Czech ancestors ? You may own a piece of land in the Czech Republic !
Mr. H.G. was born in 1886 in a village called Velka nad Velickou in South Moravia (at that time part of Austria). Because of the depressed economic situation in the region at that time, he decided to try his luck in America. In the first decade of the twentieth century, he emigrated to the United States to pursue his „American dream.“ The rapidly developing country offered better opportunities, Europe was destroyed by World War I and H.G. had no reason to return to his homeland. He found a job, built a house, got married ... In the meantime, his parents died. All the others in the village knew that the son was in the USA but nobody knew where exactly and they probably had no address where the heir could be contacted. So it happened that the probate process concluded with a vague result : „the land is inherited by H.G. who lives in the USA“.
It is possible that H.G. never got to know he had become a land owner. Anyway, after World War II, Czechoslovakia lapsed into socialism and all land was cultivated or otherwise occupied by socialist organizations. Mr. H.G. had no reason to inquire about his estate.
And then he died. Perhaps he never knew about his heritage, or perhaps he just did not talk about it. His heirs, in turn, never learned they might own a piece of land somewhere in Europe, perhaps even with an old house on it.
Does this story sound familiar to you ? No wonder – thousands of people emigrated not only from South Moravia but from all around the country in the beginning of the twentieth century. They left their country mostly for economic reasons and started new lives in the USA. Many of their decendents live in Chicago, New York, Texas and all around the U.S..
Since the Velvet Revolution in 1989, a lot has changed in Czechoslovakia. The country was divided into the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic and has become a part of the Europian Union. Private ownership of real estate has become the rule again. The economic situation has improved much and nowadays, what was Czechoslovakia is now two prosperous European countries.
The modern system of land registration includes much more information than it used to in the old times. Therefore, a data record that says only „H.G., address – USA“ would no longer be a sufficiet record. Each land owner must be identified by full name, date of birth and full address. If any of these data is missing, such an owner is considered unidentified, more or less unknown.
On January 1st, 2014, a new Civil Code came into effect, changing the rules of ownership. The new code says that if real estate is neglected for a period of ten years, it becomes state property. „Negligence“ is likely to be found if taxes are not paid and the property is left unmanaged. . That means that on January 1st, 2024, the Czech Republic will become the owner of a great amount of land, mostly fields, vineyards, gardens and in some cases even houses or building sites that used to belong to people like our Mr. H.G. who left the country a long time ago and who are, in most cases, deceased.
It is a pity, of course. Even if it is unlikely that an American would come back to the country of his origin to cultivate a field or a vineyard, he still might profit from the real estate by renting or selling the land to local people who would be interested in it. Moreover, it is common that there is an unknown co-owner. Such a situation can be quite burdensome for those who are identified and maintain the property. Without permission from the „lost“ co-owner, they cannot dispose of the property.
Mrs. Lenka Hershey, attorney, focuses on these cases where an unknown whose whereabouts are unknown is being sought or where the American decendents of the Czech emigrants want to take possession of their property again.
If you are interested you may contact the attorney by e-mail. Do not forget to specify the full name of your ancestor and, if known, the birth date and place he or she came from. Of course, the more details you provide, the better chance for retrieval of a possible property you have.
The matching of your ancestor with the list of unknown owners can be carried out at no charge. If it is determined that there is relevant real estate that could be transferred to a potential heir, you may decide to use the service of the attorney and fees would be agreed in advance.