine day trip that served my uncle’s favorite soup…Liver and dumpling soup. I ordered it and loved every drop and realized that I did not know what I was missing as a child.
Full and excited over our morning we proceeded to the fourth part of our tour, to the village of Rokycany, about a half hour drive, to find my grandfather’s birth place. Once again Dagmar found the cottage on a street with other small cottages. She suddenly tells the driver to stop. She jumps out and inquiries from a gentleman entering the cottage if the house was ever owned by my great grandfather’s name regretfully he said no, that he grew up in the house and had never heard the name. His parents were over 100 years of age, and he did not think it wise for us to come in and talk to them. While they were talking we did take some pictures. Disappointed, we proceeded to one of the two local cemeteries.
Once again Dagmar noticed a lady walking around and asked her if she was familiar with the cemetery and if she knew of any graves with our family name. The woman immediately took us to two ancestor’s graves. She actually was the caretaker, what luck! Dagmar told us the English translation of Czech names and how we could tell if the grave was male or female. As we were standing and talking and taking pictures, in comes the man she had talked to at the cottage we thought was my great grandfather’s home. He pointed to a grave and said that his parents remembered that the grave he pointed to was the person they bought the cottage from and this family bought the house from my family. What could have been a better ending to a lovely, heartwarming day of family genealogy.
As we traveled to the villages and on our way home, Dagmar explained many things to us as we passed areas, history of areas, she double checked home locations at the local city halls, had copies of records we needed, arranged the van, but best of all she was enthusiastic and so pleasant to be around. Her excitement excited us. Her English was very good. I had paid her for three days of research before we arrived and after I returned I asked her to do three more days. I opened my genealogy.com for her and she was able to put all the new information as well as what she had done the first three days onto my tree with photos of the documents. Her research took me back to the early 1700s. I am hoping to return and my next trip will be to the second cemetery in my grandfather’s village and the church of my grandmother and a return to the wonderful inn for another wonderful meal. Hopefully Dagmar can help me out again. She definitely made my childhood dream come true. She is a true Czech, honest, hardworking and friendly.
Hiring someone do this kind of research for you without references except for the genealogy web site is a risk and a bit scary, but I feel I chose right person and had the best experience ever.
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