Tracing an ancestor's origin can be one of the hardest parts of family history research. Once the village or town is identified, it's very important to determine which administrative units (i.e. parish, estate, district, and region) the place belonged. Since records in archives are sorted by the author - typically the administrative office - you'll need to know a town's respective administrative assignments in order to successfully search for particular records. The territorial subdivision of the Czech lands changed several times through history. On this site we provide an oultline of the most important epochs.
Estate (panství, Herrschaft)
The basic administrative unit in feudalism was the estate, an independent territorial complex with it's own administration and very little state control, that was however intensified at the end of its epoch. Each village belonged under one of hundreds estates of various sizes. An estate was typically owned by a nobleman, but also clergy, a town, or the king could be the owner. The landlord's administrative office was concerned with its own profitability, but was also in charge of justice, policing, and the administrative agenda of subject inhabitants within the manor borders. To know under which estate an ancestral village belonged, is very important if we search for records prior to 1848. It is also very probable that, if an ancestor moved, it was just to another village within the same estate.
Popis Králowstwí Českého is a lexicon of the Czech Kingdom written by František Palacký in 1848. It's a great tool to help find the relation of a particular village to its corresponding estate (index at the end) and, vice versa, how to figure out which villages were part of an estate.
District (okres, Bezirk)
After the downfall of feudalism in 1848, a new system of administration was established and, since 1850, state political & judicial district offices completely superseded the public administration till then performed by the estate offices or town councils. The political and judicial agendas were separated. The smaller judical districts determined the sphere of district courts. The larger administrative complex was represented by the political district, which usually comprised several court districts. It's important to know a town's judicial district when searching for court or census records, whereas trade registers, books of passports issued, or lists of recruits fell under the purview of the political district offices (okresní hejtmanství).
Database of villages and towns and and their relation to the historical court or political district, situation between 1949-1960 and current district.
Region (kraj, Kreis)
The higher territorial division was formed by regions, which already existed in the 13th century. They were administrative units standing between manor (aka estate) and country. The number of regions and their borders changed several times. For example, during reign of Empress Maria Theresa in 1751, there existed 16 regions in Bohemia, 5 regions in Moravia, and 3 in Silesia.