Approximately 40 years ago, an amazing 2nd cousin of mine and her mother started piecing together a book. This book holds a ton of information on the Brecka family. They gathered pictures and recipes. They had conversations with the first generation of Breckas born in the United States. They visited libraries gathering census data, newspaper clippings, and arrival data from passenger and crew lists. On top of all this, they wrote to The State District Archives in Prague (and hired a translator to translate the response) to gather birth and christening information on our ancestors. This information was printed in what we’ve called in our family The Brecka Book.
With permission granted, I will be including bits and pieces out of this book. In future posts, I will expand on what was written with new information gathered. (For those of you who have your own copy of The Brecka Book – I have a fairly strict “I will not write about living people” policy. You will not be included in posts nor will your photos be posted – do not worry.)
Below is the forward from The Brecka Book, written by Doris Brecka and Nancy Jenewein:
“The original objective in endeavoring to prepare a record of the Brecka family was to strengthen the natural family bonds by acquainting (or re-acquainting) members of the ever-enlarging younger generations with one another, and to provide a written and pictorial history of the lives of their antecedents. Much of the early research was concentrated in the Richland County area, where most of the family vital statistics were recorded, later extending to the Sauk County courthouse, newspaper files at the library, and wherever else pertinent documents and news items could be found. Some facts were elusive, and there were discrepancies in the names and dates with which to reckon. But there were thrilling discoveries, too; a memorable one was seeing for the first time, in Anton’s and Rosa’s application for a marriage license, the names of their parents, and the regions of their birth. Thus was kindled a desire to learn a little more about the Brecka family members before any of them came to this country, and also how and when they left their native land and arrived in America.
From several of the older “children” it was learned that there were indeed other members of the family, who, unlike Anton and his older brother Wenzl, had not made the journey across the ocean to a new land. (At least, research has uncovered no evidence that others did come.) Memories of their parents’ reminiscences brought recollections of one name “Louie” and perhaps a “Joe”. Now the aim became twofold: First, to make an effort to find out who constituted the rest of the immediate family in Czechoslovakia, and secondly, to compile an accurate record of Brecka descendants.
A search of this type is a slow procedure, with progress measured in months and years rather than days or weeks. But eventually a high degree of success was attained, and the waiting was definitely worthwhile.”
Since looking into this on my own, I have, possibly, found siblings of Anton and Wenzl (or at least other family members) who did, in fact, come to the US. I have also identified the “Joe” and “Louie” mentioned in the forward above. More on this later.
Anton Brecka (1876-1944)
Anton Brecka, my ancestor who came to the US from Bohemia, was born January 20, 1876 at Chotýš 26, Vitice in (what is today) Czechia. All of Anton’s siblings and his father, Jakub, were also born in the same location according to records found by the State District Archives in Prague (shown below). The letter mentions that the numerals following the localities should be entered into the records as the numerals often serve as a a link between generations or as a link to assemble a family of siblings. The numerals, I’ve found, are basically house or building numbers.
Also within the letter (on the right side above) are a list of Anton’s siblings, Alois being the youngest. I found the mention of so many children dying “on convulsions” an interesting fact. What does this even mean? According to Henry Louis Gates, Jr. on “Finding Your Roots” on PBS, he’s said that “on convulsions” generally means tuberculosis. However, I notice that Anton has a sibling who died, specifically, of tuberculosis. So, I dug a little more. I’ve come to the conclusion that “on convulsions” basically means no reason for death was found. This article from the NY Times kinda backs this up. It’s very sad that they lost so many children. I can’t even imagine what that must have been like.
As is mentioned in the letter above, Anton’s parents were Jakub Brecka (son of Jakub Brecka and Anna Benakova) and Barbora Hervert (daughter of Vaclav Hervert and Marie). Jakub and Barbora had 13 children, 7 survived into adulthood:
- Maria Brecka (1858-1859)
- Barbora Brecka (1859-
- Josef Brecka (1861-1862)
- Anna Brecka (1861-1863)
- Vaclav Wencil “Jim” Brecka (1864-1938) – “Jim” according to my Grandpa, Ed Brecka
- Anna Brecka (1865-
- Josef Brecka (1868-
- Aloisius Brecka (1869-1878)
- Marie Brecka (1871-
- Anezka Brecka (1873-1873)
- Anton Brecka (1876-1944)
- Jaroslav Brecka (1877-1878)
- Alois Brecka (1879-
Future posts will focus more on Anton and Jim’s voyage to the United States, who they met up with when they got here, and where they settled. I’ll also discuss the possibility of others coming to the US. For now, we’re just going to play with Google Maps and get an idea of where Anton’s childhood family grew up (or at least how it looks today).
According to birth records, Chotýš 26 is the locality and “numeral” where our Anton grew up. Sure enough, in Google Maps if you zoom in on Chotýš, the numerals show up right on top of the buildings.
It’s frustrating that the back street that would go in front of house 26 hasn’t been “Google Street Viewed,” so we can’t get a good view of the house itself, but you can go up and down the main road on the other side and get a feel for this little town and a glimpse of the back of the home.
If you’d like to play with this your own in Google Maps, click here.