Switzerland Church Records
Following the French example, a 1799 law suggested that civil registers of births, marriages, and deaths should be kept, but only one canton (Vaud) complied. Thus, civil registration records for canton Vaud exist from 1800 on forward. Pre-1876 civil registration records are also available for the following cantons: Fribourg, beginning in 1849, Genève: 1798, Neuchatel: 1825, Valais: 1853.
Nationwide civil registration began on 1 Jan 1876. These civil registers are kept by the Zivilstandesamt of each political community. Most of these records are not available on microfilm. Access to records less than 100 years old is generally restricted to direct-line relatives.
Originally the Zivilstandesamt kept two separate sets of books: A-registers [records of births, marriages, and deaths occurring in the community] and B- registers [births, marriages, and deaths of community citizens that occurred outside the community]. In 1928, the B-registers were discontinued and replaced by Familienregister [family registers] kept by the civil registrar. This volume consists of a separate page for each married couple and their children. Entries may include the couple’s parents’ names and notes about occupation, emigration, or other unusual circumstances.
Bürgerbücher or Bürgerrodel [Citizens’ Books] were kept by some communities as early as the 1820s and contain about the same information as found in the modern Familienregister. In most cases these books have not been microfilmed. Requests for information concerning ancestral families may be obtained by writing to the appropriate Zivilstandesamt. Contact information for the civil registration offices is found at http://www.hochzeitsportal.ch/index.asp?aktion=standesaemter.
An up-to-date Excel file with the same information can be downloaded at: