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