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This page is not intended to answer Frequently Asked Questions - it just tries to provide some information, which does not readily fit into another SwissGen page, or some preliminary information which is to be expanded into a separate SwissGen page at a later stage. Let me know at wolf@seelentags.de if you feel you have some useful information to be added to this page. Should you have any queries regarding some of the information displayed here, please contact the submitter directly.

As this page is of just preliminary nature, it will not be linked to the SwissGen main pages for the time being - if you feel you want to come back to check for new information, it will be best if you bookmark this page separately.

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Full text search in all SwissGen pages (Basel server)

This siteThe web

List of Contents :

  1. Introductory information
  2. (removed)
  3. Translation services and related help
  4. Online telephone / fax / e-mail directories
  5. First visit to the Family History Center
  6. The Billeter collection : how to use it
  7. Ordering books from the Swiss National Library (SNL)
  8. Was "Alsace-Lorraine" ever part of Switzerland ?

1. Introductory information (submitted by Wolf Seelentag)

From several communications I have learned that a fairly common reason for disappointment are unrealistic expectations - due to insufficient information about any given service; this applies to "Swiss Genealogy on the Internet" as well as all the Swiss offices you may contact. Information given on this page will hopefully allow readers to better estimate what to expect, and in consquence should help to prevent disappointment.

SwissGen is not even trying to give a basic introduction into genealogy in general : if you are just beginning your genealogical research the internet will not be the best place to start anyway; it is to be recommended to visit your local library (many will have some introductory books on genealogy) or your regional genealogical society. Understanding some basics first will keep you from making mistakes which may be difficult, or at least time consuming, to correct at a later stage !

If you are a beginner at Swiss genealogy, you may also be able to find an introductory book at your library, or some help at a genealogical society - but there is also a very brief introduction on SwissGen. Before continuing your research you should also be familiar with the basic principles of Swiss citizenship and the important information you can find in Familiennamenbuch der Schweiz (Register of Swiss Surnames).

The Swiss Surname Directory will provide information on Swiss surnames, e.g. taken from the above mentioned Familiennamenbuch - so unless you are familiar with that source you will likely not understand the information you will receive from the Directory. As a matter of fact, you should familiarize you with all sources used by the Directory, in order to understand the responses.

Conclusion : There is very little information on Swiss genealogical resources available online, compared e.g. to the USA - as a consequence it's (with very few exeptions) impossible to get anywhere with your research, unless you access original sources, many of which have been filmed by LDS. SwissGen is managed by a rather small group of individuals, spending their spare time to help you - but can only try to get you started with your own research; please, don't expect us to do research for you : if you cannot research yourself, you'll have to hire a professional.

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3. Translation services and related help (submitted by Pete Mattli, with contributions from others)

These are essentially free services. The first will translate a reasonable number of lines (not simple to describe what the automatic line counter will do to your text - just try and see) for free, and then charge for longer documents on a per-line basis at very reasonable rates. There seems to be no limit to the length of the source document that Alta Vista will accept for free translation.

If you feel you want to decipher some of the old documents yourself, you'll find some advice on the following pages :

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4. Online telephone / fax / e-mail diretories (submitted by Wolf Seelentag)

Swisscom is offering an online service (can be reached via the German home page only) - with quite useful parts being available to anyone:

Make sure you either enter a town/village name under "Ort" - or change "Ort" to "Schweiz" (from pull-down menu).

The use of the e-mail directory is self-explanatory. The listing will display both, full postal address and e-mail address.

For the use of the telephone (and fax) directory some further information may be helpful :

Free of charge you'll get only reduced data : name, street (no number), town (no zip code), canton abbreviation. You'd have to register first to get full addresses (for a fee).

A nice feature is the automatic translation between German/French/Italian (no English !) : if you enter e.g. a profession or an office in any language, it will be found irrespective of language of the actual entry.

Example : you need the address of the Civil Registry Office (e.g. to apply for a "Familienschein").

  1. search the telephone directory :
    enter "Zivilstand*" under "Name"
    make sure you select "Geschäft" and "Ähnliche Schreibweise" !!
    enter the town under "Ort"
    (alternatively you may also select "Umgebung", or "Kanton" from the pull-down menu)
  2. search ("Suchen") and note the result (or use copy&paste)
    Beware: in many cases the opening hours are also mentioned - sometimes not clearly separated from the street name.
  3. go back and search the directory of place names

The last step will tell you the zip code; from the first step you'll have the Office name (in the regional language) and the street - the number is missing, but will not be necessary for a city office ;-).

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5. First visit to the Family History Center

Although published within the "Belgium Genealogy" pages, many of the hints will apply to Family History Centers worldwide.

Click here for details about Family History Centers in Switzerland or get a list of Family History Centers worldwide.

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6. The Billeter collection : how to use it (submitted by Joan Bodenmann)

To get an impression of Billeter's notes, view these examples:
Tönnen of Frutigen BE
Thönen of Frutigen BE (1)
Thönen of Frutigen BE (2)
These examples were chosen as they are missing on the films for some unknown reason.

Julius Billeter was a Swiss genealogist who between 1896 and 1950 researched many Swiss ancestral lines. Most of his information came from parish records, family and population registers and his earliest information came from land and tax records. Some of his research traces families from about 1900 back to the mid 1500s. There are over 1213 Swiss surnames researched in this collection of his handwritten notes. The complete surname index is included in the Swiss Surname Directory. A full list of families researched by Billeter is also available from the Family History Library Catalogue.

The original notes of this collection are located in Switzerland, but have been microfilmed. The films (23 rolls, # 0,193,466 - # 0,193,488) are available through Family History Centers throughout the world. Family History Centers are branches of the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.

To use this collection :

  1. Find your surname
  2. Look for the correct village listed at the top of the page
  3. Within the notes of your village, look for your ancestor. If you do not know the village, then you must search the time period for your ancestor in all villages.

Here is an example from one of my lines: (My comments will be in italics.)

dates = day . month . year (von = of, locality)
NAEF V. URNAESCH
* father
Jacob (Jacob) married baptized
\/ Jb (Jb) m 27.10.1706 30.9.1667 (NOTE THE DATE)
Elisabeth *Sebastian baptized died
El Etter (Sebast) 9.1666 d 26.12.1747
k (kinder = children)
baptized
\/ Hs Jb (Hans Jacob) 1707
\/ Baschon 7.6.08
El (Elisabeth) 26.6.09 d 30.3.39
(additional children not listed here)

Jacob has \/ in front of his name. That means he will appear as a child in his father's family. It can also mean, in another situation, that an individual may appear as a parent or child elsewhere in the records.

Jacob * father married baptized died
\/ Jb (Anton) m 10.7.1659 25.6.37 11.8.99
*Conrad (II = 2nd spouse)
Anna Suner (Conr) m II 16.1.1707 Paulus Rechsteiner
c = children
Hans baptized
\/ Hs 12.8.1660
Jacob
\/ Jb 30.9.67 (NOTE THE DATE)
(additional children not listed here)

Next, you would look for Anton as a father with a child, Jacob, baptized 25.6.37. By this procedure you can trace back to the earliest ancestor.

Other abbreviations :

dyg = died young, as an infant
wid = widow

After you have established your ancestral line, go to the parish records and other original sources to check for any missing children, localities and data in question, and to verify your ancestral links : always keep in mind that this collection is a secondary source; it is perfect to get you started with your research - but for any serious research you should cross-check with the primary sources (which are unfortunately not quoted in Billeter's notes); you should especially for early mentions check whether the filiations can be proven, or have to be regarded as assumptions : read the critical appraisal of Billeter's work.

Some of the abbreviations for given names, that this writer has seen in searching these records, are as follows:
(For a complete list see
Handy Guide to Swiss Genealogical Records, by Jared H. Suess).

Andr = Andreas
Ant = Anthon, Anton
Burkh = Burkhard, Burkhart
Casp = Caspar, Kaspar
Chr = Christian
Conr = Conrad, Konrad
Dan = Daniel
Fried = Friedrich
Gg = Georg
Gotff = Gottfried
Gottl = Gottlieb
Hs = Hans
Heini = Heinrich
Jb = Jacob, Jakob
Jg = Joerg
Joh = Johannes
J = Johann
Lienh = Lienhard, Lienhart
Ludw = Ludwig
Matth = Matthaeus
Othm = Othmar
Pet = Peter
Rud = Rudolf, Rudolph
Sam = Samuel
Sebast = Sebastian
Uli = Ulrich
Wilh = Wilhelm
Adelh = Adelheit, Adelheit
Ana = Anna
Barb = Barbara
Cath = Catharina, Katharina
El = Elisabeth
Elsb = Elsbeth
Elsba = Elisabetha
Lis = Lisabeth
Magd = Magdalena
Mar = Maria
Marg = Margaretha
Reg = Regula

Further hints and a list of all abbreviations may be found in the book:
Handy Guide to Swiss Genealogical Research, Jared H. Suess, The Everton Publishers, Inc. (92 pages, soft cover) (p. 55-62)
To order contact :
bob@everton.com

Application :

Missing Parish Records from Urnaesch, Appenzell A.R., Switzerland
Baptism - 37 years
Death and Burial - 37 years
Marriage - 34 years

Billeter researched certain Urnaesch ancestral lines before the disappearance of these records. His notes therefore may supply the missing generations.

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7. Ordering books from the Swiss National Library (SNL) (submitted by Pete Mattli)

a. Access the Swiss National Library (SNL) at : http://www.snl.ch/

b. Or go directly to the Swiss National Library's product catalog, Helveticat, at : http://www.snl.ch/helveticat/english/

c. Other Swiss Libraries can also be accessed online. There is a web site at http://www.switch.ch/libraries/ which lists Swiss libraries and links to their homepages and catalogs.

d. Basic Word Search : The Swiss National Library provides a basic word search at : http://www.snl.ch/helveticat/english/vtls-basic.html.
Book searches can be initiated by inserting the author, call number, general keyword, subject or title.

e. Patron Number : A resident of Switzerland can register as a user of the Swiss National Library and will be given a Patron Number. This can expedite future service. For further information on registering, contact the Lending Section at Benutzung@slb.admin.ch.
If you do not live in Switzerland you can only order books from the SNL by using the International Interlibrary Loan Program. This program is available to all public libraries but not all public libraries make use of it. Even if a certain library has not used this service in the past, there is no reason they cannot use it in the future. This is where good lobbying pays off !
The library in Salt Lake City (Utah) advises that all libraries in the U.S. use the OCLC Clearinghouse to do book loaning between countries. Up to three books can be ordered at a time. The service is free in most cases.
On occasions where only a few pages are needed, it would be best to request extracts. The SNL will then advise you of the fees and these must be received before the extracts will be mailed.

f. Call Numbers : You must provide the SNL with a call number for the book you order. Call numbers can be found in the online catalog.

g. Restrictions on Loaning Books : There are certain restrictions in the lending policy of the Swiss National Library. As an example, books published before 1951 and certain periodicals and newspapers, can only be consulted in the library's reading rooms.

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8. Was "Alsace-Lorraine" ever part of Switzerland ? (submitted by Guillaume Roelly)

Short answer : no ! "Alsace-Lorraine" is not a uniform region - it's a conglomerate of French districts; consequently the use of the expression "Alsace-Lorraine" is not recommended. See Help, my ancestors were from "Alsace-Lorraine" for a more detailed description.

Further info on Alsace (incl. a link to info on Lorraine) is also found on the German Genealogy Pages.

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This page is maintained by Wolf W. Seelentag. / Last updated 11 June 2005.
Please forward any comments and/or additions to this webpage to the WebMasterCH.