Saxony (Sachsen) Land and Property

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Grundherrschaft and Gutsherrschaft in Germany
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Through the centuries most of our ancestors lived in rural areas and came under the auspices of a Grund- or Gutsherr (landowner). In the Middle Ages the nobility, the Church, monasteries and kings were the owners of land. Most cultivable land was owned by them – less by small farmers, although it was possible for a Grundherr to lease land to more or less independent farmers. Not only were they owners of land but they also wielded administrative and judicial powers. The "Grundherr" as he was known in German, supervised land and forest (some owned several villages) and at the same time was the chief of police and a judge over the people within his domain. A Grundherr can be lord over a small area, does not have to be a nobleman and can also be a monastery. A manorial system was complex and embraced all aspects of life. The manoral systems not only were a form of agriculture tied to feudalism but also a power and property structure which affected all areas of medieaval life from serfdom, protectorate, judiciary, levying tithe, bailiff power and rural village government. A Gutsherr, also a manor lord, owned land and managed it through workers. The farmers of the surrounding area were his subordinates and their affairs were regulated by him or his administrator. With the increase in population and the political and social developments in the late 1700s in France, the above structure was eventually dissolved in the middle to late 1800s, administrative and judicial powers taken away and placed into the hand of professional administrators.

There were three forms of manorial systems:
1. Villication
2. Interest or annuity based
3. Manorial or patrimonial based

• Villication
This system consisted of a manor and a couple of dependent farms. The manor lord owned acreage, meadows, gardens, woods, lakes, rivers, canals, vineyards and mills. The manor lord lived either at the manor house or had his administrator (Villikus) conduct the business. This man was responsible to collect contributions from the farmers, also called Grundholden. He had the power to hold court. Even if some farmers were independent, somehow they became part of the multifaceted enterprise of the manor.

• The interest or annuity based system
This system very much functioned as villication did, only there did not exist the right to ownership. The manor lord leased the land and collected interest or annuities. This form of manorial system was prevalent in areas of clearing or colonization.

• The manorial or patrimonial system
East of the Elbe River in Brandenburg, Mecklenburg, Pomerania, East/West Prussia, Silesia (Ober-/Niederlausitz) the Gutsherrschaft was prominent. A Gut consisted of a castle like manor house to which was attached a large farming area and smaller farming units (Vorwerk). A Gutsherr was interested in expansion by re-cultivating waste lands and annexing or buying farmlands. In this wise an entire village could become part of the Gutsherrschaft and economic growth be ensured. The entire area was cultivated by farm hands, subordinate farmers and squatters (Gärtner, Häusler). The members of a Gut were part of a more or less crushing personal dependence. Dependents had to observe Erbuntertänigkeit (subservience which was inheritable) Schollenpflicht (tied to the area) and Gesindedienstzwang (had to provide services by waiting in the wings). Gutsherrschaft was spreading because authoritative laws were transferred to the Gutsherrr of noble descent. He exercised police powers and patrimonial jurisprudence.

With all these regulations, obligations, stipulations etc. there are numerous records re. land transactions, regulative and obligatory actions involving our ancestors who dwelled in rural Germany.
The documentations the manors (Grundherrschaften) and cities left behind can be found in the state archives of Saxony. Following are the links to the archives and their listings of Grundherrschaften and cities from all areas of Saxony.

If you are not sure which village belonged to what manor, consult Historisches Ortslexikon von Sachsen (historical gazetteer) Here each village of Saxony is listed with a reference to a Grundherrschaft (manor).

For retrieval of actual records the catalog of the Family History Library should be checked. The Genealogical Society of Utah was able to film court records from Saxony. Court records among others cover the land and property cases of the above mentioned dealings between the manor lords and their subjects.

Source: Archivwesen in Saxon


Ground tax rolls (Grundsteuermutterrolle) and Gebäudesteuerrolle (house tax rolls) are enumerations determining the worth of property. Each owner is listed with the acreage and net proceeds of house and farm. Taxes are raised according to size and profit of each property. Besides the figures in such tables, the genealogist can glean other information. The name of the owner and his address, sometimes year of birth, his profession, sometimes his wife, the previous owner are mentioned.

In the FamilySearch Catalog some Mutterrollen are listed and can be found at , Keyword Search: Mutterrolle