Monday, July 21, 2014

Old Country Church Records–Reading them.

Yesterday, I posted about the birth/baptism record of my great grandfather, John Pakledinaz, and how I have concluded that it is, indeed, the correct record. Today is a follow-up to that post because I wanted to give a more detailed evaluation of the record collection and also give some tips on how I deciphered the contents.

The record collection where I found my great grandfather is the Croatia, Church Books, 1516-1994, specifically the Roman Catholic, Sotin, Births, Marriages, Deaths 1857-1885, filmed and then digitized by the LDS. This particular collection consists of 399 images and I have combed through about 180 of them so far (all of the Baptisms). The records are in great overall condition considering the originals were over 100 years old when they were filmed. I would say that 90% of the pages in the images are very legible. The digitized version is far superior, in my opinion, to the microfilm version. They are clear and I can zoom in and out without loss of legibility and I can view them at home on my home computer, much better than viewing on a film reader.

imageThe main difficulty with these old church records, obviously, is that they are not in English. This particular collection is in Latin and Croatian. They are in a spreadsheet type record form with headings. The headings start out in Latin and then half way through they turned into Croatian. This isn’t so bad because the English translation stayed the same; Nomen (Name – Latin) is the same as ime (Name – Croatian).


However, the entries do the same thing, they started in Latin and then, all of a sudden, whoever was doing the recording starting writing everything in Croatian. I don’t speak Latin or Croatian, so I was pretty confused several times during my search. See the examples on the left. The top record of Jacobus is from 1857. This is written in Latin – Maji (May), Legit. (Legitimate Child), and colonus (could be farmer).  The bottom record is from 1885. This is is Croatian – Ožujak (March), Zakonit (Legitimate), Zak, supr (Legal or legitimate marriage).

To make things worse, as with all handwritten records like these, the same person did not record every entry. Some entries were very neat and clear and some are just downright scribble. But, with the help of a couple different websites, I can pretty much decipher most of what is written.

The first website I went to and used much through the entire process was They have great explanations of the church records with word and name lists that I used to make my way through the harder parts of the records. Along with that site, I also used Google translate A LOT! I never used just one site to make sure I was getting a word correct; I always used at least those two sites. I also used the Family History Research Wiki from just to verify some of the harder words.

Lastly, when I just could not figure anything out or at least wanted to verify what I have found, I went to the message boards (for this record, the Croatian board). I did not jump to the message boards first because I feel that I need to do everything in my power to try and decipher these records on my own. The more I can do on my own, the better I’ll be doing further research in records just like these. Anyway, I just could not figure out this word that was under my Greatimage Grandfathers Fathers name. I was almost sure it was his occupation or something like that, but I could not decipher it completely. So I posted to the board. I received two answers within hours of posting and my suspicions were confirmed, the word means farmer or peasant farmer (in Croatian).

There will always be portions of these records that you may never decipher. In the imageobservations column of my great grandfathers record there is some writing with what is probably dates: Ex Offo?? 2/12 1905 ??? 14/11 9?9 I believe the first date is something to do with his emigration date, as it is very close to the date I found him on a ship’s manifest at Ellis Island (Aug 1905), but it doesn’t match for sure, so I will probably never know.

Another part of these records that threw me for a moment was there were some dates and a + sign by some of the Baptism names. I have German Genealogy also so I have reviewed many of their village books and Iimage remembered that the + sign in those records meant death. So, do these annotations mean the same thing? I quickly picked an example and then started searching the death records of this collection and there it was, the annotation on the baptism matched a death record of the same person. However, my example almost through me off with the language again – the Baptism was written in Latin so the name was Johannes and the Death was written in Croatian, so the name was Ivan – Ivan is Croatian, Johannes is Latin, and they both can become John in English, just like in my Great Grandfather’s case.

This is enough for one post but I will continue to post about these records because I have found a lot of hope-to-be ancestors. Over the next couple months, I’ll be continuing my search into these records, making some conclusions from what I find and then I’ll post my findings.  

Do you have any suggestions on reading these old church records? If so, please leave a comment and tell everyone about it. 

Thanks for reading and keep diggin’ for that family.


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