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Home: Surnames: Huguenot Family Genealogy Forum

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Swiss Sources of Information
Posted by: Felix Unger Date: July 26, 2001 at 15:32:39
In Reply to: Re: HUGUENOT as Surname ?? by Kevin D.W. Hewgley of 150


Try some of the following info sources in Switzerland:

"Familiennamenbuch der Schweiz" (Family Names Book of Switzerland) lists all 48,500 Swiss surnames and where they held citizenship as of 1962. LDS Family History Center has it on Fiche 6053507. The Swiss system bases your family history on the TOWN/VILLAGE where they were born. When you do not have the town or village name, try to find the PARISH name and then go back to the town.

Some surnames may have held citizenship at other Swiss locations but are not listed in "Familienbuch", because the name became "daughtered out" by 1962, or all the individuals with the surname had emigrated by 1962.

- - Swiss free telephone directory where you can find people's addresses, phone #, etc.

Are you having a hard time finding the village from which your ancestor came ? Try SwissGen's Swiss Surname Directory at - - Data is researched by SSD volunteers in several basic Swiss resource books, FNBS, von Moos, etc., and your e-mail address is registered in the "interested people" for your particular surname for future researchers to contact you.

Each canton (township) in Switzerland has archives with birth records which can be freely consulted. Their archives are not as connected to Internet sites, so try sites like - - which are much more dynamic.

Find a GÄSTEBUCH (guestbook) for a CANTON in Switzerland and write a short message about WHO you are looking for, and HOW you are related to them.

Sample German message:

Liebe Einwohner von (CANTON NAME)! Ich bin (YOUR NAME HERE) und ich suche nach meinem Verwandten (YOUR RELATIVE's NAME HERE). Bitte melde Dich ! Dein (YOUR NAME).

This means: Dear people of (CANTON NAME)! I am (---------) and I am looking for my ancestor (------------)! Please contact me ! Yours, (YOUR NAME).

You can get a lot of responses from people who want to help.

- - has maps of Switzerland from various periods in time. Some good maps of similar quality are also available via - -

Try - - available in English. It gives you the PLZ (postal codes) of all Swiss cities, towns, and villages. Many villages have the same name, so you will have to find out which one would be most likely, from other info you would have.

The book "BLASERA Soundex B-426 Family in Switzerland" by John Allison Blaser tells about histories of families who emigrated to the USA and elsewhere.

The Genealogical Library of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Inc. 35 NW Temple Street, Correspondence Unit B-216, Salt Lake City, UT 84150, has extensive microfilms of the records of many Swiss Cantons and the Principality of Liechtenstein.

In Switzerland, vital documents (birth, marriage, divorce, death) have only been recorded by official Swiss authorities since 1876. Before that time, the Catholic (Calvinist) and Protestant (Zwinglianic) churches were responsible for registering changes in civil status. Therefore, in order to find the correct source in Switzerland, you MUST know the time period for the research being conducted, and also know which religion an emigrant belonged to in Switzerland. Emigrants rarely change religion upon emigration, so, if in doubt, you can assume that the New World religion is the same as in Switzerland.

The TOWN is where events of importance were registered in vital documents in Switzerland, and also the Bürgerort / Commune d'origine / Comune di attinenza" (place of origin). Every person who possesses Swiss nationality is, at the same time, also a citizen of a specific town. The town where his/her ancestors used to live is handed down from father to child, and upon marriage (at least in earlier days) a woman would also acquire the place of origin of her husband and at the same time lose her own. The place of origin is of importance, since all vital documents, regardless of the place where the event happened, are recorded there. This has been the case since 1876, and as a rule since 1800 and -in some cases- as early as the end of the 17th century. Therefore, the civil registry office of the place of origin contains all vital records of a family (at least the male line).

Only vital documents connected to the places of origin are registered. Emigrants going overseas in previous centuries very seldom sent back information to update vital documents in Switzerland and keep family registers current. As a result, overseas descendants irrevocably lost Swiss citizenship. In order to conduct the genealogical research of a family, it is just as important to know the place of origin as it is the family name, since there are often families with the same name that have different places of origin.

Material can, on rare occasions, be found at the Central Office for Genealogy. Generally, it is up to each individual to consult the respective library or archive where the material can be found. Many publications are out of print and cannot be purchased any longer. Please note that the data does not contain references to individual persons. Published material, all independently published family histories or collections, magazine articles, including texts published in the USA are in the "Bibliography of Swiss Genealogies", by Mario von Moos, 1993, 839 pp., published by Picton Press, PO Box 250, Rockport, ME 04856-0250.

The Central Office for Genealogy has computer data for more than 100,000 references to publications, or works in public or private archives of ongoing genealogical research on Swiss families. This data is constantly being updated. This should avoid doing research which has already been more or less completed. From this information, you might learn in which towns a specific family name originates, if this information cannot be obtained elsewhere. The quality as well as the quantity of the work indexed can vary considerably.

The Central Office also provides a continuously growing computer database in which over 60,000 individuals, including their genealogical connections, are listed. The Central Office for Genealogy has a continuously growing genealogical archive containing, among other things, more than 200,000 reference cards, each listing one family, plus a collection of genealogical sources such as microfilms of church books or published sources. It also hosts an extensive library with standard literature and reference books.

The Central Office for Genealogy specialises in research of unknown places of origin and in emigration. A multitude of published lists of emigrants are available as well as remarks which could lead to the identification of emigrants. The Central Office's work comprises mostly migration movements, general genealogical research, and it works closely with professional genealogists, archives, genealogical associations and other specialists. It also has a databank listing, as one example, all town names of the former Prussian kingdom.

The Central Office will accompany people on their research trip for one or several days, be it to visit archives and assist in the research, conduct the research of the ancestors together, travel to the region or place of origin of the ancestors, or simply to assist with translations. When the Central Office of Genealogy is not able to (further) assist, addresses of renowned professional genealogists who can directly be contacted by the individual will be provided.

The Central Office is solely supported by contributions from the "Friends of the Central Office for Genealogy Society" and receives no public funding, so for basic information it charges a fee of US$ 30 (example: extract from the bibliographic file, a search of information available at the Central Office and/or a letter outlining further concrete steps to solve the problem). In case an inquiry cannot, or can only partly, be answered, a portion of the fee will be reimbursed accordingly. To minimize expenses, the fee must be included with the inquiry, either in cash (any currency) or an international money order. More extensive research/work will be billed according to time and cost involved.

In Switzerland, contact the Central Office for Genealogy (outside Zurich) at:

       Zentralstelle für Genealogie
       Vogelaustrasse 34
       8953 Dietikon
       Schweiz/Suisse (Switzerland)
       FAX: (+41-1) 742-2084 or
       E-mail @ -

In USA or Canada, visit your local LDS Family History Center. The Parish Registers for Canton Bern are now on microfilm and can be ordered and read at your local Center. You need to know the name of the parish which serves your town/village. If you check the Swiss Gazetteer at the LDS Center Microfiche #6053505 under the village/town name, it gives the "Kirchgemeinde" (parish) and you can then order the film for that parish.

These records contain a lot of information. There are births, marriages and deaths beginning often in the late 1500's or early 1600's depending on the parish. They go up until 1875.

For some on-line lists of symbols typically found in Swiss church books, try - - Go to the right hand top corner of the homepage, click on symbols. This will help to research records from the Niedersimmental area in Bern, as well as in Neuchatel.

JAN 2001: the new homepage of the Heraldic and Genealogical Society of Bern is - - also look under - -
under Reutigen there is a mailing address. There is a new website - - with a lot of information (but only in German). You will find maps and photographs. Ancestors from Reutigen immigrated abt. 1650 from Switzerland to the Palatinate area around Heidelberg, Germany.

Also, there is "Schweizerische Landesbibliothek, Bern" or "Stadt- und Universitätsbibliothek, Bern" where they have old newspapers. There also was a newspaper from Thun, near Reutigen, which began before 1850. For the Interlaken region, they have newspapers back to about 1850.

Parish Registers in the Interlaken area are available for the Protestant Reformed Church. If your family were Anabaptists who left Switzerland in the 1700's, it may be difficult to find a record of them because, unless they were christened in the local church, records are hard to come by.

Sorry if this is too complicated, or if I have repeated some items. I have extracted all this info from various sources and keep it on a separate diskette so I can find it if I need to check on something or answer enquiries such as yours.

Good luck !

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