People Anglians, Frisians, Dithmarschers, Probsteiers

The Anglians

The first thing that comes to one's mind encountering the name of this people is the term "the Anglo-Saxons". It was the Anglians and their Saxonian neighbours who in about 450 AD began a migration to England that lasted some 100 years. The land they conquered and defended against the Picts and the Scots was named after the land they had left: Angeln-land, land of the Anglians, Anglia, England.
Danish people from southern Sweden and Denmark filled the deserted settlements of the Anglians, mixing with those who had stayed behind. From the south, Saxonian neighbours spread into the land. But Anglia remained sparsely populated.
Anglia's history in the Middle Ages is the history of the Duchy Schleswig, of which it was part. Its inhabitants had no history of their own that made them stand out from the rest of the duchy. They did farming and fishing, paying their dues to the lord on whose land they had built their houses, be it the King of Denmark, a nobleman, a monastery or a bishop.
The free landowners, called "Bonden", lived on their own ground, and paid taxes only to the king himself. They were also the ones who manned the "Ding", the court of a "Harde" (an administrative district), that came together every second Saturday. The trial was held under the open sky, and was a public affair. The "Hardesvogt", appointed by the king, headed the judicial hearing, but the "Bonden" were the judges. As not all of them could participate in a hearing, they sent their representatives, called "Naeffninger" in Danish, or "Naeven" in Low German (Plattdeutsch). The common name Naeve or Neve is derived from this office. On this occasion: Vogt, like in "Hardesvogt, Bauervogt, Kirchspielsvogt, Dingvogt, etc."., from Latin "vocatus", means appointed by higher authority, installed in an office. Also a common name in Schleswig-Holstein.

Back to the Anglians themselves, as this judicial system was not specifically theirs, but was applied in the whole duchy of Schleswig, to my knowledge.
Many of them were born in bondage, they were serfs. Serfdom resulted from a certain contempt of manual labor, especially if oneself had to do it. Schleswig-Holstein's aristocracy had begun, back in the early 11th century, to volunteer for the king's army, as it was obvious that a farmer could not leave his land alone, just to go for a crusade against whoever. The farmer would buy himself out of these obligations by paying additional taxes. Thus, the young and not so young men of noble descent became the king's favorite knights, professional warriors. They asked land and priviliges in return, which were granted to them. They were free of ordinary duties, and held the right of jurisdiction in their estates. Their land was farmed by the poor landless class who kept for themselves, or were given, merely what they needed to survive. These subjects, that is what they were, had no right to move freely, and their children were born into the same conditions that their parents had had to accept. But the system gave also a certain degree of security, as everything was organized, in a reliable way, from baptism to funeral. The serfs never could lay up any savings, so their manor lord took care of their hazards of life, like marriage, sickdom and old age. Bondage was abolished during the 18th century, and the domains that belonged to the king himself were divided into farms for the people who had worked that land all their lives. This land reform brought mutual benefit: taxes for the king, and property for the formerly landless. The serfs in the estates that were in private hands or domains of a monastery were released, choosing to stay as paid workers or to try their luck elsewhere.

Common surnames in Anglia, with Danish influence: Ketelsen, Truelsen, Tychsen, Schwensen, Ohlsen, Kallisen, Boernsen. With rather German influence: Bahnsen, Dierksen, Lueders, Ivers, Tamm, Timm, Vollert, to name a few.
Derived from biblical names: Peters, Jansen, Hansen, Jepsen, Jappen, Jakobsen, Andresen, Andersen, Matzen, Thiessen, Greggers, Michelsen, Brix, Lau, Mau, Marx, Asmussen, Lassen, Nissen, Nielsen.

Names of places that end with -by or -up are common in Anglia, but not exclusively there.

Anglia covers an area of only 850, 60,000 people lived there in 1910. (Sorry, no more recent figures at the moment.)
In the 18th century, its southern half spoke German (Low German, Plattdeutsch), its northern half spoke Danish and German (Low German).
The biggest town: Kappeln. Other towns: Gluecksburg and Arnis, which is said to be Germany's smallest town, with only 523 souls in the year 1970.
Major villages: Suederbrarup, Satrup and Sterup.
The people live mainly of agriculture.

The Frisians (the North-Frisians)

They live along the west coast of Schleswig-Holstein, the Eiderstedt-peninsula and on the North Sea islands. Archeological artefacts from the eighth century prove a close relation with the West- and the East-Frisians, who lived along the Dutch coast and the western half of the coast of what is now called Lower Saxony (Niedersachsen). The ever present threat of floods forced them to build dykes. The fertile but waterlogged marshes were drained by a sophisticated system of ditches and locks.

They were farmers, fishermen, boatmen, and apt whalers, some years ago. They also had a special method of extracting salt from the peat that falls dry in ebb-tide, a thick layer of ancient vegetation under the sea-bottom, of the times when the North Sea was a forest (ice-age).

Their language is almost extinct today. It is an old Germanic one, not a German dialect. Efforts are undertaken to preserve it. It is not understood by people from outside their culture.

The Frisians never seemed to have a political vein, and never thrived to establish a state of their own. One or two singular attempts, in times when tendencies of nationalism and independence prevailed in our country, failed due to the lack of enthusiasm in the Frisian population. They were known to very much mind their own businesses. Their orientation was towards the west, where the North Sea was, rather than inward, into Schleswig and Holstein. They paid their dues to the Danish king or his officials, expecting to be left alone in return.

The North Sea was the provider and the gateway for most of what they had and what they did, and for what was of vital importance to them: the trade with other people along the coasts, the fishing grounds, the arctic waters swarming with whales. It provided a job for many a young seaman, and the Frisians were not known to remain cabin-boys for a long time. Knowing the sea and how to sail a boat, they were sought after seafarers, and they brought riches back to their islands and their coastal harbors, as captains and owners of ships.

The North Sea was also a way of escape in harder times, and it was not unheard of that families left their home aboard their own vessels, emigrating to the Americas. Coming back the year after, for a visit, while "in the area". Or to pick up some relatives who may have taken a little longer to make up their mind. There is hardly a Frisian family on the islands without relatives in America. The Frisians living on the mainland were a bit more rooted in the soil that their forefathers had gained in continuous struggle from the sea.

The islands that have or had Frisian population: Sylt, Föhr (Foehr), Amrum, Pellworm, Nordstrand, Helgoland (Heligoland), and the ten so called "Halligen": Langeness, Hooge, Gröde (Groede), Nordstrandischmoor, Oland, Süderoog (Suederoog), Südfall (Suedfall), Norderoog, Habel, and the Hamburger Hallig.
Towns in the administrative district Nordfriesland: Husum, Niebüll (Niebuell), Bredstedt, Tönning (Toenning), Garding, Wyk (island Föhr), Westerland (island Sylt) and Friedrichstadt. Leck with more than 7000 inhabitants and St. Peter-Ording are villages worth mentioning.

Of the 150 000 people in this district, less than half would call themselves Frisians. This is due to the fact that the district covers large parts of the higher mainland, too, of which only the fringes, overlooking the wide marshlands, were initially places of Frisian settlement.
Today, farming and tourism are the main sources of income for these people.

The Dithmarschers

When around the year 800 AD most of the migrations of people in the area of today's Schleswig-Holstein had come to an end, the Saxonian tribe that lived north of the Elbe-River had split into three sections: the Holsaten (Holsten), the Stormaren, and the Dithmarschers.
The latter settled in the west of the country, at the North Sea coast. When during the summers there was no threat of severe floods, they lived also on tiny islands just off the coast. They may have got there on dry feet, during ebb-tide. Continuously connecting these so-called "Warften" with dams, a system of dykes resulted, that would have been flooded by the rising tides, but also held back sediments when the waters ebbed away. Not discouraged by high water that destroyed what they had built, they used their skills and their united manpower for pushing the shores of the North Sea outward, thus gaining fertile land and protection of floods during the course of the centuries. As these tasks could not be achieved by a handful of men alone, they organized themselves in clans ("Geschlechter"), the members of which were not necessarily related with each other. The clans grew strong feelings of belonging and unity, nourished by the experience of successfully mastering tasks as a group, be they of technical, administrative, judical or military nature. Pride in themselves and rivalry with other clans soon led to the situation that in fact the clan members all became related with each other, through intermarriage. The dyking still goes on today, the era of the clans was over in the 16th century.

Proud of their achievements that no king nor other ruler had played a part in, it will be understood that the Dithmarschers grew a strong sense of independence. Their early masters, in the 11th to the 13th century, lived on the other side of the Elbe-River, in Stade and Bremen. They were tolerated by the Dithmarschers as long as the dues they had to deliver were not too heavy. The last duke in Dithmarschen, Rudolf II, Duke of Stade, was slain in 1144 in Burg.
A number of changing rulers followed after that, from the Archbishop of Bremen to the Danish King. But the Dithmarschers had developped their own system of administration, in clans, in parishes, and in five larger districts that were headed by local judges and aldermen. In 1447, they established their own parliament, consisting of 48 judges or regents, who came together in Heide every Saturday, as the government of a Free Dithmarschen Republic.

On three nameworthy occasions, they defended their independence against the assaults of Holsteiner and Danish nobility who claimed their right to rule over the country: in 1319 (battle of Oldenwöhrden), in 1404 (battle in the Hamme), and in 1500 (battle of Hemmingstedt). In particular, the battle that was fought in the year 1500 near Hemmingstedt is commemorated and glorified. The Danish and the Schleswig-Holsteiner aristocracy were shamed by an army of farmers, who not only defeated a contingent of 4,000 experienced mercenaries, the Black Guard, but also slew most of the knights of noble descent, a strike that meant the end of many a noble blood-line. Hans, King of Denmark and Duke of Holstein, had a narrow escape.

It was only 59 years later, in 1559, that the Dithmarscher Republic was subjugated. An army four times their own number forced them to bow their heads before the Danish King. He granted them some privileges in trade and administration, and reduced the indemnity by half - well knowing that he had to leave them a bit of their spirit and their possessions in order to let the people recover, to become obedient taxpayers and reliable subjects of the Danish Crown.

In 1825, another severe flood hit the North Sea coast, killing 500 people, 45,000 head of cattle, and destroying 2,400 buildings. Dithmarschen was badly struck, in spite of all efforts put into dyking. Many of the younger folks decided to emigrate. Was it maybe due to their letters home that, in the course of the century, Dithmarschen became a region with a percentage of emigrants far beyond the average ?

Of Dithmarschen's about 137,000 inhabitants today, more than 20,000 live in Heide, some 14,000 in the industrial Brunsbüttel, about 8,000 in Meldorf, 6,000 in Marne, and 3,300 in Wesselburen. Those are the names of the towns.

Main sources of income: agriculture (cabbage, cereals, turnips), cattle (cows, oxen, sheep), tourism along the coast, and industry (oil-refinery).

The Probsteiers

They live in a small area east of Kiel, and 10 miles north of Preetz. Duchy Holstein, formerly.
Parishes: Schönberg and Probsteierhagen.
Villages: Laboe, Stein, Wentorf, Barsbek, Wisch, Passade, Brodersdorf, Prasdorf, Krokau, Lutterbek, Fiefbergen, Stakendorf, Krummbek, Gödersdorf, Bendfeld, and Höhndorf.
Predominant names there:
Arp, Ewoldt, Finck, Göttsch, Klindt, Lamp, Lage, Muhs, Puck, Schneekloth, Sindt, Sinjen, Stoltenberg, Stelck, Steffen, Stuhr, Untiedt, Vöge, and Wiese, to name a few.
Many descendants of emigrants will find their roots in this area.

The colonisation of this area began in the 13th century. Between 1246 and 1250, the provost of the monastery in Preetz , Friedrich, called settlers into the area. One theory goes that they came from around Harsefeld, some 20 miles southwest of Hamburg. Friedrich had been in office there before he was installed as provost in Preetz. The Probsteiers were known to speak a peculiar dialect of Low German (Plattdeutsch), and used words that were untypical of the area in eastern Holstein. Linguists would point to an area along the Elbe-river, which would strongly support the theory about Harsefeld as their origin. So I heard and read.

They paid their dues to the monastery in Preetz. As the provost himself was in charge of them, their region became known as the "Probstei". Surrounded by the waters of the Baltic Sea and the Kiel frith on two sides, their other neighbours were the inhabitants of large estates, where serfdom prevailed. They were looked upon with contempt by the Probsteiers. Intermarriage with any of them was unthinkable. That is the reason why only a dozen of names prevailed in that secluded area.

As the land they cultivated was fertile, and the dues they had to pay were more than bearable, the farmers ("Hufner") lived in good standards. Many children were born and grew up healthy and strong. Overpopulation resulted. There was not enough farmland for the boys to go round. Only the youngest son in a farmer's family was eligible to inherit his father's farm. His older brothers were practically disinherited through the birth and growth of a younger male sibling. They would try to marry into a vacancy, a farm with no male heir, or to buy a farm in the area. Needless to say, this could only be achieved by very few of them. The others became cottagemen or dayworkers. A cottageman
("Kaetner, Kaethner", from Kate = cottage) tilled a small portion of a farmer's land, providing his labour in return. The dayworkers or residents owned no land to plough, no cow to milk. They worked on the farms as long as there was something to do, taking their quarters in the farm. The quarter came with the job. They were called "Einwohner", which translates literally to resident. They would usually do little crafty things in times when the farmers had no tasks for them. As they paid rent for their poor domicile, they needed money, anyway. They had no say in the village affairs. It was mainly from this class that the majority of emigrants stemmed from. The other contingent was the young farmers boys who could get no land to farm, and who were too proud to become a cobbler or a weaver. Attracted by the offer of free land in the prairies of America, they took their lawful share of the family's farm plus what they had managed to save, and joined the steady stream of emigrants, hoping to find in America or Australia what they would never see here in the land of their fathers: a farm, standing on their own ground.



Preetzer Wochenblatt Nr. 24, Sonnabend, den 13. Juni 1846
(Preetzer Weekly Magazine, number 24, of Saturday, 13th June, 1846)

[summarized by Klaus Struve,]

page 281 : Of the Probstei, belonging to the monastery in Preetz :

The Emigration to America

It must be seen as a remarkable process, given the affinity for their native land, that so many Probsteiers were the first noteworthy group of emigrants from Holstein to America. But taking into account, that, according to the 1845 census, there lived 7,681 souls on a space of merely 1 1/3 sqare miles, one has to wonder why not so many more have left their overpopulated homeland until now. In spite of the dense population, the majority of the Probsteiers have managed to get by, by working in different yearly employments as far away as the Eiderstedt-peninsula, and the Danish islands of Seeland and Fuehnen, keeping a low standard of living there while away, and bringing home some small savings. That yearly "emigration for jobs" is a trait that the Probsteiers have long since got used to. Only 50 years ago, many of them, called "Hollandgaenger", went to work in Holland even. Thus it does not seem to make too much of a difference for many of them, alienated of their native land by their long absence, whether they migrate to Denmark or to America. Many more would have gone already, if only they had sufficient funds to pay for their and their families' passage. Those who did go did so with hopes of being able to buy some land over there right away, or of finding a rewarding job, and making enough money to buy their own patch of land soon after.

Seeing public announcements and rumors that now around 150 Probsteiers are about to leave for America, one must say that this figure appears highly exaggerated. Up to date, only 37 persons have been known to seek a better fortune in America, 20 from the parish Schoenberg, and 17 from the parish Probsteierhagen. Seven or eight years ago, Hinrich Viet, a laborer from Prasdorf, emigrated, with his savings that he had gained by thrift and eagerness. It was due to his reports back home, and also to the report of a Holsteiner who had lived not far from him for 11 months, saying how well he was doing and getting on, that others were incited to follow his example. Hinrich Viet had arrived in Iowa, where already several Holsteiners had established their homes. The land there is very fertile and suitable for a great variety of crops.

In August last year, 9 people followed him into the New World, namely :

1-3) a young economist named Hagge, son of the teacher in Prasdorf, with his wife, only just married, and his sister
4-6) the cottage-farmer Asmus Kuehl, well in his fifties, with his wife and his mother- in-law, 72 years old
7) the carpenter Schneekloth from Prasdorf
8, 9) two brothers of the above-mentioned, Claus Viet, a weaver, and Dittmer Viet, a laborer, also from Prasdorf.

All of them moved to Iowa, except the carpenter Schneekloth, who remained in Canada. They had had a strenuous journey from New York, partly on water, partly overland. The old woman (Asmus Kuehl's mother-in-law) died in St. Louis and was buried there. The young Hagge has already bought land, horses, cows, and seedcorn, and is expecting a plentiful crop of wheat and corn. They say when spreading the seedcorn sparsely, a fifty-fold harvest may result.

In March of this year, 5 people from the parish Schoenberg left through Hamburg :

1-3) Hinrich Mundt, a cooper from Stakendorf, with his wife and his brother Claus
4) Hans Wiese, a young man from Krumbeck, agricultural laborer
5) the shipwright Peter Stoltenberg from Wisch.

On the 10th of May this year, the largest group so far emigrated, consisting of 22 persons :

1-3) August Petersen, a 57 ½ year old laborer, with his wife and a daughter, 6 years old
4, 5) Hinrich Moeller, 50, from Krumbeck, a carpenter, with his young bride of 21 years
6) the weaver Hans Stoltenberg from Fiefbergen, about 30 years old
7) Jochim Plambeck from Schoenberg, 26, an experienced rural worker
8) the glazier Peter Wiese from Schoenberg
9) Jochim Steffens from Wisch, 42 years old, who is said to have saved a fortune of 600 to 700 Reichsthaler over the years
10) the (wood-) turner Peter Muhs from Barsbeck, 40 years old
11) the weaver Hinrich Steffens, 29, from Krumbeck
12-14) the brothers Claus, Hinrich, and Peter Puck from Barsbeck, 46, 35, and 30 years old, respectively, who all have had long stays on the Danish island Seeland, and, by thrift and diligence, saved a little fortune, which they are planning to spend for establishing themselves
15) Wiebke Efflandt from Wisch, a single woman, 23 ½ years old.

Apart from these 15 of the parish Schoenberg, there were 7 more from the parish Probsteierhagen :

16-18) Hinrich Wiese, tailor from Lutterbek, with his wife and a child
19-21) Asmus Viet, shoemaker from Prasdorf, a brother of the above-mentioned, with his wife and a daughter, 10 years old
22) his (Asmus') brother-in-law Claus Arp from Laboe.
All of these are heading for Iowa, where they hope to buy land, or, the craftsmen amongst them, expect to find a good income, without buying land. They left the 16th May from Hamburg, arrived safely in Hull, and on the 23rd, set off for Quebec. From there, they will travel on the St. Lorenz River, the Great Lakes, and finally the Mississippi River, that will lead them to their countrymen in Iowa.

Our best wishes are sent to accompany those who are leaving, and we extend them to those who have already arrived in America. May none of them nourish sanguine hopes, and may none of them build castles in the air ! May they take along with them into the New World the diligence they know, and the good habits and moral values of their native land. May they not forget the saying that is valid in Holstein as well as in America :
"In the sweat of your brow, you shall eat your bread."
And may forthcoming generations give testimony of this.

Postscript :

With the last group of Probsteiers traveled, from outside the Probstei :

1-6) the farm-tenant Schroeder from Matzwitz, with his wife and four children
7-10) his brother-in-law, Scheel, fisherman from Todendorf, with his wife and two children
11, 12) his (whose ? Schroeder ? Scheel ?) aged parents-in-law.
These people took along with them a considerable sum of money that will enable them to purchase a good deal of land.

So it is a total of 49 persons so far who have left the north-east of Schleswig-Holstein for the transatlantic mainland - a remarkable process in the life of our people, whose hearts and minds are touched and excited, and, should the news from abroad continue to be favorable, will entail a much bigger one of its' kind.