Seigniory of Heidenreichstein, Lower Austria

Many of my ancestors were subjects of the Seigniory of Heidenreichstein in Lower Austria. That is reason enough to give you some information on the history and on research in this area.

Georg Mätthaus Vischer Topographia archiducatus Austriae Inferioris modernae 1672, Wien 1672

Georg Mätthaus Vischer Topographia archiducatus Austriae Inferioris modernae, Vienna 1672

General Introduction of the Manorial System

In the beginning, I would like to give you some background information on the manorial system in Austria which was the basis of economy and society in the time before 1848. There were certain rights over people living in an area tied to the possession of the land. These rights encompass rights of jurisdiction and administration, the commitment of subjects to work for the Lord of the Manor at defined days (“Robot”) and the right of taxation. As a service in return, the Lord of the Manor was responsible for the safety of his subjects.
The title Lord of the Manor was reserved for members of the nobility and certain clerical institutions. With the royal patent dated 7th of September 1848, the manorial system was abolished in Austria and all the rights involved were transferred to public administrative bodies. [1]

History of the Seigniory of Heidenreichstein

In Heidenreichstein, the biggest moated castle of Austria is situated. Its first parts were built around 1180 by the first Lord of the Manor, called Heidenreich. In the 13th century, the town Heidenreichstein was documented for the first time. In the late Middle Ages, Heidenreichstein became an important emporium. Later on, in the 17th century, the textile industry’s importance grew in the area. In the 19th century, weaving mills were widely spread in the dominion. [2] Another important industry was the production of glass which benefitted from the abundant supply of wood. There were glass factories in the villages of Aalfang and Nagelberg.

The Seigniory of Heidenreichstein suffered from the Thirty Years’ War in the 17th century as well was from the War with the French in the 19th century, when the area was occupied by the French military. [3]

Villages within the Seigniory:

The Seigniory of Heidenreichstein included the following villages:
Heidenreichstein, Altmanns, Thaures, Reichenbach, Roitrechts, Willings, Kleinradischen, Ebersweis, Dietweis, Motten, Pfaffenschlag, Artolz, Arnolz Steinbach, Rohrbach, Brandt (Brand), Finsternau, Aalfang (Eilfang), Nagelberg, Reinberg, Pfaffenschlag, Eisenreichs, die Waldhütten Schwarzenberg, Kiensaß, Wiesmaden, Steinbach as well as Zuggers, Schwarzbach, Grundschachen and Rottenschachen, which are situated today in the Czech Republic.

Daily Life around 1840

Freiherr von Schweickhardt gives a good impression of the daily life in the Seigniory of Heidenreichstein around 1840 in his book called  “Darstellung des Erzherzogthums Österreich unter der Enns” (Illustration of the Archduchy of Austria below the river Enns) [4]:

The  Seigniory then contained „1320 houses, 2195 families, 4787 men, 5104 women and 1336 school children as well as 147 horses, 1706 bulls, 1802 cows, 903 sheep, 84 geese and 1415 pigs“.

„People cultivated grain, oat, some barley and spring wheat, and large amounts of potatoes, as this plant is the best aliment for the biggest part of the poor, (…) and flax in almost all villages. As the crop yield is very poor due to the rough climate here, it is no wonder that all produce of the soil is eaten and there is no surplus left. The inhabitants would therefore find it hard to pax their dues, if they would not have an additional source of income through weaving. Almost everyone around is a weaver and all day long, the hand looms are rattling. (…) Stock farming is only done for one’s own end. (…) The benefit from stock is small, as there is a shortage of pasture and breeding generates no good result.”

„The poorer subjects are busy wood cutting for the glass factories in the Seigniory and they are producing Hecheln, a utensil for cleaning flax.”

Webstuhl 1830 Wikimedia

Hand loom, 1830 by Johann Schieß (1799-1844), Source: Wikimedia

Documents and Information

If you have ancestors in the Seigniory of Heidenreichstein, you are actually very lucky, as      many documents and books for research are online, at Familysearch as well as at the State Archive of Lower Austria:

  • Familysearch: Collection „Austria, seigniorial records, 1537-1920“, (path to the documents: Lower Austria/Litschau/Seigniory of Heidenreichstein and Weissenbach); here the direct link
  • State Archive of Lower Austria (German only);
    Follow the menu as follows: Gerichtsarchive/ Bezirksgerichte/Grundherrschaftliche Provenienz/Litschau/Heidenreichstein und Weissenbach, Herrschaft
; here the link

(There was a district court installed at Heidenreichstein in 1850. However, in 1868 it was moved to the close town of Litschau. Therefore, documents regarding the Seigniory of Heidenreichstein are to be found at the district court of Litschau.

The books which are available online include the following:
– Land registers 1715 – 1885
– “Gewähr” books 1786 – 1851
– Marriage Protocols 1747 – 1851
– Inventar Protocols 1758 – 1843
– Protocols of Acquisitions 1654 – 1838
– “Satz” Protocols 1775 – 1851

(There will be a separate post soon on which information you would find in the different seigniorial books.)

  • Beside that, there are of course also church books at Matricula.  Here a link to the all new map of Matricula, where you can see all parishes as red marks. There is a search field in the upper right corner, where you have to enter Heidenreichstein.
  • Regarding the villages of the Seigniory which are today situated in the Czech Republic, relevant documents can bei found in the Archive of  Wittingau/Trebon. In the upper right corner is a toolbar to switch languages and in the menu on the left, there is a search field. You can look for the old German name of the village (e.g. Zuggers).

Sources

[1] Wien Wiki Geschichte, Entry on the Manorial System
[2] Book: Dehio Niederösterreich Nördlich der Donau, Verlag Anton Schroll & Co, Wien 1990,
Eintrag Heidenreichstein, Seite 412ff
[3] Wikipedia Entry Heidenreichstein
[4] Book: Friedrich Schweickhardt (Freiherr von.): Darstellung des Erzherzogthums
Oesterreich unter der Ens, durch umfassende Beschreibung aller Burgen, Schlösser,
Herrschaften, Städte, Märkte, Dörfer, Rotten,C., C., topographisch-statistisch-
genealogisch-historisch bearb., und nach den bestehenden vier Kreisvierteln gereihet,
Sechster Band, Viertel Ober-Manhartsberg; Wien, gedruckt bei Anton Benko, 1840,
Seiten 37ff

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