Searching For Your Roots: Czechast With Jean Svoboda

Grandfather's music

Imagine knowing little to nothing about your roots, your lineage shrouded in the mists of time and distance. This was the reality for Jean Svoboda, an Australian with a Czech father and Latvian mother. Despite being born and raised down under, Jean's heritage whispered tales from far-off lands, tales she knew she had to uncover.

Moravské Křižánky - school where Jean's second granfather was a teacher | Photo: archive of Jean Svoboda

A few years ago, Jean embarked on her journey of family and personal discovery armed with nothing more than internet search engine and a resolution to find out where her family came from:

"I googled 'Czech Ancestary" and up came South Australian Library with a whole list of websites to go to. One of them was the Moravian Regional Archive. I started with wanting to find just my father's birth record, which I did."

Valija and Jiří - parents of Jean Svoboda,  Germany 1949 | Photo: archive of Jean Svoboda

But Jean soon realized it was not enough for her. She set out on a digital odyssey that would see her comb through the annals of history, piecing together her family tree one branch at a time. Her relentless search peeled back layers of the past, revealing ancestors dating back to the 15th century.

Josef Svoboda - portrait on the grave stone of my grandfather,  teacher in Šlapanice | Photo: archive of Jean Svoboda

"I worked on it 7 days a week, roughly 5 to 7 hours a day. I was going through every entry in those Catholic Registers."

Up until the 20th century it was these documents that served as the main point of reference when it comes to finding out about deaths, marriages and births in what is now Czechia. After several years of online research and correspondence, Jean finally travelled to the country of her ancestors:

"It was as if a child was coming home, at last. Everybody was very helpful and kind."

In this episode of Czechast, we unravel Jean's incredible story of connecting the dots across continents and centuries. It's a testament to the power of curiosity and resolve to bridge the gap between past and present.

Grandfather's music | Photo: archive of Jean Svoboda

"It was very emotional time because I had no contact with my grandparents. Now, I was able to touch the sheets of paper that they had touched."

So join us as we follow Jean Svoboda's path to her ancestral beginnings, a tale that reminds us all of the enduring legacy within our genes and the stories waiting to be told. This is Czechast—where every story connects us, and every connection has a story.

Jean Svoboda in Obytčov with a turtle statue | Photo: archive of Jean Svoboda
Author: Vít Pohanka
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  • Czechast

    Czechast is a regular RPI podcast about Czech and Moravian culture, history, and economy.