In the beginning of the 19th century the release from serfdom for the German farmer began. In the Age of Enlightenment the oppression of one person to another seemed inappropriate. Practical experiments proved that abolition of serfdom was also advantageous to the manor lord as the Earl of Rantzau in Schleswig-Holstein had demonstrated. The development of industry required more workers and had to come from the ranks of serfs. Between the second half of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century manumissions occurred in many German states. The release from serfdom was very well documented with either an actual document or an official entry in a record. The release was granted by the respective sovereign lord.
The releases occurred step by step. Sometimes the entire estate of the manor lord was transferred to the serfs without compensation to the previous owner. On the other hand the release from serfdom only covered personal choices such as granting agency in matters of marriage. In some German states the serf was able to purchase land from the manor lord or was supported by the state in purchasing land.
December 27, 1808 was the date when the Duchess Pauline of Lippe signed a declaration to resolve serfdom. This law became mandatory on January 1, 1809.
Even though the release from serfdom became official only in 1809 there were cases in Lippe when a petition for manumission was granted earlier, however, services and deliveries for manor lords on part of the land working population did not stop until 1838.
The Landesarchiv Nordrhein-Westfalen, Abteilung Ostwestfalen-Lippe (L 83 D) has a collection of around 4.400 manumission documents and notes from the 16th to the 18th century. An alphabetical list of names is part of this collection. After 1808 no more manumission documents were issued. It was no longer necessary to proof ones release from serfdom.
Source: Landesarchiv Nordrhein-Westfalen