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The poor died earlier –an investigation of the living conditions of ordinary people
The following study was based on research conducted by Heinrich Porth for the parish Ebstorf, time frame 1627-1875. He determined from a variety of records and based on occupations what the life expectancy of ordinary people would have been. Among the occupations were servants, shepherds, day laborers, in other words people with low income. His investigations confer to the parish of Ebstorf, but could be the basis for other areas of the former duchy/principality/kingdom/Prussian province of Hanover considering the economic circumstances.
Ebstorf formerly belonged to the Duchy of Lüneburg, which became part of the Principality and later Kingdom of Hanover in 1705. Ebstorf belonged to the Amt (administration) of Ebstorf to which 7 additional villages reported. The records show that the lease holders with little acreage, the craftsmen, the servants and cottagers and others (beggars, peddlers, soldiers etc.) were the most mentioned professions between 1627 and 1875.
The targeted group of people ordinarily married much later than the higher earners of the village. The men, craftsmen and lease holders with little acreage (Kleinbauern) married around the age of 29, their women were 3 years younger. The servants, cottagers and others were ordinarily 32 years old and never married under age 25. While in wealthier families children were born to over 40 year old mothers, the last child of a poor family was on average born to a 37/36 year old mother. After the year 1800 most families’ last child was born to a mother age 37/38. Children born to Kleinbauern and craftsmen had the highest mortality rate. This could be due to their women’s workloads. Surprisingly, the mortality rate of children born to servants and shepherds were the same as children born to more wealthy families. Wealthier men had on average 6 children, Kleinbauern and craftsmen 5, and servants and shepherds around 4 children.
Life expectancy in Ebstorf for men between 1627 and 1687 was the lowest for servants and shepherds with around 57 years, for Kleinbauern and craftsmen a little higher. In comparison, the wealthier groups reached a median of 60 years +. The higher job-related strain could be the explanation for the earlier deaths.
Looking at the birth and death rates of Ebstorf, it can be concluded that between 1627 and 1875 in all households of various professions, the survival rate of children born declined. Calculating that furthermore 10% of the nubile persons die before age 30 it can be concluded that the very poorest of people were not able to contribute much to the increase in population. The population growth came from wealthier groups. Their descendants were forced into a lower social status, if they did not inherit the farm.
An increase in farms was not feasible because of the inheritance laws which were in force for centuries. Also, farms with lower acreage (Kleinbauerstellen) were formed only as an exception. Commercial workplaces in close vicinity were not available, and the transition into manual labor was curtailed by laws. The non-property owning groups were hardly capable to uphold their own numbers and concluding is to say that their economic circumstances scarcely changed over 250 years, more likely declined.
Porth, Heinrich. Wer arm war, musste früher sterben. Zur Sozialgeschichte des Kirchspiels Ebstorf von 1627 bis 1875 in Zeitschrift für Niederdeutsche Familienkunde. Heft 3/2005
Geburtsbriefe (birth certificates) of Göttingen
A listing of birth certificates was constructed by Heinz Kelterborn and published in the Norddeutsche Familienkunde, 2nd year, Heft 1. These birth certificates are of citizens of the town of Göttingen who wanted to be relocated elsewhere or wanted to be entlisted as apprentices. These birth certificates also contain information of those who settled in Göttingen. The information given pertains to birth, marriage and deaths starting in 1659 and can be found in the above mentioned periodical. Click for detailed information here (Göttinger Geburtsbriefe).
Domicile certificates and guarantee of return (Heimatscheine und Rückkehrversicherungen)
In den Kingdom of Hannover settlement and residency laws were well regulated. The Amtsvogtei (administration) of each district was responsible for population registration. If people were born at a certain place they also had automatic residency rights. If people wanted to move away, they had to get permission, even if they only wanted to reside in a place temporarily, such as performing at a fair. Other reasons for getting permission to change residency were when travelling as a journeyman, to start a new employment, to emigrate etc. The issue of a domicile certificate also contained the right to return to one’s place of residence within 5 years, should there be any pressing reason for such an action.
The issuing of a residency certificate was based on the notion that a once established domicile cannot be lost before a new home was gained. The authorities of the new place would issue citizenship rights only if the applicant had lived in the new place uninterruptedly for 5 years, had paid his taxes and dues, did not receive alms from the community, and did not obtain a criminal record. The loss of residency occurred mainly by obtaining another one or through the loss of nationality.
The administrations were also responsible for their poor and needy. Move-ins and move-outs were closely watched because no unjust distribution of the care for the poor could or should occur. Therefore, no unlimited being on the move was encouraged. When travelling, people had to have certification on their person at all times such as Legimitationspapiere, Wanderbücher, Arbeitsbücher (ID papers which explain their being elsewhere other than their home). All those who did not possess such papers would be shipped back to their original home. Craftsmen over a certain age were no longer allowed to travel for training.
The Family History Library has records of registration registers for the city of Peine which deal with certificates and guarantees of returns for their citizens from 1821-1903. Besides such certificates, there are also temporary residence permits, refusals, expulsions, matters without residence permits, applications for residence etc.
Gustav Schmoller. Staats- und sozialwissenschaftliche Forschngen Vl. 6, Leipzig 1887.
Arwed Emminghaus, A. Bammel. Das Armenwesen und die Armengesetzgebung in europäischen Staaten, 1870
Here is a link to a polulation register of Lüneburg from 1860
- This page was last modified on 10 January 2013, at 13:48.
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