Monday, November 11, 2013

Julius Billeter's Notes

Julius Billeter's Notes
As I have noted in past posts, most people in the Switzerland are associated exclusively with their hiemat regardless of where they lived. By reviewing Billeter’s notes one can see that this was his methodology. In the computer age the advantage that Billeter gave us is to be able to find records on people and families much quicker using the dates and the hiemat a person was associated with. His work can be used as a means to an end.

Transcription of family entry. View Original 
Top of Page - Jufer v. Melch. (Melchnau)
Jb (Joh) 2.10.78   19.8.42    d 26.6.83 - (4th family down left side)
Barb Frauchiger v. Auswil (Joh) 
Barb 22.10.79 4.99 Jb Ladermann v. Madiswil
Magd 13.5.81 ?? d 18.2.93 11.9
√ J Uli 30.3.83
Abbreviations - Jb =Jacob; Joh=Johannes; Barb=Barbara; Magd=Magdalena; J Uli=Johann Ulrich 
(There are a few errors in the notes. Barbara Frauchiger was from Eriswil not Auswil, The second child was Maria not Magdalena.)

Julius Billiter was quite remarkable in his ability to research so many people in an organized manner. Where ever a person was living their baptism, burial, and marriage was recorded in their hiemat. If they happened to be living anywhere other than their hiemat it was recorded there as well, so for many people there are two copies of the event in different handwriting. Deciphering the handwriting can be difficult at times. Having two copies makes it easier. It is wise to check every copy available since the pfarrer or pastor in each parish did not always record the same facts. It appears that Billeter did not consult multiple copies of a record.

 It has been noted that there are errors in his work in connecting adult married children to parents; however, pre 1810 the records can be sparse with information. Every family basically used the same given names. Starting in the 1810’s the record keeping increased substantially, thus making it possible to make solid connections from one generation to the next. The most important record keeping change can be found in the marriage record when they started recording the getauft or baptism date of those who were getting married. The death records started to record the exact age a person down to the day and you will begin to find a death date written on a baptism record. Getauft or baptism records started to record the grandfathers name consistently and the parents’ marriage date. Some parishes adopted the new standards quickly while other lagged behind.

Summary of Billeters notes:
  • At the top of each page are the Surname and the hiemat
  • Birth and death dates are exclusively associated with the hiemat
  • The dates are accurate with a few exceptions
  • All the given names are abbreviated
  • What resembles a check mark next to some people means that line continues on another page
  • Billeter’s handwriting can be difficult to decipher
  • Birth, Death, and Marriage dates are recorded without location
  • The spouses full name is recorded and her hiemat
  •  Females took their spouses hiemat upon marriage
  • Not digitized - On film
 It is not really necessary to review the notes on every family, only when there is a question with the family connections. Knowing the date and the hiemat is typically enough to locate a person in the parish registers. Use Billeters notes as a means to an end in creating an accurate genealogy by consulting the church books. The results of Billeters work is on Family Search Family Tree, start adding places, correcting errors and making accurate lineage connections with sources.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Swiss genealogies on Family Tree at

Example from collection of Julius Billeters notes that are found on film at the Family History Library.
Julius Billeters notes 
Since most of the Swiss genealogies are the result of Julius Billeter's research, the same inherit problems I found in my research, will be found in most genealogies on Family Search Family Tree. It is estimated that Julius Billeter research resulted in the submission of over 1 million names during his career as a genealogist. The genealogies are submissions made pre 1960’s, and many of the genealogies on Family Tree are unchanged from those submissions. Family Tree has the largest collection of Swiss genealogies in the world. For those of us with Bernese ancestry it just became a lot easier to create an accurate genealogy. Now with the click of the mouse one can view the same parish registers that Julius Billeter used to compile all those genealogies.

The Stettler’s of Bolligen on the Family Tree is the result of research conducted by Julius Billiter in the 1920’s, 1930’s and 1940’s. Ernest Stettler and others paid Julius Billeter money over the years to gather genealogies of particular families. Billeter sent them over 15,000 names over the years. Now we have a snap shot of the research on the FamilyTree that is a result of the submissions made to the church as a result of Julis Billeters research. I have gone through my various lines adding sources, and I found errors, omissions, and duplication of submissions. I have added over 100 new people to the genealogy.

The problem is twofold; how Billeter recorded the information and how it was submitted to the church. The family group sheets which were started in the early 1940’s contained no place to enter the death or marriage place of children. On Family Tree rarely is there a death place, and the marriage place is not recorded or the place can be a gemeinde, not a kirchgemeinde. When I started researching 6 months ago I had the Maurer family from Zollikofen. Every records says they were born and married in Zollikofen; however, I could find no entry in the catalog referring to Zollikofen. Zollikofen is a gemeinde in the kirchgemeinde of Bremgarten, so all the births, deaths, and marriages will be recorded there. Anyone who lived in Zollikofen or had a hiemat there will be found in the church books of Bremgarten.

While all the dates are quite accurate, the place names are based on the hiemat or community from which they originate from. The Frauchiger family from Eriswil who were living in Busswil bei Melchnau as early as 1740 are still recorded as being born in Eriswil, or Wyssachengraben which is a gemeinde of Eriswil, in the 1850’s. People moved around often, yet this is not reflected in the genealogies. One would think that they lived in one gemeinde for centuries without change. Typically they did not live far from there hiemat.

This article focuses on Bern canton. With the Church books of Bern Canton online now it is possible to compare, correct, and source the genealogies on Family Search Family Tree. Filmed copies of the church books were made available in the early 1990’s at familysearch (before computers); thereafter, digital copies of the church books were made available on CD. Now the church books are online, 500 thousand pages worth.

Summary of original genealogies on Family Tree
  • Perhaps we should call it, Billeter's genealogy
  • people are recorded as being born in there hiemat exclusively
  • marriages are associated with a persons hiemat rather than where it took place
  • most deaths and many marriages have no place name attached
  • errors or omissions exist, but only will be discovered by reviewing the church books
  • Deaths records are marginalized, valuable information can be found in death records
  • Getauft and geboren dates are interchangeable

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Gemeinde, Kirchgemeinde, Switzerland

I have found a few very useful websites in sorting out the community where people lived as well as a description of the gemeinde or community of each place in Switzerland. As an example I will focus on the gemeinde and kirchgemeinde of Melchnau in Bern Canton. The gemeinde of Melchnau was 4 square miles and the kirchgemeinde was 10 square miles and included the gemeindes of Busswil, Gondiswil, and Reisiswil. To determine which surnames that belonged to each gemeinde, hiemat, or community go to the website, Register of Swiss Surnames. In german is its called, Familiennamebuch der Schweiz. The kirchgemiende of Melchnau is where the church records were kept for the 10 square mile area. The parish registers are on film, CD, and online at familysearch. While baptisms may have taken place in the hiemat or community, the marriages would have taken place in the parish church in Melchanu. Or as I have learned they may have went to a nearby parish church or kirchgemeinde to get married.
To get an idea about the gemeinde or community where they lived go to the website, Historisches Lexikon der Schweiz; type a place name in the search box (Melchnau, Busswil, Gondiswil, and Reisiswil), and then click the link to the place. It will come up in german. Copy the text into Google translate and in seconds you will have an English translation. These communities or gemeindes were in the district of Arawangen but now in the district of Oberaargau. Wikipedia provides details about each place.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

138 year Closure Period for Records in Switzerland

Now we know that the family lived in Recherswil we can look at marriages of the children. The seven girls in the family would have married men from the area, so they would not be found in Affoltern registers, except for their marriages. The women took the hiemat of their husbands. It doesn't matter anyway. In Switzerland the closure period for records begins in 1876. This means that those who married after 1876, there is no marriage record available for viewing; therefore, all those young people who married post 1876 cannot be traced to the next generation. It is not possible to trace post 1876 descendants in Switzerland. When I was at the zivilstandsamt in Tracheswald some years ago I was able to get the familienschein for the Christen family. The familienscheins are limited to direct line ancestors; although, I’m not sure how they police this standard since I produced family group sheets of the family as evidence of my connection. I would assume this 138 year closure period is why so few Swiss genealogies can be found, and those found with people after 1876 can be considered unreliable since no records can be used to verify the accuracy.
I used to think a hundred year closure period was harsh. When they do change the closure period to 1900 it will take many years for the records in the form of microfilm or online images to become accessible. Probably after 2025.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Did your Swiss ancestor live in their hiemat?

The concept of recording the hiemat of a family for a birthplace rather than where they lived or born is and was a wide spread practice in Swiss research. It is for one simple reason, their records were kept there; however, a record was kept where they lived as well. As time marched on more and more people were no longer living in their hiemat. I have wondered how Anna Christen (1861-1917) from Affoltern met and married Gottfried Jaggi (1860-1918) in 1883 in Kriegstetten, canton of Solothurn. The family group sheets of the past provide no clues. I followed the paper trail (parish registers) of Anna’s family from when her parents, Peter Christen and Maria Bürki, married in 1860 in Affoltern im Emmental. They had 11 childern from 1860 till 1881. They never lived in Affoltern im Emmental after they married. For 9 years after their marriage they lived about 8 miles north of Affoltern in Rohrbach parish, and many years in the town of Lemiswil. About 1870 is when they arrived in Recherswil. Both Anna and Peter died there.

Distances: Affoltern im Emmental to Rohrbach – 8 miles; Rohrbach to Lemiswil – 3 miles; Lemiswil to Recherswil – 12 miles Distances

  • Family group sheet prepared in the 1950’s by Gottfried Jaggi
  • Jaggi Stettler website; Peter Christen and Anna Bürki
  • A picture of the baptism record of Anna Christen (1861-1917) (#29)
    To view the images at familysearch you must login. If you don’t have a login, create one. Its free
  • Wednesday, June 12, 2013

    Swiss Records Online

    Researching Swiss ancestry has just become a lot easier. The parish records of canton Bern have been put online at; since 3/4 of my Swiss ancestry is from canton Bern this makes it easy to access the records from home. What makes these records at familysearch so valuable is the ability to link the records to the ancestors in the Family Tree. I have linked over 500 such records to names in the family tree. Now anyone can go to the tree and will find a source with a link to the original document from which the information was obtained. It will take some study of the handwriting to decipher what it says. Since our grandparents came to this country over 100 year ago they have been submitting information and participating in the various genealogical programs by the church. All the submissions of the past have been based on the hiemat or community or parish from which the family originated from many 100’s of years ago. This means that regardless of where they lived in Switzerland a record of a marriage, baptism, or death will be found in one place. Some had not lived in their home parish for decades, but I have found that almost all of them remained in canton Bern. The baptism, marriage, or burial is recorded also where they were living, so there are multiple entries in the registers for one event. It is of value to check all the entries since more information may have been recorded by one parish clerk than the other. By looking at the genealogy of the past one would think that everyone lived in one place. NOTE: If there is no source linked to a person in the Family Tree then add one.

    Saturday, March 2, 2013

    William Bye moved to Blythburgh in 1811

    It’s not often that we get a detailed picture of an ancestor’s circumstance. The result of a court case involving his son, John Bye, resulted in the publication of his circumstances in some law books in 1825. These law publications were put online by Google as an eBook. By making a simple Google search I found the court case. Everyone had a parish of settlement. Agricultural laborers were often out of work for some months during the year. Only the parish that they were settled in gave relief. This resulted in people when in hard times were physically removed to a settled parish. The law kept people close to the parish they were born in, thus allowing us to find families in the or near the same place for many generations. In 1824, John Bye living in Blythburgh with a wife and four children where his father lived was seeking poor relief. He was born in 1798 in Chillesford. Under the clause of ‘Hiring and Service,’ under parish law, the churchwardens were through some confusion, actually did have John Bye and his family removed back to Chillesford. A year later the case was overturned in the courts and he was allowed back to Blythburgh. He never did go back to Blythburgh. In another blog entry I’ll explain what happened to his family. Even though the case is about John Bye, the published case focuses on how William Bye came to be in Blythburgh. Was Blythburgh William Bye’s settled parish?

    “William Bye, the pauper’s father, being a married man, and settled in Chillesford, let himself to Mr. Taylor, of Blythburgh, better than fourteen years ago, (about 1811) as a shepherd; he was to have for the first year, forty shillings for wages, ten coombs of wheat and two of barley, produced on the farm, the going of thirty breeding ewes, worth 10l. a year, and a cottage in Blythburgh, rent free, worth three guineas a year. W. Bye continued with Mr. Taylor for fourteen years upon the same term… …If W. Bye had not had the cottage, he would have more wages, and it was convenient for him as a shepherd, as it was on the spot. W. Bye hired every year one or two pages, over whom Mr. Taylor had no control, and about nine years ago, when one Jarvis, one of the pages, was to leave, W. Bye, about a week before old Midsummer, agreed with his son, the pauper, who was at that time nineteen years of age, and unemancipated, to serve him for a year, from old Michaelmas to old Michaelmas, in Jarvis’s place, at the same wages 8l. a year, which time the pauper served, and slept in Blythburgh, being then unmarried, in his father’s house. “

    There must be some originally documents from which this case was decided and created that would provide even more details, but I have not been able to find anything online. What biographical information!

    Wednesday, February 27, 2013

    William Bye 1761 to 1831 - Suffok, England

    I have recently started researching William Bye. Mary Bye his daughter is who married Philip Scoggins in 1814 in Badingham. The only clue we have as to where she was born is the 1851 census of Badingham. It says she was born in Orford parish in about 1791. From looking at the available records it becomes apparent that the surname Bye is not very common in East Suffolk. It was quite easy to identify him in the records. He married Mary Saunders in 1791 and the next year, 1792, she was born in Orford. He had 3 more children with Mary until she died in 1797. He then married Martha Randall in 1798 and had five more children. He is found living in the parishes of Orford, Sudbourne, and Chillesford between 1771 and 1811.

    Ipswich Journal February 3, 1802
    To be SOLD by AUCTION; By John Ashley Rogers, On Saturday, the 17th day of July, at the Chequers in Sudbourn, at Five o'clock in the afternoon, A FREEHOLD Brick and Tiled Dwelling House, situated in Chillesford street; comprising two lower rooms and two comfortable chambers, and a large piece of garden ground, paled in. The premises are in most excellent repair, and well supplied with water; are now in the occupation of Wm. Bye, the owner. Possession may be had at Michaelmas next, For further particulars apply to the auctioneer, Orford. [Michaelmas is 29 September]

    We find some valuable clues about William when he sold his house in Chillesford. He lived in a comfortable house and was the actual the owner of his property. His occupation appears to be farmer and shepherd. With the indexing of baptisms by the Suffolk Family History Society it looks likely he will soon be identified in the parish registers. There are numerous articles in the Ipswich papers for those selling land. Findmypast has recently made available these papers. Also the Ipswich Journal is available at the Family history Library 1800 to 1900 on another website.

    Sunday, February 24, 2013

    The Wealthy Flory Family of Suffolk, part 2

    The Wealthy Flory Family of Suffolk The monumental inscription for the family in Tattingstone records Thomas and his two wives, Elizabeth who died in 1777 and his wife of 25 years, Elizabeth Garrod who died in 1835. It also records his mother who died in 1799. Thomas had two children from his first marriage. It becomes apparent from reading the Will of his mother and his will that he had a son Thomas. There is no record of where he is living, nor is there a baptism entry in the Tattingstone Parish registers. There is an entry for Elizabeth’s baptism in 1777. The marriage bond records that Thomas married Elizabeth Southgate in Bacton in 1774. Upon looking at those records I find a Thomas Flora baptized 6 Dec 1774. This is the second time I have come across the Flura, Flora, variant spelling of the surname.

    We find a Thomas and Ann Maria Flory having 3 children in Martlesham; Thomas Smith, Ann Maria, and Robert. Then there is, Thomas Flory, a wealthy farmer living in Witnesham with numerous children. The monumental inscription in Witnesham has Thomas Smith Flory, and Robert Flory recorded on it. This tells us that the children in Martlesham and Witnesham are part of the same family. He died in 1835 and left a will that notes some key relationships. His estate was valued at 3000 pounds.
    It is the Wills of both Thomas Flory of Tattingstone who died in 1812 and Thomas who died in 1835 in Witnesham that link them together. Thomas of Tattingstone leaves 100 pounds for his daughter Elizabeth Davey. The Thomas of Witnesham leaves money to his sister, Elizabeth Davey, a widow. Without that common relationship between the two wills it would only be a calculated guess. Without the wills we only have his age and the name Thomas mentioned in the wills. There is no mention of Tattingstone or where the Thomas of Witnesham was born.
    Interestingly enough we find the marriage of Elizabeth Flory to Richard Davey in Bacton in 1795. No Wills can be found for Richard or Elizabeth Davey.
    If you want to read the will of Thomas who died in 1835 it is online. It was probated in the Consistory Court of Norwich. (select Probate - type in Flory in the search box) It is 22 pages.

    Friday, February 22, 2013

    The Wealthy Flory Family of Suffolk

    I recently added a new line branching off of  Richard Flory and Mary Gildersleeve. Thomas their youngest son born in 1724 had remained a mystery like many of these early ancestors. Come to find out Thomas’s line could be considered the millionaires of the Flory line. Richard never mentioned Thomas in his will of 1756, nor did any of the other siblings in their wills. There appears to be no marriage record of his marriage to Mary Broom other than a marriage bond found in the Archdeaconry of Suffolk’s records. It says, “Thomas Flura in the parish of Clopton, age 22 “ also “Mary Broom of the parish of Debach.” The marriage was to take place in Saxmundham some ten miles east of from Clopton in 1749. No record of the marriage can be found in Saxmundham.
    Fast forward to the Thomas Flory found in Tattingstone who was a wealthy land owner with many children who was born about 1752. When he died in 1812 he had nearly a 1000 pounds in wealth. There was also another Thomas Flory in Tattingstone that died in 1810 and he left no will. Then we have, Thomas’s mother, Mary Flory who died in 1799 who left a will. Her will was made in 1795 and probated in 1802 in London at the Preprogative Court. She mentions her son Thomas and grandson Thomas and daughter Mary Emmerson. Also her daughter Elizabeth Smith the wife of John Smith of Tattingstone.
    There was no way to connect Thomas Flura of Clopton and married in Saxmundham in 1749 to a Thomas Flory in Tattingstone as there are numerous Thomas’s in the records. I decided to check the Broom will’s. I found a will for a Henry Broom in 1780 in Debach. It said, “I give and bequeath unto Mary Flory of Tattingstone.... widow the sum of eighty two pounds.” That one sentence ties the marriage of Thomas Flory and Mary Broom to the wealthy farmer in Tattingstone. Henry Broom was a wealthy farmer in Debach. (check out Henry Broom’s will) As Mary was a widow in 1780 I find the burial of Thomas Flory in Hemingstone in 1770 where his daughter, Mary, married James Emmerson in 1772. It appears that Henry Broom set up his grandchild, Thomas, in the farming business after his father died.
    From this point on we find that there is a lot of wealth in the next generations of this family, but it does appear that the Surname Flory was not carried on into the twentieth century through this line.