Bohemian ancestors claiming Austrian citizenship...Why?

Discussion in 'Looking for Ancestors' started by Hackl/Salava26, Oct 21, 2005.

  1. Hackl/Salava26

    Hackl/Salava26 New Member

    My great-grandfather was born in Bohemia and left for the US in the late 1880's. On his naturalization records he claimed to be a citizen of Austria though. I saw something similar to this in another posting and was wondering if anyone knew why ancestors were claiming Austrian citizenship if they came from Bohemia. Can anybody help?
  2. Sova

    Sova Well-Known Member

    Bohemia was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire at that time. Hence, your great-grandfather was indeed an Austrian citizen, even if ethnically he was Bohemian.
  3. Ceit

    Ceit Well-Known Member

    Don't you think it's because Bohemia was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire? If you have time and reason to browse the Ellis Island records - - you'll see lots of mixes of ethnicity and nationality. Germans from Russia, Slovaks from Hungary...and Bohemians from Austria. My own great-grandfather was one of those, in fact. And my gg-grandparents, his in-laws, were also Bohemians but labeled Germans on the ship's manifest. Can't explain that one with politics I don't think.
  4. Karel Fous

    Karel Fous Well-Known Member

    The lists at Ellis Island was filled by information from passangers, i.e. by informations, which gave people about themselves. For someone couldn't ne nationality such important as for second. Some of them indicate Austria, because no-one knows about Bohemia, but Austria-Hungaria was official state, great Europian Imperium.
    Do you distinguish nationality of people immigrated from Vietnam? Hardly. They are just Vietnamese. The same it was with immigrants from Bohemia (so called province Bohemia), more correct from Austria-Hungaria.
    Karel :wink:
  5. Ceit

    Ceit Well-Known Member

    I think lots of people refer to their ancestors as "Bohemian" because it's constant - my relatives now live in the region of Bohemia in the country of the Czech Republic; 20 years ago they lived in the region of Bohemia in the country of Czechoslovakia; 100 years ago they lived in the region of Bohemia in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The national name changes but not the regional name. It's just a better description. You could show off your historical knowledge and use the techinically correct terminology for the time frame, but it becomes problematic when you use a word like "Austrian" which still exists and has a somewhat more limited definition.
    By the way, there are plenty of people from Southeast Asia who proudly identify themselves by their ethnic name (the Hmong and Mien from Laos), as well as their political nationality, although more from Laos, Cambodia or Thailand than Vietnam.
  6. Karel Fous

    Karel Fous Well-Known Member

    An example: At east part of Germany, at border with Poland, is a region of Slavic nationality named Wend. They lived at this region over 1000 years, however last 700 was pretty difficult due strong influence of German ethnic.
    What do you think, will the Wend, if he fills applications form, say, that he is Wend or that he is German?
    The similar situation was here some 100 years ago. People here distinguish between nationality and nation, esspecialy here, at former Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. 15 years ago it was shown up, that Czechs felt themelves firstly like Czechoslovakian and then like Czechs, conversely Slovaks felt themselves first like Slovaks and then like Czechoslovak.
    Find absolutely true is impossible, the indication of nationality depended by education, family roots and tradition, knowledge of English (understanding), information which the people had, personal cognition what would be better for the start at new country etc. Do not find in this any deep philosophy...
    Karel :)
  7. Ceit

    Ceit Well-Known Member

    Hmm, I didn't know that, interesting. Why would knowledge of English be a factor? Maybe the worldliness involved in learning it?

    No, no philosophy, but I think psychology is definitely involved. We seem to be veering off quite a way from the original question here. Not that I'm complaining, mind you, there's little I love more than a tangential debate. :twisted: I see three points of view being compared with each other:
    1. self-definition of American descendents of immigrants
    2. self-definition of the immigrants themselves, and modern Europeans
    3. self-definition of Asians

    1 has been heavily influenced by 2 or 3, sometimes 2 and 3, but 2 and 3 don't have a heck of a lot to do with each other inspite of colonization, so let's just throw 3 out. Now, we descendents of immigrants often have little idea of how our ancestors viewed themselves, if we're lucky we have some documents and a few family stories. Hackl/Salava26 (who may be mourning for her hijacked thread :wink: ) calls her g-grandfather Bohemian, or says he was from Bohemia. Where did this information come from? I would guess great-grampa himself. Hackl's original question: why did he have Austrian citizenship? Because the territory of Bohemia was under Austrian control at the time. Pretty straight-forward. Things get sticky when we start labeling people's view of themselves as "correct" and "incorrect", when better words might be "realistic", "nostalgic" or "politically expediant". If we look at the manifests listed on the Ellis Island site, we see that many of them have two descriptions of ethnicity (but not all of them), not just for residents of Austria-Hungary but for Germany and Russia as well. We can also see that not all ethnic Austro-Bohemians lived in Bohemia, or even Austria. I suppose the extra details were requested by US Immigration, especially from those coming from multi-ethnic conglomerate empires like Austria-Hungary. We were very concerned about ethnicity in the past, and to some extent still are.
    Now Karel, if you want to play the example game, what can you tell me about the Basques and Catalans?
  8. Karel Fous

    Karel Fous Well-Known Member

    As my informations allow, I know, that field in form was named "Nationality" (manifest of passengers, which I have to use, from 1922). I assume the form was the same before 1918. Some of passengers wrote there Bohemian, because they had Bohemian nationality, some wrote there Austrian, because they was citizen of Austria-Hungary (note, that no one use term Austro-Hungarian). Perception of word "nationality" is maybe behind the differencies and maybe was evoked by level of English.
    I understand, that people want know their roots, but my note about philosophy was aimed to person who had filled the papers, not to present genealogist. I am sure, there are not more other reasons why people have signed themselves as Bohemian or Austrian, as was written here. It was not philosophy, someone wrote this, someone other.
    I don't want play with examples, but if you ask... I believe all depends on conditions - where the question was asked, what is reason of the question ets. In case of lost passport Bask answer will be another than in explaining diferencies of Spanish nationalities. I think, that if an officer (police, immigration) asks Bask (or Catalan) by his desk about nationality, they reply "from Spain" or maybe "Bask from Spain".
    This is really silly discusion, absolutely academic, theoretic... :shock:
  9. Karel Fous

    Karel Fous Well-Known Member

    Ceit, there are many reasons, influences, why people react how they react and why they indicate themselves or as Bohemians or as Austrian. I am affraid, that we can't understand or incept it on the whole. I am believe that there are not "deep philosophy" as political program (as Irish movement against England or movement in Corsica against France) , strong ethnical feeling (as Bask in Spain or Armenian in Turkey) or so (sorry for examples :wink: ).
    People just filled the field as they thought what is the best. And there was projection of feeling what will be the best for the future, what make the minimum problems with clerks, proudness to be Bohemian (stronger, or weaker) and meny many other things.
    Pay attention also how strongly the Czech minority keeps together during years in new world in comparison with Italian, Irish or others.
    Regards Karel :)
  10. Ceit

    Ceit Well-Known Member

    Yes, there are many reasons why people define themselves the way they do, but I don't think it's up to us to judge them as right or wrong. You seemed to be impying that it was incorrect or inappropriate for immigrants to call themselves Bohemian instead of, or along with, in many cases, Austrian. I humbly beg to differ. There's nothing wrong with people being proud of their roots, whether that means ethnicity, nationality, or even just the city their family stems from. I also suggested in my last post that US Immigration officials prompted these "excessive" responses, not because of their own perceptions, or philosophy as you say, but because of government immigration policy. I'm sure you know that there were strict quotas on national and ethnic groups entering the US, in the 20th century especially. Besides, saying that people should or should not have called themselves by a certain national/ethnic name on official documents is really a moot point because, obviously, they were called by those names. End of "silly" discussion.
  11. Viktor

    Viktor Well-Known Member

    For immigration purposes, nationality was directly connected to entry quotas set by the US authorities. Thus the informed immigrant woud choose the most adavantgeous for entry purposes. It was easier to enter the US as a Bohemian than Austro-Hungarian, since numerically there are/were more Austro-Hungarian applicants than Bohemians,Czechs or Slovaks.....

    Some people/families would apply for both or several visas under different nationalities or religion (yes, religion also had it's quotas) and then use the one that came through first! Hence, one could apply for a visa as a Bohemian or Austro-Hungarion or Jewish (that is why most Americans-- today still -- think the Judeism is a nationality rahter than religion).


    PS. By the way, many Austrians entered the US as Germans, because there were too many Austro-Hungarian applicants, and the line was longer
  12. meluzina

    meluzina Well-Known Member

    mayhap the reason is, that the u.s. interpretation of nationality is that it equates to citizenship and nationality was simply based on the passport presented?? there was no such thing as a bohemian passport, all travelled on austrian papers i belive? thus it might not have been a matter of answering a question, but rather an immigration officers understanding of documents..
  13. kimba

    kimba Active Member

    I have a question that indirectly relates to this topic.

    My Grandfather Bures (all of his brothers and sisters and his parents, my great-grandparents) came to the US in 1903 from Bohemia. The ship's manifest says Austro-Hungarian Empire. BTW: this side of my family identifies as Bohemian.

    I was told that they came to the US to escape a war. But the only war I have found record of didn't happen until 1914 (WW I) and the Austro-Hungarian Empire did not fall until 1918. What were the Czechs who emmigrated during the 1890's and early 1900's escaping? I have been so curious about this.

    Also, it seems that during these years there also seemed to be an almost racist division between the Bohemians and the Slovaks (Slavs). At least that is the impression I got from my Grandfather. What was going on between them at the turn of the century?

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