Tag Archives: Prussia

Prussian Social Hierarchy

Cathy Walters, who had sent me the very valuable information on Martin Schulz and his family from the Trinity Lutheran Church in Elgin, Minnesota, also sent me this email about Prussian social hierarchy.  She told me it would be ok to share it, and I found it very informative:

We tend to think of love and then marriage, but back in that time and in that place, they were mostly marriages of convenience.  Fathers married off their daughters, perhaps keeping one to take care of them in old age.  Some of these girls would then marry after their parents died, but not all families did this.  Brothers at times played the middleman, or if the father had died they would become he head of the family and it was their responsibility to secure marriages.  A dowery was given, but after a time.  It functioned almost like an insurance policy to make sure the marriage was working.   If the family had any money or land it would go to the eldest son at some point, so depending the family’s situation it was usually best to find husbands for daughters.  The younger sons may get some small amount of whatever money or property there was upon the death of the parents, but in general they had to make their own way in life and could not count on any inheritance.  If a father remarried, the children from his first marriage would be protected. 
You could not own the king’s land or any land in town.  Rather, you would rent and pay to make a living.  You would have to donate time, or a portion of your grain, or use of your facilities (if you owned a shop or mill, for example).  It was similar if you were on a noble’s land, everything was contracted.  If, however, a nobleman falls on hard times, Germans would have the first chance to buy his lands.  Only those belonging to the more affluent or nobel classes would try to raise their social standing.  If a man only had daughters, his eldest daughter may increase her social standing through marriage, but the rewards of this increased status would go to her husband.
Mayors on the king’s land were voted in and would get paid more on an annual basis.  Mayors elsewhere may inherit the position, but had to pay for the privilege.  If the mayor died then his son had a chance to buy or sell the job.  The mayor was a top position in social life.
The social hierarchy went as follows: Shepherds on the bottom, then teachers.  A farm owner with own stock is in second highest standing, then mayors.  Going up the social ladder didn’t necessarily mean you were wealthy, just more settled in your life’s position.  My grandfather said he “would rather a son be a pastor than a teacher”, but back in the homeland that pastor or lay person may be an teacher too or a grave-digger.  After 8th grade (age 14) one could be an teacher.  Later you had to be a student teacher for 3 to 6 months (around the 1860’s?).  Teachers before 1772 may not have had to do the obligatory military service.  In Poland, Frederich wanted injured soldiers to be teachers, and thus give these disabled veterans a way to earn a living.

She also added this little bit of information about the Zierke family name:

Zierke is slovic and came from Strals about 1290 A.D. as “Ziricke” and “Sirics”.  There is a Lake Zierker near Neustrelitz.  You may see the name spelled “Sierk” or “Sierich”. 

Schmidt Family – Online Berlin Evangelical Records

I have received an email from a man named Engelbart Rolf from a website that has church records from Posen.  He was letting me know that the Zierkes actually didn’t live in Posen (Jastrowie is in West Prussia, just over the border from Posen).  I have written him back asking about the Schmidts who lived in Gornitz and Wirsitz.

Evangelisches Zentralarchiv in Berlin Kirchenbuchstelle

Rolf Engelbart

Bethaniendamm 29, 10997 Berlin
Tel. 030 / 22 50 45 34
Fax 030 / 22 50 45 40
eMail: rolf.engelbart@ezab.de
Internet: http://www.ezab.de

Wilhelm Schmidt, Emil and Otto Prielipp

Otto Prielipp was a German/Prussian immigrant who came to the US in 1922.  In 1923, my great-great-grandfather Wilhelm Schmidt paid $164.98 for Otto’s brother Emil Prielipp come to the US from Germany/Prussia.  [Gornitz was in the Prussian Province of Posen, but I believe technically after WWI it was considered Germany.]  Both men worked in the paper mill with my great-grandfather Edwin Schmidt, and both lived on Grand Avenue in Rothschild, Wisconsin(as the Schmidt family did).  Gloria and Kay Johnson were friends with the Prielipp daughters.  It’s not clear if Wilhelm also paid for Otto to come to the US.

Ticket for Emil Prielipp to the US from Gornitz, Prussia.

On the passenger record for Emil Prielipp it gives his home town as “Gornitz, Ashebude, Germany”.  Gornitz is the town where Wilhelm was living from November, 1884 until he came to the US in the second half of 1885.  “Ashebude” (actually Ascherbude) is a small town near Gornitz.  Emil sailed aboard the “Albert Ballin” from Hamburg, Germany on 8 Nov 1923, arriving in New York harbor on 18 November.  His destination was listed as “Rothschild, Wisconsin”, and his father was listed as Hermann Prielipp, and his trade as “blacksmith”.

Emil Prielipp passenger list, 1923

Emil’s brother Otto left Gornitz in 1922 on board the “SS Mount Carroll” which sailed from Hamburg, Germany on 29 Jun 1922 and arrived in New York on 11 Jul 1922.  Otto was listed as a “Farm Laborer”, father Hermann Prielipp of Gornitz, and with a destination of Wausau, Wisconsin.

Otto Prielipp Passenger List, 1922

Otto Prielipp passenger list, 1922

I’ve asked Gloria to try to get me in contact with Otto’s daughters.  My hope is that they know something about the relationship between their father/uncle and Wilhelm Schmidt, and perhaps even have some knowledge (even if it’s just family stories) about Gornitz.

UPDATE:  From further records discovered by Doris Winkelmann Sonntag and Marlena Krzemińska, we now suspect that Emil Prielipp was the grandson of Hannah Auguste Friedericke “Friedericke” Winkelmann, who was the sister to my 3x great-grandmother Wilhelmine Winkelmann. So Wilhelm Schmidt may have been paying for the passage of his first cousin, once removed. It seems probable that Emil’s father Hermann was Wilhelm’s first cousin, and may have written to Wilhelm to ask for help getting his two sons to the US.