Sachsen-Weimar-Eisenach 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. See the following examples:

Lagerbücher or Erbbücher

are books re. property, inheritance and interests which were established by manor lords and others to keep track of deliveries in kind or money. In Saxony such books are called "Erbbücher", in the Magdeburg area and Halberstadt "Erbzinsbücher" und in other areas of Western Germany "Salbücher".

The books are listings of Erblehen or Bauernlehen (fiefs) with their owners, rights and obligations. A fief came under the Lehnsrecht (law that governs fiefdom). A Lehen is a piece of property or properties attached to which are servitude and revenue laws. The Lehnsherr (legal owner of a fief) would transfer properties to a recipient for a life time. Some properties were inheritable, i.e., a recipient would give the property to his son. All transactions would be recorded in an Erbbuch.

There are various names for a Lehen. The most common ones were these:

Afterlehen : The receiver of a Lehen would give parts of the property to third parties.
Beutellehen: These were originally properties belonging to knights, later given to farmers.
Burglehen: The property was payment for services as a commander of a castle.
Erblehen: The heirs of a receiver of a Lehen automatically take over the rights and obligations of the property.
Fahnlehen: It is a Lehen given to a secular ruler who has obligations to serve as an active soldier at all times.
Falllehen: The property with its rights and obligations goes back to the owner at the time of the recipient’s death.
Freistift: The property can be annulled within a year’s time.
Handlehen: Property issued for a certain length of time or for a life term of a recipient.
Kunkellehen: Property issued to a woman.
Mann(s)lehen: Property issued to a man.
Schildlehen: Similar to a Fahnlehen, however, the recipient is of the rank of earl or below.
Schupflehen: The property is not inheritable.
Stiftslehen/Klosterlehen: A property is given as a Lehen to a monastery.
Weiberlehen: see Kunkellehen
Zepterlehen: Property issued to a clerical ruler.

As these books  contain the names of the villagers and their families who had to make payments, such books are of great value to genealogical research.

There are some records of this kind for the Sachsen Weimar Eisenach area. See catalog, keyword search: Lagerbuch or Ebbuch. Films are available through the Family History Center network.

Ackerbuchverzeichnis, Flurbuch, Flurnamen (Geographical names)

They play a significant part in the ownership of land. Besides listing the names of owners of certain parcels of land, a tax is also estimated in a Flurbuch. To read about Flurnamen click here: or

at Google Search: Die Flurnamen um Ammerbach.  In this website are found all the Flurnamen of Ammerbach, starting page 27pp. 

Records for Flurnamen are availble for Sachsen-Weimar-Eisenach through Familysearch, Catalog, keyword search: Flurnamen. Films can be ordered through the Family History Center network


were concerns re. Flurregelung (allotment regulation). The goal was to eliminate harmful commonly held user and property rights of agricultural land. Separationen made property free of unilaterally and mutually disadvantageous servitudes. It changed the status of the land from commonly held to segregated properties. The goal was to separate the single owner from the community, hence the name separation. Separation could be partial or across the board, depending whether parts of properties were to be eliminated or all property owners were to be relieved of existing conditions. Such actions created altercations and new changes in property owning. When a Separation was a general one, usually new measures for useful roads and water supplies were created. If allotment regulations were in place a better division of allotments through apportion or consolidation according to the interests of property owners took place. The documents kept for such transactions show the names of the participants, the description and size of the property/ies, description of the piece of settlement and the settlement amount.

Source: Meiers Konversationslexikon

Records of Separationen can be retrieved for Sachsen-Weimar-Eisenach through, catalog, key word search: Separationssache. Films can be ordered through the Family History Center network.