Understanding Your ...

Ancestors in the Records:
Other Western European Records: Land and Property Records

Land and property records generally only exist for people who owned land. In many countries, landless workers dominated the countryside, meaning many of our ancestors aren’t included in these records. In some countries, land records mostly cover the wealthy. In other countries, land records may be available for small landowners as well. Land and property records can contain important genealogical information because they show the transfer of land and property between generations, verifying that intergenerational link. They may also list other members of the household and include interesting descriptions of the property and possessions that went with it.

For some countries, only a relatively small percentage of land records have been filmed and are available at libraries here. These property records are best accessed through local or state archives in the countries of origin. Often you can’t know what’s available without contacting the archive directly. Since these records vary from locality to locality, finding someone aware of what’s available for your ancestor’s area can be difficult.

For example, while visiting the state archives of what used to be Mecklenburg-Schwerin, I was able to locate numerous Hauswirt (or landowner) records for my ancestors who weren’t wealthy, but instead were only landowning peasants. These records described the homestead and then showed in detail the genealogy of the family in order to prove who should rightfully inherit the homestead. Included in this was a partial description of the children, when they died, who they married, where they lived, and other important information. Before I visited the archive, I had no idea that records of this type even existed.