German Genealogy Tip #32: A Married Couple Usually Lived in the Husband’s Hometown

November 1, 2014 Josiah Schmidt German Genealogy Tips

Source: Library of Congress. No copyright.

Source: Library of Congress. No copyright.

In pre-20th century Germany, individuals usually married others who lived nearby, but every so often, a man and a wife from different towns were united in marriage. When this happened, the woman usually went to live with the man’s family, and rarely the other way around.

There are a few reasons for this:

  1. If a man had Bürger status (citizenship in a town), it was not transferable to other towns. If he moved to another town and he wanted Bürger status, he would have to go through all the arduous legal processes to get a new Bürger status in that town.
  2. A man was granted a right to practice a certain occupation. German towns regulated how many shoemakers, carpenters, barrel makers, etc. there could be. Trades like these were typically coveted, and it would have been difficult for a new resident to come to town and acquire the right to a well-paying occupation.
  3. When a woman moved to a new town to marry a man, it was a much simpler legal process: they would usually just need to get the permission of the town’s Gericht (council).
  4. Men typically only moved to new towns during times of war, famine, or plague when matters became desperate and local authority structures weakened. When an area was destroyed by an invading army or decimated by the Plague, there was little need to consult or worry about getting permissions from councils, mayors, or barons. During those times, people did what they could to survive.

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