The Latin word “praestanda” means “to be obligated to,” in this particular case to pay taxes and contributions. Praestationstabellen were established by the administrations of East and West Prussia. Statements about income and expenses of each administration (Amt) were kept, and the Amtmann (official) was obliged to present them every six years for examination by higher officials. These records were kept from the middle of the 18th century to the first half of the 19th century.
The Amtmann was the overseer of land which belonged to the sovereign or other landowners. Their servants were the cultivators of the land and had to do char work and pay taxes. Their immediate boss, the Amtmann, had legal and administrative rights over them. He had to manage the royal domain profitably. He had to hire out the blacksmith shop, the mill, and the distillery. He had to oversee the fishing, the forestry, and the hunting rights. All these activities were included in Praestationstabellen.
On one side of the ledger is the income listed. Here all property owners with the size of their land and their obligations appeared. People who owned a house and garden plot and those farmers who had no rights to their land but were able to pass it on to the next generation were listed, as well. All entries were sorted by village. One can also find information about craftsmen, hirelings and the poor.
Every sixth year the entire population was counted and registered. Each head of household with his wife, children and servants were accounted for. Soldiers were listed separately.
Since the land reforms of the 19th century Erbpacht (inheritable leases) were abolished and the buying of property was possible. The land now became properties rather than leases. With this change the Prästationstabellen disappeared (1850). The Prästationstabellen were replaced to some degree through cadastres starting in the year 1861.
When doing research in former German territories, now Polish, it is often difficult to find information about ancestors. The Praestationstabellen could be an ideal secondary source to find information about families who were not land owners, those who did not remain at one place for a long time, and those who married and settled in neighboring villages.
Some Praestationstabellen for East and West Prussia are available through the Family History Library Catalog at FamilySearch.org. Search for the keyword “Prastationstabellen.” Films can be ordered through the Family History Center network