On the occasion of Labor Day, I thought I would try and explain at least one of the many occupations that our ancestors claimed as their own and how that life may have appeared. The most predominant occupation that I have discovered for our ancestors is that of farmers. This is especially true for ancestors before 1900 who all lived in Europe. Being farmers should be of no surprise because agriculture and farming was the leading occupation for most during these times. A look at the occupations that I have discovered shows farmers for the past 300+ years. Instead of covering all that time, I am going to focus on some of our oldest ancestors who were peasant farmers in 18th Century Europe, in the region which is now in and around Serbia.
I cannot be 100% certain that all of these ancestors were farmers and will probably never be able to confirm this. However, all four of these ancestors have one thing in common (besides being my ancestors). They all emigrated from their homelands during the 18th century to this region.
The ancestors and their families that I will be talking about are as follows (all part of my maternal line):
Joseph Morlock (6th Great Grandfather), village of Filipowa or Backi Bracac
Johann Adam Teppert (6th Great Grandfather) village of Apatin
Rupert Csihas (6th great Grandfather), village of Batschsentiwan or Prigrevica
All of these ancestors were of German decent, three of which I can trace back to modern day Germany. So maybe a brief history covering how, I believe, these ancestors became farmers in a region which, today, we do not typically think of as German.
This area, back in the 1700s, was known as the Batschka. It is predominantly flat and fertile lands for agricultural purposes. Through the 1600s and early into the 1700s the land was disputed territory between the Ottoman's to the east and the Hapsburg's to the west. The Hapsburg's finally won out but as the Ottoman's retreated, they left the land in total destruction. The Hapsburg's, beginning with Emperor Joseph I wanted to regain the fertile lands and provided great incentives for any Germans they could convince to leave their homelands and settle the area. The incentives changed over the years but the basics were free land, at least tax-free land for so many years. They were also offered the many items they would need to help them settle their land and begin farming. The items included horses and everything needed to use the horses to plow the fields and pull their carts, they also received other farming tools like shovels and sickles. They were also given the typical items needed for preparing and cooking food. You can see the entire list here; Specifications of goods & tools, supplied to a colonist. You can also read a more extensive history at this site; Batschka.
Although these reestablished settlements needed trade workers, most of the colonists came to start a new life and work the fields as farmers. So, more than likely, our ancestors first years in their new homes were spent in the fields, planting, tending, and harvesting what they could from the land.
Anyone who has done any type of farming or even prepared their own personal gardens knows that there is a lot of work involved, even today with our modern conveniences and machinery. Our ancestors of the late 1700s had no machinery, they had to depend on the strength of their back, their horses, mules, oxen, or cows, and their neighbors. The fields required constant attention and a day in the fields would typically start before dawn and continue past dusk.
Undoubtedly, the fields were not the responsibility of just one family, it was a community affair. A family may have a few acres that 'belonged' to them but the work had to be shared and everyone chipped in; the whole community depended on the food that these fields produced. And it was not just up to the men of the community, everyone helped out to get the crops to the tables. If someone wasn't in the field helping then they were at home taking care of small children not old or strong enough to work in fields along with all the other daily chores of life in the 1700s like preparing and cooking meals, washing, and tending to the animals of the household, which could have been chickens, goats, and probably cows.
So, on this labor day when we think about the labor that built this country, take a step back and remember our peasant farming ancestors who broke the ground in these new communities and paved the way to our existence today.
I’m pretty sure all of us have some kind of farmer in your ancestry, where did they farm? Write a post on your blog about it or let us know in the comments for this one.
Thanks for reading and keep diggin’ for that family.
Photo Attribution: Johann Ludwig Ernst Morgenstern [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Sources used in this post:
- Leeb, Alex. “Life of a Schwob”, Danauschwaben Villages Helping Hands, 2004, http://www.dvhh.org/banat/lifestyles/schwob_life.htm.
- Tullius, Nick. “A Short History of the Danube Swabians” Donauschwaben Villages Helping Hands; Danube Swabian History, 2013, http://www.dvhh.org/history/1700s/DS-history~tullius.htm.
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