Estonia Land & Property
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- Estonian Land records, 1564-1884 (images)
Periodically, detailed information was gathered by authorities to determine all manner of taxation. Other property and real estate records exist as well, although most are not available online.
Ploughland Revisions / Wackenbücher
During the period of Swedish power (1561-1710), a great deal of attention was paid to the economic carrying capacity of farms before taxing and imposing burdens on the people. Detailed information was gathered for taxation purposes in the form of ploughland revisions (a compiled list of eligible taxpayers). These revisions and Wackenbücher (or wackeböcker - books drawn up at the Wacka, the annual inspection of the peasants which included a land survey) began in the 17th century and can be found in archives in Estonia, Sweden, and Latvia. Some are also available on the FamilySearch Catalog. In North Estonia, ploughland revisions were carried out in 1725-1726, 1732, 1739, 1740, 1750-1751, 1756-1757, 1765, and 1774. In South Estonia, they were carried out in 1724, 1731, 1738, 1744, 1751, and 1758. The complete set of South-Estonian revision records are located in the Russian State Archives of Early Acts in Moscow.
Many records are available online at:
Unfortunately, only the owner of the farm was named in ploughland revisions; the rest of the family are represented in figures across their age categories (categories included: the men with working capacity, the women with working capacity, old and injured men, old and injured women, boys, girls). Migration information was often included in revisions. An overview about animals on the farm (including horses, oxen, cattle, and young cattle) was also listed. The names of owners changed at times; nicknames or shortened names were sometimes used. The Wackenbücher presented all burdens and taxes in every variety.
It is sometimes hard to connect farm owners between the various revisions. The Northern War (1700-1721), and the accompanying plague, directly led to an extensive resettlement of the population that took both in the bounds of the manor and outside. Although people who moved from one place to another were registered in ploughland revisions, sometimes external peasants held in bondage (a practice at the time) were not listed. Also, with the massive resettling, some poorer farmers who settled in empty farms (by consequence of the plague) were given the former name of the farm as their surname.
To bridge the gap between revisions, use church registers, conscription lists, and the records of damages caused by the war.
Real Estate Records
In accordance with an 1864 law, the property owner was the only person whose name was in the register of real estate. Real estate registers contain detailed information about the composition of real estate, plots of land, real estate that was added to or taken away, the owner of real estate, the basics of property rights, the purchase sum, and the taxes and burdens imposed on real estate. Archival files of registry offices for real estate contain wills, contracts of purchase and sale, judicial decisions, and blueprints of farmsteads.
Cadastral Maps of Manors
Cadastral maps were created to determine the economic potential of manors. Maps of manors depicted the actual configuration of farms, with bodies of water, roads, and other natural objects. The maps are accompanied by description books, which describe garden plots, fields, hay lands and pastures, and even the abundance of fish in bodies of water.
The first extensive campaign of cadastral mapping was undertaken during the period of Swedish power and lasted from 1681-1709. Around 500 North-Estonian and 2200 South-Estonian maps were made. Another campaign began during the later 18th century in Saaremaa. Another took place in South Estonia at the beginning of the 19th century.
The Estonian Historical Archives has an extensive collection of cadastral maps of manors.
- Must, Aadu. "The Sources of Estonian Family History." In Eestlaste perekonnaloo allikad. Estonia: Kleio, 2000.