A number of months ago when we visited the museum in Mettingen not far from Osnabrück, we had the wonderful opportunity to see the restoration of the inside of a Heuerhaus that would have been simular to what many of our ancestors lived in, in North Deutschland. While we were there, we also observed a number of models made up in period dress doing their professions in the house.
When we observed the manequins, we did not take pictures as we felt they just were to pretty. We had intended to try to find pictures to use to demonstrate this work they were doing as we had found an number of our direct ancestors given as the profession of "Spinnet" in the 1772 Steuer (Tax) records for households in the villages and farms that made up the Kirchspeil Menslage. We never found any acceptable ones, and so what, they ladies were pretty then for sure as well, so we have some taken we hope you will enjoy. In fact "Spinnet" was the most often listed profession for a lady who was also listed as a vidua (widow). "Reference given Herausgegeben von Gemeinde und Heitatverein Menslage 1990 ISBN 3-923664-06-0" The actual count is nearly 100 women listed as such, but this only listed heads of households as we would now call them, so this was most likely a very often profession for most women when they were not doing the other duties associated with raising children and keeping house. The spinning of yarn and making of cloth also represented an excellant way to obtain some cash money for the household. The yarn and cloth could be sold to Holland Walkers who actually did walk to Holland and with as much as they could carry on their backs and sold it along the way and in the towns. It would be a mistake to think they only went to Holland as they actually may have walked to the East as well as far as Russia with their wares. Some of these men, we were told became very rich, and many used their riches to help build schools and hospitals in their home Gemeinde.
Here is a view of a restoration of inside a Heuerhaus with the lady sitting in the backgroud behind the farm wagon. Directly to the rear you call see a fireplace that was used to cook on, as well as heat of course for the inside of the house. The fireplace did NOT have chimney as we know them today, but the smoke rather came out the front under the red border of cloth and up through the loft above where the hay would have been stored. Under the red curtian is often shown with sausages hanging, so of course they would cure there as well as keep from spoilage. We asked why they would have no chimney, and were told that in addition to the curing of meat, I guess like a smoke house like our grandparents had here in America, it was also beneficial, as it keep out the bugs as well as the rodents. This was very important as you may recall, as rodents were carriers of some very awful deseases in that caused widespread deaths thoughout Europe from time to time. The wagon inside may have been used for both wood for the fire as well as the flax used for the spinning. While it was not shown, I think it would have also been possible that in some areas "PEAT" would have been burned, and maybe later even coal in these open fireplaces. The front room with the fireplace was the living and working area, and the area directly behind was used for sleeping.
This is what the actual sleeping area may have looked like inside the Heuerhaus. It was for sure that no one child had a bed to themselves, and it may have been normal they all shared the same bed. While not shown in this picture, the area behind the sleeping area was used to keep the cow and maybe a pig or two and a few chickens maybe as well maybe. While it is hard to see in this picture, the bed to the right is quite a lot shorter, and would have been used for the babies or youngest children. They did of course also have tiny bassinets for the new babies which seemed to come most often every other year, or as some folks say, as soon after the last one was weaned. In some areas they seemed to have more children than in others, and in the area that we have researched by Menslage it seemed most often to limit the family to no more than 5 or 6 children and often less, while down nearer Osnabrück we often will find a family with more. Guess they had birth control mastered better up in the North? We only say this as we find this to be the case in the area around Bremervörde as well which is north and east of Bremen.
Another profession that was practiced was "Schumaker" or maker of wooden shoes. You may have thought that only the people in the Netherlands (Holland) used wooden shoes, but this was for sure not the case, as they were common thoughout all of northern Europe. We have been told that often some straw was added to the inside to help keep the feet warm. Many people had a special pair for Church use, that was especially painted with biblical pictures and used only on special occasions. The picture is a little dark, but hopefully you can make out a few shoes completed and in progress. We might add, some of our relatives in northern Germany still have a pair they use on occasion in the garden.
Over the next few months, we will be adding to this story with more pictures that we hope will be of interest. Return to main page