Rhineland (Rheinland) Court Records

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Rhineland (Rheinland) Court Records

Brüchtenprotokolle[edit | edit source]

These are records regarding monetary fines, which were paid by the criminal to the justice of the peace which could be the sovereign which could also be an archbishop. In most cases the fine was paid for slander, but the Brüchteordnung (Chur- Cölnische Brüchteordung of 1616) also covered cases of physical injury and murder. In the 17th century slander could be fined quite heftily. The Krefeld court charged a fine of 300 Goldgulden or 1000 Taler. These were no minor punishments as many cases show where the offender fled because he could not pay or he had to resort to the transfer of the Kindteil (claim) as his last option.
Brüchtenprotokolle are also part of the historical record of a given area. For instance, the Brüchtenprotokolle of Amt Uerdingen give the historian a glimpse of everyday occurrance. The reserve duties of farmers are recorded, the names of Protestants in Uerdingen are listed. Details of being in the stocks are given, stories of witchcraft, child abuse but also humorous incidents are recorded.

Source: Hangebruch, Dieter. Brüchtenprotokolle der Stadt und des Amtes Uerdingen im 17. Jahrhundert. Verein für Heimatkunde e.V. Krefeld - Arbeitskreis Krefelder Archiv. 1991.

The Family History Library has the Brüchtenprotokolle of the city and Amt Uerdingen from the 17th century. The call number is 943.42/C1 H2q v. 1.

Actes de Notaire[edit | edit source]

Through the negotiations at the Congress of Vienna in 1815 after the defeat of Napoleon I part of Luxembourg was given to Prussia and was incorporated into the Rhine Province. After WWI the same parcel of land was given to Belgium according to the Treaty of Versailles. From 1815 to 1918 the administrative language was German. This is true for the so called Actes de Notaire, the records of the notary public.

According to Wikipedia at http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Notar the main activity of a notary public is: “the certification of legal transactions of any kind and the certification of signatures . He is absolutely committed to impartiality, what distinguishes him from the lawyer representing the interests of a party. The core activities of the notary apply to the following legal areas: • Land Law (v. a. land transfers, easements , mortgages ). • Inheritance (Certification of wills , inheritance contracts, Erbscheinsanträgen etc.). • Family law ( marriage contracts , advanced directives , declarations in the domestic relations law , including paternity acknowledgments , dependents ). • Corporate Law (Foundations of limited liability companies and limited liability companies , conversions, the articles of association, trade and registration of associations , including branches of companies under foreign law (e.g., as in the English Ltd.. (Limited)).

Contracts may or may not necessarily be designed by the notary. The drafted contract can be created by the operators themselves or by lawyers. A characteristic of the deed is that the claims contained are "immediately enforceable". This means that the claims can be enforced without prior litigation".

The Actes de Notaire for the city of Sankt Vith, Rheinland are available through www.familysearch.org Family History Library catalog, International Film number 1140255. The film can be ordered through the Family History Center network.

The Krefelder Archiv - Quellen und Forschungen zur Geschichte der Stadt Krefeld und des Niederrheins published in 1994 the notarial records of Volkard Heinrich Schmidt and Johann Nepomuk Courth, who were both notary publics for the city of Krefeld. Their records cover the years 1798-1804.

The book is available at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah in the International Section, call number 943.42/C1 H2q v. 3

Erbgenossenschaft[edit | edit source]

Is a legal term which was of importance in medieval times regarding various uses. A “Erbgenosse” could be someone who had a legal right to a piece of property, who was the owner of a property, who was a co-inheritor, who was a juror. (see: http://de.wikipeda.org/wiki/Erbgenosse)

In the 13th century the legal differences between the various levels of free men, men in bondage or less free were equalized and there emerged a relatively streamlined farming community. In successive times the farming community was divided by economical criteria and known as Vollbauern, Hofbauern, Erbgenossen (those who were gainful producers) on one hand and as Kleinbauern, Kätner, Kötter, Taglöhner (those who were not ) on the other hand. (see: http://www.bessarabia.altervista.org/deu/3bauern/01.50_dritter_stand.html)

The author Heinz Weingarten in his book Die Erbgenossen vom Sültzer Feld in: Westdeutsche Gesellschaft für Familienkunde e.V. Köln, 1987. The author is listing persons/families of the 14th/15th century and describes territorial disputes of the former Pantanlosstift (today: St. Pantalon Church) and its lands. Today the area is identical with the suburb Sülz of Cologne including parts of Lindenthal and Zollstock.

The book is available in the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. Its call number is 943.42/K1 R2w.

Reichskammergericht[edit | edit source]

This was the appellate court for matters of the second and third instance and for judges’ verdicts, civil matters in the first instance and offenses against the laws relating to civil disorders and rioting for all of Germany until 1806. Its jurisdiction also spread into parts of Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Elsass since these were off and on German territories. The court was established in 1495 and was located in various cities throughout the centuries. Wetzlar was its permanent seat, but it was also located in Frankfurt/Main, Nuremberg, Speyer and Esslingen at times.

The legal matters of the high and low nobility, of farmers and journeymen, of merchants and administrators, of cities and villages, of guilds and ecclesiastical institutions were deliberated before the Reichskammergericht. Most cases from early times did not survive because the address of the court changed so often that a record office could not be established. In 1821 was a first attempt to catalog all remaining documents of the Reichskammergericht with further re-cataloging endeavors and handing over of materials to various state archives between 1847 and 1852. One of such archives was the Staatsarchiv Münster.

The author Günter Aders has put together in two volumes the cases the Reichskammergericht judged. They have been published by the Staatsarchiv Münster in 1966 and 1968 under the title Gerichte des Alten Reiches, Teil I Reichskammergericht A-K and Teil II Reichskammergericht L-Z.

The Family History Library has purchased the volumes. They are available at the Library, call number International 943.56/M1 A3s v. 2 parts 1 and 2.

Verzicht[edit | edit source]

is the abolition of a right to ownership of property. It usually is a formal declaration in which someone attests that henceforth he/she has no more claim. People who make such formal declarations usually are being paid for a piece of land, they represent minors or women in cases of inheritance. In earlier times the female members of the nobility would consent to sign a Verzicht because they typically would not inherit part of the family property if male members of their family were alive. A Verzicht was made before the court. The disclaimer was recorded as a legal action and recognized as a legal document by the administration of the time.

The author Heinrich Strangmeier has published the Verzichtbuch of the parishes Hilden and Haan (1562-1623) in two parts. The books are available at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah in the International Section, call number 943.42/H7 H2n vs. 21 and 22.

Schöffengericht (court)[edit | edit source]

The procedures of this court are based on old German law. The working together of a judge, who was the representative of the king and two Schöffen (jurors) who represented the people’s legal practices are the foundation of this court. The law established by Charles V in 1532, the Halsgerichtsordnung (criminal law), required the existence of a Schöffengericht. Schöffen advised the judge in “finding” the law. The adoption of the Roman law, the installment of professionally trained legal personal and the practice to write to universities’ legal departments for advice, diminished the importance of Schöffen, however, not on all accounts. Rather, the responsibilities of Schöffen shifted. They became registrars or witnesses in certain important legal matters. In some parts of Germany (Württemberg) they took part in minor criminal cases deliberated before the courts.

In the mid 1800s Schöffen were appointed to judge in minor criminal offences if the case did not exceed a certain amount of money or a certain amount of imprisonment. They deliberated judgment together with one judge (Amtsrichter). Two Schöffen were elected by the people. They were installed from a so called Urliste in which all capable persons who could serve as Schöffen were listed. From this list the Amtsrichter chose with the help of other trusted men, the members of his court for the duration of one year.

The importance of the Schöffengericht lies in the heterogenic elements of judge and laymen in which a separation of deed and legal question does not occur as it is the case in courts with a jury (Schwurgericht).

Source: Meyers Konverstations-Lexikon 14. Band. Verlag des Bibliographischen Instituts Leipzig 1889. S. 591ff.

The protocols of the Siegburg Schöffengericht between the years 1541 and 1547 are availble at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, UT. The call number is 943.42/S24 P2h v.1

Stadtrecht (city law)[edit | edit source]

In medieval times the law governing cities could be variable. Legal basis could be found in the Sachsenspiegel, Schwabenspiegel, Lübeck Recht and Magdeburg Recht etc. Cities adopted the law best suited for them, i.e., in Dinslaken the administration of justice leaned on precepts of the Sachsenspiegel among others.

Most cases deliberated by the Stadtrat (city council) and Schöffen (jurors) had a legal basis and are manifold. Such cases today would go before a lower court (Amtsgericht). Most cases had to do with land and property, inheritances, slander, warrants, guardianships, requests for payment, creditors and debtors etc. Therefore, a lot of genealogical information could be gleaned from the records of cities besides the records of ecclesiastical entities.

The documents of the city of Dinslaken have been published under the title Stadtbuch von Dinslaken by Anneliese Triller and Berthold Schön. The book was published in 1959 through Verlag Ph. C. W. Schmidt Degener / Co. Neustadt/Aisch. The book is available at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah under call number 943l42/D4 H2b v. 2

Gerichtsprotokoll (court transcripts)[edit | edit source]

can serve as a historical memory. They were part of the city administration and can be found as part of the Stadtbuch. Next to statutes and privileges of a city, such a book contains the records of cases deliberated by the Stadtrat (city council) and the Schöffen (jurors). The guidelines to exercise jurisprudence changed over the centuries. Not harsh caesura and continuation of the once concluded, but parallel developments, new beginnings, the side by side of various legal traditions were development of criminal law.
The origins of criminal law are vague. Presumably they were initiated by the well to do, who wanted their property protected. Only when the oppression of the poor by the rich, when the wealthy became all powerful and when the less fortunate complained against the abusiveness they had to endure, did the laws change. Until the middle of the 18th century frequently severe punishments were administered. This changed in the second half of said century. As before, torture was used in often non-evident cases, now judgments were sought by considering the intent of the deed. Human weakness was considered when a punishment was issued. Severity of judgment had to be paired with mildness, i.e., the middle of the road had to be found. Punishments fall into three categories, namely those coming under the criminal law, the civil law or police law. Abusive husbands, disputes of right- away, the neighbor’s dog, theft and slander are everyday occurrences. But also fires, bankruptcy, trademarks, inheritances and divorces, abuses by master craftsmen towards their apprentices etc. are matters appearing in court transcripts. People of all walks of life plead their case before the court.

Historische Entwicklungslinien des Strafrechts. Center for Interdiscilinary Research at the Universität Bielefeld. 1999
Oekonomische Enczklopädie von J.K. Krünitz at http://www.kruenitz1.uni-trier.de/

The author Nicolaus J. Breidenbach has extracted court transcripts in his book Das Gericht in Wermelskirchen Hückeswagen und Remschein von 1639 bis 1812. Verlag Breidenbach, Wermelskirchen. 2004. The book is available at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. The call number is 943.42 B4b v. 3