In this review I will mainly cover the chapter “Koloniseringen af Randbøl Hede” (The colonisation of Randbøl Moorlands) in book I.
One of the first things I learn’t from this chapter was that the word “Potato Germans” (Kartoffeltyskere) was a later invention and was not meant as a complement. A member of the Øhlenschlæger family (which I am researching) said that even in the beginning of this century you wouldn’t admit to being related to the Potato Germans. Nevertheless, I am!
So who are these Potato Germans or Colonists? Well in the beginning of the 18th Century the King (Frederick den 5.) wanted to promote the country’s growth through immigration. The moorland on Jutland was poor and under-used and the King decided to give 20 years tax freedom to those who would cultivate the moorlands. But none of the Danish farmers were interested so in 1758 Johan Friederich Mortitz traveled to Frankfurt Am Main to convince the people of Pfalz to come to Denmark and cultivate the moorlands around Randbøl and south of Viborg. They were promised the same 20 years tax freedom that the Danish has been promised earlier, they got to escape from the horrors of the Seven Years’ War and they were promised religious freedom. However, Moritz was also paid one Louis d’Or per person which meant that he wasn’t too picky about who he enlisted. He was supposed to enlist farmers but ended up enlisting a variety of veteran soldier, weavers, homeless and others. This would later become quite a problem for the Randbøl moorlands.
View Colonister in a larger map
In 1759 the first group traveled to Randbøl moorlands. They were met with a great disappointment. The land they had been promised hadn’t been bought yet and the farms hadn’t been built. The moorlands were in themselves also a big disappointment – bare and inhospitable. Three colonist villages were established: Frederiksnåde (Catholic), Skjoldbjerg (Lutheren) and Frederikshåb (Reformed) where my ancestors lived. Religion and religious freedom played a big role and this was also one of the reasons for the tension between the Germans and the local Danish population, but also between the Germans themselves who were divided between three religions.
The chapter describes different issues surrounding the colonisation and the time after it. Some of the original colonists move on to Russia in search of a better life and some stay and become integrated in Danish culture. In the later part of the 18th Century Danish farmers begin to take over some of the farms deserted by the Germans and in 1852 the government began a movement to allow the colonists to own their land.
If you are interested in the subject of the German colonisation of the moorlands of Jutland this chapter gives a really good insight into this. If you are in Denmark you can get the book through your local library and you can buy it in most museums shops in the area around Randbøl.
My own connection to the colonists is through my great great grandmother Kirstine Marie Øhlenschlæger who in turn was the great great granddaughter of Johan Ludvig Jacob Øhlenschlæger who came to Randbøl in 1760 with his wife and 2 sons. It should be mentioned that the descendants of Johan Ludvig Jacob Øhlenschlæger is a big group of people and those who carry the name spell it in a variety of ways.
‘Potato Germans at Alheden’ – – Immigrantmuseet (in English)
‘Kartoffeltyskerne på Alheden’ – Immigrantmuseet (in Danish)
‘Kartoffeltyskerne‘ – Wikipedia (in Danish)
‘Kartoffeltyskerne på Alheden‘ (in Danish)
‘Kartoffeltyskernes Historie’ (in Danish)
‘Heden og dens beboere og betvingere’ – Lars Peter Lund (in Danish)
‘Johann Ludwig Jacob Øhlenschlæger’ – Ahrenkiel’s genealogical website also covers some of this family