Hurray! A Farmer In The Family!

It is always great if you can find more about an ancestor than just the basic data like date and place of birth. Noble ancestors are really great because they tend to leave more records. However, only seldom do we have the luck to find such an ancestor. Fortunately, there is another group of people that can leave lots of interesting trails in the archives: farmers.

Farmers usually start out as an insignificant farmhand. However, as they grow older, many of them start their own farm, and then it gets interesting. A farm involves property. There usually is the farm building itself with one or more barns, there is land to grow crops on or pasture the cattle, there are tools, machines, and animals. All these possessions leave their trails in the archives.

First of all, a farmer usually has a detailed will, specifying how the farm, cattle, and land should be divided among the kids after his death. These wills usually include detailed lists of buildings, land (with cadastral references), cash, and cattle.

To give you an idea, this is a list I recently found for a client (translated from Dutch):

  • 10 horses.
  • 29 cows, young and old.
  • 2 pigs with piglets.
  • 30 chickens.
  • 2453 guilders in cash (today about € 122,600 or US$ 158,000).
  • Meadows in Klein Zuid inherited from his first wife.
  • Meadows inherited from his parents.
  • Meadows bought from Kornelis Schipper, Adam Walter, and Dirk Groen.
  • A farm with land at the Oude Uitslag van Putten, bought in 1829 from the heirs of Klaas Maartens Braat.

Second, farmers tend to buy and sell land to get better pastures and fields, or to expand the farm. Such transactions are all registered at a notary and usually contain detailed descriptions and cadastral information.

And third, you can look up the farm and the land that belonged to it in the cadastral archives. Sometimes the farm still exists or old photographs of it can be found.

So should you ever hit upon a farmer, congratulations! Do you already know of a farmer among your ancestors and want to know more? I would be happy to dive in the archives to see what we can turn op for you. Just send me a research request with the details.