Ahnentafel und Stammbaum. Historisch-genealogische Werke in den Beständen der Franckeschen Stiftungen.

A virtual book exhibition from the library of the Francke Foundations

Since the end of the Middle Ages, genealogies have played an important role as a means of legitimation and thus for the consolidation and representation of dynastic claims to power. One of the most important criteria for the assignment of rank was the age of a dynasty. The further back the rule could be traced, the greater the claim to power. With this aim in mind, special genealogies were commissioned and financed by the courts.

The most important forms of presentation for the presentation and ordering of relevant knowledge were family trees and genealogical tables. The family trees, which were published using complex and therefore expensive printing processes, were primarily aimed at the members of the profession. The pedigrees were a simpler and therefore cheaper method of presentation, which served primarily as a working tool for scientific genealogy. An important representative of scholarly genealogy was the founder of Lutheran pietism Philipp Jakob Spener (1635-1705), whose »Theatrum Nobilitates Europeae« is among the most important genealogical works of the 17th century. Spener's pedigrees were trend-setting in their form. In contrast to this, the universal genealogical series and periodicals, which were simultaneously published en masse and scientifically undemanding, were oriented towards commercial success. From them, the historical-genealogical calendars emerged in the course of the 18th century.

Since the beginning of the 18th century, genealogy has established itself as a sub-discipline of the historical auxiliary sciences. Works such as Johann Gottfried Gregoriis (1685-1770) »Aller Durchläuchtigen Hohen Häuser In Europa ... Neueste Genealogien, von 1500 bis 1707«, which were structured according to the catechetical teaching method of question-answer-exchange, contributed to this.

In the library of the Francke Foundations there are numerous works of early modern genealogy, which with their partly splendid design, partly monumental presentation are the focus of the cabinet exhibition on the occasion of the 400th birthday of the Great Elector Friedrich Wilhelm von Brandenburg (1620-1688). The exhibition can be viewed from October 16, 2020 in the former reading room next to the Library Hall Kulissenbibliothek.


Family Tree

A family tree is a realistic representation of a tree on which relationships are recorded. Traditional family trees list the descendants above the male line (»agnates«) in ascending order, i.e. the ancestors below, starting with the ancestor of the sex in the root of the tree, and the descendants above, i.e. in the branches above the children and their descendants. Relatives above the female line are called »cognates«.

Family trees, which were produced in expensive printing processes mainly as single leaves, have been widely spread since the 15th century.


1. Genealogical family tree of all Margraves and Chur princes of Brandenburg. Also of the ducal and nunmehro royal house of Prussia.
Augsburg : Seutter, [ca. 1755].
BFSt: 60 C 16 (IV)

Family tree of the margraves and electors of Brandenburg and kings of Prussia up to Friedrich II (1712-1786). The noble family of the Hohenzollern, to which the electors and margraves of Brandenburg also belonged, is traced back here to the mythical Count Isenbart von Altdorf, who is said to have lived in the 8th century, mentioned at position 1). Friedrich Wilhelm, the Great Elector of Brandenburg, is listed at position 166) of the family tree.

2. Presentation of the [...] family tree of the most serene Ertz-House Austria from its ancient origin to present times.
Augsburg : Seutter, [ca. 1725].
BFSt: 60 C 16 (II)

Family tree of the House of Austria from Lanzelin, Count of Habsburg (-991) to Emperor Charles VI (1685-1740). Charles' children, among them his daughter Maria Theresa (1717-1780), who became his successor due to a missing male heir to the throne, are already listed.

3. New inverted genealogical family tree of all kings in Sweden Like Such From Ancient Times Till Today's Day Followed by One Another [...].
Augsburg : Seutter, [ca. 1740].
BFSt: 60 C 16 (III)

Genealogy as a means of securing dynastic rule

One of the most important criteria for the assignment of ranks was the age of a dynasty. Cyriacus Spangenberg (1528-1604) formulated in his work "Adels Spiegel", one of the most important tracts on the nobility of the time, that the 'hereditary nobility' had to justify its position and respect "because of old. How then old and antiquated people will always enjoy all the time and honor all the worthy ones". The further back the genealogical beginnings lay, the greater were the claims to power derived from them. With this aim, extensive and splendidly designed special genealogies were commissioned and financed by the courts. For example, Ernst Brotuff (1497-1565) was commissioned by Prince Georg III of Anhalt (1507-1553) to write a genealogy of the Anhalt princely house.

In contrast, the universal genealogies published by private publishers were subject to economic constraints and had to assert themselves on the book market. They resorted to simpler and therefore cheaper methods of presentation such as genealogical tables and tree diagrams to illustrate genealogical relationships.


Cyriacus Spangenberg worked as a pastor in Mansfeld after studying theology in Wittenberg. Because of theological disputes he had to leave Mansfeld in the early 1580s and fled to Strasbourg. In Strasbourg, he continued to be supported by the Mansfeld counts, one of whom was a canon in Strasbourg, and wrote numerous commissioned works for noble patrons, such as the »Mansfeldische Chronica« (1572), the »Sächssische Chronica« (1583), the »Querfurtische Chronica« (1590), the »Adels Spiegel« (1591), the »Hennebergische Chronica« (1594) and the »Chronicon [...] der Hochgebornen Uhralten Graffen Zü Holstein Schaümbürgk« (1614), which was published after his death. The task of these writings was to legitimize the rule of the nobility: either of the nobility in general, as in the »Adels Spiegel«, or of the individual genders, as in the chronicles. The »Adels Spiegel« was the most influential aristocratic treatise of its time. The exhibited copy came from the possession of Friedrich Bräutigam, Eisleben's city bailiff (around 1606/1620), whose books are preserved in the library of the Francke Foundations and bear the coat of arms of the Counts of Mansfeld on the binding.

Ernst Brotuff (1497-1565) wrote the 300 pages and 200 coat of arms illustrations of this work on behalf of Prince Georg III. of Anhalt (1507-1553). In the course of the Reformation, the Anhalt princely house attempted to expand its position as sovereign of the country, to emphasize the age of the princely family by means of genealogy and chronicle and to legitimize its rule. Originally, the Anhaltin family was attributed to the Roman nobility. Brotuff, however, followed the autochthonous-Germanic line of tradition and named »Bernthobaldus von Ballenstedt und Ascanie« as the progenitor of the »Askanier« or the Anhaltine family.

The first edition of this extensive house history of the Habsburgs was published in 1592.

Gerardus Roo (-1590) draws attention on p. 2 to the problem that Noah's descent could also be a problem, since in this case the descent is shared with the »least leuth«. Probably for this reason the early modern family trees start with the early medieval ancestors. From the present work, a magnificently designed family tree of the Habsburgs, consisting of portraits of the individual rulers and their coats of arms, can be seen.

Genealogical works of the 17th century

Noble education around 1630 also included knowledge of one's own ancestors.

Genealogical and heraldic basic knowledge belonged to the general education to recognize the systematics of the coat of arms arrangement on grave monuments or memorial sheets. The knowledge was imparted to young noblemen at the knight academies.

The increasing distribution of newspapers also created a growing demand for genealogical printed works in less educated circles, which were intended to impart basic orientation knowledge. The »Tübinger Tabellen«, which appeared in several updated editions, are a good example of this.

These anonymously published genealogical tables from the second half of the 17th century enjoyed great popularity as »Tübingische Tabellen«. Between 1656 and 1695, five extended updated editions of this universal genealogy were published, which enjoyed great popularity due to their clarity - they only depicted the relevant information on the ruling dynasties. The present copy comes from the possession of the Halberstadt Superintendent Justus Lüders (around 1656-1708) and shows the genealogy of the House of Brandenburg-Prussia with notes by Lüders.

The work belongs to the universal genealogical literature, which appeared in large numbers from the middle of the 17th century onwards and was directly related to the emerging newspaper industry. The news from the ruling houses contained in the newspapers of the 17th/18th century were published without the names of the rulers and could not be understood without genealogical knowledge. To determine the names and genealogical connections, works like the »Genealogia« presented here were used.

The copper title page shows 15 palm trees with coats of arms on their trunk. They stand for the 15 noble houses discussed in the book. In genealogical works of the early modern period, certain plants and trees such as palms and cedars were deliberately used. They stand for biblical trees, which are linked together by the 92nd Psalm, verse 12: »The righteous man shall be green as a palm tree, and shall grow as a cedar tree in Lebanon«.

Genealogical works of the 18th century

Since the beginning of the 18th century, genealogy has established itself as a sub-discipline of the historical auxiliary sciences. Works such as Johann Gottfried Gregoriis (1685-1770) »Das jetzt-lebende Europa oder genealogische Beschreibung aller jetzt lebende durchlauchtigsten Häupter [...] in auserlesenen Fragen vorstellent« (The now-living Europe or genealogical description of all the now-living most serene heads [...] presented in exquisite questions), which were structured according to the catechetical teaching method of question-answer-exchange, contributed to this. The pedagogue Johann Hübner (1668-1731), Rector of the Johanneum in Hamburg, was also a representative of this teaching method. He wrote numerous textbooks in the fields of geography, politics and genealogy, which were published in many editions after his death and were also used in the schools of the Halleschen Waisenhaus.

In contrast to this, the universal genealogical series and periodicals, which were published en masse and were scientifically undemanding at the same time, were based on commercial success. From them, the historical-genealogical calendars emerged in the course of the 18th century, which were published in small format without strictly scientific claim (e.g. the »Gothaischer Hofkalender«).

Benjamin Hederich (1675-1748) was born in Geithain. After attending the Princely School in Grimma, he studied in Leipzig and Wittenberg and worked as a teacher at the school of the Berge Monastery before becoming principal in Großenhain. He also wrote textbooks, dictionaries and encyclopedias. Already in his »Anleitung« of 1709 he mentions geography, chronology, genealogy and heraldry as »historical sciences«, thus anticipating the term »historical auxiliary sciences«.

The work of the lawyer Christoph Hermann von Schweder (1678-1741) is a representation of the legal claims of the European monarchs and other dignitaries. It has a tripartite title copper, in the middle of which the allegorical representations of »Historia«, »Geographia«, »Jurisprudentia« and, on the far right, the »Genealogia«, which holds a rolled out family tree in its hand, can be seen; here the role of genealogy in asserting claims to power is equated with that of history, geography and jurisdiction.

Johann Gottfried Gregorii (1685-1770) was a theologian, geographer, historian and genealogist. He wrote numerous books with geographical contents, such as atlases, travel guides, and special encyclopedias, musicological writings and genealogical works, which were published in several editions over decades and were among the standard works in their respective fields. He published most of them under the pseudonym »Melissantes«. Between 1715 and 1733, he published his five-volume genealogical description of the European nobility under the title »Das jetzt-lebende Europa«.

The genealogical tables of Johann Hübner (1668-1731) have undergone numerous new editions. The questions appeared separately under the title »Kurtze Fragen aus der Genealogie«. They are not preserved in the library of the Francke Foundations. There are two plates which show the division of the house »Anhalt«.

The author of this work is the only surviving son of Johann Hübner (1668-1731), Johann Hübner the Younger (1703-1758). He worked as a lawyer in Hamburg, published numerous new editions of his father's works after his death and was himself a successful author of genealogical writings. The first edition of this genealogical encyclopedia was published in 1727. In the foreword of the first edition, Hübner Junior wrote: »I finally call it a 'Lexicon Portatile' [i.e. pocket encyclopedia], because it is written in such a way that everyone can carry it with them«.

The theologian Philipp Jakob Spener as genealogist and heraldist

Philipp Jakob Spener (1635-1705), primarily known as a theologian and founder of Lutheran pietism, was also an important genealogist and heraldist.

His major work »Theatrum nobilitates Europeae« is one of the most remarkable genealogical works of the 17th century. His genealogical writings were characterized by accuracy, comprehensive knowledge of the subject and literature and scientific character, which is why they were highly regarded by contemporaries.

Spener is also considered the founder of scientific heraldry. Before him, heraldists dealt with the determination and description of coats of arms and interpreted them in part very imaginatively. Spener on the other hand developed a system for the description of coats of arms, starting from the three individual parts of a coat of arms, namely shield, helmet and additional parts, and explained them according to their significance and history under constitutional law. Spener was also active as a heraldic advisor to Elector Friedrich III of Brandenburg (1657-1713), the later King Friedrich I of Prussia, and was significantly involved in the design of the royal Prussian coat of arms of 1701.

The page shows the abstract basic scheme of a genealogical table (lat. »tabula progonolicae«) developed by Philipp Jakob Spener, which was trend-setting in its form. The pedigree is based on a fixed algorithm, which is based on the simple doubling of ancestors per generation. Spener assumes a person to be asked about (»Persona de qua quaeritur«). After that, his mother and father follow, then again their parents, etc., until 62 ancestors are recorded. Reading is from left to right. In addition, Spener developed a numbering system (Roman numerals), with which the ancestors can be grouped differently.

Speners »Theatrum Nobilitates Europeae« is one of the most important genealogical works of the 17th century. It comprises a total of six parts. The title page of the first part (Fig. 1) shows one of the works of Emperor Ferdinand I. (1503-1564). It shows Ferdinand as the ancestor of numerous European ruling families. In the work itself, however, only simple genealogical tables according to the scheme developed by Spener are used to illustrate genealogical relationships, such as the genealogical table for the Habsburg Emperor Leopold I. (1640-1705) (Fig. 2).

Already during his studies in Strasbourg Spener came into contact with the field of heraldry. In France, the Jesuit Claude François Menestrier (1631-1705) was in charge of heraldry. Spener was in contact with Menestrier since 1662 and was encouraged by him to publish heraldic works. According to Menestrier a coat of arms consists of 14 parts. Spener simplified Menestrier's system of coat of arms description by reducing it from 14 parts to three: shield, helmet and additional parts. This system is still valid today. Spener's first heraldic work, »Insignia Serenissimae Familiae Saxonicae [...]« was groundbreaking for heraldry. For the first time a coat of arms, here the coat of arms of the Electorate of Saxony, was scientifically explained.

In his monumental, almost 800-page work »Historia Insignum, Illustrium Seu Operis Heraldici Pars Specialis [...].« (1680), Spener scientifically explained the coats of arms of the European high nobility according to their significance under constitutional law and their history (Fig. 1). The theoretical part of the above-mentioned work appeared ten years later (Fig. 2).