Prussian land records as a genealogical source

Land books (Grundbuch) and land files (Grundakten) are a valuable and at the same time not very popular source for genealogical research. In Prussia, on December 20, 1783, a general mortgage ordinance was issued, according to which the acquisition of ownership rights could only take place through an entry in the land and mortgage register, and the contract itself had to be concluded in court. The next legal acts regulating the legal status of real estate in Germany were the Land Registry Ordinance of May 5, 1872 and March 24, 1897. Pursuant to the 1897 ordinance, land registers were kept by appropriate departments of circuit courts (Amtsgeriche). Within the town, each property was marked with a number, according to the cadastre. The above-mentioned regulation of 1897 also listed land records (Grundakten) and determined what they should contain. In Prussia, peasants were enfranchised at the beginning of the 19th century. Land records were kept for the lands they received and there we can find a summary record of the history of a given property. Each property was passed on to descendants, sold or taken over by the state. Any changes had to be recorded in the land records. Therefore, we will find subsequent owners there, often all their heirs along with their dates of birth. In addition, you will find there the mortgage marking of the property, its area, pledges and loans, information about divisions and many other details.

Separate files (grundakten) are attached to land records. There you will find all the documents on the basis of which the changes were made. There may be wills, death certificates, sales contracts, maps, bank documents, official documents, correspondence with offices, notarial deeds, certificates, etc.

Land records continued after Poland regained independence. Then they began to be gradually replaced by land and mortgage registers. However, to this day most of them contain up-to-date records, so in many cases they are still in use and can be found in court archives. Therefore, to conduct research in these sources, you must obtain court consent. Then we have to make an appointment and set aside a whole day to search, because even if there are indexes of owners, these are the last owners. That’s why you need to look through all the properties in a given town. The photo shows 9 volumes for the village of Trzeciewnica, where we found our client’s property. The next step is tax cadastres, old maps and a whole range of documents that will not reach the state archives for a long time. Similar books were also kept in the Austrian and Russian partitions.

Do you want to know the fate of your family based on land records?