Tagelöhner

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The Tagelöhner (Tageloehner) was of the lowest standing in a predominantly agricultural society, but, and this was of great importance, this man was free! While the estate labourer on the vast estates, on the whole belonging to titled gentry, had to get the landlord's permission for every move he wanted to make ("May I marry this girl?"), the Tagelöhner, although very poor, was master of his own destiny.

We all know this is not worth much if one has not the means to fulfil plans and dreams, but if a Tagelöhner could scrape together the money for the fare over to America, he was free to go. The farmhand, employed by a landlord, and more often than not living in a 'tied cottage' (the house goes with the job) on the other hand, had to ask permission to leave. As this was not easily given many emigrants had to abscond and could only breath a sigh of relief once they were on the ship and sails were set.

There is a fascinating book available about the fate of a German Tagelöhner who had emigrated to the USA

"Juern Jakop Swehn der Amerikafahrer" by Johannes Gillhoff dtv - Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag

or in English:

"Letters of a German American Farmer" University of Iowa Press, here:

http://www.uiowapress.org/books/pre-2002/gilletof.htm

And all about the author and the story here:

http://www.nationmaster.com/encyclopedia/Johannes-Gillhoff.

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