Mecklenburg-Schwerin Land and Property

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Grundherrschaft and Gutsherrschaft in Germany

Through the centuries most of our ancestors lived in rural areas and came under the auspices of a Grund- or Gutsherr (landowner). Most cultivable land was owned by them – less by small farmers, although it was possible for a Grundherr to lease land to more or less independent farmers. A Grundherr can be lord over a small area, does not have to be a nobleman and can also be a monastery. A manorial system was complex and embraced all aspects of life. A Gutsherr, also a manor lord, owned land and managed it through workers. The farmers of the surrounding area were his subordinates and their affairs were regulated by him or his administrator.

There were three forms of manorial systems:
1. Villication
2. Interest or annuity based
3. Manorial or patrimonial based

• Villication
This system consisted of a manor and a couple of dependent farms. The manor lord owned acreage, meadows, gardens, woods, lakes, rivers, canals, vineyards and mills. The manor lord lived either at the manor house or had his administrator (Villikus) conduct the business. This man was responsible to collect contributions from the farmers, also called Grundholden. He had the power to hold court. Even if some farmers were independent, somehow they became part of the multifaceted enterprise of the manor.

• The interest or annuity based system
This system very much functioned as villication did, only there did not exist the right to ownership. The manor lord leased the land and collected interest or annuities. This form of manorial system was prevalent in areas of clearing or colonization.

• The manorial or patrimonial system
East of the Elbe River in Brandenburg, Mecklenburg, Pomerania, East/West Prussia, Silesia (Ober-/Niederlausitz) the Gutsherrschaft was prominent. A Gut consisted of a castle like manor house to which was attached a large farming area and smaller farming units (Vorwerk). A Gutsherr was interested in expansion by re-cultivating waste lands and annexing or buying farmlands. In this wise an entire village could become part of the Gutsherrschaft and economic growth be ensured. The entire area was cultivated by farm hands, subordinate farmers and squatters (Gärtner, Häusler). The members of a Gut were part of a more or less crushing personal dependence. Dependents had to observe Erbuntertänigkeit (subservience which was inheritable) Schollenpflicht (tied to the area) and Gesindedienstzwang (had to provide services by waiting in the wings). Gutsherrschaft was spreading because authoritative laws were transferred to the Gutsherrr of noble descent. He exercised police powers and patrimonial jurisprudence.

With all these regulations, obligations, stipulations etc. there are numerous records re. land transactions, regulative and obligatory actions involving our ancestors who dwelled in rural Germany.


The literal translation for this term is house book. It has several meanings.
It could be a handwritten document or a book, often a family bible or a book that contained information for a family, such as a pedigree or similar documentation. It could be a volume for household tips. Furthermore it could be an accounting book used by merchants. In the former DDR (German Democratic Republic) the Hausbuch was a mandatory registry.

When administrative records in medieval times were written, they were kept in one volume, the city book (Stadtbuch). All proceedings were recorded therein, from collecting taxes to sales of properties, inheritances etc. Thus a house book was also a legal record. In later centuries administrations were separated and the legal proceedings came under the judicial arm of governing.

In the collection of the Family History Library are some records of Hausbücher which deal with sales, inheritances, and transfers of property going back to the 1300s. The researcher will find names of seller and buyer, names of women or children and who represented them, and also names of donators of land. The documents can be retrieved by entering the word “Hausbuch” in the key word search of the catalog. For instance, the Hausbuch of Neustadt for the years 1515-1597 cover records created in Mecklenburg-Schwerin. The film number is 2329381 it. 1-2

Cadastral surveys by Swedish authorities for tax purposes

After the Thirty Years War Sweden took possession of what is known today as “Vorpommern” with the islands Rügen and Usedom as well as other parts of Pomerania. In order to financially secure its power politics, the Swedes had a very effective and centralized tax system. The basis for this system was the knowledge of the land. Beginning in 1628, Gustav Adolf II had established a central cadastral office, the lantmäterrikontor which started to make detailed maps of farms, villages, towns, harbors etc.

After considerable difficulties to launch the same system in Swedish Pomerania, the surveying of the crown lands finally got underway in 1691. The initial survey lasted 7 years, but soon after needed revisions because waste lands became fertile and also needed to be surveyed.

The surveyors established so called “Urkarten” which were cleaned up by a second set of workers involved with these cadastral maps. Altogether 1,455 detailed maps of Swedish Pomerania were created. They contain details about a village or a manor with its political and ecclesiastical affiliation. Often former property owners are listed and particulars given when an estate was affected by natural disasters, wars or military occupation. These facts vary because not all surveyors were equally nosy and the population informative.

The surveys also reveal information about adjacent lands and all male population usually not the servants. They are listed in annotations under “Services”. Women are only named if they lead their own household, independent of house ownership or not.

In addition to the above the cadastral maps give information about acreage, topography, what is being planted, harvest yield, is there enough grass to feed the cattle, how about wood for building and kindling. Listed are also orchards, vegetable gardens and their quality. Streets, ponds and lakes with the amount of fish and reeds are all recorded.

The cadastral maps are a treasure trove for those who want details about local history. The maps are deposited in the Landesarchiv Greifswald. They have been scanned and are available online at The menu on the left will open up the maps. There is another link to the maps at http://www/
If more information is needed, please contact the Swedish Pommern organization at

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