From the 16th century on, the sovereign administration became more and more involved in German village affairs. Rural communities were for the most part not self-governed social entities but came directly under the administrative measures of an “Amt” or a manor lord (Gut). These administrations systematically acquired information about the landowning and non-landowning population. For tax purposes, labor, and war efforts, they needed a head count. They gathered information about how much acreage was cultivated, how much life stock was at hand, and what the crop yield was. Consequently, the population had to report to officials, bring their tributes, pay their taxes, make and renew contracts, provide labor, etc. All such activities were recorded in so called “Amtsbücher,” “Lagerbuch,” and “Hausbuch” (official records).
Sometimes, a villager found himself subject to more than one administration. It so happened that the largest farming areas belonged to the sovereign, the nobility, and the Church. They and other people, such as citizens, cities, ecclesiastical parishes, and monasteries had rights of disposal over the farming community.
There are a fair amount of records available today about the above-described administrative business. Such records would be available in state archives and private archives, yielding a wealth of information regarding the people of the land.
For information about German archives, see the Germany Archives and Libraries article in the FamilySearch Research Wiki.