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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Land Registers and Family Research – Family Weihs in Sachsendorf, Austria

As entries in land registers offer a good insight into family history, I would like to write about this topic today.

Introduction of the land register in Austria

Maria Theresia started a first register of houses in 1770 (see also here) which was the predecessor of our modern land register. Land registers contain a lot of information on properties and their owners. Today, I would like to focus on the owners.

Documents at Familysearch

At Familysearch, there are many Austrian seigneurial records available online (free registration required). To get to the right records, use the menue “Search” and there “Catalogue”.  As location, enter “Austria”. You will get to a long list of different records, where you have to select “Court Records” and there you are:
Austria, seigniorial records = Österreich, Herrschaftsakten, 1537-1920

Family Weihs in Sachsendorf, Lower Austria

Using the example of the family Weihs of Sachsendorf (district Kirchberg am Wagram, Lower Austria), I would like to illustrate the support which a land register can offer for family research.

Mathias Weihs was my Great-Great-Great-Great-Grandfather. So far, I know that he was born in 1724 in Kollersdorf close to Sachsendorf and that he was married to Anna Maria Leuthner (widow of Stephan Kienast). I did not do much more research on his family yet (except for my direct ancestor, his son Paul).

Titel Grundbuch Sachsensdorf, NIederösterreich

Title page of the land register Sachsensdorf, Lower Austria, source citation see end of the blog post

Transcription and Translation: “Land register of the village of Sachsendorf of all properties with houses and all agricultural properties”

Through the above shown land register  („Haus-Überland-Grundbuch Amt Sachsendorf“) which is available online at Familysearch (Source citation see end of the blog post), I found out that Mathias Weihs owned several properties in Sachsendorf.
This was one of them:

 

Titel des Grundbucheintrages, Quellenangabe siehe Ende des Posts

Name/Title of the property, source citation see end of the blog post

Transkription and translation: “Von einem Bauernhaus, dareingehören 3 1/2 Joch Acker” – Of one farm house, including 3 1/2 Joch fields; Joch is an old square measure

From the entry in the land register, one can see the following chain of owners:

Besitzerkette Eintrag Grundbuch Sachsendorf, Quellenangabe siehe Ende des Posts

Owners in land register entry Sachsendorf, source citation see end of the blog post

Thus, the following persons were owners of the farm house:

  • Mathias Weihs and his wife Anna Maria („ux.“ is short for uxoris, wife) as of 1759
  • Franz Weihs, first unmarried as of 1788 and subsequently with his wife Elisabeth as of 1790 (from Sachsendorf, formerly written as Saxendorf)
  • Joseph Weihs, unmarried as of 1817 by acquisition (for 4,000 Gulden, the former Austrian currency, abbreviated as „fl.“)
  • Joseph Weihs und his wife Anna Maria as of 1817 by marriage
  • Johann Weihs, unmarried, living in the farm house- by acquisition in 1849 for 1,200 Gulden

All this information give a good overview and there are enough facts for a more detailed research. As mentioned in the illustration of the scope of the parish Kirchberg am Wagram at Matricula-online, the parish Kirchberg am Wagram includes Sachsendorf until 1784, afterwards, the parish Altenwörth includes the records for Sachsendorf (both are within the Arch-Dioceses of Vienna).

From research in the church books, I found out the following:

  • Mathias Weihs and Anna Maria Leuthner married on 22.7.1759 in Sachsendorf.
  • According to the land register, Franz Weihs married in 1790, which simplifies the search in the book of marriages of the parish Altenwörth:
 On 22.1.1790, Franz Weihs, son of Mathias Weihs and Anna Maria Leuthner married Elisabeth Nesterl. From the entry, one can also deduct the year of birth of Franz Weihs: He was 25 years of age at the time of the wedding, therefore he was born in 1765. It actually was on 27.5.1764, as the baptismal book of the parish Kirchberg am Wagram shows.
  • Joseph Weihs acquired the property from the couple Franz and Elisabeth Weihs (who by the way died in 1830 and 1828 respectively).
 Now it is getting more difficult, as the land register does not give information on the relationship between Joseph and Franz. Brother? Son? Nephew?
    As the next two entries in the land register have both been made in 1817, it can be assumed that it is for the same Joseph, who was married to a woman named Anna Maria in 1817. And there really is a wedding of Joseph Weihs and Anna Maria Entlang on 11.11.1817 in the church book. The church book gives us the information that Joseph was the son of Franz and Elisabeth Weihs and that he was born in 1791.
    By the way, this is the starting point for further research, as I have to try to find the purchase contract between Franz and Joseph. How could son Joseph afford to buy land for 4,000 Gulden which was quite some money at that time?
  • The next and last owner in the land register is Johann Weihs who also acquired the property. He was unmarried.
    During the time in question, there were three baptisms of boys named Johann Weihs. It is most probable that the right Johann is the son of Joseph and Anna Maria Weihs who was born on 15.8.1825. Any doubt can however only be eliminated through looking at the purchase contract.

Finally, I could establish the following facts with the support of the land register:

Ahnentafel Johann Weihs Kopie

Source Citation Familysearch – Land register:
“Österreich Herrschaftsakten 1537-1920,” images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QSQ-G9K9-BS3H?cc=1929847&wc=MYCG-BZQ%3A1062206102%2C1047408502%2C1062215703%2C1062215702%2C1062221701 : 20 May 2014), Österreich  \> Lower Austria (Niederösterreich) \> Kirchberg am Wagram \> Herrschaft Grafenegg mit Freihof Etsdorf \> image 13 of 200; Landesarchiv, Österreich (national archives, Austria).