My Accidental Discovery of the Vodraska Family

Joseph Vodraska?The other day, I told you about how I found my great-grandmother Anna Riedl. From the beginning of my research into my family history, I have focused on Josef Vopat and his wife Anna Riedl Vopat. The notes I had from my grandmother gave the most information about the two of them, so it seemed logical that I’d find out about that branch of my family first. The Vodraska family, however, was a bit of a mystery to me. I knew they arrived sooner than the Vopat side of the family, but really did not know much more than that.

When I started digging around the Plana archives of Pilsen, little did I know I would get double the results for my effort.

After I found the birth record for Anna Riedl in the Plana Parish Archives, I learned that many of these archives are indexed. I had just been paging through the archives which takes an enormous amount of time to find people. So, in the quest for Anna’s siblings I decided to try the index of the archives. It couldn’t hurt and had to be at least slightly faster than going one page at a time.

I found the index, but still had to guess at the page for the “R’s”. So, I guessed at a number and typed it in the box. Turns out, I way overshot the “R’s” and landed smack in the middle of the “V’s”. As I was about to click back a few pages, I glanced down and saw a familiar name.

Jozef Vodrazka was listed at the top of page 95. I looked at the birth date and it was not correct for my relative, so I went back to find the rest of the Riedl family. After I found a few of the Riedls, I kept obsessing about the Vodrazka name I had found. Notes my brother had given me said the family was from the Pilsen region. However, I had been told by other relatives that this was not so. I wanted to explore it further, so back to the indexes I went.

After doing a bit more exploration, I figured out the alphabetizing of the archives was not exact. In fact, some of the indexes were only alphabetized by the first letter of the last name. From there, the names were all in chronological order. So Jozef Vodrazka was listed on on several pages of the “V” section of the indexes. After a little bit more digging, I found a Jozef who was born in the right year, 1867. I was a little excited. Then, I searched for the birth record to check his parents first names. They were Anna and Jozef. Wonderful! I still could not read the entire record, though.

After receiving some help from the Czech Genealogy Facebook Group, I realized his mother’s last name was not the same as in my notes. I had Pertl in my records, but in the record her name appeared to be Berk. This did not make me happy, because I thought I was incorrect in my assumption that this was my great-grandfather. At that point, I almost let it go. However, anyone who knows me will tell you I am stubborn and don’t let things go easily. So I decided to look up the first Jozef’s marriage record. Perhaps if I could find it, it would shed some more light on things.

Amazingly, I found the record right away. I had been told that my great-great grandparents had married in 1858, so I started looking there. Anna and Jozef were there in black and white. Only instead of Berk, the last name was written as Perka. In old German or Czech script, the name Perka could possibly have been mistaken for Pertl. The fact that Anna did not read or write (according to the 1900 census) could also have lead to an inaccurate translation of the name.

To further confirm that this was indeed my Vodraska family, I looked up the birth record of Rose Vodraska, Joseph’s sister. It did not take long to find her listed with the same parents.

What sealed the deal and totally convinced me that these were my ancestors? A small note written in all of the birth records. It said “nach amerike 20/3/73.” That roughly translates as went to America March 20, 1873. According to all the census records, my ancestors arrived in the United States some time in 1874. Given the time it took to make it through Germany to a port, then cross over to the United States by boat, the timeline fits nicely!

I guess it was meant for me to discover!

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