Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania Court Records
The Probate Records of Schwerin
In Mecklenburg-Schwerin, he who wanted to make or deposit a will had to go to the court, the so called Amtsgericht if he lived in the domains. If he was a member of a knightly or other estate he had to visit the Patrimonialgericht. In Rostock and Wismar he had to solicit the Stadtgericht and in Schwerin, the Magistratsgericht. The courts consisted of a delegation of three officials who were installed to hear non-contentious cases, among others dealing with testaments, inheritances, guardianships and illegitimate births. Considering that in the year 1800 Schwerin only had 8,000 citizens, a family historian would probably find a wealth of information in these court records which could not be found in, for instance, church records.
In case of wills, an official would write it up, deposit it and give a copy to the testator or his executor. Family Search has a collection of court records from Schwerin, ranging from 1500-1900s. The listings are organized by family names and case numbers, starting with A# 1-7 on film 1706030. Here you find the the file "Alexa", covering the years 1808-1823. Reading the documents show that the nail smith Alexa appeared before the court to report that his wife died. She had been married before and brought four children into her second marriage. These children had been assigned a guardian. The applicant was wondering, if there needed to be an installment of another person to legalize the interests of his step children (who were still living in his house) in their mother’s inheritance. He would then recommend the hat maker X to represent them since he intended to get remarried.
Of great importance are inheritances. If children were not of age (25 years) or were female, they had to be represented by a guardian (Vormund) who was installed by the legal authorities and whose role was to overlook the interest and finances of his charges. Instructions to a guardian directed him to conscientiously deal with monetary matters according to directions of the court. He also had to submit written reports about his dealings in behalf of his charges, their welfare and wellbeing. In every respect he had to deal as seemed proper so he could at all times answer to God, the court or anybody.
The "Nachlassakten" of Schwerin are indeed a treasure trove for the family researcher if he desires details of his ancestor's whereabouts or circumstances.