Pomerania (Pommern) Land and Property
Landownership in Pommern[edit | edit source]
This article traces the development in farming and landowning practices in Pommern beginning in the 16th century. At this time the nobility, which already had owned most of the land, began displacing even more previously free farmers and acquiring their lands in a process called the Bauerlegen (to lay-down farmers). The majority of the people became renters of their farms, or landless agricultural laborers.
Farmers who rented from the local nobleman (called Junkers or Gutsherren) had little control of their own farmland or their lives in general. They had to provide statutory labor to the landowner, pay whatever rent the landowner demanded, and could not leave or marry without the landowner's permission. In addition they could not decide who their farm went to on their death. Although the landowner usually transfered the lease to the farmer's oldest son, he could also transfer it to another family or retain the land to himself.
An individual farm was not usually one large tract of land, but smaller strips in various locations in the local cropland fields. This was done to divide equally the bad and good land among the farmers. Crop rotation occured to prevent exhaustion of the soil. Some land was so poor it was only planted once a decade. Villagers shared the pastures and forests.
In 1807 and 1811, Baurenbefreiung (liberation of the farmers) laws were passed to reform this feudal landowning system. Farmers were allowed to own and purchase their own land. However the lands available were small as the nobles still retained large holdings. Laws allowing partible inheritance in 1845 diminished the sizes of farms even further. Most villagers did not own enough land to be self sufficient farmers, but were mainly craftsman or agricultural laborers. This lack of available land in large quantities made places like America with vast amounts of land available inexpensively, attractive to many in Pommern.
Die Pommerschen Leute
Vol. 29 Issue 3
943.81 D25p page 50-51
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After the Thirty Years War Sweden took possession of what is known today as “Vorpommern” with the islands Rügen and Usedom as well as other parts of Pomerania. In order to financially secure its power politics, the Swedes had a very effective and centralized tax system. The basis for this system was the knowledge of the land. Beginning in 1628, Gustav Adolf II had established a central cadastral office, the lantmäterrikontor which started to make detailed maps of farms, villages, towns, harbors etc.
After considerable difficulties to launch the same system in Swedish Pomerania, the surveying of the crown lands finally got underway in 1691. The initial survey lasted 7 years, but soon after needed revisions because waste lands became fertile and also needed to be surveyed.
The surveyors established so called “Urkarten” which were cleaned up by a second set of workers involved with these cadastral maps. Altogether 1,455 detailed maps of Swedish Pomerania were created. They contain details about a village or a manor with its political and ecclesiastical affiliation. Often former property owners are listed and particulars given when an estate was affected by natural disasters, wars or military occupation. These facts vary because not all surveyors were equally nosy and the population informative.
The surveys also reveal information about adjacent lands and all male population usually not the servants. They are listed in annotations under “Services”. Women are only named if they lead their own household, independent of house ownership or not.
In addition to the above the cadastral maps give information about acreage, topography, what is being planted, harvest yield, is there enough grass to feed the cattle, how about wood for building and kindling. Listed are also orchards, vegetable gardens and their quality. Streets, ponds and lakes with the amount of fish and reeds are all recorded.
The cadastral maps are a treasure trove for those who want details about local history. The maps are deposited in the Landesarchiv Greifswald. They have been scanned and are available online at GeoGrief. The menu on the left will open up the maps.
If more information is needed, please contact the Swedish Pommern organization at www.schwedisch-pommern.org