Germany Land and Property
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Land records often provide a chain of land ownership from father to son (or to daughters and sons-in-law) over several generations. This information can be very useful, especially when other records do not exist or fail to give needed information. Many times, particularly during the 19th century, land and property records not only include landowners but also those who rented or had land tenure. These records are most likely to be found south and west of the Elbe River, where land tenure generally could be passed to heirs, bought, or sold. North and east of the Elbe, land tenure generally was insecure and could not be bought, sold, or passed to heirs.
German land records are not easily accessible. Almost none of them have been microfilmed. For the nineteenth century, land records are found at the state archives. Prior to the 1800s, they are usually found with the archives of the families who held lordship (Grundherr) over the land. These family archives may still be held by the family, or may have been transferred to regional or state archives. You may be able to use land records for your research if you can visit the archives in person or hire a local research agent.
The Family History Library has few German land records. They are found in the Locality Search of the catalog under the name of the Place and the Subject LAND AND PROPERTY. House owner books are explained under the “Dwellings” section.
Land Terms and Measurements
- Hufe: The amount of land deemed neccesary to sustain a multigenerational family. Usually between 30-200 Morgen. Equivalent to the English term "Hide." Hufe also referred to the tax obligations of such a land holding to the noble who owned the land. Farmers and Brandenburg and East Prussia often held two Hufe.
- Morgen:-about 2/3 an acre or 1/4 a hectare.
- Rod: length of the sum of the left feet of the first fifteen men out of church on Sunday. Usually about 5.5 yards.
- Bauer: Farmer who had a full Hufe.
- Halfbauer: Farmer who had half a Hufe.
- Kossaethen Had 10 Morgen.
- Knecht: Hired Field Laborer
- Cottage: Had about 10 Morgen.
Erbkauf, Lehnschein, Verschreibung, Verzicht, Geradekauf, Pachtcontract, Hypotheken
Erbkauf, Lehnschein, Verschreibung, Verzicht, Geradekauf, Pachtcontract, Hypotheken are all legal documents registered with the lower court. Our ancestors were able to buy and sell the right to cultivate land. They did not own it, they only had a right of use. The landowner (manor lord) remained the owner and was in charge of all the major developments and decisions pertaining to the ground. The right of use was inheritable or could be sold, usually to a relative (the oldest or youngest son or a son in law). The proceedings were recorded in Erbkaufverträge (sales). When a father/mother was ready to retire, he/she would either give the child the farm or sell it to him (daughters usually were paid off). In such sales were also build-in stipulations of how the conditions of the retirement of the outgoing farmer should be handled.
Other records pertaining to the land are “Lehnscheine” (deeds), “Verschreibungen” (bonds), “Verzicht” (waiver), “Hypotheken” (mortgages). A “Pachtcontract” was issued when ancestors leased a piece of property (a house). A “Geradekauf” is a record of female possessions either brought into or acquired during marriage and then being sold, given away or bequeathed to her family. Erbkaufverträge and Geradekäufe would yield information pertinent to family research, since names, dates and places are included in such records.
To view an example of a Erbkaufvertrag click https://wiki.familysearch.org/en/images/f/f6/Kaufkontrakt.pdf
To view an example of a Geradekauf click https://wiki.familysearch.org/en/images/0/00/Gerade.pdf