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Brunswick (Braunschweig) Land and Property[edit | edit source]

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Grundherrschaft and Gutsherrschaft in Germany[edit | edit source]

Through the centuries most of our ancestors lived in rural areas and came under the auspices of a Grund- or Gutsherr (landowner). 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. 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. 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.

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. See the following examples:

Häusler, Einlieger, Instmann, Budner, Brinksitzer[edit | edit source]


Most people who lived in the country were among those who do or do not call a house or farm their own. Häusler, Einlieger or Instmann, Budner, Hausgenossen, Häuslinge are those who rent a place from a farmer or other people in a village. For this privilege they have to work for their landlords. In most cases Häusler and Einlieger and their wives are older people. These people also receive a small garden plot and are allowed grazing privileges for their livestock.


For the land owners Häusler are a real treasure because they can be called upon to do odd-jobs, such as haying etc. Häusler replace expensive outside hire help. Often they are not properly remunerated and fall into abject poverty which means they have to look for other employment and need to move. To avoid such moves, the land owners have to write out contracts in which they will assure the Häusler adequate compensation. 10 Reichsthaler (currency) per year was the sum they estimated to be fair wages. In other German regions Häusler received compensation in kind (Deputat) i.e., in the Neumark (Brandenburg) he received 4 Scheffel grain and butter for the equivalent of 8 Groschen (currency). Some land owners had problems with giving the Häusler a Deputat, because grain could be sold for a good price instead of giving it away. Wherever possible, Deputat was altogether avoided.


There are some land owners who recognize the advantage of trustworthy help. They therefore, install among their homesteads places for Häusler, young capable men who want to get married and are looking to improve their lot. If they prove to be skilful workers they often are elevated to land owners.

Source: http://www.kruenitz1.uni-trier.de/