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Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center

Swiss Guide

How to Begin

Swiss immigration to America occurred in several waves. Among the earliest immigrants were Anabaptists, who arrived in the 18th century in search of religious freedom. In the 19th century, more Swiss, both Catholic and Lutheran Reformed, arrived and established Swiss settlements throughout the United States.

For both groups, the procedures for beginning research are similar. First, the researcher should determine the identity of the Swiss-born ancestor, his or her approximate date of birth or marriage in Switzerland, and the date of immigration. Census records, church records, family Bibles, and county histories are all useful tools. The next step, and the foundation for all subsequent research, is to determine the Heimatort, the town or village in Switzerland where the ancestor held citizenship rights. Here one will find most of the vital records of the ancestral family. In Switzerland, residents inherited citizenship rights in specific communities, and these were not necessarily the communities in which they resided. In the ancestral community, citizens voted, paid taxes, and since the 16th century, registered the births of children. Both women and men were considered citizens and often held citizenship rights in communities apart from their spouses.

Because of this system of inherited citizenship, certain surnames often have associations with specific towns and villages. The following guide to Swiss surnames and the associated communities can help with this search:

Swiss Surnames: A Complete Register [Familienbuch der Schweiz]. 3 vols. Camden, ME: Picton Press, 1995. /Gc 929.4 Sw66/ This book lists thousands of Swiss surnames for every canton and includes the name of the Heimatort and the date of association.

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Using the Department Catalogs

There are a number of ways to find books on Switzerland and Swiss-Americans in the online catalog at Search under "Switzerland" followed by the name of a record type or look under "Swiss-Americans" followed by a specific place, example: Swiss-Americans. Pennsylvania. Also check under the specific town or canton, if known, as well as under the specific family surname for compiled family histories. Dial-up access is available at (260) 489-7087. Also check for Swiss sources in the Family History Library catalog online and on microfiche. For further assistance with our catalog or other catalogs found on the Internet, please see a librarian.

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Research Guides

A good place to begin Swiss research is with a guidebook. Those listed below are helpful, despite their publication date. Several offer useful examples of Swiss records and provide some important addresses to Swiss agencies and archives.

Bentz, Edna M. If I Can, You Can Decipher Germanic Records. San Diego, CA: The Author, 1983. /Gc 929 B44i/ A guide for deciphering German script. Includes definitions of Latin words, occupations, and medical terminology.

Gratz, Delbert L. Was isch dini Nahme? What is your name? A Collection of Swiss Family Names. Morgantown, PA: Masthof Press, 1997. /Gc 929.4 G77wa/

Hall, Charles M. Atlantic Bridge to Germany. vol. 4. Salt Lake City, UT: Heritage International, 1976. /Gc 929 H14a/ Detailed maps and an index to communities in Switzerland.

Nielson, Paul Anthon. Swiss Genealogical Research: An Introductory Guide. Virginia Beach, VA: Donning, 1979. /Gc 929 N55s/ Includes examples of records and handwriting styles. Societe Suisse d'Heraldique. Genealogisches Handbuch zur Schweizer Geschichte. Geneva: Societe, 1945. /Gc 929.794 S013g/ A general guide to Swiss historical and genealogical research, written in German.

Suess, Jared H. Central European Genealogical Terminology. Logan, UT: Everton, 1978. /Gc 929 Su24c/

_________. Handy Guide to Swiss Genealogical Research. Logan, VT: Everton, 1978. /Gc 949.4 Su24h/ Contains an important guide to the Julius Billeter papers in the Family History Library, a voluminous source of compiled Swiss genealogies derived from vital records that are not otherwise available in America.

Thode, Ernest. Address Book for Germanic Genealogy. 6th ed. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1997. /Gc 929 T35af 1997/ Addresses and helpful form letters translated into German.

Wellauer, Maralyn. Tracing Your Swiss Roots. Milwaukee: The Author, 1979. /Gc 929 W45ta/ Includes discussions of research procedures and sample records along with a list of all civil record or Zivilstandsamt addresses by town. Since both civil and church records are kept in these offices, the Zivilstandsamt can be an important key for accessing Swiss genealogical information.

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Passenger & Immigration Lists

Passenger lists can sometimes provide important clues about an ancestor's place of origin. In addition to the sources listed below, check the passenger arrival lists for various U.S. ports available on microfilm.

Bellon, Eugene. Scattered to All the Winds, 1685-1720: Migrations of the Dauphine French Huguenots into Italy, Switzerland, and Germany. West Lafayette, IN: Belle Publications, 1983./Gc 929.141 B41s/ Contains numerous family lists and biographical references.

Burgert, Annette K. A Century of Emigration from Affoltern am Albis, Canton Zurich, Switzerland. Worthington, OH: AKB Publications, 1984, /Gc 974.8 B898c/

_________. Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Emigrants from Lachen-Speyerdorf in the Palatinate. Myerstown, PA: AKB Publications, 1989. /Gc 929.13 B91ei/ Includes a 4-page appendixlisting the Swiss origins of members of this Palatine parish church.

_________. Eighteenth Century Emigrants from German Speaking Lands; Volume 1: the Northern Kraichgau, Volume 2: The Western Palatinate. Breinigsville, PA: Pennsylvania GermanSociety, 1983-85. /Gc 974.8 P3847p/ The first volume includes numerous references to SwissMennonites who appear in the Kraichgau records. Volume two contains a list of Swiss inRieschweiler Parish, Germany, giving the Swiss village of origin.

_________. Eighteenth Century Emigrants from the Northern Alsace to America. Camden, ME: Picton Press, 1992. /Gc 974.8 B898eig/ Lists many Swiss families who settled in Alsace before immigrating to America.

_________. Notes on Research Sources for 18th Century Emigration from the Swiss Cantons Basel- Land, Basel-Stadt, Bern and Zurich. Myerstown, PA: AKB Publications, n.d. /Gc 974.8 B898n/

Diefenbacher, Karl. Schweizer Einwanderer in Den Kraichgau Nach Dem Dreissigjahrigen Krieg : Mit Ausgewählter Ortsliteratur. Sinsheim, Germany: Heimatverein Kraichgau, 1983. /Gc 943Sch9/ List of Swiss settlers who settled in Germany during the 17th century.

Ehrler, Eduard. Immigrants from Keussnacht, canton Schwyz, Switzerland, 1842-1866. Highland, IL: Felchlia, 1996. /Gc 949.47 Eh88i/

Faust, Albert B. and Gaius M. Brumbaugh. Lists of Swiss Emigrants in the Eighteenth Century to the American Colonies. 1920. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1976, reprint./Gc 929.131 F27L/ Includes many emigrants, especially from Zurich, Bern, and Basel.

Filby, P. William, ed. Passenger and Immigration Lists Index. multi-volume. Detroit: Gale Research Co., 1981-ongoing /Gc 929.11 F47p, Gc 929.11 F47pa, Gc 929.11 F47pab/ Contains references to millions of immigrants in published sources.

Hamburg Passenger Lists: Direct Lists March 2,1850 - Dec. 31, 1900 and Direct Index April 1, 1855 - April 5, 1901. /microtext/ A record of departures from Hamburg, one of the principal ports ofembarkation for Swiss and other Europeans.

Joder, Karl. "Swiss Emigrants from 1674-1754 who Settled in the Palatinate, Alsace-Lorraine, Baden- Wuerttemberg and Pennsylvania," in Mennonite Family History, vol. 2, no. 4 (Oct. 1983). /periodical/

Pfister, Hans Ulrich. Auswanderung aus dem Knonauer Amt, 1648-1750. Zurich: H. Rohr, 1987. /Gc 929.1494 P48a/ A history, in German, of emigration from the Knonauer area with references to numerous families. Includes a surname index.

Schrader-Muggenthaler, Cornelia. Swiss Emigration Book. Apollo, PA: Closson Press, 1993 - ongoing. /Gc 929.131 Sch6s/ Lists 18th and 19th century emigrants from Solothurn, Basel, and Aargau. Future volumes will cover other cantons.

Schweizer Einwanderer in den Kraichgau nach dem Dreissigjahrigen Krieg. Sinsheim: Heimatverein Kraichgau, 1983. /Gc 943 Sch9/ Lists of Swiss emigrants to the Kraichgau area following the Thirty Years War, when Swiss comprised about 40% of the population. It includes some remarks in English for the American researcher.

Smith, Clifford Neal. Immigrants to America from France (Haut-Rhin Department) and Western Switzerland, 1859-1866. McNeal, AZ: Westland Publications, 1983. /Gc 929.14 Sm5i/

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Biography & Genealogy

Swiss records are among the oldest in Europe. For this reason, and because of Switzerland's long history of relative geographic isolation, it is possible to extend many Swiss pedigrees back to the 16th century. Most of the following sources are written in German or French and contain published genealogies of Swiss families, primarily of the predominant Catholic or Lutheran reformed traditions. The researcher should also check the catalog under a specific surname to locate printed genealogies of individual Swiss families.

Archiv fuer Schweizerisches Familienkunde. Zurich: Verlag J. P. Zwicky, 1942-65. /Gc 929.131 Ar25/ Contains histories and ahnentafels of nobility and other prominent Swiss.

Dictionaire Historique et Bibliographique de la Suisse. 65 parts. Neuchatel: Adm. du Dictionaire, 1920-33. /Gc 929.131 D56 and D56a/ An extensive encyclopedia of Swiss biography and geography, written in French. It is particularly useful for its descriptions of towns and villages, which usually include the date of the earliest vital records.

Galiffe, J. A. Genealogiques des les Familles Genevoises. 7 vols. Geneva: J. Barbezat, 1829-95. /Gc 929.131 G13n/ Contains the pedigrees of hundreds of French-speaking Swiss from Geneva canton.

Magee, Joan. The Swiss in Ontario. Windsor, Ontario: Electa Books, 1991. /Gc 971.3 M27s/

Moos, Mario von. Bibliography of Swiss Genealogy. Camden, ME: Picton Press, 1993. /Gc 929.131 M78b/ An extensive bibliography of more than 9,000 books and articles of Swiss genealogies arranged alphabetically by surname.

Rohrbach, Lewis Bunker. Men of Bern : the 1798 Bürgerverzeichnisse of Canton Bern, Switzerland. Rockport, ME: Picton Press, 1999. /Gc 949.4 M52/ Muster roll and census of men in Canton Bern in 1798.

Schweizerisches Familienbuch. Zurich: Verlag Genealogisches Institut, 1945-49. /Gc 929.131 Sch9/ Genealogies of hundreds of Swiss families, written in German and unindexed.

Schweizerisches Geschlechterbuch. multi-volume. Zurich: Verlag Genealogisches Institut, 1905-65. /Gc 929.131 Sch94/ Similar to the above work, also not indexed.

Steinach, Adelrich. Swiss Colonists in 19th Century America. 2nd ed. Camden, ME: Picton Press, 1995. /Gc 929.131 St34s/ Biographies of hundreds of 19th century Swiss in America.

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Amish & Mennonite Sources

Anabaptists, including Amish and Mennonites, represent the predominant Swiss immigrant group in America in the 18th century. Because of religious persecution in Switzerland, these sects kept few church records, but often privately maintained extensive family genealogies. The following sources contain information about Swiss and Swiss-American Anabaptist genealogies.

Cross, Harold E. Index to Selected Amish Genealogies. Baltimore: Division of Medical Genetics, 1970. /Gc 016.92911 C88i/ Indexes hundreds of published genealogies.

Eshelman, H. Frank. Historic Background and Annals of the Swiss and German Pioneer Settlers of Southeastern Pennsylvania. 2nd ed. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1969./Gc 974.8 Es3h 1969/

Gingerich, Hugh F. Amish and Amish-Mennonite Genealogies. Gordonville, PA: Pequea Publishers, 1986. /Gc 929.102 Am5g/ Genealogies of selected Swiss-Amish families in America.

Gratz, Delbert L. Bernese Anabaptists and Their American Descendants. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1953. /Gc 929.102 M52g/ A historical study of Anabaptists from Canton Bern and their settlements in America.

Miller, J. Virgil. Both Sides of the Ocean: Amish-Mennonites from Switzerland to America. Morgantown, PA: Masthof Press, 2002. /Gc 929.102 Am5mi/

Zurcher, Isaac. Anabaptist-Mennonite names in Switzerland. Reprinted from: The Mennonite Quarterly Review, LXII (October 1988). /Gc 949.4 Z87an/

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Grants of arms to noble and burgher families can usually be traced in Swiss archives. References to these grants and the associated families have been published in various sources. The following are among the most useful:

Archivum Heraldicum. 69 volumes, 1887-1969 /Gc 929.794 Ar2/ A serial publication with extensive information about Swiss heraldry, including depictions of arms and pedigrees of armigerous families. Between 1887 and 1894, the serial was published under the title Archives Heraldiques et Sigillographiques Suisses. From 1895 to 1953, it was known as Archives Heraldiques Suisses - Schweizer Archiv fuer Heraldik.

Christen, Hans Rudolf. Emmentaler Geschlechter- und Wappenbuch. Münsingen-Bern: Fischer Media Verlag, 1998. /Gc 949.4 C462e/ Guide to arms and families of Canton Bern.

Merz, Walther. Wappenrolle van Zurich. Zurich: Grell Fussli Verlag, 1927. /Gc 929.794 An8w / Genealogies of armigerous families from Canton Zurich with depictions of their coats of arms.

Rietstap, J. B. Armorial General. 2nd ed. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1965. /Gc 929.6 R44ae, R44ara and R44arb/ 2 volumes, with a 9-volume supplement. An extensive record of arms for European families, including Switzerland.

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Vital Records

The Swiss have kept records of births, marriages, and deaths from the 16th century, and for some towns even earlier. The church records of a few cantons have been microfilmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah, but many others have not and hence are not available except in Switzerland. Microfilming efforts in Switzerland are ongoing, however, and the researcher should check with the relevant canton archives in Switzerland or in the Zivilstandsamt of the town of citizenship for records and a list of professional researchers. One must keep in mind that the vital records are maintained in the Heimatort, not necessarily the place of actual residence. The following sources may offer some assistance in locating vital records:

Family History Library Catalog. / Includes a description of all book and microform holdings of the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, including vital records and the Billeter Papers mentioned earlier. Check the catalog for the surname and for the town of interest. Most microfilm can be ordered at a Family History Library branch or at the Allen County Public Library for a nominal fee.

Imhof, Peter W. Verzeichnis der Kirchenbücher des Kantons Bern = Repertoire des Registres Paroissiaux du Canton de Berne. s.l.: Schweizerische Gesellschaft für Familienforschung/Société Suisse d'études généalogiques, 1997. /Gc 949.4 Im3v/ Lists surviving parish registers.

International Genealogical Index. Salt Lake City: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1992-. /microfiche and online at Includes thousands of vital records from Switzerland, including extracts of records from cantons that are not otherwise available at the Family History Library.

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The Genealogy Department receives numerous periodicals, some of which contain references to Swiss subjects and families. The more significant include: Swiss-American Historical Review, Swiss Connection, Pennsylvania Mennonite Heritage, and Mennonite Family History. Check the PERiodical Source Index (PERSI) for references to articles on Switzerland or specific Swiss families.

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