Huldigung translates into English as oath of allegiance. During feudal times when German lords governed over their people in a mixture between arbitrary action and patriarchal hegemony, the oath of allegiance on the part of the subservient population was of utmost importance. Perfidy was one of the greatest crimes and was punishable. Therefore, the expostulation of loyalty, faith, honor and morals served as a constant spur among the community members. When a new manor lord was installed, he required of his subjects “Land und Erbhuldigung”. With such an oath the lordship made sure of recognition and willing subordination. The oath was to be “treu, hold und gewärtig zu sein“. This kind of oath stems from the feudal law (Lehnsrecht). He who was in a relationship of dependence was obligated to swear an oath of allegiance. That concerned almost everybody. Huldigung was as important as any act of state. With time the act of Huldigung became more a formality but did not disappear until the 19th century when constitutional law was established.
Records can be found in “Huldigungslisten” of urban and rural administrations. An “Amt” (local administration) kept lists of the population obligated to swear the oath of allegiance. Often such lists only contain names of male villagers with no additional information, other than that they may have been the heads of households, swearing the oath of allegiance for the entire family. Where the male head of household was deceased, the widow may have sworn allegiance.
For Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt Huldigungslisten are in the Landesarchiv Rudolstadt of varied content. In the 17th century they are ordinarily lists of names. Then there are tabulations with age, occupations and number of children. Sometimes there are lists of people who did not participate in oaths of allegiance. People from faraway places, often whole villages, were counted into this category. On the other hand, one can find indexes with names of people who already pledged allegiance at some other place. People absent from their villages were listed and also people who usually were not registered such as members of the nobility, administrators, ministers, teachers and miners. If two manor lords were owner of a village, two Huldigungslisten were established.
Source: Huschke, Wolfgang. Schwarzburg-Rudolstädtische Huldigunslisten des 17. Und 18. Jahrhunderts in Mitteldeutsche Familienkunde, Band I, Jahrgang 5, Heft 4, page 177 pp.
Some Huldigungslisten are available for Schwarzburg Rudolstadt through www.familysearch.org , catalog: Keyword Search: Huldigungslisten and can be ordered through the Family History Center network.