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  • Writer's pictureTheFormidableGenealogist

The Three Children of Ignac Erben

I’ve been immersed in Czech records lately, trying to reconstruct a family in 19th-century Bohemia.


I can get by reading the language in context. Birth, marriage, and death records are uniform and limited in their vocabulary. I know a few words. The months of the year. Husband, wife, son, daughter. Father, mother. Widow. Years. Among the pages of the 1866 death records, I recognized a new word: cholera.


The cholera epidemic of 1866 was one of the two deadliest in Czech history. The disease was likely brought by invading Prussian armies. Without treatment, the death rate among those infected with the disease is estimated to be about 50% to 60%.


In September 1866, 47 people in the Bohemian village of Habry died; 38 of them were from cholera. The first name I noticed in repetition was Ignac Erben at house number 109. On September 14, his daughter Emilie died. She was aged 4 years and 6 months. The next day, his daughter Marie died, aged 13. His son Ignac, age 16, died a week later on September 21.


Several other surnames and house numbers appear with frequency in the span of just a few pages. Jan Elias lost two children on September 14: Frantiska, age 12, and Josef, age 13. Josef Peca, age 35 and a husband of 10 years, died on September 25, along with his two-year-old son Frantisek. Josef Peca’s widow Marie died at the age of 26, along with an unnamed daughter of no age, on October 1.


The births of the children of Ignac and Anna Erben are also listed among the records of the village of Habry. Their daughter Anna Maria Erbenova was born on September 1, 1858, at house number 109. Anna Maria would have turned eight years old the month in which three of her siblings and three dozen of her community succumbed to cholera.


I didn’t find Anna Maria among the death records of Habry.  Not because it isn’t there, but because I will look no further for her.  She is not among the dead of September 1866. Instead, I can believe that she survived long past eight years old.  She was a daughter. Dcera. Maybe she became a wife. Manželka. And a mother. Matka. I hope that there were other Erben children who survived and that Anna Maria remained a sister. Sestra. I hope that Anna Maria’s death is recorded among the pages long after the fall of 1866, and with words I have not yet learned: old age.

Photo: Anna Maria Erbenova was born September 1, 1858, in Habry.

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