Czech Immigration: A Journey of Hope and Opportunity in the 19th Century

Throughout the 19th century, a significant wave of immigration swept across the United States, as people from diverse backgrounds sought new opportunities and a better life. Among these immigrants were Czechs, who brought their unique culture and aspirations to the American shores. By delving into the historical backdrop of Czech immigration to the United States, illuminating the driving forces that led to their departure, examining their experiences upon arrival, and recognizing the enduring influence they had on American society, we can acquire a more profound comprehension of our ancestor’s remarkable journey.

Motivations Behind Czech Immigration

Bark ERNA; Wolday, Mekonnen / Kommandør Chr. Christensens Hvalfangstmuseum

Czech immigration to the United States was influenced by a combination of factors that led individuals to seek a new life in a foreign land.

Economically, the Czech lands grappled with poverty, limited agricultural prospects, and the disruptive effects of industrialization on traditional rural communities. Political turmoil within the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which governed the Czech lands, also played a role in motivating Czechs to leave their homeland. Moreover, religious discrimination, particularly targeting minority religious groups like Protestants and Jews, compelled many Czechs to pursue religious freedom and tolerance in America.

Conversely, the United States held alluring attractions that enticed Czech immigrants. The promise of economic opportunities, vast expanses of land, and the potential for social and religious freedoms acted as compelling incentives. Accounts of successful Czech settlers who had already established thriving communities in America, especially in the Midwest, further fueled the aspirations of Czechs seeking a fresh start.

Journey and Settlement

The journey from the Czech lands was often challenging and required great courage and determination. Czech immigrants embarked on long and perilous voyages by ship, enduring cramped and unsanitary conditions. They faced the challenges of sea sickness, harsh weather, and the uncertainty of starting anew in a foreign land.

One notable Czech immigrant who embarked on this journey was Josef Volcik. Motivated by the economic hardships, political turmoil, and limited opportunities in the Czech lands, Josef, along with his wife Anna and their four minor children, embarked on a journey to ‘Amerika’. On October 25, 1870, they set sail aboard the bark Erna, departing from Bremen, Austria.

Upon arrival in the United States, Josef and his family settled in Fayette County, Texas. Josef utilized his agricultural skills and became a farmer. The Czech community in Fayette County provided a sense of familiarity and support as they preserved their culture, language, and traditions while adapting to the new environment.

Josef Volcik’s journey and settlement experiences were representative of many Czech immigrants during the 19th century.

Cultural Contributions and Legacy

Czech immigrants made significant contributions to American society and left a lasting legacy. They brought with them their rich cultural traditions, including music, literature, and art, which enriched the cultural fabric of the United States.

Czech music, known for its distinctive melodies and rhythms, found a new home and influenced American music traditions. Notable Czech-Americans, such as composer Antonin Dvorak and writer Willa Cather, made significant contributions to the arts and literature, respectively, leaving an indelible mark on American culture.

The Czech immigrant community also played an active role in social and political spheres. They formed organizations and societies to support one another and promote Czech language, culture, and education. These associations served as sources of social cohesion and platforms for preserving Czech identity in the United States.

Speaking of cultural traditions – have you tried the cuisine? If you’ve had the pleasure of indulging in an authentic kolache, consider yourself among the fortunate few. For those encountering this word for the first time or struggling with its pronunciation, it’s “ko-LAH-chee.” These mouthwatering delights found their way to Texas alongside the influx of Czech immigrants in the late 19th century.

Kolaches boast a delightful combination of sweet, yeasted dough enveloping an array of traditional fillings. Whether it’s fruit preserves, poppy seeds, or sweetened farmer’s cheese, each bite provides a burst of irresistible flavor. Some kolaches even sport a dusting of powdered sugar or a streusel-like crumb topping, adding a delightful sweetness and texture.

It’s worth noting that referring to meat-filled rolls as kolaches might ruffle the feathers of Czech-Texans. These sausage-filled rolls are what we refer to as klobásníky.

Unraveling the Origins and Prevalence of Myths of Indigenous Ancestry

Genealogy is a captivating journey that uncovers the stories and histories of our ancestors. Along the way, we often encounter family legends and myths that spark our imagination and curiosity. One prevalent myth that frequently emerges is the belief of having Indigenous (native) ancestry. In this post, we will delve into the origins and prevalence of these myths, exploring the factors that contribute to their formation and their prevalence in genealogy. Additionally, we will provide guidelines to consider when exploring claims of Indigenous ancestry, promoting accuracy, cultural sensitivity, and respect.

The Origins of Myths of Indigenous Ancestry

The belief in Indigenous ancestry often stems from a historical fascination with Indigenous cultures. Their deep connection to the land, unique traditions, and resilience in the face of adversity have captivated people worldwide throughout history. The allure of claiming Indigenous heritage arises from a desire to connect to historically marginalized or culturally rich groups. This fascination leads individuals to embrace the idea of Indigenous ancestry as it evokes a sense of pride, cultural richness, and a connection to historical narratives that resonate deeply.

Family stories and oral history play a significant role in shaping our understanding of our ancestors. These stories are passed down through generations, serving as a repository of cultural heritage and familial identity. However, oral history can also be subject to inaccuracies, misinterpretations, or exaggerations over time. As tales of Indigenous ancestry are shared within families, they may become ingrained in the family lore, perpetuating the belief in Indigenous heritage.

Genealogical research often encounters gaps in records or unclear documentation. Missing or incomplete information can fuel speculation and the creation of myths surrounding Indigenous ancestry. In the absence of concrete evidence, family members may interpret ambiguous or unfamiliar records as indications of Indigenous heritage. Misinterpretation of historical records, such as confusing terms or naming conventions, can further contribute to the belief in Indigenous ancestry.

Cultural assimilation and identity suppression have also played a role in the formation of myths of Indigenous ancestry. In regions where Indigenous communities have faced cultural assimilation or discrimination, individuals may have been discouraged from openly acknowledging their Indigenous heritage. This suppression can lead to fragmented or lost connections to Indigenous roots over time. As a result, family members may cling to oral traditions or myths that hint at their Indigenous ancestry as a way to reclaim their heritage and affirm their identity.

The Prevalence of Myths of Indigenous Ancestry in Genealogy

Image by David Mark from Pixabay

Image by JASONBON from Pixabay

The prevalence of myths surrounding Indigenous ancestry in genealogy can be attributed to a variety of factors, including romanticized notions, identity seeking, ancestral migration, and cultural mixing. These factors contribute to the allure of claiming Indigenous ancestry and the persistence of these myths.

One significant factor is the romanticized notions of Indigenous cultures. Indigenous cultures have often been idealized and portrayed as exotic, mysterious, and deeply connected to nature. This romanticization creates a fascination and desire to be associated with Indigenous heritage. Claiming Indigenous ancestry can provide individuals with a sense of uniqueness and pride, as well as a way to anchor their identity within a broader cultural framework. The allure of Indigenous ancestry resonates strongly with those who engage in genealogical research to understand their heritage.

Another factor that contributes to the prevalence of myths of Indigenous ancestry is ancestral migration and cultural mixing. Throughout history, people have migrated and settled in different regions, often coming into contact with Indigenous communities. These interactions could lead to relationships, intermarriage, and the blending of cultural practices. Over time, however, these connections may become obscured or forgotten, leaving behind fragmented family stories or myths that hint at Indigenous ancestry. The desire to uncover these hidden connections and understand one’s ancestral origins fuels the persistence of these myths.

Moreover, the search for identity plays a crucial role in the perpetuation of Indigenous ancestry myths. Many individuals feel a strong need to understand their roots and find a sense of belonging. Discovering Indigenous ancestry offers a connection to a rich cultural heritage and can provide individuals with a deeper understanding of themselves and their place in the world. In this quest for identity, people may be more inclined to interpret or amplify ambiguous historical information, family stories, or cultural practices to support their belief in Indigenous ancestry.

Guidelines to Consider when Exploring Indigenous Ancestry

When exploring claims of Indigenous ancestry, it is crucial to approach the subject with accuracy, cultural sensitivity, and respect. Here are some guidelines to consider:

  1. Research and Collaboration: Engage in meticulous genealogical research using credible sources such as official records, birth certificates, marriage records, and census data. Collaborate with reputable genealogical societies, local historians, and Indigenous communities who can provide valuable insights and guidance specific to the region or tribe in question.
  2. Critical Analysis: Approach family stories and legends with a critical mindset. While oral history can offer valuable clues, it is important to critically analyze the information provided. Look for corroborating evidence in historical records or seek out multiple sources to validate claims.
  3. Genetic Testing: Explore the option of genetic testing through reputable companies that offer specific tests for Indigenous ancestry. Understand that these tests provide estimates and indicators rather than definitive proof. Interpreting the results accurately requires understanding the limitations and nuances of DNA testing.
  4. Cultural Sensitivity: Educate yourself about the specific Indigenous group or groups you are researching and understand their cultural context. Seek guidance from Indigenous communities, elders, or cultural experts to ensure you engage in respectful practices and honor their heritage appropriately.

Myths of Indigenous ancestry hold a powerful allure in genealogy, connecting individuals to rich cultural narratives and a sense of identity. However, it is essential to approach these claims with accuracy, cultural sensitivity, and respect for Indigenous communities. By conducting meticulous research, critically analyzing family stories, and embracing cultural sensitivity, we can navigate the complexities of exploring Indigenous ancestry while honoring the diverse cultures and histories of Indigenous peoples. Let us embrace the truth of our ancestral stories and appreciate the rich tapestry of human heritage that genealogy unveils.

Find a Grave: Not All It Is Cracked Up to Be

Find A Grave is a popular website that allows users to search for and locate grave sites of ancestors and other notable individuals. The website also allows users to create and manage memorials for deceased loved ones, and to share photos and other information about the deceased. While Find A Grave can be a resource for genealogists and others interested in learning more about their ancestors, there are also some disadvantages to consider.

  1. Inaccurate or incomplete information: One of the biggest concerns with Find A Grave is the accuracy and completeness of the information on the site. While Find A Grave’s mission is to
    “find, record and present final disposition information as a virtual cemetery experience”, one area they seem to fall short in is how their data is managed, confirmed, validated, and/or fact-checked. As a result, it is not uncommon to find memorials with incorrect dates, locations, or a general lack of sources for where information came from.
  2. Lack of privacy: Another disadvantage of Find A Grave is the lack of privacy for the individuals listed on the site. While the website does allow users to request that a memorial be removed or edited, this process can be time-consuming and may not always be successful. This can be particularly problematic for individuals who are concerned about their privacy or who do not want their personal information to be publicly available.
  3. Limited information: While Find A Grave does contain a wealth of information about grave sites and the individuals buried there, it is not comprehensive. The website relies on user contributions, and as a result, there may be large gaps in the information available or conflated information. This can make it difficult for genealogists to find complete and accurate information about their ancestors.
  4. The possibility of vandalism: Unfortunately, Find A Grave is not immune to vandalism. In the past, there have been instances of users creating fake memorials or making inappropriate comments or edits to existing ones. While the website does have measures in place to prevent and address this type of behavior, it is still a concern for those using the site.

Overall, Find A Grave can be a useful resource for genealogists and others interested in learning more about their ancestors burial locations. However, it is important to keep in mind the potential disadvantages of the website and to use it in conjunction with other sources in order to verify and supplement the information you find.

Martin Wolcik (1903-1971)

Martin Wolcik was born on January 28, 1903, in Harris County, Texas to parents Joseph and Frantiska (Clawson) Wolcik.

In 1910, Martin lived with his parents in Harris County, Texas.1

Martin married Mary Peters on 14 April 1925 in Crosby, Texas at the age of 22.2 The officiator was Rev. Frank H. Horak, who had the unique distinction of being the first native son of the Unity of the Brethren in Texas to be ordained as its pastor. At the time, Mary was already pregnant with their first child, Glorine Bessie at the time and in 1928 they had their second daughter, Lillie Mae3.

In 1930, Martin lived with his wife and two children in the home of Mary’s parents. The home was a small homestead located on Peters Rd. (named for the family) in Crosby, Harris County, Texas.4 In 1940, Martin was still with his wife and two children on the Peters family homestead in Crosby.5

Martin died on 1 November 1971, in Harris County, Texas, at the age of 68, and was interred in Sterling-White Cemetery, Highlands, Texas.6

Josef Volčík (1830 – before 1920)


Josef Volčík was born in the small town of Vsetín, situated in the historical Moravian lands of the Austrian Empire, under the rule of Francis I, first Emperor of Austria. While his headstone, one of the original clues to his birthplace and lineage, indicates a birth date of 18281, Parish Registers from the region have uncovered Josef’s baptismal record which indicates that his birth actually coincided with his parents’ second marriage anniversary on 27 Jan 1830.2

Little is known of Josef’s early life as he grew up through the latter Metternich years. The year 1848 was a time of European-wide revolution. There was a general disgust with domestic policies, socio economic problems caused by the Industrial Revolution, increasing hunger and poverty caused by the mid-1840’s harvest failures, and a growing urge for more freedoms which all contributed to civil unrest. At this time, Josef would have been 18 and most likely already a few years into his occupational years.

Despite the growing turmoil, including the period of neo-absolutism at the hands of the Minister of the Interior, Baron Alexander von Bach, we know that Josef met his wife, Anna Cmerek3 of the neighboring town of Jablůnka, and the two were eventually married on the 20th of November, 1855.

Cmerek is a name that is commonly misspelled throughout many online family trees and transcriptions as 'Lmerka'. Confusion in the proper spelling comes from how the name is used within a sentence - where Cmerek becomes Cmerka. Coupled with cursive writing, the 'C' looks much like an 'L', leading to the incorrect formulation of 'Lmerka'.

After the Ausgleich (Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867) established the Dual Monarchy of Austria-Hungary (also known as the Austro-Hungarian Empire), Josef embarked upon a journey to the United States aboard the bark Erna, sailing from Bremen, Austria. He was accompanied by his wife Anna, as well as his four (4) minor children:4

  • Johann [aka John] (b. 11 Jun 1859 – d. 31 Dec 1943)5 6 7
  • Stepan [aka Stephen/Stephan] (b. 14 May 1861 – d. 10 Jan 1933)8 9
  • Anna (b. 30 Jun 1867 – d. unknown)10
  • Josef [aka Joseph] (b. 7 Feb 1870 – d. before 1875)11
There has been a suggestion that a Veronica Volcik may be a child of Josef and Anna. According to a death record notice in Fayette County (near Fayetteville), Texas - Veronica Volcik died at the age of 44 years, 2 months on Sept. 13, 1903. This suggests a birth date of July 1859, the same year as the oldest Volcik son, Johann (John). Based on the sources available, primarily the baptism and immigration records, this connection seems highly improbable and has been ruled out as a child of Josef and Anna.

Settling in Fayette County, Texas, Josef purchased land in which to farm. His property was located in the J.M. Burton League, amounting to 109 1/3 acres.12 In an extract from Frank Lotto’s self-published works on Fayette County, Texas,13 we can identify the boundaries of the J.M. Burton League and the relative area in which the family lived and worked, within the short expanse of land between Ellinger proper and Fayetteville proper:

No. 6 — Ellinger shall be composed of the following leagues and surveys; The J. Petty, J. M. Burton, all of the W. O. Burnham and Lucy Kerr leagues lying southwest of the Biegel and Ellinger road, all of the S. A. Anderson lying southeast of Sarrazin’s Creek, and all of the Jos. Duty, W. T. Dunlavy and Jog. Ehlinger lying in Fayette County. All elections hereafter held in said Precinct shall be held at Ellinger.

No. 7 — Fayetteville is bounded as follows : Beginning at Colorado County line at Cummin’s Creek, to the mouth of Clear Creek ; thence up the said Clear Creek to the southeast line of N. Townsend league ; thence to the south corner of said league ; thence along the northeast lines of the Hensley league to its east corner; thence along the southeast lines of Hensley and Biegel leagues to the Biegel and Ellinger road ; thence with said road to the northwest line of the J. M. Burton league ; thence along the northwest line of said league to its north corner; thence along the northeast line of said league to the east corner of said league; thence with the Ehlinger league line to Colorado County line; thence with said county line to the place of beginning.

While living in Fayette County, Josef and Anna had two more sons:

  • Joseph (b. 1 Jun 1875 – d. 9 Oct 1964)14
  • Frank (b. 26 Jun 1877 – d. 5 Mar 1960)15
While researching the children of Josef and Anna, there have been a few questions raised as to the naming of two sons Joseph (Josef). For years, these sons were conflated as the same person in many online family trees. For clarity, I will call them J1 and J2 in this note. According to immigration record of 1870, J1 was a 7 month old son, which suggests a birth date in the first half of 1870. A recently discovered parish record confirms that there was a son, Josef, born 7 Feb 1870 to Josef and Anna in Vsetin, Moravia. After landing in Fayette County, ten years later in the 1880 census we find J2 listed as 4 years old and being born in Texas, suggesting a birth date of 1875-1876. This Joseph has since been proven through known death and census records. Research and available sources indicate that these are two very distinct persons, the eldest presumed deceased in Fayette County after migration and possibly even before the age of majority.

Sometime around a $1,500 deed of the land to son Frank recorded in 1899,16 and a subsequent $1,200 quitclaim deed, interest to son Joseph in 1904,17 18 19 20 Josef and Anna moved 100 miles away (as the crow flies) to Harris County, settling in the small town of Crosby.

By 1906, in Vol. 16 of the Obzor (a semi-monthly Czech language agricultural and horticultural newspaper published between 1891 and 1914), we find the startup charter of Řád Prapor Magnolie, číslo 65 (the Magnolia Battalion, number 65) in Crosby, of which Josef is a founding member and elected as the order’s Secretary.21

In an excerpt from ‘A History of the Czech-Moravian Catholic Communities of Texas’, V.A. Svrcek wrote that when he came to Crosby, there was already an established Czech presence:22

Crosby, Texas Some 24 miles east of the city of Houston, in Harris County, is the small but prosperous town of Crosby, with some 20 Czech families. The Czech people began to move here around 1910. In 1912, I. P. Krenek moved here, and there were already the families of Josef Volčik, F. J. Moravek, Joseph Širočka, Karel Machala, Joseph Franta, John Kristinik, Stasny and Clawson.

Josef remained in Crosby throughout the rest of his life, living with his wife Anna at the home of his son Frank. While an exact date of death is unknown, Josef passed away between 1912 (mention in NASE DEJINY) and 1920 (before the census). Josef was interred at White Cemetery in the neighboring town of Highlands. His headstone, written in Czech, reads:

Zde v Panu Odpociva Here lies at rest
Josef Volčík manzel Josef Volcik husband [of]
Anny Volčíkovi narozen Anna Volcik born
dne 27 ledna roku 1828 27 January 1828
vs Vstine Morave z rodicu at Vsetin, Moravia to parents
Anny a Jíří Volčík Anna and George Volcik


Age Date Event
27 Jan 1830 Born in the town of Vsetín, situated in the historical Moravian lands of the Austrian Empire, house #359.
25 20 Nov 1855 Married to Anna Cmerek in Jablůnka.
29 11 Jun 1859 Birth of first son and first child, Johann [John].
31 14 May 1861 Birth of second son and second child, Stepan.
37 30 Jun 1867 Birth of first daughter and third child, Anna.
40 7 Feb 1870 Birth of third son and fourth child, Josef.
25 Oct 1870 Travelled to Prussia and boarded the Bark Erna with his family for the voyage to America
28 Oct 1870 Arrived in Galveston, Texas with his family and settled in the area around Fayette County.
45 1 Jun 1875 Birth of fourth son and fifth child, Joseph.
47 26 Jun 1877 Birth of fifth son and sixth child, Frank.
69 21 Dec 1899 Gave deed to land in the J.M. Burton League to his son Frank.
76 1 Aug 1906 Mentioned in Vol. 16 of the Obzor as a founding member of Řád Prapor Magnolie, číslo 65 (the Magnolia Battalion, number 65) in which he was elected the Secretary. 
after 1912 -before 1920 Passed away and was interred at [Sterling-]White Cemetery in Highlands, Texas.

Family Unit

Family Group Sheet for Josef Volčík