I have a 4x great grandfather that was from Kaltbrunn, St. Gallen, Switzerland, but died in Ludwigsburg, Wurttemberg. He died in 1849 and associated with his death entry in the Wurttemberg Catholic church records there is mention of him as "Arbaither" and that his profession is "Strafgefangener", if I have read the script correctly.

Do these terms have something to do with prisoner? Was he a prisoner of war, or was he in a work house like situation or poor house?. Thank you!

2 Answers 2


Arbaither is probably an old spelling, an uncommon spelling or transcription error for arbeiter, which is German for labourer.

Strafgefangener is German for criminal prisoner. A strafgefangener is a prisoner who was sentenced under strafrecht (criminal law) and received a freiheitsstrafe (freedom penalty).

That this was registered in his death entry suggests he died in prison while serving his sentence. The church records are unlikely to contain information about his sentence, but there may be newspapers and legal records about the case.

  • 1
    The idiomatic English translation for freiheitsstrafe would be "imprisonment".
    – Fortiter
    Oct 23, 2012 at 5:42
  • @fortiter, no it is not; "imprisonment" is English for "inhaftierung", and an idiomatic replacement for "freiheitsstrafe" would be "prison sentence". Freihietsstrafe is legal jargon, and in the context of the question, the literal "freedom penalty" translation seems more appropriate than an idiomatic expression for idiom's sake. Oct 23, 2012 at 16:42
  • 2
    As to "a freiheitsstrafe (freedom penalty)" vs. "imprisonment" or so, I think translating it as "freedom penalty" is technically correct but misleading. What it really means is that a person has been punished by having their freedom taken away - IOW, they've been imprisoned. Oct 23, 2012 at 19:01

My modern dictionary shows no words that begin Arba*; but the word "Arbaither" turns up too often in a Google Books search to be a simple transcription error.

enter image description here

Verhandlungen des Historischen Vereins für Oberpfalz und Regensburg: VHVO, Volume 1; Volume 5

Author Historischer Verein für Oberpfalz und Regensburg

Publisher Verlag des Historischen Vereins für Oberpfalz und Regensburg, 1839

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