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German Genealogy

Land Records

Modern land records are contained in the land books (Grundbücher), with each parcel of land being assigned a special sheet in which the description, ownership, indebtedness, and mortgages are recorded. These books are kept by the lower (Amtsgericht) of the district in which the parcel is located.

Historically, there are many kinds of records which have bearing upon land ownership and usage, depending on the historical period and the social class (Stand) of the owners: chattel records (Güterbücher), field or parcel records (Flurbücher), warehouse books (Lagerbücher), and inheritance books (Erbebücher). Information on church properties can be found in church property records (Kirchenlagerbücher), listing not only the real property and chattels of the parish church or convent, but often notations on property owned by parishioners. (Smith, Clifford. Encyclopedia of German-American Genealogical Research).

Germanic inheritance law passed property strictly through the male line. In some areas farm property was indivisible (e.g., Westphalia), and many sons who were not in line to inherit a farm had to look for other employment or emigrate.  In other areas, the farms were divided and subdivided among all heirs, and by the 19th century the tracts and parcels of land became smaller and smaller for each generation. The small size of many of the tracts were not viable to sustain a family. This also caused emigration.