Quondam Exploration


  Discovering The Past In The Present  . . .               

 Our Beginnings in Germany, - Understanding How Things 
Were for our Ancestors, and Why They 
May Have Departed Germany

Through the centuries most of our ancestors lived I rural areas and came under the auspices of a Grund- or Gutsherr (landowner).  Most cultivable lad was owned by them - less by small farmers, although it was possible for a Grundherr to lease lad to more or less independent farmers. Gutsherr also a manor lord, owned land and managed it through workers. 

A Grunderr 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 areas 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 for to collecting contributions from 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 Gutsherrschafft 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 Gutsherr 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.


Prussia-Hessen-Nassau Court Records

Vormundschaft (guardianship)
Illegitimate children were without rights and to legitimize their interests was unknown in the beginning of German family law.  They could not be guardians nor could they have a guardian.
They did not even have any rights towards their mother, but did have a right to be supported by their progenitor.  Guardianship concerning the elderly as well as the insane or encumbered persons did exist.
A guardianship did then not exist for squanderers or missing persons.  In the Southern part of Germany evolved the attentive care guardianship together with a mandate of accountability.  This trend spread to Northern Germany as well.  Hand in hand with this development emerged the guardianship overlooked by the government.
First a guardian was installed according to recommendations of the father, later according to recommendations of the judge.
Helpless people who did not have a guardian were assigned one by the judge.  To install mothers as guardians over their children came much later.  However, she received the rights for personal care for her offspring, which left the installed guardian to look after the administration of the wealth.
Source: R. Schröder. Lehrbuch der eutschen Rechtsgeschichte. Leipzig 1898.
Guardianships are also known as Tutel, Kuratel, Pfleshaft.   By law legal guardians are fathers for their minor children, the grandfather on the mothers side in case of illegitimate children or appointed officials.  As legal guardians can be installed furthermore the adoptive father, the mother of the children, the grandparents, or someone who mother and/or father want to have installed by last will ratified through the court.  These people need a certificate of appointment in contrast to the legal guardians.