Switzerland Church Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)Edit This Page
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Access the records: Switzerland, Church Records, 1277-1992 .
Title in the Language of the Record
Schweiz, Kirchenbücher 1277-1992.
Collection Time Period
Records in this collection begin in 1380 and go through 1917. Most of the church records contained in this collection, however, begin in the mid 1500s and end by 1910.
This collection contains images of the church books for several cantons in Switzerland. The Canton consists of a city and neighboring communities. Records were handwritten mostly in German by a parish priest.
The event types you will find in this collection include the following:
- Taufen (baptisms)
- Taufenregister (baptism index)
- Ehen (marriages)
- Ehenregister (marriage index)
- Eheverkündigungen (marriage announcements)
- Eheverkündigungenregister (marriage announcement index)
- Familienbuch (family book)
- Familienbuchregister (family book index)
- Konfirmanden (confirmations)
- Konfirmandenregister (confirmation index)
- Toten (deaths/burials)
- Totenregister (death index)
The genealogical facts found in most baptism records include:
- Names of the child, parents, and witnesses or godparents
- Date and place of birth
- Date of baptism (sometimes even the time of birth and baptism)
- Residence and religion of the parents
- Occupation of the father and the other males listed
- Whether the child was legitimate or illegitimate
The genealogical facts found in most marriage records include:
- Names of the bride, groom, their parents (usually the fathers) and witnesses
- Date and place of marriage and marriage proclamations or banns
- Residence of the bride, groom, and their parents
- Occupation of groom and other males listed
The genealogical facts found in most burial records include:
- Names of the deceased (sometimes names of deceased’s spouse and/or deceased’s parents were included)
- Date and place of death and burial
- Age and residence
- Cause of death
How to Use the Record
Records in this online collection can be browsed by locality (Ort) first, then by religion, and are next arranged by the German-equivalent of the event type—for example, baptisms are Taufen—and then chronologically. Name indexes (Namenverzeichnis) and event indexes (e.g. Ehenregister) are included when available. A mixture of record formats may be contained within these records.
If there is an index, begin your search by finding your ancestors in the index. Name indexes to baptisms, marriages, and death or burials make it possible to access a specific record quickly.
An example is the Staatsarchiv of Bastel-Stadt that prepared a "Kirchenbücher Kartei", an index of the church books of the Canton (microfilms 922698-922715). Most of the items in the digital collection that are filed under the heading "Basel / Evangelisch Reformiert" are from the Kartei, though a few parts are filed under "Riehen" or "Riehen-Bettingen". Check the Kartei first to find the name of the parish where the information was originally recorded. The Kartei sections relating to the city of Basel, in this case, include the French congregation as well as all the Evangelisch Reformiert congregations. In the Kartei, baptismal names are generally alphabetized by the last baptismal name: Anna Catharina and Maria Catharina will be found with Catharina, not with Anna or Maria.
The three localities that were historically not part of the city of Basel may cause some confusion. Riehen was a separate parish from medieval times. In 1513, the village of Bettingen became an annex of this parish, although Bettingen had its own church. In 1528, the parish of Riehen (including Bettingen) adopted the protestant reforms. Thus, from the earliest Protestant records, Riehen and Bettingen constituted a single parish, even though at some periods separate books were used for these two villages. The tiny village of Kleinhüningen, now completely absorbed into the city of Basel, was an annex of the parish of Haltingen (Baden, Germany) prior to 1640 (early records from this parish are on microfilms 1189334 and 1189335). About 1640, Kleinhüningen became an annex of the parish of Sankt Theodor in the city of Basel. Finally, about 1710, Kleinhüningen got a church of its own; at this time separate church books were created for this village. When the old Canton of Basel was split in 1833 to form Basel-Stadt and Basel-Landschaft, all three of these villages elected to become part of Basel-Stadt. They formed a "rural district" in the new Canton and were administered as a unit until about 1875. This history helps explain why some volumes cover only Riehen or Bettingen or Kleinhüningen, others cover Riehen and Bettingen together, and a few include all three of these villages.
When you have located your ancestor’s record, carefully evaluate each piece of information given. These pieces of information may give you new biographical details that can lead you to other records about your ancestors. Add this new information to your records of each family.
• Use the marriage date and place as the basis for compiling a new family group or for verifying existing information.
• Use the birth date or age along with the place of birth of each partner to find a couple's birth records and parents' names.
• Use the birth date or age along with the place of birth to find the family in census records.
• Use the residence and names of the parents to locate church and land records.
• Occupations listed can lead you to employment records or other types of records such as military records.
• Use the parent’s birth places to find former residences and to establish a migration pattern for the family.
• The name of the officiator is a clue to their religion or area of residence in the county. However, ministers may have reported marriages performed in other counties.
• Compile the marriage entries for every person who has the same surname as the bride or groom, this is especially helpful in rural areas or if the surname is unusual.
• Continue to search the marriage records to identify children, siblings, parents, and other relatives of the bride and groom who may have married in the same county or nearby. This can help you identify other generations of your family or even the second marriage of a parent. Repeat this process for each new generation you identify.
• Use the marriage number to identify previous marriages.
• When looking for a person who had a common name, look at all the entries for the name before deciding which is correct.
Keep in mind:
• The information in church records is usually reliable, but depends upon the reliability of the informant.
• Earlier records may not contain as much information as the records created after the late 1800.
• There is also some variation in the information given from one record to another.
If you are unable to find the ancestors you are looking for, try the following:
• Check for variant spellings of the surnames.
• Check for a different index. There are often indexes at the beginning of each volume.
• Search the indexes and records of nearby localities.
In Switzerland, a parish was an ecclesiastical jurisdiction consisting of many villages and hamlets, with one of the villages designated as the main parish town.
Swiss church records are typically in German or Latin. Regional dialect may affect the spelling of some German words and the use of vocabulary words.
Evangelical Church records began as early as the mid to late 1500s in Switzerland; most church records, however, began in the late 1600s. Church records continue to be kept in the present day.
Event types were often compiled in separate volumes, for instance, baptisms in one volume and marriages in another. In smaller parishes, however, event types were intermixed and grouped into a volume according to year range. When this is the case, the baptisms, marriages, and burials for one year (e.g. 1785) were grouped together before the baptisms, marriages, and burials for the next year (e.g. 1786), and so on.
Why the Record Was Created
Church records were created to record church sacraments associated with life events (e.g. baptism after birth, burial after death) and those who had received these ordinances. The church records also served as official (civil) records.
Church books are one of the most reliable and accurate family history sources. Accuracy in the records is, however, dependent upon the accuracy of the informant’s knowledge coupled with the priest recording the information correctly. Ages, birth dates, and birth places recorded in marriage and death entries have a higher probability of being inaccurate.
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Citing FamilySearch Historical Collections
When you copy information from the record, you should list where you found the information. This will help you or others to find th record again. It is also good to keep track of records where you do not find information, including the names of the people you looked for in the records.
The suggested format for keeping track of records that you have searched in found in the Wiki Article: How to Create Source Citations for FamilySearch Historical Records Collections.
Examples of Sourch Citations for a Record in This Collection
- United States. Bureau of Census. 12th census, 1900, digital images, From FamilySearch Internet (www.familysearch.org: September 29, 2006), Arizona Territory, Maricopa, Township 1, East Gila, Salt River Base and Meridian; sheet 9B, line 71.
- Mexico, Districto Federal, Catholic Church Records 1886-1933, digital images, from FamilySearch Internet (www.familysearch.org: April 22, 2010), Baptism of Adolfo Femandez Jimenez, 1 Feb, 1910, San Pedro Apostol, Cuahimalpa, Districto Federal, Mexico Film number 0227023.
Sources for This Collection
Switzerland. Church records, 1277-1992. Cantons State Archives (Staatsarchiv des Kantons), Switzerland.
Copies of originals are also housed in different cantons throughout Switzerland:
- Kirchenbücher. Staatsarchiv Basel-Stadt, Basel, Switzerland.
- Kirchenbücher. Staatsarchiv Bern, Bern, Switzerland.
- Kirchenbücher. Stadtsarchiv Schaffhausen, Schaffhausen, Switzerland.
Detailed instructions for adding citations are also listed in the wiki article: Help: How to Create Source Citations for FamilySearch Historical Records Collections.