23 – Farmers, Farms, and Farmhouses

It’s complicated. Let’s start with two definitions:

lán – A measure of land, about 45 acres. Same as a “hide”.

láník – A farmer who farmed one or more lán. Same as a “sedlák”.


Here’s a farmer pecking order, squeezed into seven classifications.

Farmer Classifications – 1800s

Now, if we look again at citations for Ferdinand Teply, we can make more sense of his occupation over the years.

We can match most of Ferdinand’s classifications, except rolnika and vyminkar. What are those?

We need a couple more definitions. These are more generic.

Generic Farmer Terms – 1800s

OK, got it. Looks like Ferdinand was near the bottom of the barrel during his time in Pustá Rybná and Bétlem. He was basically “working for the man.”

But by the time he lived in Oldřiš, it looks like he had come up in the world a bit, and perhaps had a bit more independence.


We’ve seen above the size of farms, and that a farm can be divided in half, and divided yet again.

Ideally, your house faced the road. You could walk out the back door to your farm, a long, skinny piece of land.

And your neighbors could do the same.

But as more infill houses were built, and succeeding generations divided the farm, the fields got smaller and harder to access from the village.

Often, there was no way to acquire a farm holding. If each generation had lots of children, there wasn’t a way to divide the farm into enough pieces.

That’s why many of the families had only a garden plot.

Recall the Teply farm at Oldřiš. It had been divided by 1839.

Teply farms at Oldřiš

You might remember Karel Kysilka’s analysis of the 1829 census. A couple facts illuminate the problem:

  • The share of farmers was 19 percent, cottagers 32 percent and paupers 32 percent.
  • The average age was low – 29 years. One third of the population was younger than 15.

These factors were making it more difficult for families to hold enough land to make a living.


By the way, who owned the farm – the farmer or the domain? You guessed it, the domain. Until serfdom was eliminated in 1848, the domain controlled the farm even if the farmer’s family had lived there for generations.

The farm could be inherited throughout generations of the family (really just the ability to live and work there). But the domain owner could get rid of the farm holder at any time.

The farm holder paid interest on the farm to the domain owner. And they were obliged to labor (robota) for the domain owner, perhaps three days a week.


There were three typical sizes of farmhouses.

The smallest farmhouse was a one or two room wooden cottage. These were tenants or cottagers that didn’t own animals, and perhaps worked on the farms of more prosperous neighbors.

Small Cottager’s House – Veselý Kopec museum village

The medium size farmhouse was typically a larger wooden house, with maybe a wing for an animal and crop storage.

Medium Farmer or Cottager’s House – Veselý Kopec museum village

Finally, there are the “full service” farmhouses. You’ve probably noticed these in the photos of prior posts.

Large farmhouse – near Telecí

They seem quite practical. They’re built in a rectangle, with an open courtyard in the center. The front houses the living quarters. The sides and rear are to hold the animals, the crops, and equipment. The center courtyard was to store manure, to be used for fertilizer.

We can see the open center layout in the accidental photo of the back of Anton and Terezie Petras’ house no 8 in Pustá Rybná.

Petras house no. 8 – Pustá Rybná

Here are some other Teply farmhouses:

Living quarters

The area where the family lived would be very recognizable to people that lived in American villages that had plentiful wood for building. Perhaps the similar house in America wouldn’t be quite as crowded.

One difference I noticed was that each house had a big tiled oven in the main room with a firebox platform on the side. Used for cooking; heating the room; kids slept on platform, etc.

Barn, loft, and workshop

The back and side wings of the farmhouse are for animals, storage, workshop, etc.

Oldřiš house 191


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