An Introduction in English
by Doug Bradley
The Weinkauf record from the Esens district, from 1554 to 1811, is a collection of property records built around the institution of title transfer taxes.
When a property changed handswhen it was sold or when it was inheritedthe new owner was required to pay a taxa “Weinkauf”to the local Graf, or Count.
When this tax was paid (often after some negotiation), the Count’s staff made handwritten notes about who owned the property, the size of the property, the nature of the transfer, and the amount of tax paid. Sometimes these records were made carefully, with much detail. Sometimes the transfer is barely recorded.
These handwritten notes, preserved to this day in the regional archive in Aurich, add up to a trove of family and economic information about the area, frequently filling in information that is missing from church records (which typically go back to ca. 1620), sometimes confirming what is recorded elsewhere.
Coupled with the detailed maps of the area surveyed by engineer Johannes Baptista van Regemort in 1670 (more than 100 years after the tax records commenced), the Amt Esens Weinkauf tax roll lets a researcher plot the distribution of families and farmland over time.
Other nearby areas have a Weinkauf record, but no accompanying maps. Esens and its surrounding villages is unique in having both.
In 1998, Heyko Heyken, building on the previous work of Dr. Heino Mammen, published a two-volume compilation of the Weinkauf record, together with some other critical property records from the same span of time. A huge amount of information is thus made available in fairly compressed form.
The Heyken books of Weinkauf records are organized farm by farm, so that a researcher can turn to a single specific farm (or Herd) and find in a page or two a survey of more than 250 years of public records regarding that property. The farms (Herde) are arranged according to Vogtei, which in English literally translates to the somewhat archaic “bailiwick,” meaning the area supervised by a particular bailiff, or Vogt. (Similarly, in England, a Sheriff, or Shire-Reeve, provided law enforcement for a single Shire.)
Each Vogtei will have several villages in it, which sometimes have actual village centers, with small parcels for local tradesmen and merchants. Sometimes these villages are really just a couple of family farms clumped together, and sometimes they are no more than a loose collection of farms in the same general area, without an actual center to the “village.”
So the farms (Herde) in Heyken’s work are organized into villages, within Vogteien. Each farm is assigned a number within its village.
The original records, as might be imagined, were kept more chronologically, so the records from (for example) the Graf’s 1688 volume might include entries for farms from many villages in all the different Vogteienwhichever properties changed hands that year. (Not every parcel changed hands every year; a record was made only when the parcel changed hands and the tax was paid.)
Heyken, for convenience, lists all the entries for a particular property (Herd) together, but indicates, on each entry for that Herd, in which volume of records that entry can be found.
Heyken also includes, very helpfully, an exhaustive and well-thought cross-index of all names mentioned in all records. This makes it much easier to determine whether a particular person involved in the story of one farm was also involved with any other farms.
Heyken’s two volumes are available exclusively in German, but they may be of great interest to historical and biographical researchers in the U.S. and other countries who do not speak German.
Some notes are provided here, in English, to make these records more accessible to English speakers. These are intended to augment the original books, not replace them, and will make more sense side by side with the German volumes.
In addition, some further notes and interpretations are made here, extending beyond the simple faithful transcription in the Heyken volumes. Heyken (and Mammen) had a huge job already just in publishing the old record. Other than occasional footnotes suggesting connections and corrections in some places, the Weinkaufsprotokolle as published is without analysis or interpretation. This, then, becomes a foundation for further thought and discussion, explicating the implications of the record, especially as coupled with the Regemort map.
Some of these considerations can be found in the following pages.