Swiss census records or population registers generally begin about 1634 and run into the mid- 1700’s. Every few years, these censuses were taken to record the Protestant Reformed Church members of Zürich. Although mostly for the canton of Zürich, these records also include some entries for Thurgau, and St. Gallen, and a few places in Schaffhausen and Appenzell, and Aargau. The same years may not be available for all towns. Nonetheless, these records can be of great help to the Swiss researcher in these areas, especially in the event of lost church books, or parishes for which records do not go back too far.
As an example, records of the parish of Dielsdorf are available up to 1738. But the population records cover the years of 1634-1727. So there is only a very small gap in time, and the chance is good that a family found in the Dielsdorf church records can then be found in the population records and traced back several generations further.
I decided to pick at random a family from the church records and see what could be found, and I had good success in finding them and tracing them back. I chose Heinrich Albrecht, whose father was Felix, and searched for them in the 1727 census. I was happy to find the exact date of birth of Heinrich, son of Felix, as well as a sister and mother. The entry immediately below that of Felix Albrecht was that of his brother Hans, whose birth date, wife and children’s birth dates were also recorded there. Following this entry, the family of Hans Albrecht, was yet another brother, Jacob and his family. It was very nice to find them all together with a minimal amount of searching.
I next checked the 1709 census register. I easily found the parents of the three brothers, Felix, Hans and Jacob. Their names and ages fit the families found in the 1727 census perfectly. So now I had the next family generation, with parents Hans Heinrich Albrecht and Margreth Schmid. In this census, the records only gave the person’s age, rather than the exact date of birth. However, the three siblings’ ages matched and there was no question this was the same family. Using the age of their father, Hans Heinrich, I was able to calculate which censuses might be appropriate to find the next generation. I chose the year 1678 and again found Hans Heinrich, age 7, with his parents, Heinrich Albrecht and Barbara Pfisterer and four siblings. Although I did not search another generation, it is very likely that one more can be found in the earlier census of Dielsdorf.
Even though church parishes may have records that go back to these years, Swiss census records are still helpful for gathering family information and building family connections.
There is a Zürich census register at the Family History Library (call number 949.457 X2w) to help you determine the film, volume and page number for the census you need. It is also on microfiche, number 6001988.
To learn more about Swiss census records, see the Switzerland Census article in the FamilySearch Research Wiki.