The Rohr Profession
I need to speak about the profession that generations of Rohrs were involved with. Many of the old documents from Germany list the professions of the male line. This is can also aid in finding additional information about one’s family and also confirm the information you currently have. In the Rohrs’ case, this helped find additional generations back to about the late 1600s. Several generations of Rohrs were “Försters,” which is essentially a forester if you Google that term. These were typically Prussian combined military and government professions. The position of a Förster was at times equal to a sheriff or local law enforcer. They were often based in a Försters’ lodge that they were given as part of their work. This was the case with our Rohr relatives and more specifically for a small village called Sennewitzmühle, near Massin, Germany, which is now Mosina, Poland, and later on an estate near Groß Luckow, Germany called Rosenthal (in Prenzlau territory). They supervised and patrolled the woodlands and property of a local lord or noble and eventually the state. A Förster also negotiated sales of lumber and timber, with additional duties which included stopping poachers from illegally hunting, (see the term “Hegemeister,” which is a term that is also found in some of our relative’s documents).
“The work in the woods fell naturally to the share of the huntsman and forest guards, who by their practical life in the woods had secured some wood lore and developed some technical detail on an empiric basis. There so-called “holzgerechte Jaeger,” “woodcrafty hunters” prepared for their duties by placing themselves under the direction of an established huntsman who taught them what he knew about the rules of the chase, while by questioning wood-choppers, colliers, (coal miners), etc., and by their own observation the knowledge of woodcraft was required”.
Forestry affairs were handled by the “cameralists;” cameralism being the German science of administration which was established in the 18th and continuing into the 19th centuries that aimed for a centralized economy for mainly the state’s benefit. The Rohrs were an integral part of all this change in Germany.
In Prussia, the professional Försters became early independent and influential. Perhaps this was part of the reason the Rohrs knew and had many noble persons present at their children’s baptisms. The salaries of the Försters originally consisted mainly in a free house, use of the land and pasture rights, their uniform, and incidental emoluments (salary), such as from the designation of timber.
Not that our relatives were involved with this, although they could have been, but later, when everywhere else had introduced a regular money management, the absence of a cash income and general poverty forced the foresters to steal and extort. A bad reputation established from this in the latter part of the 18th century, and persisted into the 19th century. The administration of justice against the offenders in the forests was the charge of the head foresters, of which our Rohr relatives were.
There are many reasons why the “Förster” position was created, but what is interesting is that Germany saw a need for control of the forests, as they were being decimated for decades without being restored. The mining industry was one of these reasons. In the 1700s the mining industry consumed whole forests. Other reasons forests were being over-utilized included resin collection, firewood, shipbuilding, and glass making to name a few.
In the mid-1700s the city forests in Prussia, under the provincial governments, required for their management the employment of a forester and the inspection of their work by a forest master. Our Rohr relatives were Forest masters, or again, Oberförster, Förstmeister, and Oberförstmeister. The typical size of the forest area they were in charge of ranged from 100,000 to 125,000 acres.
So, why were there foresters at all? Forestry goes back to at least Roman times. Back in Germany in the 1600s, the historical term “Holznot” was used and defined as a wood shortage and further explained as an imminent or existing acute lack of wood as a raw material. At that time, this wood shortage was being described as a social problem. “The interference, and the protection of forests appeared more necessary, where advanced civilization and denser population created greater need for it.” Even Frederick the Great, ruler during the time of the Rohr Försters, instituted in 1766 strict supervision and punishments for felling trees beyond special budget related parameters. The Rohrs were responsible for implementing and enforcing these rules.
There was a considerable amount of mathematical knowledge that was required to work with the forest organization. The mathematical apparatus for Försters was slim at best. Part of the math needed was to determine felling budgets, yields, and the monetary impact that would come from the woodcutting. Later on, Försters had to also learn botany, criminal law, civics, and silviculture to name a few.
An interesting part of this culture was an old custom to celebrate the marriage day. In order to be married, a bridegroom had to prove that he had planted a certain number of oaks, which was six in 1719, and in addition, six fruit trees. Another custom by the Prussian Order of 1720 ordered the Försters to plant oaks in the openings before Christmas for which they would be paid if the trees stayed alive for three years. The Germans were serious about preserving and maintaining the forests, and again, our Rohr relatives were a big part of this.
It is interesting to think that the Rohr relatives were for several generations on the cutting edge of taking care of the environment, and makes me wonder how far reaching their efforts have been over time. The Germans of today are quoted to “go on the warpath when their forests are threatened.” The German History Museum has an exhibit for the forests and the Germans feel that “forests possess great symbolic, spiritual, and fairy tale-like charismatic powers, and have always been celebrated in German poetry, art, and music. In these ways the forest is deeply rooted in German consciousness.”
There is a book titled “A Brief History of Forestry in Europe, the United States, and Other Countries – 1907” by B.E. Fernow written in 1907, and republished in 2009, for further study on this subject.
Before I begin the Pedigree….
Below are our immediate family members as I know for now, as this process is dynamic. Much of what I write here will talk about the history during the time in their lives to help put some of the Rohr story in context. What is nice for someone pursuing German genealogy is that the Germans were very good at keeping records, which certainly helped with my genealogy searches. It is so important to find the parishes the family was associated with. Once you find the religion and parish of your family, this can lead to finding the baptism, marriage, death, and other records. This is typically how things were arranged. Where I have been able to find the actual records, I like to include maps of where they lived and the churches (protestant in our family’s case). I add these as “attachments” you can references as you read through these pages. The Rohrs moved around quite a bit due to their profession, and the places they lived were German at the time. Remember: boundaries changed as war and religious conflicts happened. This is especially true for the Rohrs who were present in what is now Poland, and in what is now France.
I also include quite a few maps. I love maps. They will show the towns, villages, and cities our family lived in and were born in, baptized and married in.
In addition, there are many documents in duplicate. I offer one that shows a blown-up portion of the full document so the salient part that includes our family members can be more easily read. I usually highlight some of the details of the document in yellow highlighter.
Again, this process is dynamic and a work in progress. I may from time to time have to update the specifics of our family as I read further into documents and find new information. I wanted to get this information to family members here in 2019 so they have the information up to this point. Please feel free to offer additional or new content, comments, stories, or corrections where needed. My cell phone number is 303-809-1232 if you have questions, or ever want to talk about our family.
This article is part of a larger series by the author. Stay tuned for Part II.
Haven’t read the first part? A Contextual Look at the Origins of the Rohr and Rohl Family