Terms in Memelland

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A farmer who hands his estate over to his son and lives on a part of the farm reserved for the old farmer and his wife with special rights.


  • A farmer who got land from the king or the administration after the plague or a war to settle on an abandoned farm or wasteland.
  • He was personally free,
  • could bequeath his property,
  • didn`t have to do "Scharwerk" but had to pay higher taxes.


A "Schulze" is a mayor. A "Berittschulze is in the next higher position. He is an official for supervision of several villages for the king to keep a careful eye on the "Scharwerk" and the orders and laws of the king.It started under King Friedrich Wilhelm I till the beginning of the 19th century.

Civil Registration Records

Unfortunately many of the civil registration records for this area no longer exist. However, some of the records are stored in the Lithuanian State Historical Archives.<b If during your research, you are looking for civil registration records and you have data from another source, you can send an e-mail in English to the archives, asking if that record may be available.

Here is the link to their main page in English. http://www.archyvai.lt/en/archives/historicalarchives.html
The e-mail address is listed on this page. They will also reply in English.

Sometimes you may find a reference to a civil registration record in another source such as the church records. If you include that number in the request to the archives, it may help facilitate their search.

P.S. Since we don't have a definitive listing of all the civil registration records available in the Lithuanian State Historical Archives, it would help us greatly if you shared any information, in the archive reply, about the records that are available. Contact us


  • A smallholder or crofter
  • The owner of a small farm with a house, a garden and a small piece of land;often not enough to earn his living
  • he is free
  • he can sell, bequeath his property and raise mortgage on his land


  • "Erbfreyes Dorf" or "Erbdorf" is a village with " erbfreien" farmers.
  • "Erbfrei" refers to a legal term.
  • The" Erbfrei" farmer is a colonist who buys land on forest and marshland. He is the owner and he can bequeath the land.
  • He can raise a mortgage, but he has to ask the administration to sell it.


  • A farmer who has to pay higher taxes
  • he is free from "Scharwerk" ,
  • he can bequeath his land, raise mortgage on his farm but can`t sell it and has to ask the administration


  • A day labourer
  • lives in villages in rented accommodation,
  • free,
  • works in different places,
  • often moves from place to place,
  • the lowest position in the agricultural society


East- and Westprussia

"Kölmisch" refers to the city Kulm: `"Kulmische Handfeste" is the name of the constitution of 1233 for Prussia under the rule of the order. It is about the rights and freedom of the new municipalities. The foundation was the Magdeburgische Stadtrecht. The order held the monopoly on salt, gold, silver, amber, fishing, hunting and the sea.

The" kulmische" law was in force everywhere except in the big cities, for example, Elbing, Braunsberg, Frauenburg, Memel, where the "lübisches" law after the city Lübeck was in force.

Farmers - mostly German - under the "kulmischem" law were called Kölmer or Cölmer. Their property was called "kölmisch“. Later some Kölmer became squires. The kölmisch law was better than the magdeburgische. Native people(Prussians), immigrated people (Szameiten) and Lithuanians lived under the poorer Prussian law, but nevertheless it was a law they could trust in. So a lot of refugees came from Polish-Lithuania, suffering from their nobility. Mostly the order protected them.

Köllmer were free people who could do what they wanted with their property, except for paying taxes and sometimes helping the knights. They didn`t relate to the farmers. They felt like the nobility and formed, together with the knights and the nobility, their own group. From the time of the order until Friedrich II, new Köllmer came into being. Instead of helping in a war they paid taxes. A law from 1685 confirmed their full property entitlement.

Other Names:

  • Farmers living on kölmisch estates were called Kummetter (Lithuanian Kumetis) or "Gärtner" (gardener), also Morgener[1]

Other Spellings:

  • Cölmer, Cöllmer, Köllmer


Meliertes Dorf

  • Inhabitants of "Melierte"' villages had different rights and duties.

For example, there were:

  • "Chatoulfarmers" who had to pay their taxes to the king (into his "Chatoulle")
  • "Erbfreie" farmers without socage - feudal duties - but with higher taxes.
  • Farmers in royal villages who had to pay the taxes to the royal administration.


"Scharwerk" - a feudal tenure of lands by service, often fixed and determinate in quality mostly with the right to bequeath the property

  • "Scharwerksbauer"- a farmer who got his farm from the king or the lord of the manor.
  • Instead of paying taxes he had to work- often several days a week- for the landowner.
  • In return he sometimes got cattle, cereals and tools.
  • "Scharwerk" was one of the reasons for the bad conditions and despotism for the small farms in the 18th and 19th century.

Standesamt I in Berlin

The so-called Auslandsstandesamt (foreign registry office) Standesamt I in Berlin has about two million "Standesamt" documents (births, marriages, deaths) from the former German territories in the East, (from more than 1400 former German registry offices), from 1874 to 1945. Application for a copy of a document is free if nothing is found. Because of the large number of applications it will take six to nine months for a reply, sometimes longer. It is not permissible to look for the documents yourself. According to the law ( 31/12/ 2008)"Personenstandsgesetz" you may only request copies of the records of direct relatives!

The Standesamt I in Berlin does not have any documents from the Berlin area. You can find these in today`s civil registry in Berlin.

Before making an application you should check the library catalogue for any relevant documents in Berlin:

  • Standesregister und Personenstandsbücher der Ostgebiete im Standesamt I in Berlin: Gesamtverzeichnis für die ehemaligen Ostgebiete, die besetzten Gebiete und das Generalgouvernement, Frankfurt: Verlag für Standesamtswesen, 1992. ISBN 3-8019-5645-8

Written applications should be sent to:

Standesamt I in Berlin
Schönstedtstraße 5
13357 Berlin

Telephone: (030) 90269-0
Telefax: (030) 90269-5245
E-Mail: Info.Stand1@labo.berlin.de

Deutsche Zentralstelle für Genealogie in Leipzig

German Central Office for Genealogy - for the Research in Churchbooks



A kind of policeman for a bigger part of the shore especially for controlling the amber production


  • Wibranzen: in the Prussian Duchy and Kingdom soldiers provided by the royal villages
  • Enrollierte: recruits with call-up papers before their deployment/use living in their villages


  1. Sembritzki, Johannes u. Bittens, Arthur: Geschichte des Kreises Heydekrug, Memel 1920, a history of the County Heydekrug
  2. Staßewski, Kurt von, Stein, Robert Hrsg.: Was waren unsere Vorfahren?, Amts-, Berufs- und Standesbezeichnungen aus Altpreußen, Königsberg 19938, Verein für Familienforschung in Ost- und Westpreußen Hamburg 1991

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