By Austrian Civil Code, all fatherless children were assigned a court-appointed legal guardian. A guardian looked after the minor and his or her property. The guardian could be nominated in the last will of the father, or by the mother if a will did not exist. If a guardian was not specified in the will, the mother had the highest priority to become the guardian, followed by the paternal grandfather, then the maternal grandfather, and finally the closest relatives. The closest relatives of the underage person had a duty to notify the court in the child's jurisdiction if the need for guardianship arose. Important steps in a ward's life had to be approved by the court, which supervised the guardian's actions. As soon as the child came of age, the guardian turned over inherited property and his or her duty was finished.

Information about children and their guardian can be found in Orphan's books. Since guardianship was directed not only for children whose father had died, but also for children born out of wedlock, these books can sometimes reveal the name of the biological father with the specification of alimony he was to pay for the child's support.

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 Orphan's book 1899   (District archive Klatovy, German language)

This is an example of a record from the Orphan's book of district court Nýrsko. Johann Hackl was born on 10 June 1899 out of wedlock. Wenzl and Johann Hackl were appointed as his guadians. This record also contains information about his biological father, Ludwig Müller, teacher in Nýrsko, who solved his father's duty by payment of 1000 K.

English translation of this record

 Orphan's book 1901   (District archive Klatovy, German language)

In this entry from the Orphan's book of district court Nýrsko, Wenzl Fechter, butcher in Nýrsko, became guardian of his 3 grandchildren: Katharina, Anna, and Johann, who lost their father, Carl Hackl. We learn from the record that the paternal grandfather commited to support his grandchildren with 2 K per month. 

English translation of this record

WHY were they collected?  Evidence of fatherless children and their court-appointed guardians
WHEN were they collected?   1850-1950s
WHO collected the records? District courts
WHAT information can be found? Surname, first name of child, date of title, name & address of guardian. In the case of illegitimate children, the name of the biological father and amount of alimony may be listed
In which ARCHIVES are they held?

District archives

In which archive FILES can they be found?  District courts
LANGUAGE of records Czech, German
AVAILABILITY  Sometimes preserved, it is necessary to ask in which archives they exist
What must be KNOWN before getting started? Records are kept in alphabetical order, so the surname, first name, date and place of birth is sufficient.
Czech expression Poručnictví, Sirotčí kniha, Sirotčí rejstřík (plural = Sirotčí knihy, Sirotčí rejstříky)
German expression Waisenbuch

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