The Costumes are Finished

Kroje titleI love to sew. It is therapeutic and rewarding to create something from nothing. My problem is that I always underestimate all the things that can go wrong. I ran out of lace trim and white thread, had to order fabric online and wait for its arrival, and then I got sick. These may seem like little things, but when combined with a deadline, it really puts a damper on progress.

I am happy to say that I am finally finished with the three kroje I was commissioned to make. I finished with a week to spare. Once the fabric I needed came in, I had two weeks to finish before I left on vacation and then just one day to finish the design on the vests. It was hectic!

I wanted to be completely done before I went on vacation, so I didn’t have to lug my machine to Kansas. However, their just wasn’t enough time and I had to finish the designs when I got back. Before the fabric arrived I was already done with the blouses. The vests were constructed, but needed the design and lacings. The skirts were half done and need waistbands and lace at the bottom. And I hadn’t started the aprons yet.

I was most excited and terrified to work on the vest designs. The photo was not clear, but I had a general outline of what it needed to look like. It was also exciting because I got to use some new functions on my sewing machine. It was terrifying because I had to be very precise in where everything was placed or it wouldn’t all fit. I also got to add sequencing, ribbons, and decorative stitching, some of which had to be done by hand.

The first thing I did when I got the fabric was to cut out the eyelet lace for the skirts, serge, and attach them, so the skirts would only need the lace added to the bottom. I also cut out all the pieces for the apron, making sure the pattern all faced the same direction. Once the aprons were constructed, I had to make sure they were the correct length in relation to the skirt. Then it was time to make sure everything was ironed and looked nice and crisp.

That whole process took more time than I anticipated because I had to serge and attach twice as many pieces on the skirt. Time was also affected by the fact that I had to order fabric and wait for it to arrive. I am not sure what I would’ve done if I didn’t find the right design for the apron fabric or an eyelet for the skirt. And on top of that, I was ½ a yard short on the lace trim. Luckily, I had a little leftover from the shirts, but I literally used the entire roll the store had.

vest1 vest2

I used a wax chalk to mark the placement of the designs on the vest. I then used my machine to make the zig-zag, curved lines, and embroidered hearts on each of the three vests. The next step was to hand sew on the sequence and beads. And finally, I had to add the grommets and lace up the vests. I put one of the completed projects on a mannequin to photograph and check fit and I was done.

It is freeing to be finished. These costumes had taken up over a month of every spare minute I had. There were many nights when I came home from work and started sewing and didn’t finish until after midnight, just to go to bed and do it again the next day. I really do enjoy sewing, but sometimes I need a break. I think I will read a book and get some stuff done around the house.final Back

If you missed the first part 1 about this Kroje, you can find it here. If you want to see how I made the apron, look here. And as always you can drop me a line below or on Facebook with any questions or comments.

What Happens When You’re Comissioned to Make Kroje

imageI was commissioned to make a set of three matching kroje for a family from Wilber. When they came to me, I had one photo and a name of the town for reference. They asked me with complete confidence to complete them by the second week of June, giving me just over a month to make them, and the freedom to create as I saw fit. I have made quite a few kroje, both for myself and others, but I have never had the task of making a kroje from scratch with so little details and a strict time line.

After seeing the photo, I knew that I wouldn’t have a problem making the kroje, I just needed a few details. I contacted the museum where the photo was taken and asked for a photo of the back of the kroj and started searching for the fabric I would need. I got the fabric needed to make both the vest and blouse and constructed them without problems.

The issue comes with the skirt and apron. In the photo, it is unclear if the top layer is a skirt without an apron or an apron with an unknown skirt below. I still had not heard from the museum half way through my timeline and the fabric needed to be order online, so I had to make a decision. I was making a skirt, no apron.

Today, after almost three weeks of (not so patiently waiting and worrying), I finally heard back from the museum! The picture shows an apron with a white eyelet skirt behind. I would’ve never guessed what the skirt looked like and I almost made the apron as a skirt. I am so relieved to have the answers. Luckily, I hadn’t bought anything yet.

Now, I just have to wait for the fabric to come in and work like crazy to meet the deadline. I have some finagling I need to do for the fitting and embroidery and design on the vest to take care of.

Sitting here reflecting on my progress so far and on the process as a whole, I am really proud of myself. I look forward to making more kroje and learning more about how they are made so differently from village to village. I find it fascinating to discover all the new techniques, fabrics, and designs used. Stay tuned for a progress report and final results of this exciting project!

 

If you didn’t see my how-to post on making a Vintage Apron, Czech it out here! And as always leave me a line below or on Facebook.

Choosing your Kroje and Success at Nationals

Meagan0I have another amazing post in store for you today as we continue week two of guest posts from the Czech community. Miss Meagan Kurmel is the current Miss Czech-Slovak US! She is from Omaha, Nebraska where she and her fiance are engineers and travel most weekends as ambassadors to the Czech and Slovak communities. In the following post, Meagan talks about how kroje impacted her journey to and success at Nationals. She also gives some fun tips to anyone looking to compete in the pageants. Here we go!

While I was preparing for the Nebraska and then national pageant, I was constantly centering myself on encouraging involvement in the culture and preserving the heritage. However, I wanted to ensure that I was being genuine to myself and was portraying myself as I am. Since the pageant topics are very encompassing, I found it was easiest for me to digest them in smaller pieces.

After accepting the honor of representing the Omaha chapter, I sat down with my family to discuss the pageant. We had a pretty good idea of where our ancestry was from. There were also some kroj that we had that were authentic in my family. After long talks, my family and I decided together that going authentic was the best route for me. However, when I ran for Miss Czech-Slovak Nebraska there was a rule stating that you could not wear more than one authentic piece. So we recreated one of the kroj and wore the vest as the authentic piece, in addition to authentic jewelry.

I have found that choosing Authentic or Americanized kroj is a deeply personal choice. Whichever is chosen, I would suggest to link it to you, your family, and your heritage. Making this choice sooner in the preparation for the pageant gives you and your family more time to research, design, make, and prepare your kroj. And trust me, more time is better! Another item I have found with kroj is that you need to make it your own. You should wear your kroj proudly and it should represent you, your family and where your family is from. Don’t forget the little details that bring your personality into it. For me this is totally about the shoes! See below for my description that I used:

Meagan is wearing an authentic kroj replicating her grandmother Helen Janicek-Kurmel’s kroj. This dates back to the early 20th century from the Piestany region of Slovakia. Meagan’s great-grandfather Frank Janicek emigrated from this region in the early 1900’s. The Piestany region is known for highly skilled silversmiths. Their craftsmanship is reflected in the silver embellishments seen throughout the kroj.

 Meagan’s blouse and cap are replicas of her grandmother’s. They are of fine cotton and decorated with yellow and orange cutwork embroidery, incorporating metallic threads in a floral design. The vest is of floral brocade and trimmed with ribbons and features three silver clasps, silver wire, and ten silver buttons. These clasps are traditionally on a black, blue or green bodice where the metal craftsmanship can be seen.

 Meagan is wearing her grandma Helen’s skirt. The full skirt is a two piece skirt-set made with black cotton fabric and smocked around the waist. Each is trimmed with embroidery in ivory, yellow and peach. You can see the many small stitches creating the raised designs. The skirt is trimmed with an ivory bobbin lace.

 This is completed with black boots and a floral Czech ribbon tied into a bow. This is the same sash her grandmother wore with her kroj. Meagan has accessorized her kroj with garnet jewelry. Her favorite piece is the garnet bracelet from her parents. The collection of garnet pendants from various family members reminds Meagan of what she values most in life…..family, love, and kindness.

The way I see it, the personal interview and the on stage interview really go hand in hand. I felt it was important to be very familiar with the history of our culture, be current on present day events, and know some about the culture. I also felt that, since I was wearing an authentic kroj, that I was knowledgeable in what I was wearing. I made sure to research what type of kroj was worn, from what villages, and when. I also found it fun to learn the small differences that set one village’s kroj apart from another. This is such a fun and interesting way to learn about our shared heritage.

One little tip I learned from being nervous for interviews, both on and off stage, is to take a deep breath and just be you. There is nothing better you can do than be you! And maybe, crack a really good joke!

For talent, I have found that each judge is looking at your presentation from a different angle. I would suggest to do something that you feel showcases your talent. Keep it clean and streamlined. If you are going to sing, keep your whole talent presentation about your singing. Also the stage size could play into how you present your talent. This is definitely not a determining factor, just one to consider. Finally, remember to smile! This is the talent and showmanship part of the competition.

After all of the preparation and the competition, I felt that being able to represent my state and now my country as a cultural ambassador was a wonderful culmination of myself, my family and my friends’ hard work and efforts. Passing on that heritage is important to myself and my family. Preparing for the state level and national level competitions, I also discovered a connection between my heritage and my chosen career field. I’ve discovered that Czechs and Slovaks have been prominent in science and engineering. Czechs and Slovaks have pioneered medical research, created drugs and treatments for diseases like AIDS and HIV. And even invented things like soft contact lenses and sugar cubes.

One time that I will always remember is the evening right after I was crowned. In Wilber, I walked with my family into Sokol Hall. The whole hall started cheering, it felt almost as loud at Memorial Stadium. It was a very enjoyable, family-centric time and to me that is what shared heritage is all about: family.

For those individuals who are preparing for their pageant, who are excited about sharing their heritage, and who may now want to be a queen, remember that a crown and sash does not make a queen; it’s the heart inside you and the example you leave that make a queen.

I strongly encourage others to promote their heritage. If there is anyone who is interested, please feel free to reach out to me.

Meagan Kurmel
Miss Czech-Slovak Nebraska 2014-2015
Miss Czech-Slovak US 2015-2016
missczechslovakus15@gmail.com
www.gofundme.com/missczskusa2015

**Photos by Mary Chavez of Mary Chavez Photography

I hope you enjoyed Miss Meagan’s perspective! If you missed last week, read about Michaela Steager’s experiences as Nebraska queen here! And as always, leave a comment below or on the facebook page! I would love to hear from you!

How to Make a Vintage Apron

I am so excited to share with you my first tutorial! I hope you like it!

Apron Title*NOTE: You will need to know how to measure the length of your fabric, basic gathering, and turning fabric inside out once stitched in order to do this tutorial. I will do my best to explain how I did it.

Apron2The very first thing I did was to write out a plan. I’ve made this apron quite a few times, but I wanted to make sure not to miss anything when I wrote down the tutorial. So, the image above is the sketch. However, I got excited a skipped ahead. Right under the title is the correct order the steps that should be taken. *This tutorial does not have a pattern. Instead, I give you the measurements you need to fit anyone in this great vintage apron!

Apron1Now that you’ve seen an overview, you should gather your materials:

  • You will first need 1-1.5 yards of fabric, I used cotton, but brocade or light utility fabrics can also work well. I wouldn’t use any knits or stretch fabric for this tutorial.
  • You will also need a sewing machine (I have a Brother SE-400) that can do a basic straight stitch, back stitch, and increase stitch length.
  • A serger if you have one (or you can use a zig zag stitch to stop fraying, or just roll under the edge so their not exposed).
  • And scissors (or rotary cutter and self healing mat), ruler and measuring tape, pins, and thread.

Lets get started:

  1. Measure your waist and length from waist to calf to get the numbers you need to cut the correct size of apron.
    • To measure your waist you need to wrap a flexible measuring tape around the smallest part of your waist (the area between your chest and hips.) That number in inches is W.
    • For the length measurement you may need help. You need to use your measuring tape to find the distance between your waist and the center of your calf. This number in inches is L.
  1. Use the following equations to find the correct lengths to measure the fabric:
    • Piece 1 is the waistband: (½ W +2”) x (2.5 x desired width of waistband). In my example: my waist is 29” and my desired width is 2”. So ½ 29 +2 =16.5 (I used 16”) and 2.5 x 2= 5.
    • Piece 2 and 3 are the same because they are the ties: W x (2.5 x desired width of waistband). 29” is the length and 5” is the width. However, if you want the ties to be longer you can do 1.5 or 2 x W.
    • Piece 4 is the main piece of the apron: 1.5W x (length +1”). So 1.5 x29 =43.5 or 44” and the length with extra inch is 25.5 or 26”. (I would rather over compensate.)
  1. Cut the 4 pieces to the proper lengths.
  1. Serge the edges so the don’t fray and look more professional.Apron16
  1. Sew tails (piece 2 and 3) to either side of waistband with right sides together at ¼”. Set aside.Apron3
  1. Turn under the edges ¼” to the wrong side on the 2 long sides and 1 width side of piece 4.Apron4
  1. On the other width side run a 4 length stitch about ¼” from the edge. Run another 4 length stitch just short of ½” from the edge. Make sure not to back stitch and leave thread tails.Apron17
  1. Before pulling to gather, fold piece 4 in half and mark the center, fold the already folded in half piece in half again mark center (so there are 3 marks: ¼, ½, and ¾). Do the same on piece 1 (waistband), don’t include the tails.Apron6
  1. On one side of the center grab the top two tails and pull at the same time until all the fabric is gathered on that side of the center. You may need to push the fabric back away from the tails as you pull to get the gather. Do the same for the other side of center.Apron7
  1. With right sides together line up the center marks on both piece 1 (waistband) and piece 4 (main). Do the same with the 1/4th marks and 3/4th marks.
  2. Now even out the gathered fabric so it lays flat on the waistband. Sew at the standard 2.5 length ½” from the edge.Apron8
  1. Now with all the pieces attached, fold only piece 2 (tail) in half long ways, right sides together. Start sewing with standard 2.5 length 1” from the waistband at ¼” from the edge until 2” from the end of the fabric.Apron18
    • Put the needle down into the fabric and turn it 45 degrees to the left. Sew to end and backstitch, which will make the triangle on the tail. Do the same for piece 3 (other tail).Apron9
    • Snip off the triangle.Apron20
  2. Take one of the tails. Grab the opening where the tail is attached to the waistband.Apron21
    • While holding onto the fabric with your thumb and middle finger on either side, use your pointer fingers to push the fabric from the tail in side (just like turning a pair of paints inside out).Apron22
    • Continue until you’ve push all the fabric in.Apron23
    • Now, on the other end, pull the fabric out, so you see the right sides of the fabric.Apron24
    • Continue until you get to the triangle.Apron25
    • You will need something pointed to help make the point (I used a pen).  This may need finessing. You can use a chopstick or skewer to help push the fabric in if you need. Do the same for the other tail.Apron10
  1. On the long edge of piece 1 (waistband) that’s not sewed to piece 4, fold under the edge 1/4” wrong sides together and iron it down. Also iron where piece 1 and 4 meet so that the seam is flat as possible. This seam is also what I will call the “ditch.”Apron11
  1. Line up the folded-under side with the backside of the gathered “ditch” seam. Let the folded-under piece cover the “ditch” and go over it by about 1/8”. Pin in place.Apron12
  1. Flip the apron over to the right side and stitch in the “ditch” across (piece 1) the waistband. You will need to start your stitching about 1” from the waistband where you left space and continue to the other side about 1” past the waistband.Apron13
  1. Flip to the backside and check that the back is stitched all the way across and there aren’t any holds. Whip stitch any missing spots.
  1. Flip back to the front and check for there is any thread below your stitching line (the ditch), if so, seam rip it out gently. The thread is from gathering.
  2. Finally, iron the entire apron so that the seams are all flat and crisp!Apron14_Apron15
  3. Yay! You’re done! Now wear that bad boy!

Send me a picture of your finished product or with any questions or clarifications along the way! I would love your feedback and thoughts on future tutorials as well! I welcome constructive criticism and suggestions on what I can do better in future posts below and on facebook.

 

A Call to Action

megaphoneAhoj Pratele! As promised, this post is a preview for my article in the Czech Slavnosti which goes to print this Thursday May 5th. I don’t want to give too much away, but I would like to elaborate on a part of what I wrote. In the article I gave the Czech community a call to action. I asked that everyone get involved, not only to participate, but also to promote and preserve the culture for future generations. This is so important to me because becoming a part of the Czech community and the opportunities that I’ve had because of it changed my life!

When I started college, I thought I was going to get my teaching degree and then teach music until I retired. I had other goals, but the plan was to teach. I had no idea that I would study abroad, be a Czech queen, play in a Dudy band, or be writing this blog. None of these defining moments in my life would’ve happened if I wasn’t involved in the Czech community.

I want you to have some of the same experiences I did. I want you to know what a Czech brass band sounds like and what it feels like to dance a polka versus a waltz. I want you to taste Czech food and know that there is more than just kolache, dumplings, and pork. I want you to see the beautiful sights, whether that be the landscape of the Czech Republic or the queens in their kroje. I want you to know where you came from, who your ancestors were, and what that means to you. But even more than all that, I want you to share it.

The following is a quote from my article in the Slavnosti: “A vital part of preservation is making sure every generation is involved, that there are relevant activities for all ages, and that we learn why being Czech is important.” Part of what makes going to festivals and being a part of the Czech community is the people that are there with you. For me, those people are my grandparents, aunt and uncle, cousins, mom, and all the friends I’ve met.

My cousin Caroline was at every event with me throughout my three years as reigning queen. For the first part, she was queen assistant, an honorary role I gave her since I didn’t have a princess. She rode with me in parades, helped tote my things around, and was my partner in crime. The second half, she got to be Lincoln princess and had to share her role with the Lincoln queen. We grew even closer by sharing those experiences and it will always be something we share, especially when she is old enough to be queen and I have to tote her things around 😉

As I’m writing this I’m looking forward to Sunday May 1st, the Lincoln Czech Festival. This will be the first time this season that my family will be there. I love going and talking to people, performing, being an ambassador, but most of all sharing the experience with my family. We will get to sit and talk over Czech food and dance too! These experiences add another level to our relationship, we are not just family, we share a culture and community. There are few people who get to experience their heritage this way. I hope you will share your Czech heritage with your friends and family and see how it can widen your experience and strengthen your relationships.
To read my article in the Slavnosti, please go to www.czechslavnosti.com and click subscription. There is a wealth of knowledge on everything Czech including an extensive list of all the upcoming festivals and events. If you have questions or want to know more, I would love to hear from you below in the comments or on Facebook.

Lena and I

imageThis will be the last week for Friday Follies. Starting next week and for the remainder of May, I have guest posts from people in the Czech community for you! I thought it might be fun to get different insights from others like me who are a part of the Czech community through the queen pageants, festivals, music, and more! I hope you will like it!

For this last post, I wanted to show Lena and I together! I figured that you’ve seen her with grandpa, Jordan, her furry friends, and in all her favorite places, so it was about time that I show off our unique relationship. As you may have read in my first Friday follies post, Lena has been part of our family since she was four weeks old and she is a huge part of the family (that may have been a smal pun on her weight, sorry Lena).

Miss Lenka Lou and I do basically everything together, even if I don’t want her help 😉 She likes to help me write my posts or participate in my art projects. If there has been too much time between the last time I pet her or gave her attention, she will tell me. Often when I get home late and am starving, I will make food at sit at the kitchen table to eat. If she cannot sit next to me on the chair, Lena will rub against my legs and yell at me. She is a little needy.

If Lena is not laying on daddy’s feet and annoying him while he sleeps, she is lying on top of me. She will literally lie in any nook or cranny she can find, the more uncomfortable it makes me, the better. Just last night, she crawled up and laid on my chest like a ton of bricks. When I moved her after I couldn’t fall asleep, she transferred herself to my hips. What a thoughtful cat!

Lena has this thing where she sleeps on or around my face too. When she was a baby, she would sleep on the back of my neck, under my hair, to keep warm. She is not a small kitten anymore and playing scarf is not my favorite activity. She also used to spend a lot of time in the sleeves of my shirts, my dad’s cargo pockets, and in my hoodies (like the photo above). I do love the snuggles, but sometimes it’s too much!

Where are some of the interesting places your animals sleep? Drop me a line below or on Facebook! Let me know what you thought of Friday Follies! I hope you’ve gotten to know me and Lena a little more 😉

Future Blog Goals

logo copyLast week I gave you a preview of a few of the exciting things happening with MyCzechList! This week, as we are transitioning, I want to update you on what’s currently going on with the blog, all the crazy changes, and where I see it going in the future.

Back in February, I did a major overhaul of the blog. I renamed it, gave it a new look and logo, and refocused the content. In a nutshell, I wanted to make it more about you, the reader! I’ve been writing more about the Czech community and my experiences as a Czech queen. I’ve asked for your input and tried to let you get to know me through my Friday Follies posts. I’ve also been promoting the blog more on Facebook.

Since then I have moved to self hosting on Blue Host and started to get MyCzechList out there by educating myself on SEO, emails, and plugins. Basically, that means that I am learning about the technical aspects of blogging and how to get my knowledge out to as many people as possible. I am diligently working toward becoming known in the Czech community by promoting people in the community and publishing in the Czech Slavnosti newspaper. And finally, be on the lookout this next month for a new menu and easier navigation.

Two big goals for the future include a monthly newsletter and opt in freebie. I want to reward you for believing in me and this blog! I also want to make sure there are better photos and content. I want to start using Pinterest and other social media to get my content to have a larger reach and more involvement.

If you have something you are curious about, please let me know! I want to write posts that will inform you and you can learn from. My main goal is to help you gain the knowledge you need to delve deeper into your cultural identity and participate in the Czech community

Exciting News

slav1I have some exciting news for you! Coming in May there will be a series of guest posts from people in the Czech community. I am so happy to have them share their experiences with you and it will be fun to see another’s perspective! I will give you two hints: one is the current Nebraska Queen and the other is the current National Queen! You will just have to wait to see who else will be showing up!

Another exciting thing is that you will soon get to see more work outside of the blog. A couple weeks ago, right after I published the post about the struggles I faced as a Czech Queen I received a message from Steve Ouřecký. He wanted to know if he could print some of my posts in the Czech Slavnosti, and of course, I said yes! I even offered to start a new column for him.

If you don’t know, the Czech Slavnosti is a print newspaper for the Czech-American Communities. It started in Wilber, Nebraska as a supplement to the Wilber Republican in 2008and is now under the ownership of Mr. Ouřecký. He does an incredible job of making sure that everyone is up to date on upcoming events and important things happening both here in the states, but also in the Czech Republic.

My article for the Slavnosti will be published in the May/June edition, so be on the lookout for it! I might have to give you a little sneak peek here soon! In the meantime, Czech out some of these recent posts on the Czech community:

What are some topics that you would like to see me write about in the Slavnosti? Or even here on the blog? Let me know below or on the Facebook page!

Genealogy: Where to Start

Www.myczechlist.comMy Czechoslovak Genealogical Society international (CGSI) member welcome packet came in the mail this week! It was like Christmas for a nerdy, family history obsessed person such as I. I carefully opened the Manila folder and read every word of the materials which included welcome letter, brochure, member packet, and current issue of their quarterly publication. (The contents are in the image above) Then, I got on the website and signed into the member only section and found the holy grail of resources, with links to sites, books, and tips on how to do research. I was seriously like a kid in a candy store.

Www.myczechlist.comOn top of that, my grandma brought boxes of her mother’s photos to Easter! My grandmother, her sisters, and I spent the afternoon absorbing ourselves in hundreds of photos. In my previous Genealogy research, I found a ton of info on my grandma’s father’s family, but almost none on her mother’s family. While rifling through some of the older loose photos, I found a couple photos of my grandma’s maternal great-grandparents with names on the back! This is a huge deal because I didn’t have either the photos or the names before. I was stuck with that side of the family and now I have a new lead. Yay!

Www.myczechlist.comIf you have not done family history research before, the previous paragraph may have been a little overwhelming, sorry about that. But, I have caught the genealogy bug and once you get started, I promise you will too! It is extremely gratifying to add another name or detail to my family tree and often mind-blowing to see photos of family members I know and those that died before I was born. It helps me feel connected to that family and I gain a better understanding of who I am and where I came from. It is something special to be a part of something bigger than yourself and know your place within it.

Because of this kismet with the genealogy society and the family photos, I have decided that I have no other choice but to resume my research once again. I’m going to start from scratch and look through all my files, photos, and documents to verify that the information I had was correct. In order to do this I need to be thorough and organized with the information and I thought you might be interested in how I’m going to do it and maybe join me on this adventure too!

Www.myczechlist.com1. Get Organized.
I started today by printing “family group record” sheets from ancestry.com (see photo above). These sheets have a standard format that I can fill in with each families information, starting with the husband and wife and listing the children below. This will allow me to do each set of parents and establish clear generations. It will also make me find out the information about all that couple’s children, not just the one that I descend from, making it easier to find more connections later if I hit a road block.
2. Start with Yourself and Move Outward.
The first thing I did with the sheets was fill out one for my husband and I. This is the starting point. Next, I will fill out one for my parents, then each set of my grandparents, and so on as far as I can remember.
3. Start Researching Recent Generations by Identifying Photos
Once I can no longer positively identify on my own the generations, I will start looking through pictures and writing down names.
4. Ask Family Members.
I will ask family for help with the photos to use their memory of generations I didn’t know and then check the documents I have gathered from family members who have done their own research (these documents must have sources or proof of who the generation is or I cannot use it). I note all this information on my sheets. You may have to ask around to find out who has done family history research or who may have photos, such as cousins, great aunts, or distant relatives you may not yet know.
5. Use the Internet.
Once I get done verifying all the information I can find from family members I will start googling surnames, documenting all citable sources. Then, I will check all the major genealogy sites such as ancestry.com, genealogy.org, or archives.gov to expand my search. Next, I will get more focused with internet sources. This is where my CGSI membership will come in handy! I have a wealth of knowledge by using their databases and resources that I have never tried before, meaning I will be more successful because I have more options.
6. Ask for Help.
Many libraries, town record keepers, and genealogy societies will have staff that can help do the research with you or for you for a fee. You will need to have quality records they can work from if you go this route, so make sure to be very detailed.

And that’s just the beginning! My goal is to use all the information I find, plus pictures and documents, to write an e-book of my family history for all the generations that will follow me and other family members who will be able to use it in their search. Hey, maybe I will find that you and I are related.

Keep a look out for my progress and I would love to hear about yours. If you have any questions you can message me here or on Facebook!

The Secret Struggles of a Czech Queen

imageOne of the first concerns I hear when I’m talking to someone about becoming a Czech Queen is time commitment. My response is “how much time do you want to commit?” Some chapters here in Nebraska ask for you to go to a certain amount of festivals or events. Some ask you to come to their festival and anything else is up to you.

For me, once I started going to festivals and got involved, I was hooked. I spent more time as a state queen traveling then as a national queen, because as a state queen the events were local and for nationals I tried to visit other states and different types of Czech communities. The amount of time you spend is really up to you, but the the more things you go to, the more you will experience and learn.

The concern of time was followed closely by insecurity and the uncertainty of being able to succeed at each category that the contestants compete in. This is hard because you will show your skills in speaking and charisma, talent, knowledge of Czech history, culture, and traditions, and folk costumes. This is a lot to absorb at first and can be intimidating, but even with minimal previous knowledge, everything can be learned and anyone who puts in the effort can succeed.

I want to share a secret with you: during my three years as a reigning Czech queen I went through many seasons of change. In each of these seasons I struggled with something new on top of learning the ins and outs of being a Czech queen.

1. SPRING: I was crowned chapter queen in March during student teaching. It was really hard for me to even carve out time to make it to my own coronation while I was student teaching. I had very demanding teachers and I was co-directing the musical. There was no time for sleep, let alone time to start something new, but I just felt I needed to do it.

2. SPRING: I prepared for state while student teaching. The Nebraska pageant is the second week of June and school didn’t get out until the last week of May. Oh, and I planned my graduation party during this time 😉

3. SUMMER: I spent the entire summer traveling. Every weekend I went to a new festival or parade. It was a blast to meet all the interesting people and experience how the culture and traditions are different from place to place. It was also eye opening because I never knew that these events and culture existed in the small areas around eastern Nebraska or that there were communities in the surrounding states.

4. FALL: I spent the Fall of my state reign in studying abroad in Brno, Czech Republic. This was the best decision I ever made. It was hard to be away from home for family events, but I had so many incredible experiences. I made friends from around the world. I learned more about the culture and myself in my six months abroad than I did in the entirety of my college experience.

5. WINTER: My return home the week of Christmas was a rough transition. I was thrilled to see my family and spend the holidays with them, but once I had to settle back into life here I was incredibly unhappy. I missed everything about living in Europe from my friends, to my classes, to the atmosphere of Brno, the ability to travel, and the culture I was immersed in. It hurt how much I missed living in the Czech Republic and when I returned it felt like a part of me was missing.

6. SPRING: My fiancé of six years and I broke up and I decided to return to the Czech Republic. I spent most of May and a week of June back in Brno. I couch surfed and met with all my friends. I stayed with a friend who was living in southern Bohemia for a week while I started research on a Fulbright program and returned just in time to pass on my crown to the next Nebraska queen.

7. SUMMER: In August I was crowned 1st runner up at nationals. It was really hard for me to get everything after I came home from the Czech Republic. I spent most of the spring making my costume and the summer practicing facts and my talent, but I did it almost completely on my own. I was working full time, and the frustration of handling all this alone is something I don’t want to see anyone else go through.

8. FALL: I started dating my now husband at Nationals. We started seeing each other over the summer, but nationals weekend we made it official.

9. WINTER- SPRING: I really struggled raising funds to travel during my reign. There is not a lot of funds for the queens to travel and the year I was crowned the pageant had a crisis and almost didn’t make the crowning gifts. So, I wanted to travel around the Midwest to experience the other pageants and festivals and it took almost all of my savings to do so. It was worth it. Everyone was really helpful in offering their homes and meals to help make it happen, but it was hard.

10. SUMMER: My last summer as a reigning queen I started helping on the Nebraska pageant committee and gave my crown away in August. It was an odd transition from being a queen to being a “has been.” I have a passion to help other queens get started and to experience all the cool things I did without having to struggle with the same things, so I started mentoring. Three months later I started planning my wedding.

I know it may seem daunting at first to become a Czech queen. Over the seasons of your reign you may go through some of the same struggles. There will be a time commitment and you may feel insecure at times, but know that there will be others who are going through the same struggles and many people who want to help you, including me!

When I was first asked to apply I had very little knowledge of the Czech community and had never been to a festival, but just three months later I was crowned Miss Czech-Slovak Nebraska, so it’s possible!
I hope you found this article helpful! I would love to hear about the seasons of your reign or any of your concerns starting out! Comment below or go to the MyCzechList Facebook page and tell me your thoughts.