The Probsteiers

They live in 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 colonization 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 neighbors were the inhabitants of large estates, where serfdom prevailed. They were looked upon with contempt by the Probsteiers. Inter marriage 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. Over population 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 :