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Harlingerland - Historical context

Earls of Harlingerland 1380-1540

Home | Gilbert West on Frisian Chiefs | East Frisia and Oldenburg | Nomenclature in East Frisia | Earls of Harlingerland 1380-1540

Overview of lords in and of Harlingerland


Earls of Harlingerland, 1380-1540



Harlingerland was centred around two main lordships, that of Esens and that of Wittmund.

The town of Stedesdorf was also residually important, as it was the ancient centre for collecting church tithes, until superseded in this role by Esens during the time of Hero Oomkens the Younger. In ancient times, Stedesdorf had been the most important town in the county.

Whilst other lordships existed, they were consolidated into the main three lordships during the fifteenth century. The lordships of Thunum and Dunum, for example, were incorporated into the Oomkens family estates alongside Stedesdorf  by Hero Oomkens the Elder during the 1420īs.

The lordships of Esens, Wittmund and Stedesdorf had historically been held by different branches of the Oomkens-Attena family, and, in the case of Wittmund, also the Kankena family. In common with other aristocratic families of the time, they often used their lordships in addition to - or even instead of – their family surnames.

Harlingerland was first united as a county during the fifteenth century. Before this period, we separately list the lords of Esens, Stedesdorf and Wittmund.



  1. Wibet von Esens  (* c.1370 +1447)

Son of Wibet von Stedesdorf (* c.1340)(see Stedesdorf).

His heraldic sign was a lion dīor on a field of azure.

Married a Kankena, a daughter of the Lord of Reepsholt. Their daughter was Foelke, heiress of Esens, who married:-


  1. Hero Oomkens the Elder (Hero Omcken der Aeltere) (* c.1395 + before 1440)

Son of Ommo Oomkens von Stedesdorf (see Stedesdorf).

Married Foelke (Floque) von Esens  (+1452), the heiress of Esens. Their daughter was:-


3.   Onna Oomkens von Stedesdorf und Esens, the heiress of Stedesdorf and Esens. She married her distant cousin:-


      4.   Sibet von Dornum (also known as Sibet von Esens after his marriage, and as “Heer von Harlingerland”, ie Lord of Harlingerland) (+1473)

He was the first to unite the whole Harlingerland. He is buried in St Magnus church in Esens. His son, Hero Oomkens the Younger, inherited the earldom in 1473.




1.         Wibet von Stedesdorf (* c.1345)

His ancestors had held the lordship since at least the 13th century. He was succeeded by his son:-


2.         Ommo Oomkens von Stedesdorf (* c.1375)

He was succeeded by his son:-


3.         Hero Oomkens the Elder von Stedesdorf (* c.1395 + before 1440)

Mentioned as “Volksheld” in the 1420īs. He married Foelke, heiress of Esens (see Esens above), thus uniting Stedesdorf and Esens under one lord. His heraldic device was a sable bear on a field of azure.

Hero and Foelke were succeeded by their daughter:-


4.         Onna Oomkens von Stedesdorf und Esens (+1465)

Heiress of Stedesdorf and Esens, who married her distant cousin, Sibet von Dornum (see above). This dynastic alliance served to unite Harlingerland, the lordship of which, in 1473, passed to the coupleīs son:-


5.         Hero Oomkens the Younger (+ c.1460 +1522) (see Harlingerland below)




 1.         Tanne von Wittmund (+ after 1461)

He was a member of the Kankena family and Wittmund came to him by inheritance. In 1454, Wittmund Castle was attacked at Christmastide by Sibet von Dornum. Tanne Kankena was driven out of Wittmund and surrendered his lordly rights. In 1461, he was allocated rights in Dornum in compensation.


2.         Sibet von Dornum (+1473)

See Esens above. Married to Onna Oomkens von Stedesdorf und Esens. This couple united Harlingerland and passed it on to their son, Hero Oomkens the Younger (see below) 



 1.         Hero Oomkens the Younger (* c.1460 *1522)

His heraldic device was a pair of jousting lances (or scourges) dīor on a field of azure, which are still used as the heraldic sign of Wittmund, and are incorporated in the present crest and flag of East Frisia. Married Irmgard von Oldenburg, daughter of Gerhard the Brave, Earl of Oldenburg, in 1489. They had at least five sons and two daughters who survived infancy:-


2.            Balthasar Oomkens von Esens (+1540)

As the eldest surviving son, Balthasar came to his inheritance on his fatherīs death in 1522. His heraldic device was the sable bear on a field of azure which is still the heraldic sign of Esens, and is incorporated into the present crest and flag of East Frisia. Much has been written about his period of rule, during which he granted Esens municipal rights and fought a long, brave, and increasingly lonely rearguard action against the waxing power of the East Frisian earls. Two of his brothers died in the military service of their cousin, the King of Denmark. Only his sister Onna Oomkens survived him. His siblings were:-


Caspar Oomkens (+1521 storming Koenigsberg)

Melchior Oomkens (+ before 1522)

Sibo Oomkens (+ 1520 on campaign in Sweden)

Johann Oomkens (+ before 1540)

Adelaide Oomkens (+ before 1540; married her distant cousin, Tancko Oomkens van Ommeland (Tancko Omcken))

Onna Oomkens (+ 1560; married Otto von Rietberg, 1523)


The Harlingerland Project