Population of Ostfriesland

A comparison of the 1719 and 1757 tax censuses with later data shows the population of Ostfriesland was growing rapidly and it  became very densely populated for a largely agricultural-based society.  Over time, the development of a vaccine for smallpox, a better understanding of how to prevent the spread of diseases and better dikes resulted in more children reaching maturity and longer life expectancies for the residents.

Increased life expectancy led to more families and more children in following generations, all having to share the same amount of farmland and crop production for their existence.  This limited people's opportunities and many lived in extreme poverty.  Most could only dream about owning property or for their children to live better lives.  Emigration became an increasingly attractive option to escape their economic conditions while others looked for freedom of religion from the state-run churches.

The following table summarizes the population of Ostfriesland between 1816 - 1852.  Each census reflected approximately a 10% population growth but the rate slowed in the 1850's as immigration increased and many glowing reports were received from emigrant families and friends who left for a "new land". 

Census Year Population
1816 123,808
1822 136,589
1833 152,408
1842 166,223
1852 185,129







An 1875 census of Ostfriesland provides insights into the communities and areas where many of our immigrant ancestors lived.  In addition to determining the population of the communities and hamlets, this census also identified the religious affiliation of the residents.  A total of 322 locations were enumerated with only a few having more than 1,000 residents.  Land holdings were generally very small and most laborer homes only had a small garden and perhaps a small pasture for a few animals.  Overall the population density averaged about 168 people per square mile, very high for an agricultural economy which was starting to use new technologies to reduce the need for farm workers.   

Most communities only had a single church and only the largest communities had two or more churches.  

Communities were organized into districts called Amts and these were organized into a larger districts called a Kreis.  Religious affiliation was an important part of the census and it helps to show similarities and differences between communities.  Additional information at the community level can be found here.

Districts/Areas Lutheran Reformed Catholic Other Christian Jewish Total
Kreis Aurich:            
Amt Aurich 31,096 2,115 346 201 384 34,142
Amt Esens 13,359 66 25 272 104 13,826
Amt Wittmund 25,483 669 1,059 757 294 28,262
Total, Kreis Aurich 69,938 2,850 1,430 1,230 782 76,230
Kreis Emden:            
Amt Emden 7,734 21,048 787 596 776 30,941
Amt Norden 26,868 1,425 260 330 416 29,299
Total, Kreis Emden 34,602 22,473 1,047 926 1,192 60,240
Kreis Leer:            
Amt Leer 12,323 8,061 1,409 586 266 22,645
Amt Weener 2,065 17,622 495 326 287 20,795
Amt Stickhausen 18,427 679 1,765 258 14 21,143
Total, Kreis Leer 32,815 26,362 3,669 1,170 567 64,583
Total Population 137,355 51,685 6,146 3,326 2,541 201,053
The census also requested people's ages to determine the size of the working population.  Children frequently went to work after confirmation at 14-15 years of age so the age of the labor force was a wide range since there were no retirement income programs.  A summary of the population by age follows.
Ages Percentage
Under 15 34.4 %
15 - 70 61.8 %
Over 70 3.8 %