The History of the Rabich Family (Text)

The history of the Rabich family (from Herda/Thuringia, Germany) as short summary. [Private Homepage]

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History of the Rabich family

The Rabich lineage from Herda/Thuringia

31-JAN-1998 Rev. 15-FEB-2001

The development of the present Rabich families can be traced way back, whereas three phases can be differentiated:

  1. Formation of a Teutonic extended family during the time prior to the first millenium, conclusion of which can be drawn from language research and the development of local settlements.
  2. The time of the first written reference (certificates, church documents) to the traceable lines 16th till end of the 17th century, however, with evidence gaps.
  3. The time of documented generation developments with further lineage splits.

1. The family name Rabich is most probably of Teutonic-mythological origin with an attached hermanduric diminutive -ich and means little (wise) raven. Also some other family names from the town Herda are of Teutonic origin, as well as numerous field, forest and town names. Herda may be assembled of the word roots Heer (Army) (Haard) and -da and should mean town by the forest. Stemming from this early time there are field names Rabich-Grund north of and nearby Herda as well as Rabich-Liet near Lauchroeden/Werra and at the hill of the Brandenburg (Brandenburg castle), about 6 miles north of Herda (cf. Chronological table and Map). This region of the Thuringia Forest belonged - around 800 to 1200 - to the Thuringia west or border district. In the south it was embraced by the ancient and important major road “Hohe Strasse” (High Street) west-east through Herda, in the west and north by the small river Werra, along which was a road to the east, below the Brandenburg, which, however, was very often not passable owing to the flooding of the swamp area. The Brandenburg guarded the Eisenach gate - the Wartburg castle was erected later.

From local town names it can be concluded that the settlement Herda at first consisted of only a few fortified farms with lady’s heated apartments (Kemenate) and that it had two gates at the stream Suhl as well as 0.3 miles east of it. Yet today a shopkeeper’s and wine lane gives evidence of the trading character and the hitch station for the draft cattle of the trucks to help going up the 7% gradient. Immediately before Herda was the intersection with another north-south major road. Consequently the function of the settlement was not only that of a farmership that was utilizing the forest and the cleared area of land, but also that of a service community for the carters a.s.o. The citizens were threatened by military and plunderers’ campaigns as well as diseases brought by them, their existence was often severely affected.

During the first settling period the region was only punctually and thinly settled. It belonged to the grand game and forest area, it was called the “noble” forest until the early 19th century. Some “castles” and seats of jurisdiction that were hold by aristocrats, e.g. especially Gerstungen/Werra, about 2.5 miles away and Hausbreitenbach, which is about 0.4 miles away at the Nuremberg major street via Marksuhl. Remarkable is the town Berka on the Werra, which belongs to the Abbey Hersfeld, about 1.9 miles west of Herda, which had a ford that - from Herda towards Frankfurt - could be bypassed via Rienau, Vacha/Werra. At this time there was a settlement of Slavonic socagers.

The aristocratic line of those of Herda, belonging to the noble lords of the manor, appears first in 13th century documents as sympathizing with the Abbey Hersfeld/Hesse, has its greatest power in the 18th century with its seat on the Brandenburg and became extinct by the end of the 19th century. The history of this aristocratic lineage seems to be closely linked with that of the Rabich lineage, as people named Rabich were tenants of their outlying estates as well as of those of neighboring noble houses from the 16th to the beginning of the 18th century. As Guards lieutenants (cavalry) they belong to the inner circle at the royal court in Eisenach. As a toolmaker and trader a grandson acquires part of the former royal hunting lodge in Marksuhl in the 18th century. The farmers Rabich were relatively big landowners and, at an early stage already, local government officers, in the mid of the 19th century they occupied the Mayors office of Herda. There is a family history of the Rabichs in the locals history museum of Gerstungen.

Throughout the centuries until the Middle Ages the situation of the authorities, socages and so on, was confusing, often the governors, senior civil servants, “ownership”-rights changed. The Rabich families had to give contributions to various authorities. Those of Herda at times occupy the local high court. The erected a “castle” at the end of Herda, in the direction to Gerstungen, besides the Patronage Church in which they had the first rank. They are subservient to the Thuringia rulers in Eisenach. However the ruling time of the Ludowingers (who also built the Wartburg) in Thuringia did not last long. In 1131 a successor was bestowed the title of a landgrave (in the rank of a duke), however, in 1247 this lineage died out. The supremacy now falls to Wettiner-Saxony, 1485 to the Ernestine branch. From 1596 to 1644 and from 1672 to 1741 there is a (little) independent dukedom Saxony-Eisenach with their seat in Eisenach. Members of the von Herda family have high ranking positions there as well as somewhere else in the surrounding area.

2. The beginning of the lineage of the (rural-bourgeois) Rabichs has been documented in the 16th century only. Even around 1500 there a number of “farmers” (cf. Diagram The Rabich Lineage in the History of a Border Zone Area) with separate farms, which however, still have close family relations. Rabichs are found in the church register of nearby communities. This is the time of the farmers’ rebellions, obviously without the participation of any of the Rabichs. The feudal rulers of the von Herda family stood on the other side. Similar things must have happened in the course of the activities of the Baptists in the near Hausbreitenbach, a small farmer Fritz Erbe from Herda had to languish to death as an antagonist in the tower of the Wartburg castle. The dual rule of the Hesse and Thuringian earls being in office in Hausbreitenbach, to which Herda belonged, seems to be absurd. One of the earls seemed to tend to a mild, the other one to a hard and stringent rule. Just as indistinct the protestant reformation took place, which finally ended in the removal of all superintendents in the Eisenach area from office mid of the 16th century for the reason of their lack of dignity to educate. In this respect it must be considered that the priest of Herda was also the scribe, educator of aristocrats and also something like a school teacher, who was consequently protected. As a witch the wife of the saints’ master Rabich of Gerstungen was tortured to death. At the same time a municipal notary and bishop’s secretary in Fulda, Johann Peter Rabich, supported the terrible counter-reformation in Fulda. Here the splitting of the Rabich family becomes clear.

Two dramatic occurrences happened in the course of the two centuries 15th until mid of the 17th century. The divisions of the land owned (subject to heritage) have cut the income, i.e. the surplus from the agroproduction of the individual became smaller. The effectivity of the field work was considerably reduced by the awkward access roads and equipment. In addition, the originally sufficient utilization of cattle in the forest and in the open countryside as well as the areas to be cleared have been decreasing. Field thefts, supplies of forage such as in the Seven Years’ War, the Thirty Years’ War, and so on, became serious. Whatever was missing had to be achieved by supplementary income, as can be found in the occupational entries in the church register. This is obvious in the Rabich family. By the mid of the 17th century there are only a few farmers Rabich, however, the so-called ancestral seat from the 16th century at the village lime tree in Herda remains (until today) their own. Other reasons for a decision to reorientate are adding up, which are to be found in the religious directive sphere of the Abbey Hersfeld and Fulda, as well as in the better opportunities for earning money in the non-agricultural, i.e. in the commercial/industrial area. That is how some Rabichs came to remote foreign countries.

3. Until today traces of the Rabichs are only clear back to only three origins (progenitors), the so-called family lineages A, B and C (cf. diagram). Before that about 4 generations may have existed. Regarding the social-family-historical aspect, great differences appear because of their high children mortality, the extinction of a family branch, in the professional career and mobility. The farmer’s element Rabich in Herda is still working in the immediate closeness of the relationship. This becomes obvious in branch A. The social rise of the family member to the royal court in Eisenach before the end of the 17th century continues, at least in part: The great leap forward is achieved to be a supplier to the royal court, to be a trader, in other words a wealthy person and after all music directors at the royal court of Gotha and others descended. It is similar in branch B. The progenitor not only is a carpenter, he is also organ player in the church of Gerstungen. He was married three times and thus has a broad spectrum of descendents. From him descends a lineage carried on by a priest-school teacher, which is oriented towards the Rhineland, another one from a blacksmith via intermediate stages to engineering work in the IG-Farben area (dyestuffs) as well as such in research and development and more. After the Thirty Year’s War one of the progenitors moves to Homberg/Effze, from where, e.g., a branch of the textile business of Elberfeld has derived.

The bearers of the name Rabich still living in Germany have been interviewed concerning their descent to a large degree.

4. The area of the Emigrants has been investigated in part only. It is sure that throughout the centuries - until beginning of the 20th century - a number of lineage members have emigrated particularly to America. The assistance of bearers of the name is indispensable, as the connection to the so-called “lost” bearers of the name must be found, because there are a few of them. It becomes difficult, when the data are not sufficient for such an investigation. The range of the name also covers the following variations: Raabich, Rabbich, Rabig, but not Rabisch or the like, which presumably have their origin in the Slawonic. Apparently all bearer of the name Rabich have their descending origin in Herda and it’s vicinity; no counterevidence could be found.

The research of the genealogy Rabich has begun in the beginning if the 20th century. Partial chronics have been made already, now a status report with an embedding into the settlement and social history of Herda is in progress. Prior to that it will be tried, to fill the gaps that are considered closable and to achieve this the help of other members of the Rabich lineage is required, in particular of those, who have been unconsidered so far. Subsequently the lineages will be completed with those of female members.

The following data and facts regarding the genealogy of the Rabichs (Herda) are searched for:

Anything that is known or assumed of the traces back to ones ancestors- including verbal information from ancestors and other memories:

Concrete, in detail:

  • Data on birth and death of fathers and mothers as well as the data of marriage/divorce and so on. Including the places of birth, death, marriage/divorce, occupations
    Peculiarities, such as illnesses, diseases and so on.
  • Children, grandchildren and so on, data as above
  • Derivation data of fathers and mothers (lineages) as well as descendants’ data of the children and so on, including marriage of them with whom and so on
  • Biographic peculiarities, in particular such of changes in occupation and place, military services, service at the front and so on.
    Peculiarities which have set the pattern for the life of the descendents
  • Presence of lineage tables, ancestors’ histories, photographic documents, which may be important and valuable for a genealogy, presently only some photographic documents (houses, persons, and so on) are available, which date back as far as 3 to 5 generations only.
  • Indication of individuals, who are working on the ancestors’ history (genealogy) of the Rabichs
  • Indication of individuals, historical researcher, who work on the settling history of Thuringia/Herda
  • References to publications of member of the Rabich family, and publications of extraordinary public importance (including patents, and so on)
  • References to necessary contacts to individuals or authorities that could give assistance with respect to ancestors’ and lineage researchers, e.g. of archives, libraries, social institutions and authorities
  • Personal memories, such as letters and so on, which are appropriate to be cited or used in a genealogy/social history

In addition any cooperation and help in establishing an information coordination center to collect and register data and information in your particular country will be appreciated.

Translated from German by Mike R. Schoenhoff March 2001 with the permission of Dr.-Ing. Adalbert Rabich.