Hausmarken (signs on houses)
Hausmarken are symbols of a long-established farming community. Where farming survived in spite of the turmoil left behind by the Thirty Years War (1618-1648) and the serfdom of the 17th and 18th century, Hausmarken can still be found in the 19th century.
As these remaining signs show, originally each farm had their own. In medieval times, when farmers were dependent on each other’s help, all tools, wagons, and materials were marked with the Hausmarke. Farmers then were not able to read and write, and their property had to be properly identified. This came especially into play when on a yearly basis lots had to be drawn for usage of acreage and meadows. During the Thirty Years War numerous farms were lost and land was consolidated into large farms owned by the gentry. They were able to expel former small land owners, and since the small farmers had no legal recourse, Hausmarken sank into oblivion. Today one can find such signs only in very few places in Mecklenburg.
If a farmer was able to hold on to his land and generation after generation was able to do the same, the use of Hausmarken was kept alive. Especially in the administrative districts of Gadebusch and Rhena registers were kept between 1710 and 1850. These registers are the basis for extending the list of ownership into the 1900s, and show how a farm was kept by the same clan over the centuries. For instance, between 1738 and 1900 almost 60% of the 134 farms in Rhena remained in the family.
In the series Quellen zur bäuerlichen Hof- und Sippenforschung Dr. Franz Engel published the “Hausmarkenbuch der Domonialämter Gadebusch und Rehna (Mecklenburg)” in which he listed the symbols attached to each farm. One can easily follow the ownership through the decades. There is also a family register and a map attached, showing the villages involved.
The booklet is available at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, International collection, call number 943.B4q vol. 6.