Prequel to The Groelinger-Mergen Family of Holsthum, Germany

Before I share the story of my 4th great-grandparents Johann GROELINGER (1766-1840) and Anna Maria Benedikta MERGEN (1769-1829) I need to go into a bit of detail on the life of Johann’s parents and the place they lived and worked.

Peter MERTSCHERT (1732-1768) of Röhl married Susanna “Anna” SCHNEIDER  (1737-1778) on 27 January 1753 in Holsthum. The marriage most likely had to be approved by the Vogt of the Schneiders-Vogtei.

What was a Vogt and a Vogtei?

The Vogt or overlord exerted guardianship or military protection as well as secular justice over a certain territory or area of responsibility called a Vogtei. The Schneiders-Vogtei was one of fifteen smaller farms (Hof=farm, Höfe pl.) of the larger Hof Schankweiler which comprised the present-day villages of Schankweiler and Holsthum. Hof Schankweiler was under the rule of Herschaft Bourscheid (Luxembourg) at the end of the 17th century.

The Vogtei holders (Inhaber) were similar to vassals in feudal service who could use the fief as long as they were loyal to the overlord. They were entitled to a limited use of the property owned by the lord. They were serfs and not allowed to make decisions for themselves and their children without the consent of the lord. They could not leave the fief without consent or marry off their children at their own discretion. But on the other hand, without grave reasons, they could not be deprived of the property they worked and many families were holders of a Vogtei for decades if not for a century or two.

The lease on the land was transferred by legal means to the oldest-born, or to the child married during the lifetime of the parents with the consent of the lord. The younger children, who were actually servants and maids, were only entitled to a kind of apanage. This was determined by the parents, or relatives if the parents were deceased, and came from the furniture and other household goods, excluding the farm equipment and livestock.

This approach, perceived as unfair today, ensured the existence of economically sound farms. The Vogtei holders were able to afford, without any particular difficulty, the taxes on their farms. Despite serfdom, the holders of the property prospered and their coffers were filled not only with linens and other materials but also jewelry and thalers.

Peter’s surname was MERTSCHERT before his marriage. However, with the marriage to Susanna, he became the Inhaber (holder) of the Schneiders-Vogtei and used his wife’s maiden name SCHNEIDER. As the actual records (birth, baptism, marriage, death, burial) for this extended family group have not been viewed, it is at this point difficult to say how their children were named in the records.

Peter and Susanna’s family

Peter and Susanna were the parents of five children. Their first, Gertrud born in 1754, lived less than five months. Margaretha was born in 1757, Peter in 1759, and Johann in 1762. Their youngest child, also named Johann, was born on 8 May 1766 on the Schneiders-Vogtei, as were all his siblings.

The 1766 census is important to the story of the youngest son of Peter and Susanna born on the Schneiders-Vogtei the same year.

1766 Census listing for the Schneider family in Holsthum in the parish of Schankweiler. Luxembourg, Dénombrement, 1766 (images), FamilySearch (original records at Archives Générales du Royaume, Bruxelles), Film/DGS 1781975 > Film # 008198977 > Decanat de Bittbourg v. 1 A-K: > Holtzthumb (paroisse de Schouweiler) > Image 599 of 753. Schneider family. ( : accessed 10 November 2017).

Note: The town names in the 1766 census collection do not always match the spelling used today and some names were not indexed correctly. The citation above includes the incorrect spelling of the parish. If the link is changed or broken then to get to the image we need to follow FamilySearch’s incorrect naming of the parish of Schankweiler, i.e. Schouweiler. On the actual pages of the census it is written Schauweiler on images 592 and 593 and Schanckwei…r (missing letters in the gutter) on image 594.

When the census was taken in 1766 Johann’s family was living together with his mother Susanna’s mother Margaretha WAXWEILER and stepfather Matthias KRIPPES who, like Susanna’s husband, was going by the SCHNEIDER surname. Interesting to note here is the occupation of the head of household. Enumerated in French, the occupation was tailleur or tailor which is also the translation of the name and/or occupation Schneider.  Also in the household were a few of Susanna’s half-sisters. Susanna’s step-father may have been a younger brother or cousin of Peter KRIPPES, holder of the Krippes-Vogtei in Schankweiler.

Peter MERTSCHERT died on 20 February 1768 in Holsthum. His widow Susanna remarried only a month after her husband’s death on 24 March 1768 to Johann BARTZEN. With this marriage, Johann BARTZEN became the new holder of the Schneiders-Vogtei. Johann and Susanna had a daughter Eva ten months later. This daughter would also later be found in records with the GROELINGER surname when she gave birth to an illegitimate daughter in 1793.

Susanna SCHNEIDER died in October 1778 and her widower Johann BARTZEN married the following month. This makes me wonder if the owner or the manager of the larger Hof Schankweiler may have been playing matchmaker with the families living on the fifteen smaller farms since the marriages took place so soon after the deaths of the holders of the Schneiders-Vogtei.

There were no other families in the area named GRELINGER or GROELINGER but the Familienbuch der ehemaligen Pfarrei Schankweiler mit dem Pfarrort Schankweiler und den Filialen Holsthum und Peffingen (Familienbuch Schankweiler) indicates the family of Peter MERTSCHERT and Susanna SCHNEIDER also went by the name GRELINGER as seen in their son’s marriage record in 1798 where the father of the groom’s surname was given as GROELINGEN alias MERTSCHERT.

Skimming through the Familienbuch Schankweiler, I found at least one mention of a family where a man married into a Vogtei from another village. He went by his wife’s (Vogtei) name and at times by the surname his father was known by in his native village after the marriage.

Seeing this I wonder if Peter MERTSCHERT’s family of Röhl may have later gone by the GRELINGEN name which I have seen in other family books with a slight variation of spelling as coming from Röhl. Richard Schaffner is working on the family book of Sülm including Röhl and Scharfbillig. Once it is available, I may learn more about the MERTSCHERT family and if they also went by the name GRELINGEN, GROELINGEN, KRELINGEN, or KRALINGEN.

Hopefully, this prequel will help clear up any confusion there may be about the surnames used by the family of my 4th great-grandfather Johann GROELINGEN alias MERTSCHERT in my next post.

Werner Neumann, Familienbuch der ehemaligen Pfarrei Schankweiler mit dem Pfarrort Schankweiler und den Filialen Holsthum und Peffingen, p. I-III, Foreword to the book.

© 2017, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.